Gazette Article by: Cindy Fuller
Appeared in the Gazette: Fall 1994
House of the Season: Courtyard Charm at the Chimneys
In 1929 a Winnetka Talk article described “The Chimneys” apartments as an “interesting experiment with the taste and demands of the North Shore.” Most likely the reference was to the fact that apartments were not a widely accepted phenomenon in a community of single-family homes. The experiment succeeded; today “The Chimneys” remain as a symbol of solidity and charm.
The idea of multi-family dwellings for the middle and upper class dates from Richard Morris Hunt’s Stuyvesant apartments, built in 1896 in New York. From there evolved courtyard buildings with plentiful light and front yards. The suburban apartment offered amenities available in single-family living at more affordable prices.
“The Chimneys” located at 150-60 Green Bay Road, were the pet project of Winnetka resident Roland D. Whitman. Obviously, he was very enamored with English architecture and antiques. He hired architect Howard Bowen, a Wilmette resident, to design “The Chimneys.”
Supposedly Bowen made an inspirational journey to England before beginning the project. The result is one of the North Shore’s best courtyard apartments, a building that exemplifies the style that has earned the name “Winnetka Tudor.”
The whimsy, variety and charm associated with the Tudor style are all here. Brick, stone and half-timbering are used to delineate an array of gables, roofs and bays. Each entryway off the private courtyard is different, suggesting a series of individual buildings. Topping the undulating roofline are a dozen chimneys.
The apartments were designed with fireplaces, porches, views of the beautifully landscaped court, and architectural details throughout. Originally, shops and a restaurant named “The Chimneys Tavern” were located on the first floor. The Depression forced closure of the shops which were redesigned as apartments. In 1989 the building was converted to condominiums.
Residents of “The Chimneys” today are active stewards of Mr. Whitman’s experiment. This is one place that has improved with age.