Study Tour Fellow Reports

Estates and Gardens of Chicago’s North Shore - 13 July 2008

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| Jul 13, 2008

Our third day began at Ragdale, architect Howard Van Doren Shaw’s own home begun in 1897 in an Arts & Crafts style. The stucco exterior with its crisp geometric forms as well as the wood-paneled rooms on the ground floor have a great deal in common with Voysey’s iconic estates in England’s Lake District. Ragdale was always a hub of artistic activity—Shaw’s mother Sarah Van Doren Shaw was a painter, Shaw’s wife Frances Wells Shaw was a poet and playwright (for whom he designed an open-air theater on the estate in 1912), and his daughter Sylvia Shaw Judson was a sculptor. Appropriately the estate is now a residential artists’ retreat.

Ragdale (1897) by Howard Van Doren Shaw

We next toured one of the landmarks of the second wave of mansion building, the 1928 Noble Judah estate, a Tudor Revival manor by Philip Goodwin, who would design the Museum of Modern Art in New York City a decade later in a far more modern idiom. After exploring the interior we moved to the well-kept axial formal garden where we posed for our group portrait.

The Noble Judah Estate (1928) by Philip Goodwin

The garden of the Noble Judah Estate

We then explored the house and lunched in the garden of Shaw’s 1909 House of the Four Winds, built for Hugh J. McBirney. This structure is an atypical design for Shaw in that it draws upon an unusually wide variety of design motifs, leading some architectural historians to speculate that Adler rather than Shaw was chiefly responsible for handling the commission. As we walked through the house, both Italianate and Moorish prototypes were mentioned in conjunction with the massing and layout of the house and gardens—and inside Macintosh, Voysey, and Luytens were all cited as possible influences for the entryway, hall, and living room.

The House of the Four Winds (1909) by Howard Van Doren Shaw

From the garden at the House of the Four Winds

Our next stop was the Gothic Revival church built in 1888 by Cobb & Frost as the campus chapel for The Young Ladies’ Seminary of Ferry Hall. After the school ceased to operate in the 1970s, this ecclesiastical edifice, along with the large dormitory adjacent to it, was eventually creatively adapted for reuse as domestic structures.

The Ferry Hall Chapel (1888) by Cobb & Frost

We next visited Campbell, designed by architects Walcott & Work with a landscape created by Root & Hollister, which was erected in 1929 just before the onset of the Depression.

Campbell (1929) by Walcott & Work

Then we toured a major commission for David Adler from 1923, just before the second wave of estate building swung into high gear. A decade after leaving Shaw’s firm to start his own partnership (with Henry Dangler), Adler designed the Carolyn Morse Ely House in Lake Bluff, which is based upon the 1787 hunting lodge at Versailles, the Pavillion de la Lanterne.

The Carolyn Morse Ely House (1923) by David Adler

We ended our day at a gathering of the Lake Forest-Lake Bluff Historical Society in the shoreline garden of a 1970 house by Roy Binckley on the same grounds where leading Chicago architect Daniel Burnham had designed a home for Stanley Field called Lakelandwood in 1913 (now destroyed). By the edge of the bluff, Arthur again lectured on the history of the area, this time dealing more specifically upon aspects of the local preservation movement.

The old Stanley Field Estate with a 1970 House by Roy Binckley

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