Davis and three of his sons. From left; David, Lawrence, and William.
Tragically, William would not survive past age seven.
great-grandfather Zachary Taylor Davis was the personification of
an enigmatic and private person. Despite our prospering information
age, little remains to give
indication of his existence - with the exception of a few buildings; St. Ambrose Church
(1904), Kankakee Courthouse (1909), Wrigley Field (1914), St. James
Chapel of Archbishop Quigley Preparatory Seminary (1918), and Mount
Carmel High School (1924),
His career began after he
graduated from the Art Institute of Chicago and served a six year
apprenticeship, which included working as a draftsman for Adler and
Sullivan. (Another young fellow named Frank Lloyd Wright was just about
to leave due to a breach of contract.) He then moved on to a
position as architect in residence with Armour
application for membership to the American Institute of Architects
In 1909, he designed the
Kankakee County courthouse. A year later, he was hired by Charles Comiskey to design Comiskey
Park for the Chicago White Sox. To prepare for the project, he toured
ballparks around the country with White Sox pitcher Ed Walsh. In 1914,
he designed Weeghman Park for the Chicago
Whales, a park which would later become Wrigley Field.
His offices (1343 &
1345) were located in Chicago’s noted Unity Building, a structure which
would disappear as part of Chicago’s Block 37 project. When mentioned in
articles, he was simply referred to as “the architect.” More often than
not a piece would pertain not to him, but to one of his four children;
Zachary Taylor Davis II, Lawrence, David (my grandfather), or Mary
Louise. (Another son, William Taylor Davis died at age 7.)
When Zachary Taylor Davis
died at age 77 on December 16, 1946 (at his home in the once fashionable
South Side neighborhood of Kenwood), services were held at the church he
designed in 1904 - St. Ambrose. He would be interred at Mount Olivet
Cemetery, joining his wife Alma, who predeceased him one month earlier.
“One of the most significant lost architects in Chicago.” – Family member
of Zachary appeared in the book, Chicagoans
As We See ‘Em: Cartoons-Caricatures -
compiled by Frank Folwell Porter. Chicago:
Newspaper Cartoonists’ Association, 1904
An original rendering
for the ballpark, c. 1910
Charles Comiskey’s “Baseball Palace of the World” under construction in 1910
Baseball fans line up
for tickets in 1914
Crowds cheer aviator Charles Lindbergh at Comiskey Park in 1927
The Beginning and the
End; Comiskey Park, 1910 – 1990
One of Zachary’s
renderings for the new Federal League Ball Park
Construction of the
ballpark in 1914, later named Weeghman Park – it would be
re-named Wrigley Field in 1926
The Park, c. 1915
Eddie Collins (Sox)
& Chas. Grimm (Cubs) -1926
The exterior of the
ballpark in 1928, 1965, & 2010
A Rendering of Wrigley
Field in 1929. In 1922 Zachary would be called back by William Wrigley
Jr. for an upper deck expansion.
Chicago Bears at
Wrigley Field - 1925
Wrigley Field set up
for a Bears game - The Bears played at Wrigley from 1921-1970
In 1924, with the Los
Angeles Angels and their parent club, the Chicago Cubs under his
ownership, William Wrigley Jr. requested that Zachary design a ballpark
for him that had many of the characteristics of Wrigley Field in Chicago.
With a budget of
$1,500,000, the ballpark quickly became known as Wrigley’s “Million
Dollar Palace.” Unfortunately, Wrigley Field Los Angeles was demolished in 1965.
In 1904 Zachary
designed the clubhouse for Oaklawn Park race track,
and it officially opened on Feb. 24th, 1905.
featured one of the first glass-enclosed and heated grandstands, and its
popularity was immediate with Midwest horsemen.
Not long after establishing
his career as architect in residence for Armour
& Co., Zachary became the “go to” architect for packing houses across
the country. His plants incorporated the use of the most recent building
materials and technology at the time. Shown above is the rendering for a
packing house that was built for Schwarzschild & Sulzberger in 1898.
