Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The House Built by Philip Armour, Jr. and Mary Lester

Philip Armour and his brother bought the entire block at 37th and Michigan Ave.in Chicago.  He and Mary Lester would have the south-west portion of the property.  It was fronted on Michigan Avenue some 182 feet and 200 feet on 37th Street.  The house would have 4 stories with a basement and some 30 rooms.

The main entrance off Michigan ave. would be reached by a broad and easy flight of steps.  The steps led to a large porch and the entrance was "beautifully carved."  The house was to be totally fireproof in every way.  "All the floors are entirely of steel beams with tile arches between them, and concrete on top of these.  The sleepers are imbedded in the concrete and to these the wooden floors will be fastened."  The floor beams are carried on a series of steel columns which extended to their intersections with the roof.  These beams carried the weight of the house.  The roof would be of red Spanish tile.

The architect was Frederick W. Perkins and he designed a house along the "chateau style prevailing in the early French renaissance of the period of Francis I.  It was said to be a style well adapted to the Connecticut brown-stone used in the construction.  There were many dormers, chimneys, and towers.

The plumbing featured porcelain tubs and fine marble lavatories. The drainage system was of iron. Gas and electricity was used for illumination and the electric wiring was carried in iron conduits.

Steam was used for heating the house.  The boilers were placed in the stable which is connected to the house by an underground tunnel.  The air was filtered by means of fine cloth which removed the dust and other impurities.  The air then passed over steam coils to warm the air.  The temperatures were regulated by a series of thermostats.

The interior of the house was furnished "in fine domestic and foreign woods, marbles, and mosaics."  In both the first and second stories there are large halls connected by a stairway of mahogany.  On the fourth floor was a ballroom, 50X60 feet.  There was also an elevator that ran from the basement to all floors.  Construction began in April, 1894, and it took some three years to finish.  The cost was $600,000.00. and was said to have been "the most beautiful house in America."

Philip Armour died suddenly, January 28, 1900.  Mrs. Armour announced her engagement to P.A. Valentine on December 1, 1901.  After the marriage she moved permanently to New York City. The great house was closed.  It's fate is unknown.

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