When we think of Chicago’s early residential architects, the giants easily come to mind: Frank Lloyd Wright, his mentor Louis Sullivan, Benjamin Marshall and David Adler. However, let’s take a cruise down Lake Shore Drive. We’ll take a quick detour from the subject of this post. As the old Aliotta Haynes Jeremiah “Lake Shore Drive” song from 1971 goes,
“And it starts up north from Hollywood,
water on the driving side
Concrete mountains rearing up,
throwing shadows just about five
Sometimes you can smell the green
if your mind is feeling fine
There ain’t no finer place to be,
than running Lake Shore Drive
And there’s no peace of mind, or place you see,
than riding on Lake Shore Drive.”
See the YouTube video of this song.
On Lake Shore Drive, you’ll view walls of apartment towers, some ultra-modern, some resembling Italian palazzos, some with a hint of Georgian architecture, and others with an Art Deco vibe. A great many of these apartment buildings were designed by Robert DeGolyer. He is largely forgotten, but many Chicagoans have lived happily in his buildings. I first discovered him when I bought a place in a building he designed on Lakeview Avenue. I fell in love with the building at first sight. It was rock-solid with foot-thick plaster walls. Its ceilings soared, the apartment was thoughtfully laid out, and the home was laden with smart little touches that only a master architect could have inspired. Years after the building’s 1912 construction, its public spaces kept the faith to the original George III decorative elements, as you’ll see here:
Today’s tribute goes to Robert De Golyer. Here is a sampling of his remarkable design vocabulary, and his buildings that still march down “the Drive” and nearby streets.
Designed in 1926, 3750 N. Lake Shore Drive rises fortress-like at the corner of Sheridan Road and Grace Street.
A couple of blocks away, at 3500 N. Lake Shore Drive, are the Cornelia Apartments. With a distinctive mansard roof, the building exudes an Empire influence.
The 1924 Barry Apartments, several blocks south, are constructed of pale brick, and command the corner of Barry Street and Sheridan Road.
A block away is 3000 N. Lake Shore Drive, which De Golyer designed in 1927. The apartment building features Tudor elements, some of which originally concealed water tanks on the roof.
De Golyer’s Marlborough, at Lakeview Avenue and Deming Street, was constructed in two phases. The Deming side was built in 1912. It featured smaller, yet eminently livable apartments. The Lakeview addition was completed in the 1920s, and has larger units with semi-private lobbies.
De Golyer’s Gold Coast apartment homes featured distinctive details and rich appointments for the area’s upscale clientele. Imagine how the first residents of 1430 N. Lake Shore Drive must have felt in a structure that rose like an arrow among a host of Gilded Age mansions. Built in 1927, the building replaced a large single-family residence.
Just a bit south is De Golyer’s 1242 N. Lake Shore Drive. Completed just before the Great Depression, only a fraction of the co-op’s units sold, and the rest were rented. The Gothic-inspired apartment building features a penthouse that was once owned by McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc.
Before he designed 1420 and 1242 N. Lake Shore Drive, De Golyer completed 1120 N. Lake Shore Drive in 1925. At the time of its construction, it was the tallest co-op building in the city.
De Golyer’s 1320 N. State Parkway offers large units filled with northern light. Its Venetian-inspired design renders it unique in the many apartments that line State Parkway.
De Golyer’s contribution to the Streeterville neighborhood is 200 East Pearson, an elegant palazzo in the city. A co-op, the building offers large, well-proportioned apartments with classic mouldings and high ceilings.
One of De Golyer’s most imaginative creations is the Powhatan, at 4950 South Chicago Beach Drive. This Art Deco masterpiece was built in 1927. Its terra-cotta cladding gives it a feeling of lightness. Its strong vertical lines create the illusion of endless lift.
How can one feel anything except delight upon entering through the Powhatan’s doors?