Potter Palmer Houses, Astor Street, Chicago
[Potter Palmer Houses, Astor Street, Chicago (1889) Charles M. Palmer, architect /Image & Artwork: designslinger]
In 1881, Potter Palmer built Chicago's largest, most opulent, and at one time, most famous house. Although the $2,000,000 "Castle" was torn down in 1950 to make way for a matching set of high-rise apartment towers, a few of Palmer's other adventures in real estate can still be found around the city. This row of 5 Romanesque row houses were built by the former hotelier turned real estate mogul in 1889, and designed by architect Charles M. Palmer. The two men were not related, they just happened to share the same last name.
[Potter Palmer Houses, 1316-1326 N. Astor Street, Chicago /Image & Artwork: designslinger]
Palmer purchased large pieces of undeveloped property in and around his lakefront facing house including 5 vacant lots at 1316-26 Astor and Banks Street, just around the corner from his palatial mansion. He built each of the 5 single family row houses on spec, meaning that he didn't have buyers lined-up prior to construction, and after they were finished, ended up renting them rather than selling them. Spec or not, he spared no expense. Architect Palmer's designs included expertly-crafted, high-end materials, as well as the latest in residential innovations like steam heat and hot water plumbing.
[Potter Palmer Houses /Image & Artwork: designslinger]
When Potter Palmer died in 1902, his wife and two sons inherited an estate valued at $25-30 million, an inheritance worth around $750,000,000 today. Bertha Honore Palmer, the "Queen" of Chicago society eventually sold many of her husband's rental properties and got $45,000 for the 14 rooms at no. 1316 Astor. Unfortunately the 1950s were not kind to the Castle, the neighborhood, or the row. A lot of these grand old houses were torn down or converted from single family homes into apartment buildings or rooming houses, and nos. 1316, 18, 20, 22 and 26 (now known by its Banks Street address, 25 East) weren't spared. The house Bertha Palmer sold for $45,000 in 1916 was an apartment building by 1951, and the back half of no. 1326, (or 25 E. Banks) had been converted into a rooming house.
Although the row has gone from grand to not so grand and back again, the heavy stone exteriors lived through it all and would as recognizable to Mr. Palmer today as the day he built them.
See more Palmer & Palmer projects at: Potter Palmer Houses, Schiller Street, Chicago; Along Cedar Street; A Pan-Hellenic Row; and a row of houses just to the south of our penta-group at: James L. Houghtelling Houses/John W. Root House.