BY JUDY CARMACK BROSS
Gala guests hardly knew where to look first as they explored the Driehaus Museum’s opulent rooms situated off gleaming carved staircases, filled with memories of Chicago in the Gilded Age and of our legendary city founders. All would agree that Samuel and Mathilda Nickerson’s McCormickville mansion, known as the marble palace, must have been perfect for parties past.
During cocktails, guests visited the current exhibition, Eternal Light: The Sacred Stained-Glass Windows of Louis Comfort Tiffany, which pairs its luminosity with that of the museum’s period treasures. Organized by the Driehaus, it is the first exhibition to focus on Tiffany’s ecclesiastical window commissions, explored in the context of both art and social history.
Over dinner at the Murphy Auditorium next door, founder Richard Driehaus described what others on the program called his “heroic act of preservation”: “In 2002 I was thinking that I might buy a bust from the Nickerson Mansion for my office, but a friend said, ‘Buy the whole building.’ I have always had a passion for preserving beautiful objects from the past. We feel that we have put the Gilded Age in context, and that it is so alive and vital again is a real plus.”
Driehaus introduced the father-son team of Allan and Ally Bulley, whose firm Bulley and Andrews received the evening’s award. Part of Chicago’s architectural landscape since the 1890s, Bulley and Andrews served as general contractors for the restoration of the landmark Nickerson Mansion into the Museum. Driehaus told the audience, “Restoration has been a long journey, and it would not have been the same without Bulley and Andrews and their tradition of using cutting-edge technology. Theirs is a deep wellspring of love for Chicago’s cultural institutions.”
Allan E. Bulley, Jr., Executive Chairman, paid tribute to his firm’s team, saying, “For 65 years I have gained tremendous inspiration from my work.”
Geoffrey Baer, WTTW’s architectural expert and Emmy Award-winner, served as Master of Ceremonies, introducing Driehaus Museum’s Executive Director, Richard Townsend, who described the legacy of the Nickersons: “Their home—our museum today—was an incubator of creativity and a manifestation of the modern metropolis that was the resurrected Chicago. I think constantly on how we can honor and continue that legacy, serving the public today, and emphasizing our role with young people.”
Sotheby’s Gary Metzner drew top bids in the auction that featured a wine cellar tasting in Driehaus’s Gold Coast home, getaways at Driehaus homes in St. Thomas and Ireland, and dinner for ten at the museum.
The annual gala supports the museum’s exhibitions, educational and cultural programming, as well as the ongoing care of the historic building. As the only surviving window into the lifestyle of many of Chicago’s founders, the museum not only celebrates the past but also puts it in context with today.
For further information about the Driehaus Museum, its exhibitions, and other offerings, visit driehausmuseum.org.