Tuesday, March 3, 2015

John G. Garibaldi House
 by: chicago designslinger

 [John G. Garibaldi House (1887) / Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

In 1808 New Yorker John Jacob Astor began a business called the American Fur Company which 10 years later dominated the fur market around the Great Lakes, including the southern edge of Lake Michigan in and around the U.S. government outpost of Fort Dearborn. By the 1830 Astor had cornered the fur market in North America and had become America's wealthiest resident. It was also around this time that he ditched the fur business and got into the real estate market, primarily in his home city but also in the tiny hamlet of Chicago. By the time Astor died in 1848, Chicago had become a city and Astor's property would forever be recorded on plat maps as Astor's Addition to Chicago. But who reads plat maps. However, when the city and its developers scooped-out neighborhood streets through Astor's Addition they named one of the avenues for the fur trader, so his name lived-on in Chicago in a much more obvious and less plat-obscure way.

  [John G. Garibaldi House, 1236 N. Astor Street, Chicago / Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

When John G. Garibaldi decided to build a single family home on the street in 1886, Astor was becoming known as a street where men of means could show that they had crossed the class line from middle to upper. Garibaldi was a Genoese who came to Chicago as a young man and settled in the northern Italian immigrant community that had established itself in the area just north of today's Merchandise Mart building. In 1879 Garibaldi and his neighbor Joseph Arata started a wholesale fruit and nut distribution company and were joined by another neighbor, Andrew Cuneo. Cuneo's father Giovanni (John) B. Cuneo had immigrated from the Genoese region of Italy as well and had come to Chicago in the late 1850s with his wife and two sons in tow. Cuneo opened a grocery store, invested any savings he had in real estate, and bought-up even more property after the Chicago Fire. He and his wife Catherine set about raising their six children in an apartment building at the southwest corner of Franklin and Illinois Streets, whose apartments in 1880 also included families like the Aratas and Arados.

  [John G. Garibaldi House, Gold Coast National Historic District / Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

1880 was also the year that Andrew's younger brother Frank joined Garibaldi & Arata, and in 1882 Garibaldi & Arata became Garibaldi & Cuneo. To tighten the bond even further, John Garibaldi married Frank and Andrew's younger sister Theresa in 1884 making the Cuneos and Garibaldi brothers-in-law. Then another Cuneo brother decided to get into the wholesale fruit business, so Andrew left the partnership with John and Frank and joined with his brother Lawrence to found Cuneo Brothers, and Frank and John went on to become the largest wholesale banana importers in the United States. All the fruit and nut familial connections got even more confusing when Garibaldi and the Cuneo brothers each named a son John, Andrew, Frank or Lawrence between them.

  [John G. Garibaldi House, Astor Street Historic District / Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

There weren't a lot of houses on Astor Street in 1886 when Garibaldi purchased the corner lot at Scott and Astor Streets. The area from Division Street to North Avenue, and Lake Shore Drive to State Street, was sparsely populated. The lot Garibaldi purchased did have a small frame house at the west edge of the property line, so he tore that down and got to work erecting a much more sunstantial tw0-story brick dwelling. He used his ever increasing income to invest in real estate just as his father-in-law had done before him, and by the time of his death in his home on January 29, 1917 at age 68, he was a very wealthy man. His widow Theresa survived him, as did his five sons and two daughters, one of whom had married Count Guilio Bolognese.

  [John G. Garibaldi House, Astor Street, Chicago / Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Sixty-eight-year-old Theresa Cuneo Garibaldi died in the home she had shared with her husband at 1236 N. Astor Street in 1933. The Garibaldi sons, like their father and grandfather Cuneo before them, became actively involved in the real estate business. Their father's vast portfolio included the Garibaldi Apartments on the corner of Rush and Walton Streets, and in 1955 they hired Chicago architect Bertrand Goldberg to design a two-story commercial office building for the site. In 1957 the brothers decided that the home they had grown up in was not worth the real estate it was sitting on and asked Goldberg to design a, much more profitable, modern apartment tower for the Astor and Scott Street corner. It was a period of another great transformation in the history the Gold Coast neighborhood. Large single family homes had begun to be replaced by tall apartment towers as early as the 1920s, but once the Great Depression set-in, followed by the Second World War, construction of  large apartment blocks had ground to a halt. But the booming post-war, 1950s economy brought in a wave of new apartment tower construction that dwarfed the transformative years of the late 20s. The Garibaldis never built their high-rise apartment building, but Goldberg would go on to design a tower just up the street at Astor and Goethe.

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