The Village Architecture

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Glencoe's Notable Architecture


Many of Glencoe's earliest homes were summer residences for Chicago families.

Later, when the train made daily travel to the city possible, more permanent homes were built. These were large, set on even larger lots. The land east of the tracks was laid out in lots that ran along the contours of the lake and the ravines. Streets west of the tracks were laid out in a grid.

Victorian Gothic and Italianate homes became popular in the 1870s and '80s. These had wide porches and projecting bays and were painted in exciting colors. A few of these early homes still stand.

"Breezy Castle," the home of early Glencoe settler Frederick Newhall, was built in 1871. It may be seen at 815 Greenleaf Avenue. The original structure boasted a two story belvidere tower, rising above the third floor. Because of its height, the tower swayed in the wind; hence the "breezy" name. The tower has been removed but the combination of Mansard roof and Italian detail is typical of early Victorian taste.

Also on Greenleaf Avenue are some of the homes built by the members of the Glencoe Company, as well as several other old Victorian structures.

A Mansard home was built in the early 1870s at 341 Lincoln. The architect was William W. Boyington of Highland Park, who designed the Chicago Water Tower on Michigan Avenue a few years earlier. The home was remodeled in 1919 but still stands as a fine example of the style.

"The Castle" home of Walter Gurnee and, later, Dr. Alexander Hammond, founder and organizer of the Glencoe Company, still stands on 750 Glencoe Drive, just behind the Woman's Library Club. It has been rebuilt several times, after a fire in 1962, and most recently when it was returned to a single family residence, 1995-1997.

One of Glencoe's architectural treasures is the railroad depot, a landmark building designed by Charles S. Frost and dedicated in 1891. The building is representative of enhanced, architect-designed suburban commuter stations built in the midst of what later would be termed the "Railroad Beautiful" movement. The station, which reflects the influence of architectural innovator Henry Hobson Richardson, has been meticulously restored in recent years and in 1991 was determined to be eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. Actual listing has not taken place because of objection by then owner, the Chicago and NorthWestern Transportation Company, which routinely opposes such listing of its properties.

In early 1991 the Glencoe Village Board, sensitive to growing concern over the tearing down of historic homes, created the Historic Preservation Commission. Composed of five members who are interested in architecture or history, the commission is charged with public education on the architectural treasures of the town and identifying and nominating for designation architecturally significant homes.

Since its inception, the commission has created an architectural map with walking tours that highlight 96 significant structures, co-sponsored a Frank Lloyd Wright North tour and honored the owners of designated landmark homes.

The commission evaluates, designates and certifies landmark homes on the basis of historical or architectural significance. As of mid-1997, homes and public structures had been designated by the commission and the Village Board.

While the commission would prefer to keep homes in their original locations, if that is not possible it will work with owners in order to save the structures by other means. One such architecturally significant home on Adams Street, originally scheduled for demolition, was successfully moved three blocks away on the same street. Another, one of Dr. John Nutt's homes, was moved from 245 Hawthorne to Vernon Avenue in September 1994. A third, the Union Church's building was moved across the street to Park Avenue.


A number of Midwestern towns can boast houses designed by Frank Lloyd Wright: Oak Park, Ill., and the Madison, Wisconsin area, to mention two. But Glencoe has a whole subdivision, giving it the third largest collection of Wright houses in the world.

The Ravine Bluffs subdivision sits between two ravines and the train tracks in northeast Glencoe, with the Sylvan Road Bridge at the entrance and geometric markers, also designed by Wright, at the boundaries. Commissioned by Wright's lawyer and friend, Sherman Booth, Sr., in 1911, a home situated on the ravine was to be Booth's own dwelling, with five other homes surrounding it. The Booth House, at 265 Sylvan Road, is the most sophisticated and complex design of the six.

The five other homes, designed by Wright at approximately the same time, are all variations of the same plan, Wright's famous "Fireproof House for $5,000," published in the Ladies Home Journal of 1907. There is some speculation that Wright may have been partners with Booth in the Ravinia Bluffs venture.

The Sylvan Road Bridge, also built in 1915, was the only bridge the famed architect built of poured concrete. The present bridge is a faithful reconstruction of the original, which was closed to traffic in 1977 due to deterioration, rebuilt and opened once more in 1985.

Wright's first Glencoe commission was a summer cottage, built for bicycle manufacturer William A. Glasner in 1905. Wright was winner of a contest, sponsored by Glasner, for design of a "servant-free" home for two, perched on the summit of a ravine, and costing $5,000. The long, low, Prairiestyle building, constructed at 850 Sheridan Road, was featured in the 1906 House Beautiful.

Three more Glencoe commissions came into Wright's office in 1906 but only one, the Grace Fuller residence was built. It has since been demolished. The Edmund D. Brigham House, constructed on Sheridan Road in circa 1915, is the architect's only fulfillment of a long-held wish to build a residence entirely of poured concrete.


Revival architecture brought back classic columns as well as Colonial, Tudor and English manor designs. Many Glencoe homes reflected this trend.

The Tudor Revival style was very fashionable following the first World War and an elaborate example, with leaded windows, gables and four imposing chimneys, was built for department store magnate E.F. Wieboldt in 1929. The architect was Ralph Edward Stoetzel, who himself lived in Glencoe for 50 years.

Another baronial residence was designed by the great architect David Adler and built in 1921 for businessman Jesse L. Strauss. The residence, at 110 Maple Hill Road, features a pointed-roof tower and a formal walled courtyard.

Georgian architecture also was popular in Glencoe in the '20s and a beautiful example is the Alfred Watt House at 640 Washington Place. Built in 1928, the house was designed by William H. Furst of Armstrong, Furst and Tilton in a combination of styles. The street side of the house is typically Georgian in its simplicity of design. The back, which faces onto the golf course, boasts an elaborate Classical temple front, with portico and four Corinthian columns.

Popular North Shore architect Robert Seyfarth designed a home in 1928 for J.C. Aspley that is suggestive of a cottage in the Cotswolds. The house, at 20 Maple Hill Road, was sited so that almost all the rooms face the lake.


Brothers George and William Keck were pioneers in passive solar architecture. Their firm was responsible for the design of 26 moderately priced, low maintenance homes in a 1950s development in Northeast Glencoe.

Flat roofs, skylights and floor-to-ceiling built-ins are some of the features of the innovative homes which were geared toward free flow of air, maximum light and uninterrupted views. The Keck & Keck Subdivision is in North Glencoe, between Green Bay Road and Lake Shore Country Club. There are other Keck houses scattered throughout Glencoe, two of them back up to one another on Brookvale Terrace and Redwood Lane.

Following World War II, the land to the west of Glencoe was opened. Architect-designer Greta Lederer's Strawberry Hill subdivision featured the popular new bi-and tri-level homes.

Other contemporary architectural landmarks include a 1956 glass and siding structure, overlooking the lake, designed in the Post-Prairie style of William Ferguson Deknatel, and a 1975 Stanley Tigerman metal and glass modernist design, with an astronomy dome, a photographic darkroom and an indoor pool.

No overview of architecture in Glencoe would be complete without mention of Minoru Yamasaki's 1964 house of worship for North Shore Congregation Israel, built on a 19-acre lakefront site at 1185 Sheridan Road. The graceful design conveys a feeling of flight with its high arches. An addition, executed by Thomas Beeby in a post-modern design, round at the front, was completed in 1982.

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