By Caryl Clem:
Mrs. Frances Glessner started Monday Morning Reading classes on November 21, 1894 to explore great scholars and experts’ works with 25 or more Chicago ladies. The tradition to inspire and provoke thoughts is still alive and thriving. Standing indestructible on stone blocks at 1800 Prairie Street, the Glessner House is a Chicago cornerstone. Visibly Glessner’s outside is stern, simple architecture, an original Richardson Romanesque, inside gracious airy rooms. The Glessner home was deeded to Chicago after the couple’s deaths as a museum to provide a place for great minds to find expression and appreciate culture.
William Rainey Harper, Yale graduate became President of the University of Chicago from 1891-1906. He wanted woman faculty newcomers to be able to meet prominent Chicago wives throughout Chicago. He approached Frances Glessner for suggestions and the Monday Morning Reading classes were born. The Who’s Who of Chicago’s aristocratic Southside met educational trailblazers from a variety of cultures. Many of the faculty wives were living in crude conditions while homes were built. The city seemed foreign and difficult to maneuver for these university women. Friendships emerged during the meetings that made strangers to Chicago feel welcomed.
John Glessner’s farm machinery business finesse resulted in the formation of International Harvester. He instigated the mergerof the largest farm implement companies together to end the reaper wars. He devoted his after work hours to serving various organizations to improve life in Chicago. The following are just the tip of his social iceberg: Citizen’s Advisory Board to Chicago, Chicago Relief and Aid Society, Chicago Orphan Asylum, Rush Medical Group, Art Institute of Chicago and trustee of Chicago Orchestra Association.
The Chicago Architecture Foundation in 1966 did not want to see the Glessner house meet the fate of other homes of the Gilded Age suffering neglect and eventual tear down. The home was fortified for continued use. The architect Henry Hobson Richardson died before he could see his completed masterpiece. Rumors abound that a white entity is seen floating in different rooms in the house leaving a telltale trail of cold air. John Drury mention in his book, Old Chicago Houses, that rooms were a laboratory for the Institute of Technology designing aptitude tests for students to identify what career choice best suits their personality and strengths . Glessner house is now a museum.