Continuing an Eminent Chicago Dynasty
The Romanesque Revival house at 1400 Astor St., in which Dorothy Wrigley Offield lived for more than a half century.
By Megan McKinney
Dorothy, the little girl William and Ada Wrigley brought with them from Philadelphia to Chicago when she was a toddler, lived the rest of her life in her new city, much of it in the imposing house above.
After their 1908 marriage, she and James. R. Offield, a patent and trademark attorney, became parents of two children. Their son, Wrigley Offield, lived until 1991, most recently in Harbor Point, Michigan, and Betty Offield Van Horne, of Pasadena, California, died in 1976, preceding her mother by three years.
The immense house pictured above, in which Dorothy lived for so long and where she died in 1979 at 92, is still known as the Wrigley-Offield mansion, although it was designed by Cobb and Frost in 1886 for Perry H. Smith Jr. Large to begin with, the house has gained various dramatic additions through the years; currently, its more usual rooms include seven bedrooms and seven and a half baths, plus eight fireplaces and an elevator.
Dorothy, a strong supporter of the Chicago Symphony, Allendale Boys School and Planned Parenthood Association, was a member of the Arts Club and Woman’s Athletic Club.
Another imposing North Side Wrigley house at 2466 Lakeview.
William and Ada’s son, Philip Knight Wrigley, was born in Chicago in 1894, completing the family. While the great chewing gum company was growing, the Wrigleys lived first in a series of North Side rental apartments, then in a house at Astor and Schiller. In 1911, 2466 Lakeview, one of the North Side’s most distinguished houses, became their home. So impressive was it that at one time this house was considered a possible mayor’s mansion.
Lake Geneva’s first Green Gables was built for C.K.G. Billings in 1892.
Family vacations began with summer stays in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, or Harbor Point, Michigan, with winter visits to Thomasville, Georgia. However, after sampling Lake Geneva through rentals, Wrigley bought the original Green Gables in 1911. The house had been built for the multimillionaire sportsman C.K.G. Billings, for whom Billings, Montana was named.
Wherever they were—Chicago, Harbor Point, Thomasville or Lake Geneva—the family was close-knit, doing everything together; their main diversion was the reading aloud from novels, usually with Ada reading.
Green Gables from a different angle, after it had been updated by William Wrigley.
When Philip was six, he told his father with great earnestness that he wanted to follow him in the family business. From then on, William talked about the chewing gum business to his son at every opportunity. But it was always a pleasant activity, and often during their frequent horseback rides together.
Five-year-old Phil on the first of the many horses he would own over a lifetime.
In 1929, William would even name a gum for his son, P.K., which was intended to rank along with Juicy Fruit, Spearmint and Doublemint.
He enrolled the boy in Chicago Latin School and then Phillips Academy at Andover, Massachusetts, with the thought Phil would eventually go to Yale. This intention was so serious that when the family embarked on a world cruise of several months duration, they took Paul V. Harper, son of the University of Chicago’s first president William Rainey Harper, along as tutor to prepare for entrance examinations.
Phil passed the tests, but decided to go to Stanford instead. However, when he learned of his father’s intention to expand the company to Australia, he scuttled that plan as well, and asked to run the new Australian operation. William, remembering how his own father had thwarted his ambitions and aware of how able a very young man can be, agreed.
By instituting and supervising the venture himself, Phil gained a thorough knowledge of the manufacturing, packaging and marketing of chewing gum he could not have otherwise acquired. He was now on his way to becoming the second of four generations of Wrigleys to successfully head the company.
Phil is far left in the front row in a Cadet Naval Aviation Squadron at Great Lakes Naval Training Station soon after the United States entered World War I in 1917. In the back row, among the other prominent Chicago area men, are Alister McCormick far left and William McCormick Blair, fourth from left.
Philip K. and Helen Wrigley.
In 1918, Phil married the former Helen Blanche Atwater, daughter of a New York-based Wrigley vice president, whose family also vacationed at Lake Geneva. He had joined the navy in 1917 and remained on inactive duty until 1921, when he and Helen moved for a time to Canada. Phil worked through every department of the Toronto plant, which shared manufacturing with factories in Chicago, Brooklyn and Melbourne. The couple then did the same in New York, followed by Chicago.
In addition to the above mentioned plants, the firm supported wholly owned sales companies in 15 foreign countries. World War I’s silver lining for the Wrigley Company was the spread of the chewing gum habit throughout Europe.
Phil and William at about the time company leadership passed from father to son.
On February 10, 1925, 64-year-old William stepped aside as president of Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company, in favor of 29-year-old Phil. William, who moved up to chairman of the board, was now able to occupy his leisure time with the financial management of his two baseball clubs, the Chicago Cubs and the Los Angeles Angels, as well as the positions he held as director of some 40 corporations.
With their permanent move to Chicago, Phil and Helen took over the property at 2466 N. Lakeview Ave., which he assured a friend was not a gift, saying, “I paid my father good hard cash.”
The Lakeview mansion, which became home to Phil and Helen.
With the loss of the Lakeview house, William now stayed at The Blackstone Hotel when he was Chicago, because, as he quipped to friends, “I can rough it anywhere.” This little joke always drew laughs, because The Blackstone was then the city’s most fashionable society hotel.
The Wrigleys would not have reason to rough it at the posh Blackstone long, because, by the end of the 1920s, one of the great cooperative apartment buildings of Chicago—then and now—1500 N. Lake Shore Drive was completed.
In spite of unfortunate timing, ownership of the individual units was so strong that, in the words of prominent Chicago cultural and architectural historian Neil Harris in his marvelous book, Chicago Apartments: A Century of Lakefront Luxury, “1500 has remained a 100 percent cooperative building since opening.”
1500 N. Lake Shore Drive.
The great New York designer of luxury residential buildings Rosario Candela—in his only Chicago venture—joined local firm McNally & Quinn to produce this French Renaissance gem, which is still considered by many to be Chicago’s most desirable social address, always attracting the most traditional old guard members of Chicago’s wealthiest set.
William and Ada Wrigley were original owners of one of the prime duplexes; their unit was finished—richly wood-paneled walls, furniture, decorative objects and all—by the end of 1927. It was a portion of the opulent legacy they would leave to Phil and Helen.
Photo Credit: Chicago Apartments: A Century of Lakefront Luxury
A glimpse of the main entertaining rooms in the William and Ada Wrigley cooperative at 1500 North Lake Shore Drive in 1927.
Megan McKinney’s Classic Chicago series The Wrigleys of Wrigley City continues next week with World War II and Beyond.
Robert F. Carl