Monday, October 26, 2009

Credits and Acknowledgements

The information on this website is a result of almost 20 years of my personal research on Silsbee, his works and his clientele.  It would not have been possible without the contributions of numerous scholars and historians across the country.  All of the works displayed, unless noted otherwise, can be substantiated with printed sources.  Typically, the sources for identification are local building records or construction notices in contemporary architectural journals or newspapers.   Though a comprehensive list of Silsbee’s work has yet to appear in print, compiling lists of his work has been attempted by historians in the past. 

The earliest published catalog of Silsbee’s work was done by Susan Karr Sorrell, accompanying an article entitled “Silsbee: The Evolution of a Personal Style".  It appeared in the Prairie School Review in 1970 and covered the middle part of Silsbee’s career in Chicago from approximately 1882 until 1897 when Silsbee’s work seemed to diminish.

A study of Silsbee’s career prior to arriving in Chicago entitled “The Early Work of Work of Joseph Lyman Silsbee” was completed in 1981 by Donald Pulfer as part of his Masters Thesis at Syracuse University.  This study uncovered numerous buildings by the architect produced in his Syracuse and Buffalo offices and hints at the broad scope of Silsbee’s career.

A chapter in the book, In Search of Modern Architecture: A Tribute to Henry Russell Hitchcock, was published by Thomas McCormick in 1982.  Entitled “The Early Work of Joseph Lyman Silsbee”, it provided the first glimpse at the architect’s personal background how it related to his development as an architect, focusing on the Syracuse work.

Elena Sciliberto made the first attempt at compiling a complete list of Silsbee’s buildings in 1992 in her article in “Alle Origini del “Moderno” Nordimericano: L’Opera di Silsbee e la Sua Inedita Richardson House”.  This article, accompanied by the most complete list of Silsbee works to be printed, shed light on the inventive side of the Silsbee’s character and began a valuable discourse about works created after 1897.

Last but not least, a list of predecessors to this study would not be complete without including the contributions of Buffalo historian Martin Wachadlo.  He has been instrumental in uncovering a wealth of knowledge about Silsbee’s work in Buffalo as well as a large body of work from his productive years after the 1890’s.

All of the photographs included on this site are the property of the author unless otherwise noted.  Contemporary photographs were taken by the author and are his sole property.  Much of Silsbee's work has been demolished and scant photographic evidence exists for most of his work.   Architectural journals from the 19th century, postcards and travel souvenir books provide most of the images of this non-extant body of work.  Copies of non-copyrighted items on this site are from the author's private collection.

Finally, I would like to extend a sincere gratitude to all of the Silsbee building and homeowners who have helped me over the years.  Without their willingness to open their homes to me and allowing me to photograph, measure and inspect their property, much of what is presented here would never have been uncovered.


Jane Marquard said...

Chris, This is a great web site you put together. It's just beautiful. I learned about it from Don Aucutt's Prairie magazine which I subscribe to. I miss being involved with Pleasant Home. Took a friend there recently and saw some positive changes. Melissa (I don't know her last name but I think she's on the board) gave us a tour and did a great job. Hope all is going well with you and your family. Your little daughter must be close to school age now.

Jane Marquard

Chris said...

Thanks Jane, it is nice to know people are reading it. Things are well at this end too.

Anonymous said...

There are two drawings of Silsbee's thoughts on the Coronado hotel, floor one and floor two. In fact the suit was settled in favor of Silsbee to the tune of $2,500.
Circuit Court Northern District Illinois RG 21 Case # 20797. Go to the facebook page of the National Archives of Chicago sometime next week there will be a short article about this topic. The article will be written under the heading T-CUBED

Chris said...

Thanks so much for the info. I assume you saw the post on Ora Hubbell on this site. This little piece has been a mystery and I wondered how it was settled.

Anonymous said...
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hovaard said...

really nice site. i read most of it. i was just looking at the restroom building the other day @ lincoln park zoo, south of the Brauer Cafe building. it has been recently rehabbed (without any early drawings or phtos) and is quite nice. i did not know it was a Silsbee until i looked it up on the net.

George said...

I consider myself to be a Silsbee fan. Thank you for this invaluable information!


D.Aucutt said...

Did Silsbee design a house at 38 Newport Avenue, Chicago, for lawyer Egbert Jamieson?

Enjoy and appreciate your website.
Donald Michael Aucutt
Maher researcher

Chris said...

Yes, Silsbee designed Judge Jamieson's home as well as the home next door to it, for Jamieson's son. Knowing the other homes on the street, it was probably pretty amazing at some point.

