Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Charlie Daily's Home, 2206 W. Lunt

When the photo archives of the old Chicago Daily News went online it was pretty exciting, even though the photos were small and didn't have much background information.  During a trial search I came across a model home built in Rogers Park in 1924.  Below are photos from construction of the foundation to near-completion.  It was solidly built of tile blocks and finished with stucco. But where was it, exactly?  And is it still there?
Click to see slightly larger version
According to the photo descriptions, it was built near the intersection of Lunt and Pingree.  But for some reason there is no Pingree Street any more. It took a quick internet search to find out that Pingree became Bell.  And sure enough, the house is still there.

2206 W. Lunt-   Photo taken a few days after our big blizzard.

So this was a good discovery, if you're into that sort of thing.  But there was something about this building that looked familiar.  It took a while for me to realize that I had seen this design before.  And I didn't have look further than my bookcase:

Sure, the windows above the entrance were different, the roof was asphalt shingles instead of Italian tile, and the porch was around back.  Other than that, it was pretty darn close.   The image on the left is from a Dover reprint, "Authentic Small Houses of the Twenties," originally published in 1929  as "Small Homes of Architectural Distinction:  A Book of Suggested Plans Designed by the Architects' Small House Service Bureau, Inc."

All told, the Chicago Daily News built three model homes--  one in West Rogers Park, one in Jackson Park Highlands (6847 S. Cregier), and one in River Forest, IL (250 Lathrop).  I couldn't find the one in River Forest, but the one on Cregier is still there, and looking good.  Apparently their readers were updated on the progress of the work in the Saturday edition of the newspaper.  It took a quick microfilm search at the Harold Washington Library to confirm that the Rogers Park house was taken directly from plans from the Architect's Small House Service Bureau.  As modest as they seem now, these must have been very famous homes in their time.

One of the strangest things about these projects was that the newspaper concocted fictional backgrounds for all three homes.  For instance, the home in River Forest was identified as "The Home of Tom News."  The one in Jackson Park, "The Home of John Daily News, Jr."  And in Rogers Park, "The Home of Charlie News."  And of course their fictional wives and children were identified as well.  

I'm fascinated by these old pattern books.  They catered to middle-class buyers looking for traditional, single-family homes.  The most famous were from Sears-Roebuck, where you could not only pick a house but have all of the materials delivered to your site.  But there were also homes available from Aladdin, Gordon Van Tine, Lewis, Sterling, and many other, lesser-known companies.  These were advertised as a good option for people who couldn't afford architects but still wanted the benefit of an efficiently designed and attractive house.  If you look carefully you can still find them in outlying areas and suburbs. 

These books mostly disappeared after the 1940s.  During the post-war boom home construction took off in ways that left the small neighborhood builder far behind.  New development took advantage of economies of scale, new materials, and a greater level of standardization.  As alleys disappeared garages migrated to the front of the homes and the character and scale of neighborhoods changed.  Only recently have architects and developers realized that there's still a market for the traditional, pedestrian-oriented neighborhoods memorialized in the pattern books of the early 20th century.  Here in Chicago we're lucky to still have the real thing.


  1. I'm amazed by the twists and turns of this adventure: finding the old photos, finding the real house and finding the plans. The house does have an air of "architectural distinction" which is, as you point out, completely lacking in larger scale developments. Do you know of a library that has copies of these pattern books?

  2. Frances,
    I'm sure the Harold Washington Library has the Dover reprints. And I see them pop up at used bookstores now and again. But if you want to see the originals try the Ryerson Library at the Art Institute.

  3. Serena and I have walked by this house many times and wondered about it. It doesn't fit with the other houses on the block and we have wondered what the deal was. It looks pretty Italian-y for West Rogers Park. But after seeing your post, it makes much more sense. Very cool. I've often wondered about building one of these houses today.

  4. I've thought about it too. But I think land costs so much more that it would be hard to follow the designs economically. You'd end up with a really expensive house not much bigger than a good-sized apartment. Still, to have a yard...

  5. Hey, nice catch! I go around looking for Sears and other catalog houses, but I always get extra excited when I find a plan book one (not often). Thanks, enjoyed the article.

  6. Thanks Lara. I was pretty surprised to find it myself.

  7. I have often walked by this home and thought it quite different from anything else in the area. That you for revealing the history (and mystery) of its origin!