By the mid-1880's it was becoming more and more common for Chicago's upper class to abandon the idea of living in a large stone or brick mansion along a fashionable urban boulevard for an alternate frame home in a more rural-looking setting. The homes that J. L. Silsbee was designing for suburban areas at Buena Park and Edgewater, with their seemingly informal planning and artful combination of English cottage and Colonial elements made the architect particularly popular with clients seeking out homes with a more pastoral appearance.
|Postcard from John Chuckman Collection: West on Stratford Pl. near Lake Michigan, Chicago, IL (1913)|
The initial connection between Silsbee and the Jamieson family is not known but given the dual comissions, it can be assumed that he was somewhat close with at least Judge Jamieson but perhaps with both of the brothers. The Jamiesons were Vermont natives who came to Wisconson and then Chicago at young ages. Malcom was a banker and had his own firm, Morse, Jamieson & Co. Judge Jamieson started out as a typesetter and then lawyer. He was appointed to the Superior Court of Cook County in 1886 and served there four years. After stepping down from the court, he became legal council for the North and West Chicago Street Railway Companies. He also served on the Lincoln Park Comission. Silsbee did work for the street railway companies and was one of the favored architects by the Comission while Jamieson was on it.
|Judge Egbert Jamieson (1840-1912)|
|Egbert Jamieson's home in 1892 from publication, Chicago and Its Resources Twenty Years After 1871-1891|
|Arthur Orr Residence (1887-88), J. L. Silsbee, architect|
|Detail of Malcolm Jamieson Residence from John Chuckman postcard.|
The number of Silsbee works in this area is evidence of how he was influencing the appearance of these suburban-looking dwellings. His work on similar designs for a large number of homes in nearby Buena Park and in the Edgewater suburb shows how popular his brand of shingle style dwelling was at the time. Silsbee's influence on the residential character of these early neighborhoods also comes from the fact that some of the architects that were executing works, were once in Silsbee's office. Sullivan's office had just taken on Frank Lloyd Wright and George Elmslie when design on the Harvey home was starting. A more profound influence can be seen in George Maher's work. Maher's Albert Towers home, commissioned in 1893, was constructed directly across the street from Malcolm Jamieson's home on Stratford. Maher was in Silsbee's office when Judge Jamieson's and Arthur Orr's homes were planned. He would have experienced, first-hand, the design of homes like these. It is no a surprise that Maher executes a design that, with its massive stone base, huge rounded porch and large gambrel roof, provides precisely the same domestic impression as Silsbee's work in the area.