Friday, February 20, 2015

Thomas A. Wright House, Chicago
 by: chicago designslinger

[Thomas A. Wright House (1888) /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Standing in front the of the Thomas A. Wright house today, its hard to imagine that this section of south Michigan avenue was once lined with so many mansions that it vied with nearby Prairie Avenue as Chicago's Millionaires Row. When Wright built his house in 1888, neighbor and meat-packing king J. Ogden Armour, lived in a 10,000 sq.ft. mansion just half-a-block away.

  [Thomas A. Wright House, 3601 S. Michigan Avenue, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Wright made his money as a member of the Chicago Board of Trade buying and selling options in wheat, corn and pig bellies. In 1909, Charles Gunther, king of a candy domain, purchased the house and lived there until his death in 1920. While Gunther's confections were well known throughout the city and the midwest, his real claim to fame came through an obsession with collecting odds and ends of historic memorabilia, his own version of Antiques Roadshow. He played a major role in bringing the infamous Civil War Libby Prison from Virginia to Chicago in 1889, stone by stone, and opening up a museum inside its reassembled walls to show off his assemblage of bric-a-brac. When the scheme didn't prove to be very profitable, Gunther built a large indoor auditorium/arena behind the prison walls and opened the Chicago Coliseum. Over the ensuing decades the enormous indoor meeting hall hosted many a political convention along with major sporting events, as well as Bronzeville's popular drag balls before being demolished in 1982.

  [Thomas A. Wright House, Black Metropolis - Bronzeville Historic District, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

As the neighborhood changed the Wright/Gunther house spent a few years as a rooming house and a publishers office, eventually returning to its roots and becoming a home once again under the ownership of Ruth Toler, who lovingly preserved what was left of the original mansion. It's through her efforts and stewardship, and the love and care given to the house by its latest owners the Donnell family, that the imposing granite house has survived, virtually intact, to this day.

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