Glessner House, located in Chicago’s Prairie Avenue Historic District, was designed by American architect Henry Hobson Richardson and completed in 1887.
Richardson studied at Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, which encouraged quick conceptual sketches and detailed perspective drawings that could and should be followed through to physical completion of a space.
In April 1886, Richardson completed the design for the house.
Three weeks later he was dead.
This sprawling residence was built for the Glessner family, wealthy from 19th Century manufacturing of agricultural equipment. It was home to a child who would grow up to be very important due to homes of a different scale: Frances Glessner Lee.
Frances was the first female police captain in the U.S. and “the mother of forensic science.” In her 40s, Frances began making miniature dioramas that depicted grisly murder scenes. The replicas were designed to be educational tools for homicide detectives and the fledgling field of medical examination and crime scene investigations.
Pictured: Detail of “Kitchen,” from the Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Deaths.
The dioramas, eventually becoming Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Deaths, were precise — down to the make of the mousetrap and the bloat of the body. Many are still used today to train detectives, and the answers or real-life cases from which they were inspired remain under lock and key.
Also awesome? It’s rumored Frances was the character inspiration for everyone’s favorite brilliant amateur detective in gaudy baubles: Murder, She Wrote’s very own Jessica Fletcher.
Following, some pics I snapped on a recent tour of the place… No crime scenes evident!