Glessner House, a National Historic Landmark, is considered the urban residential masterpiece of America’s greatest 19th century architect, Henry Hobson Richardson. Completed in 1887, the house was controversial at the time for its modern design and imposing exterior, earning it the title of “the fortress” by its neighbors. It was greatly admired by architects, however, and significantly influenced the work of those who followed, including Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright.
The house encompasses over 17,000 square feet of space and 34 rooms, including a huge servants’ wing to accommodate the live-in staff of eight. It has been meticulously restored and today features most of its original furnishings including textiles, wallpapers, and rugs by William Morris, furniture by A. H. Davenport & Co., and decorative arts crafted by artisans in England, France, Japan, and the United States.
Visitors to the house learn three main stories – Richardson and his impact on American architecture, the significant collection of decorative arts and its place in the Arts & Crafts Movement, and the fascinating story of the Glessner family, including their daughter Frances Glessner Lee, the creator of the famous “Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death,” who is regarded as the mother of modern forensics.
Glessner House is located in Chicago’s landmarked Prairie Avenue Historic District, which was the most elite street in the city in the late 19th century. It was home to business leaders including Marshall Field and George Pullman. In addition to 75-minute docent led tours of Glessner House, visitors have the option of including a walking tour of Prairie Avenue to see the exteriors of the other surviving homes, and visiting the spectacular Second Presbyterian Church with its incredible collection of stained glass, including nine windows by Tiffany and two by Edward Burne-Jones.
For more information, visit glessnerhouse.org