Douglas mansion recommended for landmark status

September 9, 2009

1892 home has significant architecture and neighborhood history

Peter Strazzabosco     312.744.9267

Designed by one of Chicago's most prestigious architects and built for one of the city's premier construction contractors, the Griffiths-Burroughs House was granted preliminary landmark status today by the Commission on Chicago Landmarks.

Located at 3806 S. Michigan Ave. in the Douglas community, the two-and-a-half story limestone house was designed by Solon S. Beman, noted architect of the planned company town of Pullman, in the Chateauesque architectural style, which was popular for high-style mansions during the last quarter of the 19th century.

The building was built in 1892 as the residence of building contractor John W. Griffiths, whose company constructed many of Chicago’s most iconic structures, including Union Station, the Merchandise Mart, and the Civic Opera House Building.

After Griffiths’ death in 1937, the house became headquarters to the Quincy Club, an important clubhouse for African-American railroad workers and their families, and in 1959, it became the first home of the DuSable Museum of African-American History, considered the nation's oldest and one of its most important museums dedicated to African-American history. The building today remains the home of Dr. Margaret Burroughs, who founded the museum with her late husband Charles.

"In addition to its architecture and architect, the house is significant for its associations with the development of one of Chicago’s most prestigious residential streets and its later role supporting the City’s African-American community," said Patricia A. Scudiero, commissioner of the Department of Zoning and Land Use Planning.

Detailed with Gothic-style ornament, the house is a significant local example of the Chateauesque architectural style, characterized by massive masonry construction, high-pitched hipped roofs, and a variety of vertical elements, including dormers, spires, finials, turrets, and chimneys. The vote today begins the commission’s formal consideration process leading to a possible final recommendation to City Council. A vote by the full City Council is needed for landmark designation.