Monday, March 2, 2015

Jacob "Mont" Tennes House
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Jacob "Mont" Tennes House (ca. 1875-84) /Image & Artwwork: chicago designslinger]

From the mid-1860s to about the early 1880s decorative, ornately carved wood brackets were all the rage. A bracket is meant to help carry the weight of an overhanging projection, but in most cases the brackets found on Italianate style houses in the 19th century were there primarily to give some visual punch to the underside of the ordinary eave. They really didn't hold-up much of anything. And depending on the client and the budget, the more the brackets the merrier.

  [Jacob "Mont" Tennes House, 632 W. Belden Avenue, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

This multi-bracketed Italianate house on Chicago's Belden Avenue had the added benefit of a being built on an extra-wide and spacious lot. In 1884 William Riley took advantage of some of this additional space and built a barn at the rear of his property measuring 22 x 26 feet, which cost him $1,000. Four years after the outbuilding was completed, the house attracted the attention of Mr. Charles A. Morrill a wealthy Chicago-based tea wholesaler, who moved his wife and daughter from their tightly-bound LaSalle Street townhouse into this roomier and airier location near the edge of the city's northern border.

  [Jacob "Mont" Tennes House, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

On March 4, 1901, on what started out as a typical workday morning, Morrill was sitting in his downtown office when his longtime bookkeeper "Uncle John" Correa came into the room, pulled-out a pistol and shot Morrill twice in the head before turning the gun on himself. Correa was dead, but Morrill survived with just surface wounds on his scalp. The two bullets were fired at such an angle that they grazed the tea merchant's head rather than killing him. Correa had been with the firm for over twenty years and Morrill had no explanation for his long-time and trusted employee's behavior. Morrill paid for Correa's funeral and told the Chicago Tribune that he wanted Uncle John to have as splendid a burial as Morrill himself would expect had he died. It wouldn't be the last time a violent act would befall a resident of the Belden Avenue home.

  [Jacob "Mont" Tennes House /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Not long after the shooting incident the Morrills moved and Jacob "Mont" Tennes moved in with his wife and three children. Mont, a nickname given to him by his mother, made his fortune selling bets - he was what would commonly be called a bookie - and Tennes had one of the most extensive networks of illegal horse-race-gathering bookie joints in the country. He used the modern technology of his day, the telephone and its network of phone lines, to set bets, record them in his books - hence the name bookie - and make a fortune collecting dollar bets from millions of working class men and women hoping that their ticket stub would lead to a financial windfall that their paychecks would never deliver. The Powerball lottery of its day. Tennes wasn't the only player in the world of illegal gambling and as he expanded his network, he stepped on a few peoples toes. Not happy with the Mont and his associates moves into their territory, a series of retaliatory bombings occurred around the city in 1907. One of them landed in the alley behind Tennes' home, right next to the barn William Riley had erected in 1884. Then on August 19th at ten at night, a bomb was thrown into the open sideyard of the heavily bracketed house blowing-out nearly all of the windows in the house, along with several neighbors. Tennes laughed it off by saying that it was just neighborhood kids playing with firecrackers. The family moved to Chicago's Edgewater neighborhood in 1909, and although previously occupied by the Rileys and the Morrills, the house will always bear the name of its most infamous resident.

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