George E. Rickcords House
[George E. Rickcords House (1889) William W. Clay, architect /Image & Artwork: designslinger]
Abstracts. If you've ever sold or purchased a piece of property you probably know all about them. Property abstracts, and abstracts of title, are documents that record whats happened with a plot of land over its entire history - who owned it, sold it, placed a lien on it, held title to it, etc. - and George E. Rickcords made a very good living doing it. He came to Chicago from New York City in 1867, worked for one of the city's first abstract companies Chase Bros., and went on to become a director of the abstract firm to end all abstract firms, Chicago Title & Trust.
[George E. Rickcords House, 1500 N. Dearborn Parkway, Chicago /Image & Artwork: designslinger]
It was because of abstract companies like Chase Bros., Rees & Ruckers, Handy & Simmons and Haddock & Vallette, that Chicagoans were able to find their way out of the ashes in 1871 and reclaim title to their property. The abstractors had gathered-up all their records and moved them from the downtown district and out into the hinterlands for safekeeping. Not long after the fire Rickcords began working for Handy & Simmons before moving over to Haddock & Vallette, where he became a partner and had his name added to the company's letterhead.
[George E. Rickcords House, Chicago /Image & Artwork: designslinger]
The abstract business proved to be a lucrative endeavor for Mr. Rickcords, and as a man of means decided it was time to build a house for he and his family that showed just how far he'd come. In 1888 he purchased an empty lot at the northwest corner of Dearborn Avenue at Burton Place and hired architect William W. Clay to design a house. The architect turned to the heavy-weight Richardsonian Romanesque look that many of Rickcord's Gold Coast neighbors found so appealing. The house was completed in 1889 at a time when Chicago's abstract business, which had been around since the early 1840s, began to consolidate. One firm merged with another, then another and in 1891 Chicago Title & Trust Company became a realty reality. Rickcords joined in on the fun and became a director of the Trust Company in 1901, then added the title of president of Lake County Title & Trust to his resume, and held on to the posts until his death in 1918.
[George E. Rickcords House /Image & Artwork: designslinger]
Although the elite Gold Coast neighborhood never lost its gilded luster, by the early 1970s many of the large single family homes had been broken-up into apartments, rooming houses, or had simply disappeared. The old Rickcords mansion would have made an ideal location for the kind of high-rise apartment tower that was cropping-up in the neighborhood, but in 1972 the pink-blushed stone house was leased to the Chicago branch of the English Speaking Union and saved. The ESU converted the butler's pantry on the main floor into a kitchenette, which was much more convenient than having to go downstairs into the old basement kitchen, put-up some wallpaper, and opened for business. The house became a single family home once again in the early 1990s and the current owners have put the 6,300 square house on the rental market for a glitzy $6,500/month.
See a few of the Rickcord's neighbors at the: The Houghton Apartment Flats, Chicago; George C. Prussing & Henry Hosmer Double House; David Stern - Henry Elkan Double House; and the current home of Chicago Title at: Chicago Title & Trust Center.