Gazette Article by: Cindy Fuller
Appeared in the Gazette: Spring 1998
In architecture, as in popular culture, styles come and styles go. The Spanish Colonial Revival house at 767 Mt. Pleasant Road is an excellent example of how a single event can spark interest in a style.
Mission architecture had long populated the southwestern United States while under Spanish rule. However, it was at the Panama-California Exposition of 1915, held in San Diego to celebrate the opening of the Panama Canal, where hundreds of thousands of visitors saw the work of architect Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue. His Spanish Colonial designs were widely copied throughout the United States during the next two decades.
Although not as prevalent as other traditional Midwest styles such as Colonial or Tudor Revival, Spanish Colonial Revival architecture is distinctive and easily recognized: reddish or reddish-brown barrel tile roofs, white or light colored stucco walls, and decorative wrought iron grillwork. Arches are a prominent feature, commonly used in doorways, windows, and arcades.
The house at 767 Mt. Pleasant Road was designed in 1926 by the noted Chicago firm, Zimmerman, Saxe & Zimmerman, for the J. F. Octigan family. Situated on a spacious lot, the house has an L-shaped plan. The two wings extend from a sun-filled, octagonal breakfast room that originally contained a fountain. One can only guess at Octigan’s inspiration for this interestingly shaped room.
The focus of the main façade is the entry door, trimmed with wrought iron and surrounded by twisted columns with Corinthian capitals topped with carved stone moldings. A second story window with a semi-circular wrought iron balcony above the front door completes the composition.
Windows are capped with stone lintels, and most feature wrought iron planters. The master bedroom on the west side of the house contains an oriel window.
The firm of Zimmerman, Saxe & Zimmerman was formed in 1914 when William Carbys Zimmerman took his son-in-law, Albert Moore Saxe, and his son, Ralph Waldo Zimmerman, into partnership. William Carbys Zimmerman studied at MIT from 1877–1880. Highlights of his successful career included acting as Illinois State Architect from 1905–1913 and designing the Illinois State Penitentiary in Joliet (1922) and a variety of beautiful houses throughout Chicago and the suburbs. He maintained a residence in Chicago as well as La Jolla, California.
The Octigan house reflects a style whose time quickly passed, but whose interest and beauty have lasted for all to enjoy.