Chicago's Glessner House is a National Historic Landmark that was designed by noted American architect Henry Hobson Richardson and completed in 1887 for John Glessner and Frances Glessner. The structure served as an inspiration to architects such as Louis Sullivan, Mies van Der Rohe, and the young Frank Lloyd Wright and helped redefine domestic architecture.
On this week’s PreserveCast, we’re talking to Glessner House’s Executive Director and Curator Bill Tyre about the unique design and residents of this house including, Frances Glessner Lee, daughter of John and Frances Glessner. Lee was the first female police captain in the United States, likely the inspiration for Jessica Fletcher in Murder, She Wrote, and is known as “the mother of forensic science.” Her series of extremely detailed dioramas, “Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death,” influenced investigative training for many years. The dioramas were recently featured in an exhibition at the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery in 2018. The Glessner House will host a Birthday Gala in honor of Lee later this month at which her meticulously detailed miniature model of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra will be on display for the first time in six years.
Bill Tyre is the Executive Director and Curator at Glessner House Museum. He’s one of just three full-time staff members who manage and maintain one of Chicago’s most famous homes. Glessner House was saved thanks to preservation efforts that resulted in the formation of both the house museum and Chicago Architecture Center in 1966.