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Friday, September 18, 2009

Chicago’s 19th Century Homes and their Decor

Gilded Chicago
The city of Chicago was once rife with opulent 19th century mansions built by wealthy manufacturers engaged in the bustling trade of the day. Economic slumps, increases in population and changes of taste have dictated that many of these fortress-like structures have disappeared, replaced by more space saving buildings. This unfortunate turn of events has robbed history and architectural enthusiasts of this impression, leaving the modern day flâneur with few examples of exceptional 19th century craftsmanship to enjoy.

Chicago has much to offer architecturally, from groundbreaking skyscrapers to the more modern homes designed by architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright. However, many of these 19th century private homes of architectural and cultural significance have largely disappeared. Having been out of fashion so long, it is with great fortune that communities and investors have once again turned their attention to such important edifices.

A couple of these remarkable homes are briefly featured below, with a follow up concerning the 19th century sculpture and paintings within MIR’s collection, perfectly suitable for one of these architectural gems.

The Richard H. Driehaus Museum
Commissioned in 1879 by banker Samuel Mayo Nickerson and designed by Edward Burling, the Nickerson home went through a number of transformations over the years and was recently purchased and painstakingly restored by Richard Driehaus as a home for his vast collection of decorative items. The home itself was cleaned with lasers to remove years of grime and every detail of the interior was thoughtfully restored by a legion of professionals. Today the museum is open to the public and houses a wealth of gilded age materials including Tiffany light fixtures, period paintings and opulent sculptures. A crusader for the 19th century decorative styles, Driehaus presents his collection of art items within their original context, making a visit to the Richard H. Driehaus Museum a must for anyone with an interest in architecture, history and the decorative arts.
Glessner House Museum
Designed by American architect Henry Hobson Richardson in 1887, the Glessner House is located near Museum Park in Chicago and offers visitors another glimpse into 19th century affluence. A nationally recognized museum championing decorative art items within their original context, it is a stunning example of how the wealthy industrialists of 19th century Chicago lived. The museum boasts a large collection of American and English Arts and Crafts furniture, uniquely created and championing the lost art of practical and beautiful design by hand. The Clarke House, created in 1836, was recently moved to the site and serves as an example of one of Chicago’s earliest surviving residences.

19th Century Decorative Items at MIR Appraisal
If you are engaged in a decorating project for your newly restored 19th century Chicago mansion or you just would like to invest in and/or merely enjoy a piece of fine art and decorative history, you might consider some of the items held within MIR Appraisal’s extensive collection. Although only a handful of fitting items are mentioned, MIR has many more and would be happy to show them off should you wish to schedule an appointment at our Michigan Avenue location.

Hudson Mindell Kitchell painting
This painting, with its dark composition and American Indian theme, would be a perfect fit for an American industrialists home. The Midwestern style landscape and subject matter could serve a Chicago gilded age home well, presenting an idyllic and soothing scene that evokes the region. The frame would fit in well with the rest of the gold-leafed items that abound in such environments.

Alice Kellogg Tyler painting

This 19th century portrait of a child looks like it had once resided in a private room of a rich gilded age collector. An intimate and intentionally unfinished portrait, the child engages the viewer and is able to connect from a time period that has long passed. Alice Kellogg Tyler was a Chicago artist and one of the first women to graduate from Chicago’s Art Institute. With a lengthy career as an artist and teacher, the girl in the portrait may very well be the great grandmother of someone residing in the city today.

French Tazza and Pedestal

This predominately green onyx and champlevé pedestal and detachable pedestal embodies everything gilded age collectors were interested in. With numerous rich stones and lavishly colored enamel, the piece would doubtless have been very sought after in the age. The architects and designers of the gilded age mansions incorporated countless kinds of stone in to their interior spaces and the receiving room of the Driehaus Museum alone sports over a dozen kinds of marble. This piece is also interesting for its mixture of Roman, Egyptian and Arabic design themes, a busyness that seems to fit well in these industrial palaces.

Viennese Bronze Statue of Tiger
This bronze 19th century sculpture of a tiger seems to embody the very spirit of the entrepreneurs who created these homes with hard work and keen decisions. With a threatening body pose and exposed fangs this sculpture fits in perfectly with the aggressive capitalism of the day. With that in mind, it would be a perfect fit for your mahogany desk , a warning to others and a source of power and inspiration for yourself.

Explore our collection of art and objects further on our website,

Justin Bergquist
MIR Appraisal Services, Inc.
307 N. Michigan Avenue, Suite 308
Chicago, IL 60601

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    Chicago, Illinois, United States
    Welcome to our blog site! MIR Appraisal Services, Inc. is a fine art and personal property appraisal company dedicated to serving clients throughout the United States and abroad since our incorporation in Chicago in 1994. We specialize in the multi-faceted field of appraising fine art, jewelry, antiques, and decorative items. We also provide professional fine art restoration and conservation treatment for various media, including but not limited to, artworks on canvas, board, masonite, and paper. We offer professional and precise appraisal services carried out by our team of accredited appraisers for the purposes of insurance coverage and claims, charitable donations, estate planning and probate, equitable distribution and fair-market value. We started our art commentary blog site as a venue for colleagues and fellow art enthusiasts to share their experiences within the art community.