Monday, May 24, 2010

Facts About The First Stop On Our History Tour, July 17, 2010 - The J. Ogden Estate & Mansion

  • Ogden purchased 1,000 acres of swampy land at edge of Lake Forest. Land cost $10 million
  • The mansion had 20 rooms
  • Italian Renaissance style
  • Formal gardens, orchards and a deer park
  • A 10 acres pond stocked with fish
  • Red tiled brick roof
  • Constructed of concrete and brick with steel beams employed for long spans and steel trusses used to support the heavy roof. One of the early use of steel for such purposes.
  • Building supplies arrived by freight cars at a railroad siding built on the property.
  • 20 marble fireplaces came from Europe as did much of the furniture.
  • Each bedroom suite in the H-shaped mansion contained a sitting room as well as a bedroom
  • The estate accommodated a staff of 125.
  • The property included stables, an exercise ring, and carriage house with clock tower.
  • The house was always filled with plants and flowers.
  • Mrs. Armour enjoyed entertaining, but Mr. Armour felt ill at ease with small talk. Like his father, he was all about business.
  • The Prince of Wales visited in 1924
  • House designed as a fairyland for the Armour’s daughter, Lolita, who was only 3 pounds at birth.
  • She suffered from a congenital hip, which was corrected by surgery
  • She learned to ride horses and live a normal life
  • During WWI, she was a Red Cross volunteer nurse with hopes of going to France.
  • The Armour's also had homes in Chicago, Michigan, California and an apartment in London.
  • Ogden Armour died in 1927 at the age of 64 in London
  • Claims against his estate were $18 million
  • Mrs. Armour offered the creditors a group of stock in a company that had developed a method of extracting more than the usual amount of gasoline from a gallon of oil. They felt it was worthless and let her keep the stock. It later became very valuable.
  • In 1928, a syndicate of businessmen, led by Samuel Insul, purchased the estate and planned to turn the property into a golf club for millionaires.
  • When the market crash came in 1929 that plan also crashed and so did Samuel Insul.
  • Frank J. Lewis, Chicago businessman and philanthropist, bought several hundred acres from the Continental Illinois Bank & Trust Co. for close to $400,000. He later sold the house and 200 acres to Lake Forest Academy in 1947.

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