the albert w. sullivan house (1892) was outfitted with "kelp" pattern door hardware


the bldg. 51 museum collection houses historically important examples of unusual and intricately designed escutcheons, doorknobs, rosettes, doorbell push button plates and other house trimmings known as the "kelp" pattern. the "stock" hardware was executed by the yale & towne mfg. company, stamford, ct. the gallery below offers a few examples - cast in bronze -  designed for a specific function (e.g., doorbell housing, door bolt, etc.). 

interestingly, the albert w. sullivan house, built in 1892, was outfitted with the same pattern, adorning the interior/exterior doors of the residence chicago architect louis sullivan designed for his mother in chicago. though the house was demolished in 1970, important elements from the limestone facade were salvaged by richard nickel and his brother donald. the stones reside in the louis sullivan architectural fragment collection at southern illinois university in edwardsville. the indiana limestone facade was originally salvaged with the hope it would someday be reassembled when funding became available. decades later, the salvaged stones still remain crated in storage with no future plans in sight.

photograph by richard nickel.

sullivan designed the residence for his own mother, but the building was completed around the time of her death. sullivan himself lived in the house for several years, from 1892 until his brother, albert, moved in with his family in 1896. the structure, which was located in a neighborhood of row houses, was built on a narrow lot. despite its compact size, the albert sullivan house exhibits an austerity reminiscent of the charnley house. the building’s cornice and bay window were covered in decorative sheet-copper, which would later in the twentieth century be stripped by vandals. the first floor interior woodwork and plaster displayed a diverse ornamental program. in contrast, the second floor interior was finished with a simple wood trim and unadorned plaster walls, perhaps suggesting wright’s influence on this area of the design.

cast plaster cove molding segments were used on the first floor in the vestibule and inner hallway. a similar ornament design was later used on adler & sullivan's transportation building at the chicago world's fair of 1893.

panels were salvaged by nickel et al., shortly before the house was demolished.

this largely intact panel - stripped of its paint - was removed by robert furhoff.

albert sullivan residence entrance with limestone lunette and "kelp" doorknob.



the non-extant building, on 4575 lake park avenue, was said to have been the best small residence designed by the firm of adler & sullivan. it was recognized in february 1960 as a chicago architectural landmark. during his lifetime, richard nickel seriously considered living in the south side residence. despite its recognition as a landmark, the house traded hands many times and was converted into several apartment units prior to its demolition in 1970.

albert sullivan house 2

sullivan had a close working relationship with yale & towne, who executed the hardware of his own design for specific buildings (including the chicago stock exchange, guaranty building, etc.).


yale & towne manufacturing was established in 1868 by linus yale and henry towne in stamford, ct. linus yale invented the tumbler lock, registering 8 patents for his invention between 1843-1857. he died later in 1868 without seeing the success the company would have -- becoming the leading manufacturer of locks in the world. henry towne expanded the company from locks to materials handling in 1875. toward the end of the nineteenth century, the company collaborated with louis sullivan. several of his designs used in hardware for commissions in st. louis went on to become "stock" hardware, available to the public through the company's hardware catalogs.

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