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The Driehaus Museum and the Magnificent Splendor of the Gilded Age

By: Daniel Evon

  • Richard H. Driehaus Museum Exterior

Richard H. Driehaus Museum Exterior

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A short distance away from Chicago's famed Magnificent Mile, the Driehaus Museum offers visitors a fascinating vision of one of the few remaining examples of the palatial homes built by the wealthy of America's Gilded Age. Nicknamed ‘The Marble Palace,’ this monumental edifice was commissioned in 1879 by wealthy Chicago banker Samuel Mayo Nickerson. The home cost $450,000 to build, a staggering amount in that day, and when it was completed, it was the largest private residence in Chicago. The Nickerson's lived there until 1900 and then for the next 100 years, it was leased to various tenants. Richard H. Driehaus purchased the building in 2003 and immediately began restoring the mansion and established it as a museum with a vision to preserve and promote classical style and design.

  • The Drawing Room

The Drawing Room

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The Gilded Age produced two of the finest artisans of the late 19th century, Designer George Schastey and famed Architect William August Fielder, both Icons in their field. Contemporary documentation identifies the overall design of the drawing room as the work of Schastey, while Fiedler designed the parquet floor. In this magnificent room, (pictured above) George Schastey is credited with creating four armchairs in the Neo-Classical style, specifically for this room. During this period the drawing room was traditionally considered to be a feminine space...thus, the decorators favored lighter tones for the woodwork and walls. The piano at the east wall was built by the firm Chickering & Sons, one of the leading piano manufacturers of 19th-century America.

  • Driehaus Museum

Driehaus Museum

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An excellent example of Beaux Arts architecture, the grand interior is a mix of Renaissance Revival and Aesthetic Movement design. From the Main Hall looking into the drawing-room, you can see the fireplace which is made of polished onyx, complemented by bronze and gilt ornamentation that features a nickel-plated fireplace surround embellished with floral scrollwork. Sidney Meteyard's stunning painting of Saint Cecilia with an Angel is prominently displayed above the mantel. The sculpture is entitled "Cupid and Psyche" and was created in the late 19th century at the studio of Orazio Andreoni.

  • Louis Comfort Tiffany Garden Landscape Window c. 1900-1910

Louis Comfort Tiffany Garden Landscape Window c. 1900-1910

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The stained glass stylizing that Louis Comfort Tiffany employed were inspired by nature and personified here with complex geometric patterns including a varied palette with richer hues and great density as seen in this Garden Landscape window. Tiffany embraced virtually every artistic and decorative art, producing windows, table lamps, and lamp shades. However, of all of Tiffany’s artistic endeavors, leaded-glass brought him the greatest recognition. He is considered as one of America’s most prophetic artisans with a career that spanned from 1870 through the second decade of the 20th century.

  • Driehaus Museum, The Main Hall with view to Parlor

Driehaus Museum, The Main Hall with view to Parlor

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The Main Hall of the Driehaus is without question one of the grandest rooms of the former Nickerson mansion. It's two stories ascend with great splendor and is accentuated with seventeen varieties of marble from America and Europe, as well as alabaster and onyx, giving rise to the mansion’s nickname of the Marble Palace. It is without question a marvelous example of the Gilded Age. Further, Join the Driehaus Museum for a night of mystery, mayhem, and murder! The Museum’s infamous murder mystery is set in 1893 and returns to the Marble Palace for its seventh year with a new tale filled with twists and turns. Sometime in October 2017.

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