By Carol Flynn
Ridge Historical Society
George Steele Bannister was born in New York in 1860. His family moved to Odell, Illinois when he was a young boy.
Bannister earned a BS in Architectural Engineering in 1886 from the University of Illinois. As an alumnus, he served on the board of the Chicago Club of the University of Illinois, alongside such luminaries as sculptor Lorado Taft.
In the 1890s, Bannister worked for several architectural firms including Raeder and Coffin, and Patton and Miller, where his duties related to building construction. He was listed as an Architectural Engineer and had position titles such as Architectural Superintendent and Draftsman, and Superintendent of Construction.
Bannister’s first wife died in 1896, and in 1902, he married Alla Bryan Ripley, a widow with a daughter. They moved to Beverly/Morgan Park and lived at 10227 S. Wood St. A seamstress by trade, Ripley was just beginning a dressmaking business.
IN 1905, Bannister designed and built the house at 10856 S. Longwood Dr. for Luther S. Dickey, Jr., a prominent grain merchant. In 1912, Dickey sold this residence to Paul Harris, the founder of Rotary International. The house is now owned by Rotary International and undergoing a basement to roof restoration to return it to what it was like in when Harris resided there.
In 1908, George and Alla Bannister built a Craftsman-style house at 1620 W. 102nd St. The building permit was listed in Alla’s name with George as architect and builder.
Alla came to national attention in 1913 by designing and showing one of the first “Cubist” fashions at the Chicago Dressmakers’ Club. She established a fashion studio with $50,000 in capital stock, which she successfully ran as Madame Ripley for decades. She served as president of the Fashion Art League, lecturer at the Academy of Fine Arts, and a director at the Art Institute of Chicago. She made presentations to local women’s groups such as the Ridge Woman’s Club, which later became the Beverly Hills Woman’s Club.
The Bannisters were listed in the Chicago Blue Book from Tracy and were members of the Ridge Country Club. They were mentioned in the society pages for having a box at the opera.
In the 1920s, Bannister ran an employment agency for the building industry. He delivered a paper on “The Draftsman” before the Chicago Chapter of the American Institute of Architects in 1925. He was also a trustee at Bethany Union Church.
Bannister died in 1938 in Chicago and was buried in Union Cemetery in Odell. Alla Bannister moved to California and died there in 1948.