Jackson Park Highlands
This article is about my childhood home on Bennett Avenue #260Z in the Jackson Park Highlands, Chicago. Written by artist Stephen F. Condren, BFA-SAIC, of Condren Galleries, a Fine Arts Gallery. I was raised up as a child at our lovely and gracious home at 6841 S. Bennet Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60649. Our home was and still is, located in the Jackson Park Highlands. The Jackson Park Highlands is an landmark estate neighborhood on the south side of Chicago, and is the step child of mansion district of Kenwood.
The house was built in 1913 next door to one of the developers of the Highlands, Mr. Roberts. The house is just under 5,000 square feet and has 5 bedrooms and 5 bathrooms. The exterior dimensions are 45 feet wide and 75 feet long.
All of the rooms are enormous which included a morning room, which was in the front of the house. Access to the morning room was through the living room then through the dining room. Morning rooms are always adjacent the dining room for kitchen services. Of course, next to the dining room was the butler’s pantry for all the china and table settings. Past the butler’s pantry was a large kitchen with very ample pantry. Going straight through the kitchen you entered the game room. This was a very large room designed to hold a pool table and card tables. This room has a direct access to the back inner porch that lead to the garage and back yard.
The living and dining room were separated by a large set of sliding glass doors. The entrance to the house from the street was on the south side of the house and was a small suite off of the central block of the structure. Upon entering the suite you were in the marble vestibule, and looking to the left were three large encased glass panels, the first being the door to the entrance hall.
The entrance hall was vast and straight ahead was a grand wooden staircase. As you entered the hall to the right with the library and to the left was the living room. All of the room throughout the house was done in the finest mahogany wood. Two large massive beams wrought across the ceilings of the entrance hall, the living room, and the dining room. These beams were joined to very thick wooden moldings that encased the ceiling and mounted it to the walls. The fireplace in the living room was a massive wood structure.
When then house was built back in 1913, when the Jackson Park Highlands was developed, all the homes were designed with garden lots. That meaning that each home had a separate lost next to it for privacy. In some cases homes had two or more such lots. Mrs. Roberts house has seven city lots and is the largest in all the Highlands! Mrs. Roberts home is dead center in the Highlands as this was the home of the builder. Having a place at the center was the most prestigious because you were far from the perimeter of the neighborhood and thus most quiet. Our home was right next door and dead center as well.
Just after the First World War, our garden lot was sold off and a home had been built on it, this was the home of the Lemonthal’s. The Howett’s, Michael Howlett, Secretary of State, who live four doors down from us had a garden lot on each side of their home. I was a classmate of Robert Howlett at St. Philip Neri, As the Howlett’s and my parents were old family friends. My grand parents, Dr. & Mrs. Francis Leo Condren stood up at their wedding.
- Prairie Avenue
- Hyde Park
- Jackson Park Highlands
The south side of Chicago is the best planned and designed part of Chicago. Grandeur was always the tone of any development of the south side of Chicago. Only in the south side are there grand boulevards and parkways. It is only in the south side that you have center park trolley lines.
The growth and development of a city the size and scale of Chicago is very complicated in imbued with ambiguities. It is my task here to highlight upper strata communities of the south side of Chicago, and more particularly, to focus on the dwellings in these communities. Side commentaries on expected social behavior given at appropriate times.
The community of south Prairie Avenue is where the history of high society in Chicago starts. However, it should be noted that this was not the first area of “upper crust”. Downtown Michigan Avenue and Wabash Avenue were the very first areas of fine home construction. However, these areas were not developed as a community as we think of at later times. These homes were mixed in between all sorts of sites, from taverns and shops, to book shops and barbers. The development of segregated communities for “better living” start on the south side with Prairie Avenue, and later with Potter Palmer on the near north side, on Belleview and Lake Shore Drive.