Monday, March 2, 2015

Park View - Park Grove Manor Apartments, Oak Park
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Park View - Park Grove Manor Apartments (1922/1927) E.E. & Elmer Roberts, architects /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Who knew that Oak Park resident and Chicago area-based architect Eben Ezra Roberts had such a sense of humor. Thirty-five years into a very productive career, Roberts introduced a bit of architectural playfulness into a handsome courtyard apartment building that hadn't shown-up in any of his previous projects. Perhaps it was his son Elmer, who was working with his father by this time, who had suggested that they have a little fun with this one.

  [Park View - Park Grove Manor Apartments, 173-181 North Grove Avenue, Oak Park, IL. /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

E.E. Roberts came to Chicago in 1888 and found a job in the office of architect Solon S. Beman at a time when Beman was busy cranking out projects for railcar innovator George Pullman. Then, with a few years of experience under his belt, in 1893 Roberts decided to set-off on his own and establish a firm in the suburb of Oak Park. There was also another young, up-and-coming architect at work in the west Chicago suburb, and even though Roberts never achieved the worldwide recognition of his neighbor Frank Lloyd Wright, more Roberts designed buildings appeared on Oak Park's streets than Wright's. Unlike the Prairie Style nonconformist, Roberts was willing to adapt any number of popular, revival styles and apply them to his residential and commercial work as needed. He was a much more comfortable choice for many his more traditional minded neighbors.

  [Park View - Park Grove Manor Apartments, Oak Park, Oak Park Historic Landmark, Frank Lloyd Wright-Prairie School of Architecture National Historic District /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Roberts was the client as well as the owner of the Grove Avenue apartment building complex. The multi-phase project, constructed in two sections in 1922 and then in 1927, sat on a sizeable plot of land at the southwest corner of Grove and Ontario Streets. The architect had combined two individual pieces of property - each of which had a large, single family, home sitting on it - for his U-shaped multi-unit real estate investment. The lot on the north side of the conjoined parcel had been the residence of businessman William Spooner, who like many of his upper-middle-class neighbors commuted to his downtown Chicago office by train. Spooner was also very active in the Congregational Church which was located just around the corner on Lake Street, and served on the board of the Scoville Institute, which his across-the-street neighbor James Scoville had constructed at the corner of Grove and Lake. It was a very tight-knit community.

[Park View - Park Grove Manor Apartments, Oak Park /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The house to the south had once been the home of J.L. Cleveland, another commuting businessperson who served as the assistant land commissioner of the Chicago & North Western Railroad. Roberts bought the two properties, had the houses torn down and the first phase of construction got underway. And although the expressive gargoyle-like faces didn't make it on to the upper part of one section of the "U" if you circle over to the Ontario Street facade and look up, you'll see the that father and son had even more fun with the countenances framing the service entrance.

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