Gazette Article by: Cindy Fuller
Appeared in the Gazette: Summer 1995
House of the Season: Private Estate for Prominent Public Servant
Approaching Hubbard Woods via Sheridan Road in 1916, you would have passed by a “private road” leading to a “country estate” tucked away in the woods. Today the former home of Harold L. Ickes at 900 Private Road shares its lane with numerous other neighbors but is as much an anchor it once was.For many in the Midwest, “forest surroundings are the most precious possessions of people who are tired of the monotony of the endless prairies.” Claimed an article in the Architectural Record of March 1918. In employing the firm of Perkins, Fellows, and Hamilton to locate and design his estate, Ickes made a choice befitting this statement. Dwight Perkins was instrumental in establishing the Cook County Forest Preserve system in the early part of the century. Both Perkins’ and Ickes’ great appreciation for the natural surroundings led them to choose a site where no trees were removed to build the house.The Ickes house is as stately as an English manor done in the Tudor style. Brick and stucco and half-timbered gables reflect the strength and permanence of this house. Structural elements are used to create pattern and decoration. The gables, intersecting roofs, two-story bay, leaded windows and decorative chimneys area all typical elements of the style.
One of the most common disasters for country estates at the time was fire, since they were generally beyond the reach of local fire fighting facilities. The Ickes house was engineered to be fireproof. Decorative wood bargeboards and half timbering in the gables have no connection to the interior of the house.
Harold L. Ickes was most well known for his civic and political achievements. He served as Secretary of the Interior in Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s administration (1933-46). During the period Ickes was influential in two events that occurred in Winnetka. One was the creation of the Skokie Lagoons using the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps). The other was the depression of the railroad tracks, an issue that had been controversial for decades. In 1938 the Federal Government approved a WPA (Works Project Administration) loan for 45% of the cost of the project.
Over time 900 Private Road has changed little. Its solidity and stateliness seem to reflect its permanence on the landscape of Winnetka.