19th Century Glessner House Preservation

Importance of the Glessner House

An historic 19th-century mansion, the John J. Glessner House, also known as the Glessner House, is situated at 1800 S. Prairie Avenue in Chicago, Illinois. It was constructed during the Gilded Period and was planned by architect Henry Hobson Richardson in 1885–1886.

It was finished in late 1887. On October 14, 1970, the building received the Chicago Landmark designation. The location, which is preserved as a house museum, was added to the National Register of Historic Places on April 17, 1970, and it was designated a National Historic Landmark on January 7, 1976.

Background of the Glessner House

During the course of fifty years, the Glessner family lived in this home, experiencing both the height and trough of the Prairie Avenue neighborhood. John Glessner held the house in high regard as a representation of content family life, and its interiors show how well the architect and his clients worked together. The Glessners wanted a straightforward, cozy home that mirrored the atmosphere of their previous West Washington Street home, so architect Henry Hobson Richardson created the Glessner House during the so-called Gilded Age, when America’s newly wealthy industrialists were residing in contemporary castles.

Concept and Design of Glessner House

Concept of the House

Richardson had created a brand-new method for dealing with a Chicago home. He had created an urban Florence Renaissance palazzo that was pushed right up to the pavement in place of the setback, freestanding suburban box in a field of lush grass. Protecting his family from the street thugs and worries about having his children stolen were, in fact, Glessner’s top priorities, as can be seen by the fortress-like appearance it gives to the street.

Glessner House sketch drawing

Notably, there are no windows on the first floor, and aside from the four on the main floor that look out onto Prairie Avenue, there are only a few tall, thin rectangular windows along the longer 18th St elevation that were designed to let light into the servant’s corridor that is next to this wall but could just as easily be used as rifle slits in an emergency.

Glessner House Preserved Interior

There are only two entrances to the house, both having an instant opening that might be used for defense if necessary. Most intriguingly, he emphasized the service entry on 18th St. while downplaying the front door, using his signature overscaled arch with cyclopean voussoirs. It appeared as though he and the Glessners were trying to divert any potential assailants’ attention away from the front door and toward the service door.

Visitors arriving in a carriage would first need to pass through an entrance tunnel to the left of the main entrance that is secured by two large gates or portcullises, to complete the fortress or castle analogy. The carriage would be allowed to enter the tunnel through the first gate facing the entrance, while the second gate would stay closed to prevent any unauthorized individuals from rushing into the interior courtyard.

As soon as the first gate was shut, the second one could be opened, allowing the carriage to continue into the courtyard and its passengers to disembark and be greeted. The carriage would next turn left into the nearby stable or proceed straight to an exit gate.

Exterior Architecture

In response to this need, Richardson built a building that, for a time, represented brilliantly and revolutionary embodiment of the urban townhouse mansion. Additionally, the home is distinctly Richardsonian: gigantic, fortress-like, site-specific, with large rusticated stone blocks, round arches, and features inspired by French and Spanish Romanesque architecture. The home looks to be E-shaped from above, practically stretching to the lot line on the east, north, and west sides.

The base of the house is made of Illinois dolomite, while the walls are made of Braggville pink granite, giving the structure a more fortified aspect. These walls, which hide a brick structural wall, are just eight to ten inches thick. The basement windows along the Prairie Avenue façade have granite grilles, and the stone is slightly damaged below the first floor level.

The windows on the second story are significantly more elegant and are split by mullions with distinctive, exquisitely carved capitals. The front facing 18th Street was inspired by an image of Abingdon Abbey that belonged to the Glessners.

When Richardson first met the Glessners, he showed them the picture and vowed to utilize it as a major source of inspiration for their home’s design. Observant visitors will notice ouroboros (dragons biting their tails), acanthus leaves, and delicate G forms all throughout the outside and inside of the house

Glessner House in Old era

Interior Architecture

Almost 17,000 square feet of household scale are kept throughout the house. There are no great voids. The rooms are connected to one another asymmetrically, creating a great balance between the formal and informal, even though many of them are symmetrically arranged, frequently with a central fireplace surrounded by doors or windows on one wall. Moreover, service took up more than half of the available area.

There are three family bedrooms, two guest bedrooms, and eight servant bedrooms. Three bathrooms are adjacent to the family and guest bedrooms, two baths are for servants, and there is a half-bathroom under the stairs in the main hall. There are seven distinct staircases and eleven fireplaces. For the first five or six years the Glessners lived in this house, even though it was wired for electricity when it was built, because there was no infrastructure in place to supply electricity to the neighborhood. For the 1893 World’s Fair, the entire house was electrified.

Preserving the Glessner House

The mansion was entrusted to the American Academy of Architects after John Glessner passed away in 1936, but they later returned it to the family after determining they could not afford the upkeep. The family gave the Armour Institute a deed to the home in 1937. (precursor to the present day Illinois Institute of Technology). The Lithographic Technological Foundation, which was given a lease on the home by the Institute in 1945, put big printing presses in many of the rooms and carried out research for the printing business there.

Glessner House side view

The home faced demolition when the Foundation relocated to Pittsburgh in the early 1960s. In order to rescue Glessner House, the Chicago School of Architecture Foundation, which is now known as the Chicago Architectural Foundation, was established in 1966. In order to save the home, a group of architects, including Philip Johnson, Ben Weese, and Harry Weese, eventually came together. They paid $35,000 for the property in 1966. The Glessner descendants started bringing back the original furniture after a short while.

Current Status of the Glessner House

In 1971, the mansion became open for public visits. Admission fees and sizable private gifts from individuals and organizations, such as the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, the Alphawood Foundation, the Tawani Foundation, and the Francis Beidler Foundation, have helped to keep it up.

Many of the spaces have been faithfully restored to their former states. The Glessners were adept collectors of both English and American arts and crafts, making the collection of ornamental items and furniture particularly noteworthy. Throughout the house, one may find items and furnishings designed by William Morris, William De Morgan, Emile Galle, Isaac Scott, A.H. Davenport, and others. In 1994, Glessner House Museum was separated into a separate non-profit organization.

People also ask:

What year was the Glessner House built?

Glessner House, also known as the Glessner House, is a 19th-century home at 1800 S. Prairie Avenue in Chicago, Illinois. It is a significant piece of architecture. It was constructed during the Gilded Period and was planned by architect Henry Hobson Richardson in 1885–1886. It was finished in late 1887.

Who owns the Glessner House?

J. J. Glessner, the owner, is an immigrant from the West side. It will be built in accordance with the late H. H. Richardson’s plans.

Glessner House wedding Cost.

Depending on your needs, prices range from $1,000 to $6,000. Four hours total, including setup and clean-up, is the required minimum rental period.

Sources : glessnerhouse.org | Please dm for removals

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