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.
Zachary’s 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.)
During the latter part of
Zachary’s career (during the Great Depression - when work had dried up
for most architects) he became Superintendent of Repairs on Schools for
the Chicago Board of Education. When he 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
In 1922 Zachary would
be called back by William Wrigley Jr. for an upper deck expansion.
A Rendering of Wrigley
Field in 1929.
The exterior of the
ballpark in 1928, 1965, & 2010
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.
late 1914 (the same year as the Weeghman/Wrigley
Field construction) Zachary and his brother Charles G. Davis were
contracted to design Speedway Park – to be completed by June 1st,
the time, it was called the “fastest, safest and most spectacular
automobile race course in America.” Speedway Park was a mammoth two-mile
wooden board track located in Maywood, which operated between 1915 and
1918. For a brief period, it made Chicago the capital of worldwide auto racing.
track was located on 320 acres of farmland just south of 12th
Street between First and Ninth Avenues with 22nd Street being the
grounds’ southern border. The amazing thing about the construction of the
speedway is that it was completed in the course of about 60 days, using
14 million feet of lumber supplied by timber baron Edward Hines. It
included 100 carloads of sewer and drain tile, 15,000 concrete piers,
50,000 cubic yards of cement, 500 tons of nails and spikes, 1,000 tons of
steel, 2,000 carloads of cinders and six miles of road approaching the
park continued to operate during WWI, but after the summer 1918 season,
due to financial mismanagement and bankruptcy, it never reopened. The
track was dismantled, with the property being purchased and donated to
the U.S. government by Edward Hines Sr. for a veterans
hospital. It was called Public Health Service Hospital #76 for a time,
but was later renamed the Edward Hines Jr. Memorial Hospital in October
of 1921 in memory of Hines’ son, who died in France during WWI.
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.
The Quigley Center and
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.
interior of St. James Chapel - viewed from the alter toward
the rose window on the west wall.
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
originated in the first elective term (1935-1939) of Mayor Edward J.
Kelly. Kelly came to office from a long career with Chicago’s South Parks
Commission and Board (of which he was President). He played a powerful
part in the construction of major projects on the lakefront – such as
Soldier Field, the Adler Planetarium, and the Shedd
Aquarium. The Civic Memorial was never built, due in large part to the
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.”