Tuesday, April 26, 2011

1431 North Astor Street

1431 North Astor Street (on left) (JWB, 2011)
A rare find is the home located at 1431 North Astor Street . . . an 8,900 square foot manse that has had just four owners in 117 years.  Finished in 1894 and designed by the firm of Holabird & Roche, an undisclosed owner purchased the three-story Federal-style residence several years back and has given it a makeover, returning it to its former glory.

The home’s first owner was attorney George W. Meeker, who was born in the late 1850’s, the son of a coal and iron dealer.  George W. was the older brother of Arthur Meeker, who grew up to become the general manager of Philip Armour’s meatpacking and feed grain empire and who in 1919 moved his family into the Charles Platt-designed mansion at 3030 North Lake Shore Drive (April 13, 2010 Connecting Chicago Blog).

The Meeker’s sold the Astor Street home in 1919 to Edward and Nora Ryerson.  Edward was the grandsson of Joseph T. Ryerson, who arrived in Chicago in the early 1840’s from Pennsylvania and leased a shop by the Chicago River from which he sold iron products such as buggy springs, axles, nails and wrought iron spikes.

Ground Floor detail (JWB, 2011)
Ryerson was a huge beneficiary of railroad expansion and skyscraper construction at the end of the 19th and early part of the 20th centuries.  The company was one of the first steel companies to produce stainless steel in large quantities in 1926 and in 1935 merged with Inland Steel,  operating as a wholly owned subsidiary with plants in Detroit, Cleveland, Buffalo, Cincinnati, Boston, New York and Philadelphia.  At the time of the merger the two companies had combined assets of close to $120 million dollars.

The Ryersons  extended the house by adding 65 feet to the east.  Burton and Elaine Gordon bought the home in 1965 and lived there for 40 years.  Mr. Burton received an MBA from the University of Chicago in 1948 and between 1972 and 1996 acted as Chairman of the Board and C.E.O. of the Franklin Park Bank (1967-69), the Mid Town Bank and Trust Company (1972-77) and the Columbia National Bank of Chicago (1964-1996), which he founded.

Cornice detail at 1431 N. Astor (JWB, 2011)
The new owners have restored the home to  its Federal-style roots.  Freed from a skin of steel-grey paint, he details are striking – the texture created by the shades of color in the brick’s Flemish Bond, the Ionic columns that frame the front entrance and the white stone trim with decorative keystones that frame the windows.  Especially impressive is the cornice with its combination of dentils, egg-and-dart ornamentation, and a lower band of balls that looks like a house-sized abacus wrapping around the circular fa├žade.

On a street of beautiful and distinctively different homes, this beauty ranks right up there with the best of them.

Before (www.chicagomag.com) and after (JWB, 2011)

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