By Carol Flynn∼
The Walter Burley Griffin Society will hold its annual meeting in Beverly/Morgan Park and Blue Island on Sat., June 18. Highlights of the meeting include programs, tours of historic homes and a photography exhibit by local resident Mati Maldre, a member of the Griffin Society and Chicago State University (CSU) emeritus professor of art.
“I have tremendous respect for Beverly/Morgan Park’s treasury of Prairie School homes. This Griffin Society week-end focuses attention on the wide variety of examples, from Wright’s Evans House on Longwood Drive, to Griffin’s “city” houses built for moderate income families,” Maldre said.
Walter Burley Griffin (1876-1937) was an architect and urban planner. Partnering with his wife Marion Mahony Griffin, they designed over 350 buildings, landscape and urban-design projects. They also designed construction materials, interiors, and furniture.
Griffin, an Illinois native, received a bachelor’s degree in architecture from the University of Illinois, and worked for architectural firms that specialized in the Prairie School style. After several years in Frank Lloyd Wright’s Oak Park studio, Griffin established his own practice. Griffin and his wife developed their own unique modern style.
In 1909, Russell Blount, a real estate manager for a bank, commissioned Griffin to build a house for himself and his wife on what is now 104th Place. The home was under construction when the plumbing contractor working on it offered Blount a significant sum to buy the house. Blount sold the house, which reportedly did not sit well with Mrs. Blount, so Griffin was commissioned to build a second house for the Blount family. Thus began what has become the largest concentration of Prairie School homes in the City of Chicago.
Griffin designed seven houses for Blount. Then in 1912, the Griffins won a very prestigious international competition to, literally, design Canberra, the capital city of Australia. Griffin moved to Australia where he remained until a commission took him to India in 1935, where he died unexpectedly a few years later. Even after the Griffins left, Blount continued to build houses based on Griffin’s designs. In 1981, the Commission on Chicago Landmarks designated 1600 to 1800 West 104th Place as the Walter Burley Griffin Place District and the street was renamed in Griffin’s honor.
Griffin Society meeting morning programs will be held at the Morgan Park Academy, 2153 W. 111th St. Topics will include Griffin’s low-cost housing, preservation efforts for Griffin homes, and Griffin’s architectural ornamentation. The afternoon will be devoted to visiting a selection of area homes designed by Griffin and other noted Prairie-style architects including Wright, George Maher and Robert Seyfarth, and an International Style home designed by Bertram Goldberg.
The Griffin Society meeting and house tours are open to Griffin Society members. To participate in the meetings and events, the public can join the Society for the $25 annual fee, and pay an additional $15 program fee. For more information www.WBGriffinSociety.org or call 314-644-4546.
Ridge Historical Society (RHS), 10621 S. Seeley Ave., is hosting an exhibit of photographs by Mati Maldre in conjunction with the Griffin meeting. Maldre is a Griffin homeowner and noted photogtapher. He has numerous publishing and exhibition credits to his name, and has co-authored two books on Griffin, “Walter Burley Griffin in America” and “The Griffins in Australia.” Maldre has won a number of grants, awards and honors, including one from the National Endowment of the Arts
His exhibit at RHS, which will run through July, will include photographs of historic homes in the area as well as the parks designed by noted landscape architect Jens Jensen. Info: 773-881-1675 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
PHOTO BY MATI MALDRE