Society of Architectural Historians Receives Grant from The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation for Charnley-Persky House Restoration

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The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation has given SAH a $5,000 grant to support efforts to address flood damage to Charnley-Persky House

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Thanks to the generous financial support of Cynthia Weese, FAIA, and her husband, Ben Weese, FAIA, over 70 individuals, and the Foundation, we were able to ... begin restoring the flood damaged areas to their 19th-century splendor.

The Society of Architectural Historians (SAH) has received a $5,000 grant from The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation to support efforts to address flood damage to the Charnley-Persky House, located in Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood. Designed by Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright in 1891–1892, today the house serves as the headquarters of SAH. The building is both a National Historic Landmark and a Chicago Landmark. The house flooded during torrential rains in August.

The Driehaus Foundation grant brings the total raised for the restoration of the house to over $27,000. “Thanks to the generous financial support of Cynthia Weese, FAIA, and her husband, Ben Weese, FAIA, over 70 individuals, and the Foundation,” said SAH Executive Director Pauline Saliga ”we were able to find the source of the problem, fix it without delay and begin restoring the flood damaged areas to their 19th-century splendor.”    

Repairs on the house have been underway since August when storm water backed up and entered the house through the sink and toilet in the second-floor powder room, flooding the first-floor library and basement and damaging the library’s ceiling, walls and floors. SAH has been working closely with restoration architect John Eifler as it makes repairs.

Sewer work revealed that the flood was caused by a broken nineteenth-century trap that accumulated dirt and debris, blocking the pipe to the city sewer. The u-shaped trap was designed to keep sewer gases from entering the house, before traps were commonplace in interior plumbing. The defunct trap was removed and replaced with a new pipe connecting the house’s drainage system to the city sewer. A second drain pipe located on the south side of the building was scoped, but no trap was found, easing concerns that a similar situation could occur in the future.

Now that the sewer repairs have been made, SAH will begin to restore the ceiling and walls in the library. The cost of repair work completed so far totals nearly $25,000 and includes the rental of drying equipment, plumbing and sewer repairs, and tree removal. A tree had to be removed from the house’s north parkway before sewer work could be done. SAH will need to replace the tree, which is city property, in the next month. As donations continue to come in, SAH will use the money raised to defray repair and restoration costs not covered by insurance.

If you would like to help support the restoration efforts, please make an online donation or send a check to the Charnley-Persky House Museum Foundation, at 1365 N. Astor Street, Chicago, IL 60610.

About SAH
Founded in 1940, the Society of Architectural Historians is a nonprofit membership organization that promotes the study, interpretation and conservation of architecture, design, landscapes and urbanism worldwide. SAH serves a network of local, national and international institutions and individuals who, by vocation or avocation, focus on the built environment and its role in shaping contemporary life. SAH promotes meaningful public engagement with the history of the built environment through advocacy efforts, print and online publications, and local, national and international programs. Learn more at

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Helena Karabatsos
since: 09/2009
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