James Charnley Residence Completed
The James Charnley Residence is located in Chicago's Gold Coast neighborhood, in the 1300 block of North Astor Street.
The house is now called the Charnley–Persky House. An Adler & Sullivan design, the townhouse is the work of Louis Sullivan and a young junior draftsman working in his office by the name of Frank Lloyd Wright. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1970.
The house was completed in 1892 for Charnley, a Chicago lumberman who lived in the house with his family for about a decade. The building was later owned by members of the Waller family, who invested in real estate. The house was purchased by the architectural firm of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill in 1986 and subsequently restored. Seymour Persky purchased the house in 1995 and donated it to the Society of Architectural Historians who renamed the building to the Charnley–Persky House to honor their benefactor.
The plain brick facade with simple ornamentation was quite different than other houses on the Gold Coast, but the interior is distinguished by rich ornamentation that is typical of Sullivan's work.
Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright are major figures in American architecture. Sullivan, Wright's architectural mentor, hired the younger man in 1887 as a draftsman to assist with producing construction drawings for the Auditorium Building (1887-1889) in Chicago. As a junior draftsman, Wright also assisted with residential commissions such as the James Charnley House (1891-1892). The Charnley House, which has long been recognized internationally as a pivotal work of modern architecture, stands as evidence of the extraordinary power of Sullivan and Wright's creativity in collaboration.
In Charnley House, as well as his other works, Sullivan rejected the historical details common to Victorian architecture in favor of abstract forms that later became the hallmarks of modern architecture. It is a sign of Sullivan's admiration for Wright, and a testament to their friendship and working relationship, that the senior architect allowed his draftsman to become involved in the design process at all. The exterior of Charnley House is a virtually unadorned brick and limestone facade that commands its corner location. The dramatic interior of the house is dominated by an atrium that soars from the first floor hall to a skylight two floors above. The house is symmetrical in plan, with one room located on either side of the central atrium on each floor. The ornament found throughout the interior and exterior of the building is evidence of both Sullivan's love of sinuous plant forms intertwined with underlying geometric forms, and Wright's variations of these themes.