Saturday, February 21, 2015

William J. Onahan Row Houses
 by: chicago designslinger

 [William J. Onahan Row Houses (ca. 1875) Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

This entire row of houses, named for William J. Onahan, was home to the Onahan family who occupied the two-story dwelling at the east end of the row, at the far right side of the photo. Onahan came to Chicago via Liverpool in 1856, entered the commission business, became very active in local Irish organizations, was president of the Union Catholic Library Association, served two long terms as the City Collector, was named a Count of the Roman Catholic Church by the Pope, and got a Chicago public school named after him.

[William J. Onahan Row Houses, 1254-1262 Lexington Street, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The row was built sometime in the 1870s, after the big fire of 1871, and the name of the architect who designed them has been lost to history. Onahan's name first shows up at No. 37 Macalaster Place (the old address and street) in the 1880 census along with with his wife Margaret, 13-year-old daughter Mary and his mother-in-law. When he died at home in 1919, his house number had changed to 1254 and Macalaster was often spelled as Macalister.

    [William J. Onahan Row Houses, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

But before Onahan's name was attached to the row, the Chicago Tribune reported on July 22, 1879 that "three marble-fronted houses Nos. 37, 39 and 41 Macalister place fronting Vernon Park were sold to John Coughlan for $7,800." Coughlan lived two doors down in a large, single family home on the corner of Macalister at No. 31. So although it appears that John Couhglan owned three of the five houses in the row when the census taker registered the Onahan's as the inhabitants of No. 37, today the entire row bears the name of the former City Collector and Catholic Count.

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