Friday, March 6, 2015

Theurer - Wrigley House
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Theurer-Wrigley House (1897) Richard E. Schmidt, architect / Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

It wasn't that it was a bad house, but Joseph Theurer had lived in the many-roomed mansion at 25th and Prairie Avenue long enough. He'd moved into the large single-family manse in 1880 shortly after coming to work at the brewery of the home's owner, Peter Schoenhofen. Not only was he living in his boss's house, but that same year he married the boss's daughter, and for the next 13 years learned the nuts and bolts of the operation before taking over as company president after his father-in-law's death. That wasn't exactly how things were supposed to have turned out. When Theurer married into the family his wife Emma had four sisters and two brothers, who, as the male siblings, were destined to take over the company some day. But before Peter Schoenhofen breathed his last breath in 1893, Peter Jr. had succumbed to injuries sustained in a freak accident, and in 1891 son George fell victim to consumption. Joseph and his brother-in-law Carl Buehl, who worked for the family firm and was married one of Emma's sisters, were as close as you got to old-fashioned familial primogeniture, so they took over, and  after living at his in-laws for the past 16 years Joseph Theurer decided that the time had come to move on and move out.

  [Theurer-Wrigley House, 2466 N. Lakeview Avenue, Chicago / Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

In 1896, with three years of the presidency of the company under his belt, Theurer purchased a vacant piece of property on the north side of Chicago at the northwest corner of Lake View Avenue and Arlington Place just north of Fullerton Avenue, directly across from Lincoln Park. Although located far from the social turf of Prairie Avenue, Theurer was familiar with the the neighborhood and a few of its residents. The commodious abode of fellow brewer Andrew E. Leicht stood at the northwest corner of Fullerton and Lake View just south of the large home of Edward A. Leicht. Theurer had known the Leichts even before coming into the Schoenhofen family fold - he had once worked at the Bartholomae & Leicht Brewery.

  [Theurer-Wrigley House, National Register of Historic Places, Chicago / Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

In 1896 Arlington Place and nearby Roslyn Place were lined with elegant stone-fronted townhouses, and a group of four townhouses stood just to the north of Theurer's corner - all occupied by upper-middle-class businessmen and their families. Although Theurer was American-born and bred he was very active in the city's German-American community and in German-American affairs. This may account for his choice of the Bavarian born architect and Chicago resident Richard E. Schmidt, even though Schmidt had come to the U.S. with his parents when he a year old. Schmidt came to Chicago in 1887 after attending the prestigious MIT, and was himself involved in a number of the city's German-based organizations. He had a few residential commissions in his portfolio, but nothing came close to the scale of a house befitting the president of one the the regions largest brewery concerns. Schmidt had recently hired a very talented designer Hugh Garden to join him in his office and the pair got to work on the Theurer residence.

  [Theurer-Wrigley House, City of Chicago Landmark / Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Schmidt and his new hire designer extraordinaire Hugh Garden, looked to Europe for inspiration, primarily the palazzi of the Italian Renaissance. Coming in at around 40-rooms tucked into 15,000 square feet of space, the $55,000 house dominated its corner site. And the Theurers enjoyed their park view mansion for thirteen years until selling the Chicago palazzo to William Wrigley - of chewing gum fame - for $100,000 in May 1910, and William, Ada and their son 16-year-old Philip Knight Wrigley moved into the abundant abode. Ten years of living the high life at 2466 N. Lake View Avenue must have been enough for the the senior Wrigleys because by 1920 they had moved to an apartment in the Blackstone Hotel leaving 25-year-old Philip in the house with his young wife Helen, four maids, a cook, a houseman, and a chauffeur.  The young Wrigleys had a daughter Ada in 1923, but before their son William was born in 1933 the family left Lake View for a large Gold Coast apartment in the recently completed 1500 N. Lake Shore Drive residential tower. Philip and Helen may have opted for the security of high-rise living after an incident in 1930. In November of that year, Philip's sister and only sibling Dorothy and her husband James Offield, received a letter in the mail threatening to kidnap their daughter Betty unless the Offields parted with some of the Wrigley fortune - but nothing ever came of the threat. So, for the next 50 years the house sat lonely and forsaken, watched over by a caretaker and chauffeur or two.

  [Theurer-Wrigley House, Lakeview, Chicago / Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

After William Wrigley, Jr.'s death in 1932, P.K. as he was known, held on to the old house for sentimental reasons, calling it a family heirloom - but sentiment only went so far. By the early 1970s Wrigley had purchased two of the four 1880s era townhouses just north of the old mansion, tore them down, and it looked like the house would be soon to follow in order to make way for a high-rise apartment tower. Then Philip Knight Wrigley died on April 12, 1977 followed months later by his wife Helen. Now William III and his sister Ada had to decide what to do with the place, and after an aborted attempt to turn the house into the official residence of Chicago's mayors, demolition seemed certain. Through the efforts of local residents, the local alderman, and dedicated preservationists, in 1983 the Wrigleys handed the keys of the house to Nicholas Jannes. The new owner had a massive task confronting him, but he cleaned-out the dusty, deteriorating interior, renovated the entire house, entertained like William Wrigley before him, and sold the elaborately terra cotta-trimmed house in 2004. The preserved National Register and city designated landmark is now the only free-standing, single family home on the Avenue from that bygone era to have survived changing tastes and real estate development.

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