The Kankakee Courthouse
was begun in October of 1909 and completed in July of 1912. It is a fine
example of Beaux-Arts architecture, and in 2007 it was placed on the
National Register of Historic Places.
Saint Ambrose was built
in 1904 at the intersection of S. Ellis and 47th street.
Sadly, the steeple no longer
remains; when St. Ambrose was renovated in 2006 it was removed. Although
considered one of the most beautiful spires in the city, repairs were
estimated to be 1.2 million and the archdiocese could not absorb the
Quigley Preparatory Seminary and St. James Chapel
The exquisite St. James Chapel at Archbishop Quigley Preparatory
Seminary (dedicated in 1918) as it appeared in 1925.
St. James Chapel today.
Take note that only the
base of the steeple remains. The original copper spire was damaged by a
wind storm in 1941 and permanently removed.
A rendering of Quigley
Memorial Seminary (ca. 1919) from the Chicago Architectural Sketch Club
Park Presbyterian Church
began in November of 1920 on the Drexel Park Presbyterian Church on the
northeast corner of Marshfield Ave. and Sixty-fourth Street. Zachary
designed a brick edifice with stone trim and 500 seats, including a
Sunday school in addition to the auditorium.
for Mrs. W.D. Curtin
house was designed during the summer of 1899 for Mrs. William D. Curtin
at the corner of Garfield Boulevard and Oakley Avenue. The house is still
extant as a residence.
Patrick O’Leary House
In 1901, this
house was completed at 726 West Garfield Boulevard for the successful
businessman/saloon owner James “Big Jim” O’Leary. O’Leary was only two years old when
the Great Chicago Fire began in the family’s DeKoven
live at 726 Garfield until his death in 1925. The house is still
In December of
1922, Father Elieas Magennis,
General of the Carmelite Order, and Archbishop Mundelein of Chicago
agreed on the need for the immediate construction of a new St. Cyril High
School Building. In the spring and summer of 1924, the main high school
building was erected, with Zachary Taylor Davis as architect. In November
of that year the school was dedicated as Mount Carmel High School.
In 1920, several
Chicago architects were invited to compete in a competition to design a
lake front stadium in honor of WWI veterans. This is the plan submitted
by Zachary Taylor Davis and William F. Kramer.
Co-op Office Building
In 1926, the Chicago
Daily Tribune published a piece announcing the city’s soon-to-be first
co-op office building. Instead, two years later the Burnham Bros. Engineering Building at 205 W. Wacker,
(click to view)
developer Henry Paschen leased the site at the
southwest corner of Michigan Avenue and East South Water Street for
ninety-five years. Zachary Taylor Davis designed a twenty-nine story
Gothic skyscraper to be constructed at that location. One year later Paschen sold the leases, and in 1928 the Carbide and
Carbon building (designed by Burnham Bros.) was constructed.
In July of 1927,
the Chicago Daily Tribune announced that Zachary T. Davis had designed
this handsome structure which Chicago Greeks planned to erect on the Gold
Coast. It was to be called the Hellenic-American Club and the cost was
During the 1950s
and 1960s, a migration by homeowners to the suburbs and urban renewal
programs destroyed countless historic areas across the country, including
Chicago’s Kenwood neighborhood. This is Zachary’s home 934 East 45th
Street in January of 1965. Almost twenty years had passed since his
death, and the house was torn down not long after this photo was taken. This
address is now the site of Dr. Martin Luther King Junior College
Preparatory High School, a 4-year selective enrollment magnet high
May 26, 1869 –
December 16, 1946
EVERY human action gains in honour, in
grace, in all true magnificence, by its regard to things that are to
THEREFORE, when we build, let us think that we build for ever. Let it not be for present delight, nor for
present use alone; let it be such work as our descendants will thank us
for, and let us think, as we lay stone on stone, that a time is to come
when those stones will be held sacred because our hands have touched
them, and that men will say as they look upon the labour
and wrought substance of them, “See! This our fathers did for us.”