Amy Kraushaar said...

Hi Chris - Great site! I'm on a quest to identify some historic prairie style fabric curtains with limited marking, a tag: "I.B.T. Waukegan". The great Waukegan Historical Society suggested Illinois Bell Telephone in Waukegan (two buildings - one downtown and one further out) and one source says Silsbee was the architect. Do you know? Happy to send you some snaps if you like. If it's historic, want to give it to the right place rather than cut them up! I'm an architecture buff. Currently obsessed with Holsman, Holsman, Klekamp & Taylor who designed my Rogers Park building. Thanks!

Chris said...

Hi Amy, Thanks for the comment. I don't have any info of Silsbee working on a telephone building in Waukegan. I'd love to know what source you have. The Chicago Telephone Building was done by Silsbee in 1887-88 but it is pre-Prairie. I believe that Pond & Pond did work for the Telephone company in the 1890's and 1900's. There is a book on their work out there that I am sure you can find easily on Google. Many of Pond and Pond's images are at the art institute, in the Burnham Library and you can find those online as well. Maybe they have pics of that work? I can send some links and such if you want - drop me a separate e-mail off the comments: topherpay at

Amy Kraushaar said...

Thanks, Chris. Don't know Pond & Pond. The strange thing is Historic Society is pretty sure I.B.T. Waukegan is Illinois Bell Telephone company and the fabric is definitely Prairie School. Interior likely changed. I'll send to FLW orgs here and see if they have any insight. It's gorgeous, high quality and def old. Didn't want to cut it up if it was something of value to someone else.

Chris said...

I looked at an image of the Waukegan building and it looks like other Pond & Pond structures. The Ponds were part of the Steinway Hall group that included Wright, Perkins and others. That group was known for their progressive architecture in the Midwest and the Ponds' work had both Arts & Crafts and Prairie influences.

Wayne Mason said...


Can you tell me the source for the interior sketches for Beecher's Boscobel? The '89 date would be from the time the house was sold to Charles H. Butler. My primary interest in Beecher's Peekskill house is the interior decorating executed by the NYC firm of Leissner & Louis. An L&L advert from 1878 mentions their work on the interiors and cites an article about Beecher's new house published in the Christian Union (Beecher was an editor). If we can find this article it might reveal more information about the house and Silsbee's work.

Wayne Mason

Chris said...

Hi Wayne, The info I have on Beecher's home comes from a number of newspaper articles. The primary ones being a Syracuse Courier article from March of 1878 and a NY Tribune article from May of 1878. The home was almost completed by then. The March 1878 article credits Silsbee and Dickison with all of the built-ins and mantels as well as a "large portion" of the furniture. A list of some of the pieces that were made in Syracuse is included in the article. I have a third article from the Indianapolis Journal from April 1878 that credits Leissner & Louis with the all of the wallpapers. No paint was used in the home and every room was faced in hand-printed papers. Drop me an e-mail and I'll gladly share the articles with you. topherpay at

Anonymous said...

I did not realize that the Hettler mansion on the near north side of Chicago was a Sillsbee design! I went there as a kid and heard of the many stories of who was a guest. They had a daughter I believe and a son but there were some houses built near Lincoln Parks names after the daughter or perhaps the street. Do you know? Perhaps Creely Ct or Eueginee Terrace- were these built by Sillsbee? Jonathan Paris

Douglis Beck said...

I wonder if you've seen that 1443 North Astor, built in 1891 for Horatio May, Is for sale. It underwent an extensive renovation, but they state that they restored it to a traditional design of the 1930s and 40s?!?!? As an architect myself, I find a lot of their choices rather questionable. Too much painted wood and lack of the emerging American art nouveau / richardson. Now if only I had $20M lying around to buy it and really take it back to what I imagine would have been more along the lines of the Glessner House, which surely JLS would have been aware of. Curious of your thoughts??

Chris said...

Douglis, Thanks for visiting the site. The owners of the Astor Street home were kind enough to let me see their home and the work they did on it. It is nice to know that they were not responsible for the demise of the original interiors. It sounds like the home had already been stripped of many of its details before the purchased it. They did remove some stained glass but it is carefully stored in the home. They also removed a large built-in bench at the base of the stair but otherwise, the rest had been ruined long ago. I concur. Silsbee had an affinity for Richardson's work and I am guessing that the interiors of this home would have reflected that. I would love to come across photos of it some day - hopefully some surface at some point!