Address: 7415 N. Sheridan Rd., Chicago IL 60626    Reservations: 1-773-654-3959                          

History of the Emil Bach House

History of the Emil Bach House

Above is the earliest photo of the house, taken prior to the 1921 construction of the Newman designed mansion on the lot to the north. The house was situated on the north lot line which provided the maximum distance and privacy for the Bach family from the existing home to the south.

Working in the brickyard with his four brothers, Emil Bach had breathing problems which, according to his grandson, Owen, he treated by walking out to his back porch down to the lake every day and swimming. At the time of construction, there were no structures between the house and the lake.

The Farcroft Apartments, built in 1928, tower over the Bach House and completely block the view of the lake from the terrace to the northeast. H.L. Hollister’s mansion on Bryan (later Jarvis St) was demolished around the same time and two four-story courtyard apartment buildings completed the screen of the lake to the southeast.

Originally, a chimney enclosure was constructed in order to balance the step design of the house. Had the house been built according to the original design, the enclosure would have had the same orientation as the interior chimney mass.

During the design presentation, Wright changed the interior chimney mass orientation to run east-west, perpendicular to the exterior chimney enclosure.

By the time the Emil Bach sold the house in 1934, the roof chimney enclosure had deteriorated to such a degree that it was removed and never rebuilt.

The house remained substantially unchanged through the next twenty years. Photographs taken in the mid-1940s by Gilman Lane show that the only significant exterior changes that were made to the structure was the enclosure of the porch off the south-facing bedroom and an addition of a shed off the rear service entrance.

James F. Blinder bought the Bach House in June of 1959 and decided to undertake a full scale "restoration" of the residence. The Historic American Building Survey (HABS) study of the house done in the spring of 1966 documents some of the exterior changes made by Blinder – analysis of historic photographs gives us more.

  1. Removal of the cypress wood trellis around the ground level planter at the front of the house.
  2. Replace of the ramp from street level to the north service entrance door with concrete stairs.
  3. Replacement of the concrete caps on the service entry wall and east entry garden retaining wall.
  4. Elimination of the planting beds under living room windows and reducing the size of the south and west planting beds, covering all courtyard ground area with concrete.
  5. Replacing over 60% of existing exterior cypress trim with redwood.
  6. Demolition and replacement of the upper half (wood and brick) design detail of the privacy wall in the courtyard.
  7. Enclosing and winterizing the first floor porch, removing French doors between porch and entryway.
  8. Enclosing and adding roof to second floor sun terrace and changing window between terrace and maids room to a door
  9. Removal of bedroom balcony French doors and replacement with jalousie windows
  10. Removal of all 2nd floor leaded glass windows and replacement by single pane or jalousie windows
  11. Removal and sale/donation of all 6 original art glass windows.

The interior of the house has also undergone substantial changes through the years. Wright originally designed all the kitchen cabinetry, a massive dining table with chairs and tabourettes, bay window bench with flowerbox, hearth bench (with storage under the seat and book shelves facing the entryway), a built-in desk and bookshelves in the north bedroom, built-in clothes press and dressing table in the south bedroom, built-in closet in the maids room, built-in linen cupboard in the 2nd floor landing and a built-in dresser in the west bedroom. From correspondence between Wright and Emil Bach, mention is also made of two easy chairs, light fixtures, curtains, rugs and single beds upstairs. No photographs, drawings or detailed descriptions exist for these elements so they are lost forever.

By the 1966 HABS study, the only built-in elements remaining were the bay window bench, clothes press and linen cupboard. Additionally, the partition wall and swinging door between the kitchen and dining room area had also been demolished. The study did not detail changes made to the basement of the house, so it is not possible to know when the coal room, heater room and storage room partitions were removed and when the door to the fruit cellar was moved and the rear storage room underneath the porch excavated.

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