Charnley-Persky House

There’s an unusual building in Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood. It’s simple compared to its historic neighbors and ornate compared to more recent construction. The building is unique, and its story involves introverts, embezzlement and suicides, towering egos, stolen (or “borrowed”) credit, and philanthropy.

James Charnley was more enigmatic than most of Chicago’s historical figures. The prosperous lumberman, unlike his wealthy contemporaries, wasn’t a member of multiple non-profit boards and didn’t appear regularly in the newspapers. Despite being a scion of industry, he pretty much kept to himself. He didn’t even help with the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, which was essentially a requirement for those listed in the Chicago Blue Book. The only social engagement he seemed to keep regularly was the Chicago Literary Society. It’s believed his wife, Helen, didn’t belong to any organizations at all. Nobody’s found a single photo of James, nor are there any interior pictures or drawings of the landmark named for the elusive character from the time he lived within.

Read more about this landmark in Living Landmarks of Chicago.

Completed: 1892
Architect: Louis Sullivan and/or Frank Lloyd Wright
Address: 1365 N. Astor St.

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Sources for Charnley-Persky House

This is a selection of specific sources used to provide details while researching this landmark. Additional sources, including books and websites, can be found on the Resources page.

  • An Account of the Triennial and Sexennial Meetings. United States, Taintor Brothers & Company, 1875.
  • Chicago Literary Club. Chicago Literary Club: Officers, Committees, Members, And Scheme of Exercises. Chicago: Fergus Print Co., 1895.
  • City of Chicago Landmark Designation Report
  • Decennial Record of the Class of 1896, Yale College. United States, Class at the De Vinne Press, 1907.
  • Charnley-Persky House Archaeological Project
  • Ferree, Barr, 1862-1924. Artistic Domestic Architecture In America … New York, 1895.
  • HPZS – Historic Preservation
  • McCoy, Paul Stevens, 1908-, and Yale University. The Yale Record. New Haven: Tuttle, Morehouse & Taylor [etc.],
  • Muschenheim, Arthur. A Guide to Chicago Architecture. Chicago, Illinois: Skidmore, Owings & Merril, 1962.
  • Newberry Library