Tree Studios

Smack dab in the middle of the River North and Magnificent Mile neighborhoods sits what had been one of the oldest artists’ colonies in the country. Lined up on State Street between Ontario and Ohio, Tree Studios rented space at reduced rates to artists. It began when the Trees, world-travelers and dedicated supporters of the arts, decided to build an Art Palace in their backyard.

The year was 1894 and the economy was shattered. The Panic of 1893 had started a nationwide depression that would continue for years. Banks closed, businesses failed, including even seemingly infallible railroads, and laborers went on strike. In Chicago, the glow from the World’s Columbian Exposition, which opened about the time the panic began, had quickly worn off as the White City disappeared. Workers who’d found temporary jobs during the fair were suddenly unemployed and Chicago was overrun with the destitute and homeless.

In the midst of this despair, Lambert and Anna Tree decided to open, of all things, an artists colony.

Read more about this landmark in Living Landmarks of Chicago.

Date Completed: State Street, 1894; Ohio Street Annex, 1912; Ontario Street Annex, 1913
Architects: Parfitt Brothers (New York), Hill & Woltersdorf (Chicago)
Address: 4 E. Ohio St.

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Sources for Tree Studios

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.

  • Ceremonies Attending the Unveiling of the Statue of Robert Cavelier De La Salle At Lincoln Park, Chicago: October 12, 1889. Chicago: Knight and Leonard Co., printers, 1889.
  • Chicago Historical Society. Charter, Constitution, By-laws, Membership List, Annual Report. 1910
  • Currey, J. Seymour (Josiah Seymour), b. 1844. Chicago: Its History And Its Builders … Chicago: The S.J. Clarke Pub. Co., 1918.
  • Harper, William Hudson, 1857-, and Charles H Ravell. Fifty Years of Banking In Chicago. [Chicago]: The Merchants’ loan and trust company, 1907.
  • Hurlbut, Henry H. (Henry Higgins), 1813-1890. Chicago Antiquities: Comprising Original Items And Relations, Letters, Extracts, And Notes, Pertaining to Early Chicago … Chicago: For the author, 1881.
  • Kirkland, Caroline. Chicago Yesterdays: a Sheaf of Reminiscences. Chicago: Daughaday and company, 1919.
  • McIlvaine, Mabel. Reminiscences of Chicago During the Great Fire. Chicago: R. R. Donnelly & sons company, 1915.
  • National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form
  • “Society Events, Past and to Come.” Figaro, Vol. 1 No. 152, 26 Jan 1893.
  • Trumble, Alfred. The Art Collector: a Journal Devoted to the Arts And the Crafts. New York: A. Trumble [etc.], 1 May 1893.

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