Monday, February 16, 2015

Stanford White's Final Design
 by: chicago designslinger

 [William Wallace & Evaline Cone Kimball Monument (1908) Stanford White, McKim, Mead & White, architects /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

In 1906, Evaline Cone Kimball decided that she and her husband William, who had died in 1904, should have a cemetery marker worthy of their status as one of Chicago’s pre-eminent social register couples. Instead of asking one of the city’s pre-eminent architectural firms to design the monument, she turned instead to the prominent New York firm of McKim, Mead & White. In June of that year when Stanford White was shot and killed by high-society millionaire Harry K. Thaw, the architect had supposedly just completed the design of the Beaux Arts grave marker – which would have made the Kimball colonnade his final work. 

 [William Wallace & Evaline Cone Kimball Monument, Graceland Cemetery, 4401 N. Clark Street, Chicago /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

 William Kimball had come to the city 47 years prior to his death and opened a small, retail piano store. By the time he died in 1904 he owned the largest piano and organ manufacturing concern in the world with a huge production facility on the city’s west side. The place was so large in fact that a railroad car trunk line circled through the complex delivering the raw materials needed to make the instruments at one end and coming out at the other end loaded with the finished product packed and ready for delivery around the country.

 [William Wallace Kimball & Evaline Cone Kimball Monument and Sarcophagi, National Register of Historic Places, Chicago /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Evaline M. Cone Kimball lived on for another 16 years in the grand mansion she and William had constructed on Chicago’s fashionable Prairie Avenue in 1893. Unfortunately the last few years of her life weren’t great. Evaline probably suffered from Alzheimer’s, but in those days people her age were either called dotty at best, or crazy at worst. The Kimballs had amassed a pretty decent art collection, and in 1916 it was put on display at Chicago’s Art Institute. Apparently poor Eva didn’t quite understand what was going on and became distraught over the loss of her paintings. So they were brought back to her mansion and rehung on the bare walls. By 1920 she was deemed incompetent by the court and her property was put in trust, overseen by her longtime bank and attorney. The paintings were loaned back to the Art Institute, the house closed up, and all it’s fine furnishings dispersed. Evaline died in 1921 in the Berkshire Hills, and since she and William had no children her $2,000,000 will was contested by relatives from her side of the family on the grounds of her mentally incompetency. Although they were looking to get a cut of the Kimball largess, the court found they had no case. As a result, in 1923, the Art Institute created the William W. and Evaline M. Kimball Room featuring the artwork that had provided Eva so much comfort, now a part of the museum’s permanent collection.

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