A Unique Architectural Gem in Forest Glen

Gazette Article by: Susan Curry
Appeared in the Gazette: Fall 2004

Winnetkans will tell you that their Village is special, but the neighbors in Forest Glen feel they live at the heart of the matter. Every good thing about Winnetka seems magnified in this private, leafy enclave. Occupants will point with pride to the diversity and elegant details of the Hemphill homes that make up a large proportion of the development of the Dennehy estate. White oaks shade gardens colorful with scattered toys. Neighbors continue to preserve the Winnetka tradition of community circles, with directories of residents and annual social events designed to perpetuate community unity.

Forest Glen residents are there for the long-term. Twenty-year residents are common and children often inherit the homes of their parents and choose to stay.

Forest Glen is the unexpected setting of a unique architectural gem. Modestly nestled among the others on the north end is the only residential project of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, an international leader in modern architecture more known for monumental glass towers than pied-a-terres.

The current owners, Jack and Laurie Minkow, describe their discovery as a continuing, pleasant mystery. When they were first considering the house purchase, they telephoned Skidmore, Owings and Merrill and spoke to the firm’s librarian. She was shocked to hear that such a house existed. Further, the plans were initialed with the letters GLB. The librarian confirmed that no employee of Skidmore had those initials except Gordon L. Bunshaft, a member of the firm who had spent most of his career in New York City. Nevertheless, he had worked in the Chicago office briefly in 1941, when the house was built. He had not intended more than a six-month stay, but upon making the acquaintance of Mies Van Der Rohe, prolonged his visit to four years. Gordon Bunshaft, a 1988 recipient of the Pritzker Prize for architecture, is best known for the Park Avenue corporate headquarters of the Lever Corporation. The Lever House, built in 1952, is an early glass tower of the school of LeCorbusier and Mies Van Der Rohe. Other of his buildings of international significance include the Hirschhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C., the Marine Midland Bank in New York City and The Lyndon Baines Johnson Library at the University of Texas at Austin. Quite a distinguished set of relations for a discreet Forest Glen home.

Bunshaft shares company with the best known of contemporary architects. He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters with such luminaries as Philip Johnson, I.M. Pei, Kevin Roche and Frank Gehry. Bunshaft shared the 1988 Pritzker Prize with Oscar Niemayer who was instrumental in the planning and building of Brasilia, the capitol of Brasil. Bunshaft did very few residences. The summer house he designed for himself on Long Island is currently owned by Martha Stewart. He also built houses for Lyndon Johnson and Lawrence Rockefeller.

Jack Minkow has continued to explore the provenance of his house in Forest Glen. His research led him to Carol Herselle Krinsky, a professor of Fine Arts at New York University, who has written extensively about Gordon Bunshaft. She too was surprised to hear of the house in Forest Glen and was eager to have photographs made. Through Dr. Krinsky’s assistance, Mr. Minkow was able to contact Gordon Bunshaft’s widow at her home in Manhattan. When asked if she remembered the house in Winnetka, she replied, “Oh no, darling, that was before I met Gordon. Tell me, do you like it? Then that’s all that’s important.”

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