Monday, February 23, 2015

Edward P. Russell House
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Edward P. Russell House (1929) Holabird & Root, architects /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

1928 was a big year for Holabird & Roche, one of Chicago's most renowned and successful architectural firms when the name was changed to Holabird & Root, a reflection of a change in style led by a younger generation. The Edward P. Russell house, built in 1929, is a small yet wonderfully elegant example of the firm's new direction.

  [Edward P. Russell House, 1444 N. Astor Street, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Edward Russell was 72-years old when he commissioned the newly renamed architectural firm to design a house for he and his wife on Astor Street. He was the senior partner in one of the city's leading financial institutions, and a well-connected client for the two Johns, Holabird & Root, to add to their client list. The men, who had recently both just turned 40, were moving-out from under founding partners William Holabird & Martin Roche's neo-classical, 19th-century legacy and fully embracing the sleek, Roaring-Twenties-defining modernism of Art Deco. With a handful of large projects under their belts chock full of geometrically linear detailing like 333 N. Michigan, the Palmolive, the Daily News, and the Chicago Motor Club buildings, the Russell house was small potatoes by comparison, but definitely within the firm's embrace of the fashionable genre.

  [Edward P. Russell House, Gold Coast National Historic District, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Just a year after the house was completed Russell's wife died, and in 1938 he closed-up his business and retired. He sold the $195,000 house that same year for a reported $65,000 and moved into an apartment a few blocks away at 999 N. Lake Shore Drive. Two years later a maid found Russell in his bedroom with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, dead at the age of 83. By the mid-40s the house was home to a technical school, then in the mid-50s a private club, and ultimately in 1956, a 9-unit apartment building. Then in 1998, an enterprising couple undertook the extensive rehabilitation and restoration of the house, including tracking down the quarry in France which had provided the building's exterior limestone cover in 1929.There were thousands of buildings faced with limestone in Chicago, most if not all of it provided by quarries in nearby Indiana, including those large commercial structures designed by Holabird & Root. But when it came time to build the smaller-scaled Russell house, the architects looked overseas for their facade-covering-masonry, perhaps because the French stone was less grey than the commonly used fossilized Indiana rock and provided a perfect contrast to the dark black trim, and perhaps because it's brightness was much more alluringly exotic.

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