Monday, March 23, 2015

The Scots of Lake Forest

The Historical Society of Lake Forest-Lake Bluff will sponsor a premier of the video “The Scots of Lake Forest” on Saturday, April 11 at 2 p.m. The video will be shown in the Amour house of Lake Forest Academy. Once described as the “most beautiful house between New York and San Francisco” it was built as the country home of J. Ogden Amour. At the time, Mr. Amour was described as the second richest man in the world.

He purchased several contiguous farms and accumulated more than twelve hundred acres. They called it Mellody Farm. The architect was Arthur Heun of Chicago and the contractor was a Scot, Morton R. Mavor. I have read they brought in black dirt to cover two hundred acres a depth of two feet around the house. Construction started in 1905 and the residence of 29,000 square feet was occupied on May 5, 1908. It is built in the shape of the letter H. Landscaping was done by Jens Jensen.

When you attend the event on April 11, you will enter the central hallway which is 20 feet wide and 112 feet long. At the far end is a fireplace. From here one can enter the music room, the library, the dining room and a breakfast room at the back. There are pictures on the walls which show how the house was originally decorated. “Displaying tapestries against warm white walls, the entrance was furnished with long, low benches, giant porcelain jardinieres, marble-topped 18th-century consoles, and a Chinese lacquer cabinet on a gilt-wood stand.” The floor of the main hall was of marble tile, but almost entirely covered with rugs. It must have been spectacular!

Between the dining room and the living room is the great marble stairway leading to the second floor. The marble was rose and green with a bronze railing. The stairway was then covered with a magnificently woven carpet. If you use your imagination, you can almost see their daughter, Lolita descending the stairs at her wedding to John J. Mitchell, Jr. in 1921.

The Amour House is the perfect venue for the showing of “The Scots of Lake Forest.” The Amour’s came from Argyllshire, Scotland where the chief town is Campbelltown. Philip Danforth Amour established the great meat-packing business in Chicago and became a benefactor of the arts and education. He provided the funds to establish the Amour Institute now known as the Illinois Institute of Technology. “He was one of the most generous supporters of the Scottish organization known as the Illinois Saint Andrew Society.” J. Ogden who built the mansion was the only surviving son of Philip D. Amour and his wife Lolita Sheldon Amour.

There were four permanent residents in the mansion and each had a bedroom in a corner of the H shaped second floor. Mr. Amour lived on the right and had a study on the main floor with private stairs and an elevator. Mrs. Amour lived on the left but there was no connecting hallway between the two bedrooms. Lolita lived in the back bedroom and the mother of J. Ogden lived in the remaining one. Each bedroom also had a separate sitting room.

Mellody Farm cost 12 million dollars. It had its own water and power sources. There were orchards, a carriage house with a clock tower, stables, and an ice house. There were gold and silver doorknobs, imported marble walls with a bowling alley in the basement and 210 fireplaces. The Amour’s were very wealthy, but not everyone who lived in Lake Forest was and many of those people are featured in the video showing on April 11 beginning at 2 p.m.  The hour-long film touches on many of the almost 1,000 native born Scots and their children who helped establish Lake Forest. The video also recognizes the hardworking Scots who paved the streets, built the school, dug the sewers and ran many of the original stores in town. Over 2,000 vintage photographs were collected for this project. You will also hear about the Scots who founded Carson, Pirie and Scott and ran Quaker Oats and the Zenith Corporation.

Admission fee $10.00. Lake Forest Academy is located at 1500 W. Kennedy Road, Lake Forest, IL. Seating is limited to 150.

Click here to register.

Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
The Illinois Saint Andrew Society

Upcoming Events

April 4, 2015 - History Club meeting will feature the Town of Pullman. Our speaker will be Michael Shymanski. He and his wife live in Pullman and he was a founding member of the Historic Pullman Foundation. You will hear about the Scots who lived and worked in the town of Pullman.

May 2, 2015 - History Club meeting will celebrate all the May birthdays and we will cover 10 more years of Scottish history in Chicago. Details later.

June 6, 2015 - “Bloody Omaha Beach on D-Day.”

No meeting in July or August

September 12, 2015 - Speaker is Dr. James E. Davis. “Unusual Features of the American Revolution.”

October 3, 2015 - Dr. Euan Hague

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