Saturday, February 21, 2015

Cyrus Bentley House
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Cyrus Bentley House (1911) Mundie & Jensen, architects /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

In 1911 this small section of Astor Street in Chicago's Gold Coast was abuzz with building activity. Five houses on five lots - three on one side of the street, two across the way - each one put together with tasteful Georgian Revival accoutrements by three different architectural firms. When Cyrus Bentley chose architects Mundie & Jensen to design his house on Astor, the designers had also just drawn up plans for another Georgian-inspired house across the street.

 [Cyrus Bentley House, 1505 N. Astor Street, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Cyrus Bentley was a lawyer, just like his father before him, and had a roster of clients that included the head of a prominent Chicago family, Cyrus McCormick. This Cyrus was not the inventor of the famous reaper, but the son who took the McCormick farm implement concern to the next level when he created International Harvester. Cyrus Bentley assisted his friend Cyrus in implementing the Harvester plan, and was the firm's lead counsel as well as the McCormick family lawyer.
The two were also good friends. They enjoyed spending a portion of their summers together with family and friends in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. So much so that they purchased, and kept purchasing, acres and acres of property which provided a vast refuge from the hurly-burly of city life. They built cabins, plotted hiking trails, (one of which was named the Bentley Trail) and invited their friends to join them for a few weeks each summer in the wilderness. Today the 17,00 acre property is a federal reserve open to the public.
Elizabeth King Bentley became very active in the fight against childhood tuberculosis and founded a sanatorium for children suffering from the disease, with applications for admission to the facility mailed directly to Mrs. Bentley's Astor Street address. She died in the house in 1953 after living there for 23 years as a widow. The early 50s were a time of many changes in the neighborhood, and by 1959 the servants quarters and storage rooms at the top of the 20-room mansion had been converted into an apartment. Today the house is divided into two living units, one condominium is made-up of the basement and first two floors, while the second condo includes the top two floors and a roof deck. All of it still tucked behind Mundie & Jensen's facade of dignified Georgian restraint.

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