George Maher

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TheMarvelousMr. Maher2

The architect of Pleasant Home, George Washington Maher (1864-1926), was first listed in city directories in 1883 as a draftsman for Chicago architects Augustus Bauer and Henry W. Hill, Maher left their office by 1887 to take a position with architect Joseph Lyman Silsbee. There he worked with Frank Lloyd Wright, George Grant Elmslie, and Cecil Corwin. 

Over three decades, Maher designed more than 40 buildings, including houses, schools and the village’s assembly hall.  In addition to Kenilworth, a remarkable cluster of Maher’s work can be found on Hutchinson Street in Chicago, now a landmark district, where Maher designed homes over a 20-year period.

The commission from John Farson for Pleasant Home initiated a new period in his work, a series of grand houses set on large estates often appointed by the Midwest’s finest artists and craftsmen. Pleasant Home and the Frederick Gates House in Montclair, New Jersey, are the only surviving examples on this scale. Maher’s motif patterns that he repeated in his decoration consisted of luxuriant flowers combined with geometric shapes. His collaborative work with artists like Louis Millet, Willy Lau, Giannini and Hilgart, landscape designer Jens Jensen and the Tiffany Studios in making stained glass, mosaics, textiles and furniture for these houses produced some of the most highly crafted examples of arts and crafts and landscape design in America.

George Maher wrote about the need for a new American architecture. His work is aligned with the progressive architects in Chicago who developed a new approach to design free from historical references. Maher and his contemporaries, now known as the Prairie School, embraced many of the ideas of the arts and crafts movement: truth to materials, a belief in fine craftsmanship, and a desire to incorporate the local environment in their buildings and its details. In 1901, Maher was elected to the American Institute of Architects and received its highest mark of distinction. During the early 1920s, he acted as chairman of the committee for the restoration of the Palace of Fine Arts from the World’s Columbian Exposition, which eventually became the Museum of Science and Industry.

In the 1920s, George Maher and his son Philip, who joined his father as a partner in the firm, drew several plans for suburban and community developments, including projects for Hinsdale, Glencoe, and Kenilworth in Illinois, as well as in Gary, Indiana, and Saugatuck and South Haven, Michigan. George Maher died at his family’s property on the Michigan lakeshore, Hilaire, in 1926.



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