The Franklin House was torn down in 1960 to make room for future improvements. Vacant at the time, the house had stood for more than 60 years – watching the booms and busts of several eras.
Once the showplace of the northwest side, the house was built in about 1893. The house, furnishings and landscaping came to about $50,000.00, by Lesser Franklin, who subdivided and promoted the sale of lots in the community that bears his name.
The estate covered about half a block, bordered by Schiller Blvd., Atlantic Street and Ruby Street, extending south past the bungalow built to Dora Franklin Combes, as a guest house.
The house had three stories and originally was clapboard to the second floor, with cedar shingles on up, including the roof. In recent years the building was covered with asphalt siding, but the basic lines remained.
The double doors which were the front entrance faced Schiller Blvd. On the Atlantic Street side was a porte cochere for carriages with a side door. Two back doors face what is now an alley.
In the basement were the furnace (coal fired) and a pump room – a laundry, and in the front was a storeroom with swinging shelves and a wine cellar.
On the first floor was the parlor and reception room, adorned with hand painted ceilings and walls rampant with flowers, cherubs and other designs – done by an artist of the era.
Hand-rubbed walnut paneling and grill woodworks were featured throughout. In the dining room and the reception room, in front of the mantel and wall sideboard were portraits of the Franklin children, painted on glass and set into the woodwork.
There were eight mantels in the house each one tiled in a different style. A huge fireplace dominated the front and side windows. A large piano – sofa, tables and chairs added a touch of elegance. Floors were of highly polished hardwood – with oriental rugs throughout.
Off the parlor and reception room was a small conservatory with wire flower stands along the sides and a bronze – glass fountain in the ante (sic) featured a little boy with an umbrella. This was filled with goldfish. Another small room on the main floor was a library, with oak shelves from floor to ceiling, filled with standard literary works of the day. This led to a small porch at the back.
The kitchen was roomy, with a coal range and at the sink was a pump. Hot water came from the boiler attached to the range. A pantry held shelves for the milk crates.
In later years, the family switched to motor cars – with such collector’s items as a Stanley Steamer, Pierce Arrow, Stutz, Maxwell and Peerless replacing the horse and carriage of the ‘90’s.
Once the showplace of the northwest Chicago area, the old Franklin Home at Schiller and Atlantic Streets stood empty – waiting for the wrecker’s axe to make room for future improvements.
Built at the close of the ’93 World’s Fair by Lesser Franklin, who subdivided and promoted the sale of lots in the area, and who gave is name to the community, the three- story building commanded a view of the then little more than a railroad stop that was to grow to the present small industry center that is Franklin Park.
Through its glass-paneled double doors came prospective buyers – foreign visitors and celebrities of the era. The house, furnishings and landscaping costs ran into the $50,000.00 figure – only the best materials and the finest artisans contributed to the half-block sized estate.
Three stories high – with a stone foundation, the original building featured clapboard to the second floor – the cedar shingles for the top floor and the roof.
The house and grounds extended from Atlantic to Ruby Street, along Schiller Blvd. – and about half a block south.
Stained glass windows reflected the gas lights and chandeliers – powered by gas supplied by a machine in the basement then operated on high test gasoline!
–A DESCRIPTION OF THE LESSER FRANKLIN HOME by Geraldine Meador
On Sunday evening at 9:15 PM on June 5, 1960, it was all over. The Lesser Franklin home was destroyed. It was once the showplace of Chicago’s northwest side. The Franklin home stood on the northwest corner of Schiller Blvd. and Atlantic St. It was built at the close of the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893. The fire was reported to be of undetermined origin, however, rumors exist of arson. The building was listed as “possibly a total loss” by then-Assistant Fire Chief, Irv Sherry. Between 40-50 firemen fought the blaze until 3:00, Monday morning.
Photographs of the Franklin House’s destruction courtesy of Hammill Photography Studios.