Gazette Article by: Susan Curry
Appeared in the Gazette: Spring/Summer 2006
The Henry T. Stanton House
The site of this year (2006)’s Winnetka Historical Society Benefit Gala was a glamorous newcomer in the 1920s, built for a pillar of the Chicago business community and featured nationally in House and Garden magazine. If walls could speak, the Stanton House could tell tales of high society from the Roaring ‘20s on through the war years: a litany of debutantes, equestrian and charity balls, and great gestures of community service.
Henry Thompson Stanton was born in Maysville, Kentucky in 1887. While still a boy, he went to work for Procter & Gamble in Cincinnati, Ohio. He demonstrated remarkable ability and rose rapidly. He joined the J. Walter Thompson Company, an advertising firm in that city, and within three years was transferred to the Chicago office.
Stanton achieved professional and social success. His daughter was a debutante, and his sons competed in horse shows. He was an opera-goer and member of the Racquet Club. He rose to be vice president and Western manager of J. Walter Thompson. Among other community projects, Stanton participated in the syndicate promoting the development of the so-called “No Man’s Land” between Wilmette and Kenilworth. In 1920 Stanton contracted with the architecture firm of Clark & Walcott to build an elegant residence on a 1-1/4 acre lot at 698 Blackthorn Lane.
Edwin H. Clark and Chester Howe Walcott practiced together from 1919 to 1924. The October, 1922 issue of Western Architect describes them with glowing approval, as “younger members of the profession who have established an enviable reputation for work of excellence and distinction.” The compass of Clark and Walcott’s work is “[l]argely residential, there is some charming church work, a country club, and more recently some school work which bear the name of this firm…” Further, the article notes that “[c]ertain districts of Winnetka, notably that in the vicinity of Hill Country Club, bears the stamp of excellence of this firm’s work.” Photographs of the front and back facades as well as the interior of the Stanton House accompany the article. The house was also featured in the October, 1922 issue of House and Garden.
The style of the Stanton Residence has been described variously as Norman, English, Colonial and others. The first floor is stucco with brick quoining setting off the windows, doors and corners of walls. This wall treatment, and the steep slate roof, are seen in Winnetka houses designed in the French Eclectic style. The second floor is stucco with half-timbering, typical of Norman and English manor houses. However, the entrance is Classical, with a pediment surmounting pilasters that flank an arch with a raised keystone. The motif of arches is repeated in the windows of the rear façade and in the niches flanking the fireplace in the living room.
An old friend of Walcott described his approach to design: “If Walcott was perturbed by world-wide design upheavals, that fact is not revealed in his work, which remained cultured and scholarly to the last. He lovingly remembered and restated the spirit of things seen at Oxford or along the Loire during European travels.” This clearly is the view of the reviewers in Western Architect, who wrote that “ [i]n the work of Clark and Walcott we find a distinctly refreshing originality the expression of which has been made in terms well known to us all—historic precedent if you please. This is indeed progress.”
Henry Stanton enjoyed his home for nearly ten years, but then sold it in order to build an enormous house called White Thorns in Wayne, Illinois. The Stantons returned to Winnetka for the winter months, occupying rented properties. The purchaser of the house on Blackthorn was Holman Dean Pettibone.
Pettibone, like Stanton, came from modest beginnings to achieve success in Chicago. He was born in Albion, Nebraska and moved to Chicago in 1911. He got a job as a reader of columns of figures for $10.00 a week to pay for night classes at Chicago-Kent School of Law. By December of 1931, when he purchased the Stanton House, he had been elected president of his first employer—Chicago Title and Trust Company.
Pettibone’s list of achievements is exemplary. He was a life trustee of both Beloit College and Northwestern University, and served as president of the Chicago Association of Commerce and Industry. He was a director of the Chamber of Commerce of the United States and served on advisory commissions under ex-president Eisenhower. His son-in-law Herb Butz (see “TheWinnetka Way”) recounts that Pettibone’s neighbor, Mr. Randall of Inland Steel, once received a telephone call from the former president requesting help finding someone to serve on a commission. Randall said, “I know just the man; I see him outside my window chopping wood.”
Late in his seventies Pettibone tragically drowned during a fishing expedition with an old friend, Samuel A. Greeley. Mayor Richard J. Daley called him a “great man and a great citizen,” who “had the objective of making Chicago a better place in which to live, work and worship.”