Gazette Article by: Cindy Fuller
Appeared in the Gazette: Fall 1999
A turn-of-the century classic
The house at 645 Sheridan Road is a stately, gracious reminder of lakefront living from the turn of the century. Constructed in about 1902, its Classical Revival proportions and details reflect a grand lifestyle enjoyed by many of its owners. The estate encompasses a long circular drive with coach house and connecting conservatory – a simplified version of the main house and formal gardens.
Although the original owner and architect are unknown, the property was purchased in 1919 by Mr. and Mrs. William Sherman Hay. A Chicago attorney, Hay founded the Sunbeam Corporation. He and his wife, Alma, actively supported the arts and music in Chicago, traveled extensively, and entertained frequently, according to a niece, Mrs. Petersen, of Chicago. The Hays had no children but spent time and traveled with their nieces and nephews.
Following the purchase of the house, they hired Winnetka architect William A. Otis to make alterations. The most notable changes included relocating the main entrance from the south to the west side of the house and designing the south porch, which balances the porch on the north side of the house. The result was a classically inspired symmetrical façade. The projecting front entrance with Palladian window on the second floor is topped by a triangular pediment, providing the focus on the main façade. A first floor porch, with paired Doric columns and egg and leaf molding at the roofline, extends across most of the front and is topped by a second story balustrade with decorative urns. Columned porches projecting on both ends of the house complete the classical detailing.
Classical Revival architecture received a boost in popularity following the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, held in Chicago. Fair architects Burnham and Root mandated a classical theme. Designers of the exhibition halls created monumental white structures, drawing design inspiration from Italian Renaissance, Greek, Roman, and European examples. The “White City,” as the fair was nicknamed, was widely visited and photographed. Commercial and residential architecture reflected its impact for the following two decades.
Today the house at 645 Sheridan Road continues to delight and entertain. Details, proportion, scale and setting still define classic architecture as we head into the next century.