THREATENED: Swift-Morris Mansion, a 2024 Chicago 7 Most Endangered

Swift-Morris Mansion, 1892, Willett & Pashley, 4500 S. Michigan Avenue, a 2024 Chicago 7 Most Endangered. Historic Postcard
Swift-Morris Mansion, 1892, Willett & Pashley, 4500 S. Michigan Avenue, a 2024 Chicago 7 Most Endangered. Photo credit: Eric Allix Rogers
Swift-Morris Mansion, 1892, Willett & Pashley, 4500 S. Michigan Avenue, a 2024 Chicago 7 Most Endangered. Photo credit: Chicago Fire Department Media
Swift-Morris Mansion, 1892, Willett & Pashley, 4500 S. Michigan Avenue, a 2024 Chicago 7 Most Endangered. Photo credit: Chicago Fire Department Media
Swift-Morris Mansion, 1892, Willett & Pashley, 4500 S. Michigan Avenue, a 2024 Chicago 7 Most Endangered. Photo credit: Eric Allix Rogers
Swift-Morris Mansion, 1892, Willett & Pashley, 4500 S. Michigan Avenue, a 2024 Chicago 7 Most Endangered. Photo credit: Eric Allix Rogers

Swift-Morris Mansion

Address: 4500 S. Michigan Avenue

Architect: James R. Willett & Alfred Pashley (attributed)

Date: 1892; c.1917 (coach house)

Style: Richardsonian Romanesque / Queen Anne

Neighborhood: Bronzeville

Overview

A landmark of the Bronzeville community, the Swift-Morris Mansion at 4500 S. Michigan Avenue has stood as an echo of South Side’s turn of the century “Gold Coast” for over one hundred and thirty years. The house further accrued significance as the headquarters of local businesses and social service providers well into the twentieth century. The property was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978, largely on its architectural merits and its association with prominent Chicago families – a distinction it proudly advertises via mid-twentieth century signage at the corner of S. Michigan Avenue. and E. 45th Street.

Built in 1892, and attributed to local architecture firm Willet and Pashley, the house is arguably most associated with its namesake and first resident, Helen Morris, née Swift (and extended family). After periodic use as a gathering space, funeral home, and insurance office, the property is further noteworthy for its role as the onetime home of the Cook County Bar Association and later, the Chicago Urban League, who occupied the house from 1964 to 1984, amid the height of the twentieth century civil rights movement.  Since 1995, it has been owned and operated by Inner City Youth and Adult Foundation (ICYAF), a non-profit providing housing and transitional services to formerly incarcerated individuals.

Sadly, on December 3, 2023, the Swift-Morris Mansion was the site of an intense fire which badly damaged the upper floor, attic and roof. Local media reports at the time indicated suspicion of arson, though the Chicago Fire and Police Departments have not yet provided a conclusion of their investigations. Fortunately, no individuals were harmed in the fire, and the property damage appears limited to the upper floors. Much of the impressive oak paneling and carved ornament on the ground floor interior appears to remain intact.

Read the full story at Preservation Chicago’s website

Swift-Morris Mansion, a Preservation Chicago 2024 Chicago 7 Most Endangered Chapter

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