200 E. Pearson, Chicago

[200 E. Pearson (1916) Robert S. De Golyer, architect /Images & Artwork: designslinger]

If you've been following our posts this week, we've featured two of modernist Mies van
der Rohe's final Chicago projects. The city became the architect's home in 1938 after the rise of Hitler in Mies' native country and an invitation to come to Chicago to head up the architecture program of the Armour Institute, soon to be the Illinois Institute of Technology. After spending a few years living in hotel rooms, in 1941 Mies moved into an apartment at 200 E. Pearson, where he lived until his death 28 years later.

[Campbell Apartments, 200 E. Pearson Street, Chicago /Images & Artwork: designslinger]

The building was built by George Campbell in 1916 and designed by an up and coming
architect named Robert S. De Golyer. The Italian-palazzo-inspired box offered two, 6-room apartments on each of its five residential floors. The ground floor contained a lobby, service areas, a small apartment for the building manager and servant's quarters. Although the apartments had only 6 rooms, they were large, and included two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a butler's pantry plus a maid's room off the kitchen which included its own bath. Depending on the year and the marketing, 200 E. Pearson was sometimes referred to as the Campbell Apartments, after the owner, but more often than not the building was simply known by its address. When Mies moved in, units were renting in the $400/month range, which ate up more than half of his annual $8,000 I.I.T salary. After Campbell's death, there were rumors that his son was going to divide vacated apartments into smaller units to increase the income potential. So in 1946 the ten occupants got together, formed a co-op, pooled their resources, and bought the property for $113,000, which has remained a cooperative ever since.

[200 E. Pearson @ Mies van der Rohe Way /Image & Artwork: designslinger]

Although the apartment seems spacious for one person, Mies hardly ever lived there alone.
One of his three adult daughters would often take up residency at their father's place, often two at a time, plus there was his live-in housekeeper. As he aged and his arthritis became crippling to the point of immobility, architects from the Office of Mies van der Rohe would visit him at home to go over the business of a very active and lucrative architectural practice.

Many people who know Mies' work are surprised to find out that the man who was so instrumental in the creation of modern architecture lived in such a classically designed building. Especially when his most famous apartment complex, 860-880 Lake Shore Drive stands just a few blocks from Pearson Street. The developer of the world famous "Glass Houses" Herbert Greenwald, offered Mies an apartment in one of the towers when they were completed in 1951, but the architect declined. Supposedly he didn't want to live in a building where he might encounter other tenants who could corner him in an elevator and compliment him on his innovative design or berate him and complain. It's also been said that he got much more pleasure looking out at the two towers from his paned, double-hung apartment window, rather than standing inside his glassed-walled apartment building and looking out at the world.

See more of De Golyer's apartment work at: Marlborough Condominium Apartments and one of Mies and Greenwald's collaborations at: 2400 Lakeview Apartments.

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  • 4/11/2011 9:09 PM Hy Speck wrote:
    I am a docent with the Chicago Architecture Foundation. Thank you so much for your great blog. It always contains wonderful information about buildings that I have been admiring and talking about for years.

    Especially, 200 E. Pearson. In 1961, I was a young teacher at Mather High. During the summer, when there was no school, I worked as a relief janitor in various apartment buildings. That summer, I was assigned to 200 E Pearson, Mies' building.

    While I never saw him, I was in his apartment many times during that 2 weeks. "Less is more." He had no rugs, straw mats on the floor, not a lot of furniture, mainly his MR chair and table, and his Barcelona Chairs. On his wall were collages by Braque, paintngs by Klee, and in his bedroom, over a tiny single bed was a Picasso.

    So my claim to fame is that for 2 weeks that summer  I was Mies' janitor. I hope when I pass on, I will be enshrined in the Janitorial Hall of Fame along with Sullivan's, Wright's, and Ghery's janitors.

    Thank you for providing such wonderful information that I can use on my tours.

    Keep up the good work.
    1. 4/12/2011 4:29 AM designslinger wrote:
      Wow! What A great story!! Thanks so much for sharing, and for the very generous compliments. They are much appreciated - and from a CAF docent to boot!!!
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