Gazette Article by: Stephanie Giordano
Appeared in the Gazette: Spring/Summer 2007
The Historical Society’s recent acquisition of four works by Winnetka sculptor Charles Haag spurred research into his life and art. Haag’s local legacy includes an enigmatic sculpture on Sheridan Road, an unusual grave marker in Christ Church cemetery, and two intriguing houses.
Charles Haag was born in Sweden in 1867. Before he was twelve, he began work as an apprentice in a pottery factory. He studied sculpture in night school and struggled as an artist in several European countries before coming to New York City in 1903.
In 1908, Winnetkans William and Lola Lloyd visited Haag’s Connecticut studio and commissioned him to design a memorial for Will’s parents, social reformers Henry Demarest and Jessie Bross Lloyd. At the invitation of the Lloyds, Haag and his wife Sofia moved to Winnetka in 1909 and stayed at the Lloyd’s estate, Wayside.
The bronze tablet that Haag designed is in the Christ Church cemetery. A large granite boulder looms over two smaller flat stones and the plaque, which is flush with the ground. The design takes the form of a large open book with raised letters providing the names and birth and death dates of the two Lloyd parents along with several phrases, including “THE CHURCH OF THE DEED…LOVE THE RELIGION…WORK THE WORSHIP…HUMANITY THE CONGREGATION.”
The Lloyd family also commissioned Haag to create “The Cornerstone of the Castle” in memory of Henry Demarest Lloyd. Unveiled in 1914, the sculpture was placed at the northwest corner of Sheridan Road and Lloyd Place and still stands today. The sculpture of a man in a dejected pose bears the words of Lloyd on its stone pedestal: “NO TENEMENTS FOR SOME AND CASTLES FOR OTHERS…SOCIETY SHOULD GIVE EVERY MAN NOT HIS DAILY BREAD, BUT A CHANCE TO EARN HIS DAILY BREAD…ALL PROPERTY IS PROPERTY OF MAN.”
As evidenced in this piece, Haag’s sculpture often depicted the working man and the inequities he saw in society. An author and friend wrote about Haag’s life and sculpture in a 1906 issue of The Craftsman, describing his work as “the artist’s protest against poverty as a reward for a life of toil.”
As was the case with many designers in the Arts and Crafts era, Haag had both a desire for social justice and a deep love of nature. His preferred medium was wood, and his series of over 40 carvings depicting “Spirits of the Wood” was exhibited widely from 1917 to 1928 in various galleries including the Art Institute of Chicago. This aspect of his work is most vividly seen in the details of the two houses he designed in Winnetka.
Although original plans do not exist, correspondence indicates that the design of Lola Maverick Lloyd’s house at 455 Birch was a collaboration between her and Haag. Begun in 1920, four years after her divorce from William Bross Lloyd, the house is a colorful and eclectic Arts and Crafts design with Swedish and American Southwest influences.
The vivid color palette and extensive carvings and built-in furniture are evidence of Haag’s Swedish background, while a Southwestern-style mural in the two-store living room proclaims Lloyd’s Texan roots. Haag was responsible for the construction and many of the carved details, although Lloyd’s contributions include the outdoor downspout basins in animal forms and a series of interior light fixtures.
The yellow stucco house with red and green trim was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in February 2006 for its association with Lloyd, a life-long activist for social justice and global peace. She had chosen this location for her house to remove herself form Sheridan Road society and live in what was then a working class neighborhood with many Swedish immigrants.
While continuing to work on Lloyd’s house, Haag completed his own home just a block away at 897 Cherry Street. The modest house has hand-carved trim on the exterior and many built-ins inside. Haag included a small cottage on the property for use as his studio. The house and studio are still there.
Haag died in Winnetka in 1933. Sofia, a talented textile artist who went on to a medical career, remained in the Village until 1966. She then returned to Sweden and is buried next to her husband under a tombstone of his design.