Friday, March 9, 2012

The Gage House, 1251 W. Farwell

Last Spring I started to document various buildings in Rogers Park that had been included in historic journals, brochures, and other publications. Every time I think I've found them all I come across a digitized source that proves me wrong.  That's the case with the Gage House, at the southeast corner of Farwell and Lakewood.  It was built in 1903 and published in the 1912 edition (Vol. 2) of the Cyclopedia of Architecture, Carpentry and Building
No address was given in the encyclopedia, but I've walked by this building often enough to recognize it.  It looks mostly unchanged, although there are some window alterations and the side porch was enclosed at some point.  It still has the original stucco at the first floor and wood siding above.  And it hasn't lost the distinctive pent roof that divides the first and second floors.

Every now and then I run into a building with a pedigree.  This house was designed by John B. Fischer, chief draftsman for the Chicago offices of Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge, perhaps best known here for their 1897 Chicago Public Library (now the Chicago Cultural Center).  Fischer is credited with designing the Harper Memorial Library as well as many gothic buildings on the campus of the University of Chicago.  The Ryerson Burnham Library at the Chicago Art Institute contains his papers.  After 1910 he was affiliated with the firm Postle and Fischer.  Below are some of John Fischer's designs identified in the Chicago Historic Resources Survey.  I'm especially impressed by the design to the far right, which reminds me of a previous post.

Photos from the Cook County Assessor
But getting back to the 3-bedroom house on Farwell,  it's a very compact design and reminds me of the affordable house plans popular in the 1920s.  The two big-ticket items for modern houses, kitchen and bathroom, were miniscule.  And there's only the one bathroom for both floors.  Still, the use of bays to bring in additional light and the living-room chimney that doubles as the master bedroom chimney are nice touches.

Both sides of the living room
The enclopedia provides something else uncommon when looking at modest homes of this vintage-- interior photos. 

Adapted from Sanborn Maps
I think of these interiors as "Craftman Light" making use of decorative timbers and contrasting colors and textures.  The living room almost has a rustic feel, which was probably appropriate in Rogers Park in 1903.  I especially like the change in level between the dining room and the living room.  It makes the space feel a bit more private.  And the diamond pane bay windows are essential to establishing the protected character of the space.  The photos have reproduced poorly, but it still more information than I would have expected outside of an architectural journal.

I put together a simplified map chronology to show how the character of the block changed over time, the home eventually being hedged-in by larger multi-family buildings.  While many streets of single family homes survived in Rogers Park (especially west of Clark), what you see here is more typical.  By 1964 this home became yet another remnant of an earlier era in the neighborhood. 


  1. I pass this house everyday and have always been charmed and intrigued. Thanks for posting all of this, especially the photos and floor plan.

  2. Thanks so much for providing history on this house! I've always thought it was really interesting, architecturally. I'm also enjoying some of your posts from last year, on courtyard buildings...I grew up @ 1329 W. Lunt (lived there from ages 5 to 20). Downstairs, we had two elderly couples, one set of whom had lived in the building since it was built in the 1920s (I think 1927 or 28?), so...something like 40 years. Raised their family there. You never hear of people doing that now. That was such a wonderful building, really almost like a small village...everybody knew each other.

  3. Thanks for your note! My son has lived in a courtyard building from zero to six and he doesn't seem warped. Yet.

  4. This is an awesome house and it is HUGE!
    I absolutely LOVE it!

  5. Hi, I just found your blog and it is absolutely marvelous. I have lived in Rogers Park since 1972 and am fascinated by how things used to be here. Perhaps you could find out something about my street, the 1100 block of Farwell, east of Sheridan Road. I live in a 3 flat in the middle of the block and have always been curious about its history. If you can find any information about the street's development, I would be grateful.

  6. Thanks for visiting Save Street End Beaches. I haven't really looked into that section of Farwell, but if I do I'll drop you a line. Or you can "like" the Ultra Local Geography Facebook page, and be notified of any future posts.