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The Perkins family made an indelible mark on Evanston history. The three-generations house designed by Dwight H. Perkins at 2319 Lincoln St. was built in 1904.
Dwight Perkins was born in Memphis, Tenn. in 1867. After studying at MIT he came to Chicago to work for Burnham and Root, where he was practically in charge of their office while they kept busy with the Columbian Exposition. He opened his own office in 1892. His first commission was Steinway Hall, a typical Chicago office building (1895) that did not augur the pioneering work Mr. Perkins did for the Chicago Board of Education between 1908 and 1911 designing close to 40 new schools.
Mr. Perkins set the standard for school-work, according to the noted architectural historian Carl W Condit. His masterpiece was the Carl Schurz High School at Milwaukee and Addison. He was a founding member of the Chicago Arts and Craft Society (1895) together with Frank Lloyd Wright, George W. Maher and Myron Hunt. He retired in 1927 and helped establish the Cook County Forest Preserve District, saving thousands of acres of forest land. A small rectangle of that land in Evanston – bordered by Colfax, Forest, Ewing and Bennett – is named after him.
Dwight H. Perkins founded an architectural dynasty. His son, Lawrence B. Perkins, formed the firm of Perkins and Will that has a national practice specializing in educational building. Most noted are the Crow Island School in Winnetka and the original structure of Evanston Township High School. Perkins and Will are also known for the First National building and plaza now called Chase Tower, in Chicago.
Larry Perkins was an outstanding architectural illustrator who loved sketching in a variety of media and used to take UIC students on sketching trips to France. His son, Brad, is also an architect. He practices in New York under the name of Perkins-Eastman, and has produced a large number of good buildings in the field of eldercare, both nationally and internationally.
It would be unfair to leave out the female members of the family. Lucy Fitch Perkins, Dwight’s wife, was a most talented artist. She painted several noted murals in Evanston schools, wrote and illustrated several children’s books, among them the well-known Twins series (“The Dutch Twins,” “The Eskimo Twins,” “The Chinese Twins” and others). At the Lincolnwood School, the music room is dedicated to her for her murals now being restored.
Margery Blair Perkins, the wife of Larry Perkins, also continued the creative tradition of the family. She wrote several noted books such as “Evanstoniana: An Informal History of Evanston.”
To conclude, the author of this article was privileged to be the architect hired by the University of Chicago to remodel Hitchcock Hall, the unique dormitory designed by Dwight Perkins without long corridors. The remodeling was handled with minimal exterior changes, with the reverence the building and its architect so rightly deserved.