Monday, February 23, 2015

Patterson - McCormick House
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Patterson - McCormick House (1891) Stanford White, Mc Kim Mead & White, architects /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Robert Patterson was an attorney who decided that practicing law just wasn't his cup of  tea and decided to find a job doing what he really wanted to do, being a journalist. Soon after making this life-altering decision in 1873, he found a job at the Chicago Tribune working as the telegraph news reporter. A few years later he became the managing director of the paper, and on his way up the editorial ladder he married the boss's daughter.

  [Patterson -McCormick House, 20 East Burton Place, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Elinor Medill was the youngest of Tribune publisher and owner Joseph Medill's two spoiled, high-strung, iron-willed, and extremely competitive daughters, who married Robert Patterson in 1878. In 1890, the Pattersons purchased a vacant lot at the corner of Astor Street and Burton Place, which was then located in a relatively undeveloped Chicago neighborhood just a block south of Lincoln Park. Elinor selected notorious New York architect Stanford White, who was well known for his rakish behavior but whose firm McKim Mead & White was the place to go during the Gilded Age, to design a house for her prominent corner lot. White's Italian Renaissance-inspired palazzo seemed a perfect fit for this Midwestern principessa, but by the time of her father's death in 1899 - when ownership of the paper passed to Elinor and her sister Katherine and Robert took over as editor-in-chief - Elinor was bored, tired of Chicago, and ready to conquer a new dominion of high-society.

  [Patterson - McCormick House, Gold Coast National Historic District, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

She set her sights on Washington D.C., and leaving her husband behind in Chicago she purchased another large, prominently-placed vacant lot, which overlooked DuPont Circle. Once again Stanford White came-up with an Italian Renaissance palazzo, this time with a curved facade wrapped in marble, and Elinor became one of the capital city's premiere hostesses. After Robert died in 1910 and Elinor was unable to convince her son Joseph to move-into the Burton Place residence with his wife and three daughters, the buff-toned brick house was sold in 1914 to another scion of Chicago, Cyrus H. McCormick, Jr. McCormick rented-out the place until 1921 and the house remained empty until he married his late wife's secretary in 1927.  Deciding that the 10,000-square-foot mansion wasn't quite big enough for the two of them, local architect David Adler designed a rear addition that was twice as large as the existing house, and after McCormick died in 1936, his wife had the whole place to herself, until remarrying two years later.

 [Patterson - McCormick House, Astor Street Historic District, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

In 1950 Alice Bateman Craig purchased the house and moved her Bateman School from the former Edith Rockefeller McCormick mansion to Edith's former brother-in-law's mansion. Bateman was a small, 300 student school with children from nursery age to teenage attending classes daily. Craig pulled kids from the nearby Gold Coast population and thrived for the next 15 years. By the mid-70s the school was in trouble. Parents weren't paying tuition, mortgages taken to keep the school afloat were coming due, and the building's maintenance was wanting. Craig held on until 1973 when the school finally closed, and she put the building up for sale. In January, 1976 with the banks sniffing at the door and the structure falling into further disrepair, Craig filed for a demolition permit with the city. Her plan was to tear down the old house, act as the developer of the property, and build a zoning-permitted, high-rise apartment tower to generate income, then use that money to reopen the school in a new location.
However, the month before, the Chicago City Council had declared the area a landmark district which meant that the house couldn't be destroyed until hearings were held and the request reviewed. Under the landmark law, which is typical of landmark laws around the country, the city - as the government entity - either had to issue the permit, or buy the building. The situation caused quite a ruckus. No one had ever sought to tear down a designated landmark, and no one knew what was going to happen. The city denied the permit, but before Alice could go to court and seek restitution, the banks stepped-in and took over the house. In 1978 a pair of local developers purchased the property and converted the rumored-to-be, 90-room  mansion into 9 condominium units, which is where the landmarked house stands today.

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