Gazette Article by: Cindy Fuller
Appeared in the Gazette: Spring 2001
Local Architect Leaves Large Legacy
Tucked away at the end of a cul de sac, 909 Mt. Pleasant stands as one of Edwin Clark’s premier residential designs — and not surprisingly, since he designed it in 1926 to be his own residence. Although best known for his commercial and public designs including Brookfield Zoo, Plaza Del Lago, Indian Hill Club, North Shore Country Day School and the Winnetka Village Hall, his residential commissions are numerous throughout Winnetka and the North Shore.
So much of what we see in the Village was built between 1915 and 1940, reflecting the tremendous growth in population occurring at that time. By 1920, Winnetka’s population was 7,000 and by 1930, it had swelled to over 12,000, close to our current size. Residential designs generally fell into one of two style categories: Prairie or Revival. In Winnetka, the revival styles of Colonial, Spanish, French and the predominant “Winnetka Tudor” as well as the Prairie and derivative types were built and intermingled throughout the Village. It was in this context that a well-trained architect and Winnetka resident such as Edwin Clark flourished.
His designs mirror the qualities Winnetka architecture is known for: stability, comfort and tradition. For his home at 909 Mt. Pleasant, Clark drew his inspiration from a 16th century English country house. Stone pillars with a wrought iron gate mark the approach to the house leading to a small motor court. The brick, stucco and half-timbered house is L-shaped with three main two-story gables unified under a steeply pitched slate roof. The entrance contains a heavy timber door set under a projecting stucco gable decorated with animals, flowering vine plants and a crest in bas-relief. Reportedly, Clark and his wife made trips to England to research the design and to purchase architectural details and furnishings for the house. The bas-relief animal motif is repeated in the entry hall plaster ceiling and original antique English oak paneling still exists in the entry hall and library.
Born in Chicago, Edwin Clark graduated from Yale University in 1900. Originally destined for a career with the family paint manufacturing business, a severe case of lead poisoning led him to pursue drafting at what became the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT). In 1906, he joined William Otis’ practice and became partner in 1908. He moved to Winnetka that same year and practiced architecture, in partnership and individually, until his retirement in 1953.
Among his noteworthy residential commissions in Winnetka are 760 Bryant, built for his brother, 251 White Oak Lane, his retirement home, 325 and 280 White Oak Lane, 1127 Sheridan Road and 674 Hill Road. Clark could be considered among the few to earn the title of “Winnetka architect.”