A Creative Center

Some of the architects who designed the University's Gothic buildings secured commissions for other work in Hyde Park. Henry Ives Cobb, the University's first architect and the creator of its campus plan, built three houses in Hyde Park in the 1890s, one for President William Rainey Harper. Dwight H. Perkins, whose "Prairie Gothic" design for Hitchcock Hall incorporated ornamentation based on Midwestern fauna, produced three Hyde Park residences. Howard Van Doren Shaw, the fashionable architect of many North Shore estates and the University's Quadrangle Club, executed more than fifteen commissions in the neighborhood, many of them sophisticated adaptations of traditional English manor houses.

Horace B. Mann, one of the principals of Mann, MacNeille & Lindberg and a brother of a University physics professor, led his firm to design four separate complexes of linked rowhouses that came to be called "professors' houses." Bordering shady Hyde Park streets and incorporating all the amenities of comfortable upper-middle-class life, these rowhouses epitomized the successful integration of a large university into a prosperous residential neighborhood.

Improvements in streetcar lines and more frequent rail service assured Hyde Park's connections with downtown Chicago. By the mid-1920s, the Illinois Central Railroad was running 165 trains daily to and from the neighborhood. Except for the area immediately around the University campus, Hyde Park's population was increasingly diversified. First- and second-generation German, Irish, Czech, Italian, and Polish immigrant families moved into the small workers' cottages vacated after the Colombian Exposition, while African-Americans found housing in restricted areas near the Illinois Central tracks and along alleyways. German and Russian Jews, who had migrated south from the Loop through a succession of 7eighborhoods, settled in Hyde Park-Kenwood in large numbers and by the end of the 1930s made up forty percent of the neighborhood's population.

In the early decades of the century, Hyde Park also became a magnet for writers and artists, many of them representing Chicago's cultural avant-garde. In a cluster of wooden buildings along 57th Street and Stony Island Avenue formerly used as souvenir stands during the world's fair, a group of young bohemians congregated around the makeshift residence of writer and artist Floyd Dell. Among the others who became fixtures of this lively artists' colony were Margaret Anderson, founder of the influential Little Review; Harriet Monroe, editor of Poetry magazine, an assertive voice for modern expression; sometimes controversial realist writers and poets such as Theodore Dreiser, Sherwood Anderson, Edgar Lee Masters, Vachel Lindsay, and Carl Sandburg; and journalists like Ben Hecht who were both participants in and publicists for the new movements in the arts.

Members of the University were among those who frequented the 57th Street colony and attended its readings and informal discussions. Writers Robert Herrick, William Vaughn Moody, and Robert Morss Lovett, all members of the faculty, found common ground with the social, intellectual, and literary concerns of the Chicago bohemians. Divinity School professor George Burman Foster was often seen in the 57th Street shopfronts, where he acquired a nonacademic following as a champion of the philosophy of 7ietzsche.

The University, for its part, offered frequent public lectures, concerts, and educational programs and made Hyde Park-Kenwood an attractive neighborhood for professionals with intellectual and cultural interests. Architect Howard Van Doren Shaw and Chicago Symphony Orchestra conductor Frederick Stock were among them. Many of these commuting professionals made their homes in high-rise luxury apartment buildings and residential hotels constructed between the Illinois Central tracks and the lakeshore or in substantial houses on side streets near the University campus.

Clarence Darrow, America's most celebrated defense attorney, lived in the Midway Apartment Hotel on 60th Street near Stony Island Avenue from his early days of practice as a corporate lawyer until his death in 1938. Among his notable cases was the 1924 defense of Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, two Kenwood youths who were convicted of the premeditated murder of Bobby Franks, a neighborhood schoolboy. For Darrow, the University and the Hyde Park community provided an ideal intellectual environment in which to learn and test unconventional ideas. His home was a gathering place for University scholars and others who constituted an informal "biology club" that met to discuss current developments in biology, psychology, anthropology, geology, astronomy, and biblical interpretation.

Hanni Steckner Yahrmarkt and her daughter Helga, ca.1909
Hanni Steckner Yahrmarkt and her daughter Helga, ca.1909

Hanni Steckner Yahrmarkt and her daughter Helga, ca. 1909. A member of the American Photo-Secession movement and the wife of a University professor of German literature, Eva Watson Schütze maintained an active photographic practice in Hyde Park. Photograph by Eva Watson Schütze

The Little Review
The Little Review

One of the most noted of all literary magazines, The Little Review was the creation of Margaret Anderson. After announcing its publication at a party given by Floyd Dell, she solicited articles for the first issues from her friends at the 57th Street artists' colony.

The Morning Road:  A Book of Verses
The Morning Road: A Book of Verses

Thomas Wood Stevens and Alden Charles NobleChicago: Blue Sky Press, 1902

Produced in Kenwood and Hyde Park from 1899 to 1907, the beautifully designed books of the Blue Sky Press were a faithful expression of Arts and Crafts ideals.

A Selection of Works by Twentieth Century Artists
A Selection of Works by Twentieth Century Artists

Chicago: Renaissance Society, 1934

Founded in 1915 by members of the University of Chicago faculty, the Renaissance Society in its early decades became the principal venue for the introduction of twentieth century art to Chicago.