Obituary: Wilbert R. Hasbrouck, 1931-2018

by Blair Kamin | Feb 13, 2018
Wilbert R. Hasbrouck, a pioneering Chicago preservation architect who breathed new life into buildings designed by some of the city’s renowned architects and co-owned a beloved architectural bookstore, died Saturday at a care facility in suburban Norridge.

A longtime Chicago resident, Hasbrouck was 86. The cause of death was complications from Parkinson’s disease, said his son Charles, a director at the Chicago architectural firm of bKL.

During a career of more than 40 years, Hasbrouck renovated or restored such buildings as Frank Lloyd Wright’s Dana-Thomas House in Springfield, one of the architect’s most opulent commissions; the Manhattan Building, a muscular 1891 skyscraper by William Le Baron Jenney; and the jewel-like Peoples Savings Bank in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, by Louis Sullivan. But his influence extended beyond bricks and mortar.

He and his wife of nearly 60 years, Marilyn Whittlesey Hasbrouck, co-edited and co-published an architectural magazine, the Prairie School Review, that championed Wright and other Midwestern architects long before their work became popular. To help support the magazine, Marilyn Hasbrouck opened what became the Prairie Avenue Bookshop, which the Financial Times once called “the best architectural bookshop in the world.”

Hasbrouck distinguished himself “with high-quality restoration work on a lot of Chicago’s important 19th-century buildings,” said Pauline Saliga, executive director of the Chicago-based Society of Architectural Historians. “But he also was kind of an intellectual backbone of Chicago because of his passion for the Prairie Avenue bookshop.”

Mr. Hasbrouck joined SAH in 1965. He and his wife, Marilyn, were honored at the SAH Annual Awards Gala in November, 2014.

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Founded in 1940, the Society of Architectural Historians is an international nonprofit membership organization that promotes the study, interpretation and conservation of architecture, design, landscapes and urbanism worldwide. SAH serves a network of local, national and international institutions and individuals who, by profession or interest, focus on the built environment and its role in shaping contemporary life. SAH promotes meaningful public engagement with the history of the built environment through advocacy efforts, print and online publications, and local, national and international programs.
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