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Edgewater’s Most Curious Places: the Colvin House

 

colvin1A couple of months ago we asked readers what buildings in our neighborhood interested them. One of those buildings was the Edwin Colvin house at 5940 Sheridan, suggested by readers Jim Calto & Amy Baxter; an excellent choice since it was designated as a Chicago landmark in 1994 and is a fine example of the mansions that once lined Sheridan.

The Edwin Colvin house was designed by local architect George Maher in 1909. Interestingly, Colvin was the second owner of the house, buying it two years later.   The original owner was Harry Stevenson, also a manufacturing magnate. Colvin himself was the Vice President of the Hall Printing Company, which in its heyday was the largest catalog and magazine printer in the world.

As mentioned, the Colvin house is one of the few remaining grand mansions that lined Sheridan Avenue in the Edgewater neighborhood – most were demolished to build high-rises in the 1950s and 1960s. These mansions fit founder John Lewis Cochran’s designs for the neighborhood.

Architectural Digest, February 1916

Architectural Digest, February 1916

The building features a non-working organ, a grand entrance hall complete with chandelier, three marble fireplaces, a butler’s pantry, and a wine cellar. Thanks to the third owners, the Barises, it also has angels carved into the ceiling and 1920’s Spanish décor inside. A subsequent owner Nancy Arnold told the Chicago Tribune that she thought Maher would be “a little shocked” by the changes.

5940 Sheridan was built during an interesting period of George Maher’s transition. Often lumped in with Prairie school architects because he was trained byJoseph Silsbee who also taught many such as Frank Lloyd Wright, Maher crosses the line between Prairie and a more classical American style.   The Covin house is an excellent example of this. The low-slung tile roof, particularly on the Thorndale side, how the house is set off from Sheridan by a cascade of terraces and planters, and small details like the stylized fret-sawn dart molding are pure Prairie school. However, how the building looms over Sheridan and Maher’s use of columns and arches shows his classical influences.

Colvin House Tulips

It’s also a great example of Maher’s “motif-rhythm theory,” where he used a local plant or geometric design as a unifying motif throughout a house. 5940’s motif is a tulip and can be seen on the capital columns on the garage, as well as originally extensively throughout the second floor and coach house. Unfortunately, it’s not clear as to how much remains after the Barises’ redecorating.

The Colvin house is assessed for 1.6 million dollars and was up for sale and rent briefly this summer but is not currently listed.

Did you have the chance to see it when it was on the market? Are the angels as…something… as they were described?

 

If you liked this post, you may enjoy our stories on Manor House, the Preston Bradley Center, and the Uptown Bank.


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