Thursday, February 19, 2015

Fred A. Cary Houses
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Fred A. Cary Houses (1892) Treat & Foltz, architects /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

In August 1891, Fred A. Cary paid $13,000 for a city lot 40 feet wide by 125 feet deep and built two houses. Well, one 3-story single family house and one 4-story apartment building to be exact.

  [Fred A. Cary Houses, 1353 N. State Parkway, Chicago /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Architects Treat & Foltz designed almost identical facades, save the fact that one building was taller than the other. Like many of his wealthy neighbors, Cary was involved in the real estate business and while providing a large home for him and his family, he built the apartment building next door for a better return on his $13,000 investment. And since there was only one large apartment per floor, Cary could rent to a more elite clientele willing to pay a premium price to live in a nice, upscale neighborhood.

[Fred A. Cary Houses, 1353 N. State Parkway Apartments, Gold Coast National Historic District, Chicago /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Although the area retained its sheen and social cache through the ensuing decades, even Chicago's famed Gold Coast saw its social cache decline somewhat with the onset of the Great Depression in 1930. Many of the old mansions were converted into apartments, some into officially designated "rooming houses." I can remember in the mid-1970s when you could stroll through the neighborhood and see once grand houses looking a little worse for wear with a slew of mailboxes lining the walls of a front entry hall. As for Fred's properties, in the early 50s Cary's former house and 9-room, floor-through apartments were combined into one apartment complex and divided into 2 1/2 to 4 room apartments. The original entry of the apartment building was sealed-up and a brick box was erected in a newly created below-grade entryway, wrapped by a matching brick wall. The stairs of the former residence were removed and the porch was sealed-off to become a small private balcony.
What makes this little group kind of unique in today's Gold Coast, is that it is one of the few   remaining remnants of a not-so-glamorous era in the neighborhood's history. So many of the mansions turned rooming/apartment houses have been converted back into large, single family homes that the Cary group stands virtually alone among its, once again, upscale neighbors.

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