FORT SHERIDAN – North Shore history buffs don’t have to travel far to get an inside look at Fort Sheridan’s homes and mansions, where soldiers and officers served our country from 1888 until the 1990s. On May 19, the Fort Sheridan Historical Society is hosting “Our Historic Jewel III” tour from 1 to 5 p.m.
Seven homes will be featured in this year’s Fort Sheridan Historical Society (FSHS) tour. They include the Veterinarians Hospital, an Artillery Building, a single-family Captains Quarters mansion, a Non-Commissioned Officer’s duplex, one of the Munitions Warehouses, the Midwest Young Artists Building (the old jail complete with jail cells in the basement) and the stables.
“Each stable had an arena inside for the horses to run and do practice jumps, because horses were big in Fort Sheridan from the late 1800s to the 1930s and beyond,” said Donna Fitzgerald, FSHS founder. “Fort Sheridan paid very close attention to horses, cannons and guns and dedicated buildings that were specific to those areas.”
Fitzgerald has been working closely on the event with Anne Maxfield, vice president of the FSHS.
Fitzgerald explained that Fort Sheridan has three loops: MacArthur, Scott and Logan Loops. These were created for huge single-family homes for the commissioned officers and commanders.
MacArthur is named for General Douglas MacArthur’s father, Lieutenant General Arthur MacArthur Jr., who became the military governor-general of the American-occupied Philippines in 1900. They were the first father and son to each be awarded a Medal of Honor.
“Part of the intrigue is that we don’t do the same houses over again,” said Fitzgerald. “The homes on previous tours have mainly been around the playground, but this year the tour will encompass a larger area down to the southside of the Fort on Lyster Road.”
Holabird and Roche, one of the few non-military architects who built Fort Sheridan, designed many of the homes.
Fitzgerald noted the slight differences in the construction of the Captains’ Quarters homes that had two windows on the third floor, while the Lieutenants’ homes only had one third-floor window.
The Artillery Building has a loft on the third level, the mansions have three floors, and the duplexes are two-story buildings. Most of the properties with basements have been beautifully redone, said Fitzgerald.
The homes were built from 1899 in blond brick to blend in with the rest of the community, and when people started building new places, part of the requirements were having colors that would blend in. She added that muted colors such as black, white, beige and dark green were used on doors and shutters.
An interesting example from last year’s tour involved the owners of a mansion that had to have a tree cut down to make room for an addition. The couple used the lumber from that tree to create a built-in wall in their family room.
“It’s stories like this, where people come away with something and I enjoy learning so much from these tours,” said Fitzgerald.
Earlier this year, North Shore Chapter of Daughters of the American Revolution recognized chapter member Fitzgerald with the DAR Historical Preservation Recognition Award for her transformative efforts to establish FSHS and advance the creation of a permanent museum about Fort Sheridan.
Fitzgerald said she was thrilled to accept the award, which was commissioned from the Master Homeowner’s Board in Fort Sheridan.
“I wanted to start a Historical Society because the board is broken into two different towns: you can have a Highwood address, while your neighbor across the street could be in Highland Park. We have no church, synagogue or gathering place — and the whole idea was to put a museum in the water tower.”
The mission for the museum is to have a retrieval of information on soldiers who have gone through Fort Sheridan. Fitzgerald recalled connecting with someone a few years ago whose dog tags were dug up from World War I in France. She added that the FSHS needs to raise more funds before it can begin work on the museum.
As an added bonus to the tour, those interested can visit the Fort Sheridan Cemetery, where German Prisoners of War are buried.
Each visitor on the May 19 tour will receive “Our Historic Jewel III,” the FSHS publication, which includes a directory with a map of Fort Sheridan.
The FSHS will present “Our Historic Jewel III” Historic House Tour of Fort Sheridan Saturday, May 19 from 1 to 5 p.m. Pre-paid and day of ticket sales will be available at the Water Tower on May 19. For more information about the Fort Sheridan House Walk, visit FortSheridanHistoricalSociety.
Here are some interesting pieces in the historic homes:
Fort Sheridan Water Tower; all photos courtesy of Fort Sheridan Historical Society