Unique presentation of original photographs given to Mr. and Mrs. Charles S. Roberts of their residence at 4900 Ellis Avenue in Chicago by the noted architect Benjamin H. Marshall: “Compliments of your architect Benjamin H. Marshall” is handwritten in ink on a preliminary blank leaf.
Born into a wealthy Southside Chicago family, Marshall was impressed by the grand buildings of the Columbian Exposition and decided to pursue architecture. He secured an apprenticeship with the firm Marble and Wilson and after Marble’s death, he was a partner from 1895 to 1902, during which time this house was designed and built. A 1907 issue of The Economist reports the sale for $30,000 of the three-story, twelve-room home designed by “Wilson and Marshall” and constructed of stone. In 1905, Marshall formed his own firm in partnership with Charles Fox. Together they helped transform Chicago, converting an old landfill into desirable apartments on East Lake Shore Drive. They also designed such classic structures as the Drake Hotel, the Blackstone Hotel, and Lake Shore National Bank, among others. Marshall’s papers are archived at the University of Texas.
The home’s original owner, Charles Roberts, was a business leader and member of a variety of social groups, including the yacht club. He is listed among the city’s important people in the Book of Chicagoans (1884). His address is listed at 4900 Ellis Avenue.
The influence of Marshall is apparent in the home. The architect has been described as having “flamboyant tastes and swashbuckling style.” Among the photographs are pictures of an entry with elegant moldings and a Bengal tiger rug, a drawing room with elaborate trimmings and built-in bookcases, and a rustic billiards room with roughhewn beams.
The book contains seventeen 10” x 7” black and white images of the home, including two exterior shots. The images are linen backed and bear Marshall’s stamp along with that of Chicago photographer Charles Allgeier. A new black cloth backstrip has been added to the leather-bound volume, which is worn along the edges. The images are bright with some light fraying to the linen backing. This unique volume provides a rare record of an important Chicago architect’s work. Item #73880