Henry & Emma Klein House
Photos by Kevin Brown of Pleasant Home Foundation/The George W. Maher Society.
Henry & Emma Klein House
12950 Greenwood Avenue, Blue Island, IL 60406
Designed circa 1898 and built circa 1899, this house is one of two neighboring Maher designs at 12950 and 12956 Greenwood Avenue in Blue Island. An early example of Maher’s Prairie School work, aesthetically its exterior has much in common with the William Weber House immediately to its south:
- Both homes are constructed of identical roman brick, with decorative concrete forms at their bases.
- Both originally had hipped, deep-eaved, clay tile roofs with dormers – the Weber House’s being red with several raised ridges on each tile, now asphalt shingles.
- They each have broad front porches flanked by large brick piers, with broad limestone steps flanked by identical curved limestone balustrades.
- Each home has an identical Juliet balcony on its northern elevation, with identical art glass windows behind them.
- Originally, they had matching corbels adorning their front porches. Each home’s porch was also enclosed by subsequent owners, and eventually opened up again – this home more recently – with the Weber House’s original corbels having been replicated by a previous owner in the 1990s.
- Each home has similarly-sized large, square windows.
There are also some notable differences between the two homes:
- The Weber House is larger than the Klein House, with figures from real estate resources listing the Weber house at 4,755 square feet, and the Klein House at 3,072 square feet.
- The top of the original dormers on the Weber House were rounded, with decorative carved-wood trim surrounding their windows, compared to the peaked dormers on the Klein House – still intact – which feature completely different wood trim.
- The exterior of the Weber House is more ornate, with a second Juliet balcony on its southern elevation featuring elaborate carved woodwork. It also features a carved lion’s head in the center window on the 2nd floor of its facade.
- Situated on a corner lot, the Weber house has a side entrance under its south-facing Juliet balcony; the Klein House has a 2-floor window bay in a similar location on its southern elevation.
- While each home’s kitchen resides at the back of the house in a single-story section, the Weber House also features a small summer dining porch.
- The front entrance of the Klein House is situated to the right of the home’s facade, while the Weber House’s entrance is centered. This informs the interior layout for each home, which are much different.
While these are the only two George W. Maher-designed homes in Blue Island, there are direct connections to the architect with two other homes on this block, and one across the street.
It’s believed that the neighboring Alden Klein House at 12940 Greenwood Avenue was designed by Philip Maher, George’s son. The home was built in 1925 for Alden and Hazel Klein – Alden was the only son of Henry and Emma.
Robert Seyfarth, who worked as a draftsman under Maher for a number of years early in his career, designed the Ward & Florence Seyfarth House located along the northwest property line of the Klein House. This home was built for the daughter and son in law of Henry & Emma Klein. Seyfarth also designed the home directly across from Weber home for William’s daughter and son in law, Olive and Robert Berry.
With all those family connections noted, let’s dive into the history of the Henry and Emma Klein house itself…
While we can’t confirm the years for the home’s design and construction, the drawings for the William Weber House, which were discovered in its staircase in the 1980s, feature George Maher’s stamp and the year of the home’s design: 1898. We can surmise from this, and an 1899 Chicago Tribune excerpt that notes the sale of the plots for the Weber and Klein Houses, that the homes were both designed in 1898, built beginning in 1899, with census records showing both the Kleins and Webers living in their homes by 1900.
Henry Klein was born in Blue Island on May 16, 1863 to German immigrants John Klein and Theresa Kantzler Klein. Henry’s father John died in 1879 when Henry was just 16 years old. According to Klein family documents, Henry followed in his late father’s footsteps to help support the family by entering the butcher business. He learned the trade in Chicago’s Union Stockyards, where he met and befriended Joseph Schroth, who eventually became his brother in law and business partner.
The pair turned the family business into the Klein and Schroth Meat Company, with a butcher storefront on Blue Island’s Western Avenue, and a meat packing facility just a few blocks away on Grove Street. A remnant of this business is still in operation on Grove Street, the current proprietor being Superior Farms – the Klein family sold their interests sometime in the middle of the 20th century.
In addition to his interests in Klein and Schroth, Henry also sat on the Board of Directors for Blue Island’s First National Bank,
Henry and other members of the Klein family also had other business interests in Blue Island, along with many real estate holdings. While no direct descendants of Henry and Emma currently reside in Blue Island, a grandson of one of Henry’s brothers – William – lives only a few houses away from this home on the 2400 block of York Street.