When Robert McCormick expanded his grandfather’s original home between 1935 and 1939, he added east and west wings to the original Colonial Revival style country home.
Looking south from the McCormick Museum, you can see two rows of stately trees stretching across Cantigny Park. Robert McCormick used the allee as a formal starting point for foxhunts held on the grounds. Dutch Elm disease took most of the American Elms planted here but the look and feel of the allee was preserved by landscape architect Franz Lipp when he designed Cantigny’s gardens in 1967.
James Madison’s Virginia home, Montpelier, inspired this porch addition. Modeling his residence after those of prominent early American patriots highlighted how much he revered these men. Robert added screens in the 1940s but used glass panels at eye level to provide an unobstructed view.
Enter the Madison Porch to see bricks from historic American sites embedded in the walls. Bricks from Boston’s Old North Church, Fort Sumter, Appomattox and Lincoln’s Tomb join two tiles from the Confederate State Capitol in Richmond, Virginia. Robert began collecting pieces of historic sites around the world in 1914, incorporating many of them into the exterior walls of Tribune Tower, built in 1925. Chicago Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin said of Robert’s collecting, “…McCormick sought to appropriate the power of the ancient wonders of the world to lend authenticity to his brand-new building.” – Kamin, Blair, Tribune Tower: American Landmark, 2000, Tribune Company.
East Wing/Jefferson Porch
Robert McCormick honored Thomas Jefferson by crafting a porch reminiscent of Monticello, Jefferson’s Virginia home. The porch is attached to the eastern side of the 1930s addition of Freedom Hall.
Flanking the Jefferson Porch are niches, originally intended to hold statues of Jefferson and George Washington and the names “Jefferson” and “Washington” are carved in stone just below the roofline. Although a maquette of Washington exists, the statues were never produced.
Four other patriots are honored above the North and South windows where the names (Patrick) Henry, (David) Morgan, (George Rogers) Clark and (George) Mason are carved in limestone.
Maryland McCormick added decorative sculptures around exterior of this house. These pieces mimic pear trees in espalier, a process of training trees to grow in a two-dimensional pattern, usually against a wall.
Bur Oak Tree
Robert McCormick’s protected an enormous Burr Oak tree during construction of the east side addition. He paid special attention to the tree’s root system and designed a bathroom so as to avoid cutting important tree roots.
Robert sought inspiration for his grave site in classical Greek and Roman architecture. In Ancient Greece, an Exedra, or semicircular walled niche with a raised seat, served as a gathering place for conversation and contemplation. In Ancient Rome, these structures formed parts of buildings. Robert and Amy McCormick are buried in Cantigny’s Exedra.