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Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright, and the Charnley House, Part 1

Rachel Freundt 9 comments

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[Rachel Freundt/Chicago Patterns]

The James Charnley House, constructed between 1891-92, in Chicago’s Gold Coast is an important design in the development of modern architecture. Charnley was the first house anywhere in the world to embrace modernism in its complete elimination of historical detail and emphasis on abstract forms and geometric simplicity, anticipating the architecture of the 1920s and 30s. Yet 125 years later there is still controversy surrounding Charnley’s authorship. Adler & Sullivan are the architects of record. The commission was widely published in architectural journals of the time, like the August 1891 issue of Inland Architect and the January 1892 issue of Architectural Record. The design actually received more publicity than some of the firm’s larger commercial works. However, Frank Lloyd Wright’s name is forever attached to the Charnley House. Although chief draftsman at the time of the construction, Wright’s name was not officially linked to Charnley until 1932 when he claimed in An Autobiography that he solely designed it. Sullivan could not refute this bold statement by his former assistant as he had been dead for eight years. For the next fifty years, historians accepted Wright’s words without question and Sullivan’s contributions were minimized at best. Of course a single person does not design a building. Architecture is a collaborative process. There are many hands in the pie, so to speak. But that doesn’t take away from the facts.

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1547 N. Dearborn Parkway

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1547 N. Dearborn Parkway

Frederick Nachman

The 18,590 square-foot, 12-bedroom mansion, owned by Ann Lurie, was put on the market for $18.75 million but is now listed at $11 million (not including the side yard) plus $1 million for interior updates. It was constructed in 1891.

Frederick Nachman