Eye on Evanston: Thoughts on Design | Henry K. Holsman, Evanston’s architect of affordable homes

Eye on Evanston: Thoughts on Design | Henry K. Holsman, Evanston’s architect of affordable homes

When I researched and wrote the essay about Sherman Gardens in Evanston, I had no idea of the full extent of architect Henry Holsman’s career. Nor was I aware what part Sherman Gardens played in the context of his career.

In 1950, Holsman’s architect son, John, who assisted in the project, received a Multifamily “Award of Excellence” from the American Institute of Architects for Sherman Garden Apartments.

The following year, at age 85, Henry Holsman won the AIA Chicago Chapter “Honor Award” for his “trademarks of intensive landscaping, economical use of space, large windows, and exterior decorative cement panels” at Sherman Gardens.

A brief mention of Holsman’s similar buildings at Granville and Wolcott avenues in Chicago’s West Ridge by real estate writer Dennis Rodkin piqued my curiosity so I paid a visit in October.

What I discovered was truly amazing. Twenty-two buildings, similar to those in Sherman Gardens, span several blocks between Ridge, Wolcott and Granville avenues as well as Norwood Street. All are clustered in groupings of four to six around lushly landscaped courtyards and all built at about the same time as Sherman Gardens—1946.

The park-like gateway to 1912 W. Hood, one of four buildings surrounding a central courtyard
located between Wolcott and Winchester Avenues. Credit: Jack Weiss

Fortunately, I was joined by my partner, Eva, who is equally curious about architecture but also a person who can encourage informative conversations.

We met Jean SmilingCoyote, an owner who was busy with one of the gardens. It turned out she had a collection of Holsman research material and was enthusiastic about sharing it.

Henry Holsman’s history

Henry Holsman (1866-1961) earned a Bachelor of Arts at Iowa College (now Grinnell) in 1891. He went on to become superintendent for contractors, Chicago, 1891-1893, then partner in Brainerd & Holsman, architects, 1893-1897.