Please join me in celebrating the official dedication of the Marion Mahony Griffin Beach Park(see photo on right). The ceremony will take place this Saturday, May 9th, 11:00 a.m., at Jarvis and the Lake.
Following the dedication ceremony, the Australian Consulate General will host an Australian tea service at the historic Emil Bach House,7415 N. Sheridan. The Bach House was designed by Mahony Griffin’s mentor, Frank Lloyd Wright. Free tours of the home will be offered.
You may recall last summer I solicited community input on a proposal to name the street-end park and beach for Marion Mahony Griffin, who was an accomplished architect and, for many years, a Rogers Park resident. By a 3-1 margin, those who responded to my solicitation supported the proposal. I recommended to the Park District Board that they support the proposal, which they did this past winter.
Sadly very few parks and beaches in our City are named after women. Of the 348 parks named for people in the Chicago Park District system, only 62 (17%) are named for women. Rogers Park is bucking that trend. The Mary Mahony Griffin Beach Park will join three other parks in our neighborhood named for strong, accomplished women.
Lazarus Park on the 1200 block of Columbia is named in honor of American poet and philanthropist Emma Lazarus, Willye White Park on Howard Street is named after the famous Olympian, and Pratt Beach recently was re-named Toby Prinz Beach Park in honor of the late Rogers Park activist.
In case you missed my initial email on this topic, below is a brief summary of Marion Mahony Griffin’s illustrious life and her connection to Rogers Park (see photo on right taken in 1930 with husband, Walter Burley Griffin). I’ve provided additional biographical information since my first email, courtesy of her biographer, Paul Kruty, Professor Emeritus of Architectural History at the University of Illinois.
Professor Kruty is the author of several books including Frank Lloyd Wright and Midway Gardens, Marion Mahony and Millikin Place and Walter Burley Griffin in America. He reached out to me to convey his support for the renaming. His thoughtful and detailed letter, in which he summarizes the magnificent life of Mary Mahony Griffin, is attached here:
Ms. Mahony Griffin was the first woman in the history of the world to pass an examination to receive an architecture license, an ambassador of the Chicago-style architecture, and a pioneer for professional women in the first decades of the 20th Century. She was the first employee hired by famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright, and became his right hand person. Her design work and watercolors became synonymous with the Prairie Style of architecture.
Her beautiful watercolor renderings of buildings and landscapes became known as a staple of Wright’s style, though he never gave her credit for her work. Despite her talents, her work went largely unrecognized during her tenure with Wright.
Marion Mahony’s talents finally emerged from Wright’s shadow when Wright left the U.S. in 1909 She finished all of his work and created a half dozen houses in his name.
She began working with Walter Burley Griffin in 1910 and married him in 1911. Together, they designed many homes in the Rogers Park area, including the J. Benjamin Mouton house, located at 1328 W. Sherwin (see photo above). They moved to Australia in 1914 and won the international design competition for designing the capitol city of Australia, Canberra(this is why the Consul-General of Australia is advocating for her to be honored).
Ms. Mahony Griffin returned to Chicago in 1925, and again in 1932, living in Rogers Park with her sister for the next two years. At that time, she painted two magnificent murals in the lobby of Armstrong Elementary School, 2110 W. Greenleaf, where her sister was a teacher. The murals remain to this day, having been restored in 1997. One of the murals,“Fairies and Woodland Scenes,” is pictured above.
Following her husband’s death in India in 1937, Ms. Mahony Griffin returned to Rogers Park, where she resided until her death in 1961. Her autobiography, “The Magic of America,” which she wrote while living in Rogers Park, is among the treasures of the Art Institute of Chicago. In addition, the Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University in Evanston holds the largest collection of her inked architectural drawings.
I look forward to seeing you Saturday as we honor this amazing and accomplished Rogers Park resident and enjoy our beautiful lakefront and an historic home.