Howard Van Doren ShawOne of Chicago’s many strengths is its amazing architecture. The style and craftsmanship found in this city is like no other. After the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, architects from all over the world came to Chicago to help rebuild, laying the foundation for the eclectic skyline that we enjoy today.

But not all of the city’s architects came from afar. Case in point: the celebrated architect Howard Van Doren Shaw. Born in Chicago on May 7, 1869 to prominent parents, Shaw grew up in the fashionable Prairie Avenue neighborhood, which was popular before the development of the Gold Coast in the 1890s. He went on to attend Yale University and then MIT.

After finishing school, Shaw went to work for William Le Baron Jenney at the Chicago firm of Jenney & Mundie. Known as the builder of the world’s first skyscraper, Jenney became Shaw’s mentor. Shaw worked with him for several years, eventually leaving the firm to establish his own. After designing the Lakeside Press Building, one of his more famous structures, Shaw found himself taking on more and more prominent clients.

Although Shaw was a contemporary and friend of Frank Lloyd Wright, their styles were dramatically different. Wright sought to create a distinctly American style that reflected social purpose and progress. In contrast, Shaw blended modern elements with classical design inspired by styles he had observed during his travels, particularly in England. Shaw avoided the formality of French architecture and was known for his mastery of well-conceived, open interior spaces and subtle interior design detail. He was especially enamored with the English Arts and Crafts movement where craftsmanship, not machines, dominated people’s lives. Appropriately, he utilized handcrafted architectural elements like leaded glass, carved wood and wrought iron whenever possible.

Over the span of his career, Shaw designed over 200 projects from Georgian-style townhouses in Hyde Park to country estates in Lake Forest to two of Chicago’s most prestigious cooperatives: 1130 N. Lake Shore Drive and 2450 N. Lakeview Avenue. Other important accomplishments included the design of America’s first outdoor shopping mall, Market Square in downtown Lake Forest, and the elaborate club house at the Lake Shore Country Club in Glencoe, as well as churches, apartment buildings, and civic spaces. His 32-year career earned him the American Institute of Architects gold medal in 1927, their highest award, and many of his works have been designated historic landmarks.

A century later, Shaw’s notable residential works maintain their prominence. We currently have homes in two Shaw-designed buildings listed for sale: 1120 N. Lake Shore Drive and across the street at 1130 N. Lake Shore Drive. The original architectural detail in these homes have been beautifully preserved, and both are well worth a look.

If you’re interested in learning more about these or other pre-war apartments in Chicago, please contact me at (312) 440-7525 or My family has lived in the city since the mid 1800s, been active in Chicago real estate since the 1880s, and a passion for the city’s great architectural history is in my blood!

In the meantime, stay tuned as we will be adding profiles of other important Chicago architects in the coming months.

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  • CarsonCityHomes


    I love the piece of history tidbit you give your readers! Everybody knows Mr. Wright but it's the first time I heard about Mr. Shaw…

    Thanks as always..


  • Chicago Allen

    Thanks for your sharing, you know the other real estate blogs always the house listings and other contents, but we can learn a lot other infomations here.