Crilly Court, Chicago
by: chicago designslinger
[Crilly Court, Chicago (1885) / Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
Like many 18-year-olds Daniel Crilly wondered what he wanted to do with his life. Things weren't going badly for him in his native Pennsylvania but he wanted something more, and in 1857 there were only a few options to choose from - college not being one of them. So he made the decision to head out west and landed in Iowa City, Iowa where he found a job building houses. By 1868 he was ready for a change and decided to make a play for the big time. This move took him to Chicago, and it proved to be a fortuitous choice. By the time of his death in the summer of 1921, Crilly had turned-over a real estate portfolio worth well over $1 million to his children. A million bucks doesn't sound like all that much divvied-up 5 ways these days, but it would translate to around $2.5 million per child in 2013 dollars.
[Crilly Court, Chicago, 1700 Block North Crilly Court /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
When he first arrived in the city the ambitious young man found work in the meatpacking industry. Once he had saved-up enough money, he bought a piece of real estate as an investment and never looked back. By the time he acquired a 4-acre parcel of property on Chicago's north side in 1884, Crilly owned a downtown Chicago office building bearing his name, and a large home on mansion-lined South Park Boulevard representative of his status as a successful businessman. His north side investment ran along the west side of Wells Street north to Florimond Street (now St. Paul), then over to North Park Avenue, down to Eugenie, and back over to Wells. The tract was owned by Florimond Canda, a former officer in Napoleon's army, who had inherited the Chicago acreage upon the death of his brother Charles.
[Crilly Court, Chicago, Old Town Triangle National Historic District /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
The real estate developer built a group of homes along his North Park property line and a row of conjoined townhouses on a tiny lane he cut through the middle. He named the block-long street Crilly Court, and had the word "Private" carved into the stone pillars at either end. With the stroke of a masons chisel, Crilly made it clear that this enclave was a cut above the rest. The decoratively-trimmed row of houses were rented to middle class businessmen and their families, and although students were among the renters, they came from reliably respectable, Blue Book listed families. Once the houses were completed in 1885 Crilly kept the remaining land vacant until the demand for housing in the population-expanding neighborhood increased. In 1893 he built an apartment complex that ran along the east side of Crilly, and paid tribute to his children by putting their names in the decorative rectangular stone pediment over the entry doors.
[Crilly Court, Old Town Triangle Historic District, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
At the time of his death, Crilly's real estate investment in the neighborhood had grown to include the southern half of the Wells Street block that sat directly across from his Crilly Court, children-named, Wells-facing building. But, by the time the first quarter of the 20th century was roaring, the area around the "Private" lane had seen better times. In 1931 Edgar Crilly - Daniel's son and legatee - decided that the time was right to try and improve the fading fortunes of the area now known as Old Town. By the time of Edgar's death 30-years later, Old Town's bohemian, trendy, and property-value-increasing reputation was well on its way, and when the family decided to sell Daniel Francis Crilly's multi-acred parcel in 1963, the heirs became $2 million richer.