Thursday, February 26, 2015

George W. Blossom House
 by: chicago designslinger

[George W. Blossom House (1892) Frank Lloyd Wright, architect /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Frank Lloyd Wright was a very busy young architect in 1892. He was the lead draftsman at one of Chicago's preeminent architectural firms Adler & Sullivan, while at the same time moonlighting on a few residential projects to help pay the bills. Although Wright was known to be the highest paid draftsman in the city, he was always short of cash. The architect would now and forever live beyond his means and working on personal projects outside the office helped take some of the sting out of his perpetually capital-challenged living situation. The house he designed for George Blossom added a few extra hundred dollars in fees into the designer's overdrawn bank account.

  [George W. Blossom House, 4858 S. Kenwood Avenue, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

George W. Blossom was one of a number of upper-middle-class businessmen living in Chicago's Kenwood neighborhood. He'd made his money in the insurance business and chose the Chicago suburb because it was within easy commuting distance to the city, but much more genteel than the rough-and-tumble metropolis to the north. And although Kenwood was incorporated into the city of Chicago when the village of Hyde Park was annexed by the city in 1889, it retained its arcadian feel.

  [George W. Blossom House, Hyde Park - Kenwood National Historic District, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

There was already a Wright designed house on Kenwood's Greenwood Avenue near 48th street, built for Allison Harlan in 1891. He was also working on a house for his friend Warren McArthur on nearby Kenwood Avenue when Blossom came to Wright to talk about designing a house for he and his family. Blossom lived around the corner from the McArthur house lot and knew of Wright through Kenwood's tight-knit social community. Wright himself was no stranger to the areas Blue Book addressees, he had gained entry into the community's social networking group in 1889 when he married Catherine Tobin. Catherine's father Samuel was another one of those prosperous Kenwood businessmen and lived with his family in a large home a block from the Blossoms. So when Sam Tobin's spendthrift son-in-law went on the hunt for work, Blossom was receptive.

  [George W. Blossom House, Kenwood Historic District, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The insurance executive purchased the empty lot next door to the McArthur property and Frank put pencil to paper. Unlike the house the architect was designing for his friend Warren, Wright gently nudged himself, and  his client, in a different direction. Although the Blossom project wouldn't move too far out from what would be considered socially acceptable, the house did have hints of Wright's future, and soon-to-be famously recognizable signature. The massive hipped-roof, the leaded glass, the fireplace inglenook and central stair on the interior, all indications of an emerging new voice in the architectural firmament. As the usually egocentric designer humbly admitted later in life, "I could not invent terms of my own overnight."

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