Elmwood Park’s Sullivanesque Bungalows

In 1926, developer John Mills launched Westwood – an ambitious bungalow development in suburban Elmwood Park, due west of the Loop. Mills & Sons oversaw the construction of homes as well as the improvements to the entire holding, with streets, alleys and sidewalks all going in at the same time. In full swing by 1928, the Westwood development was one of the largest single developments the city had seen and would, when finished, include 1,332 homes and cover many blocks, with what is now known as Conti Parkway as its civic center.



The bungalows are handsome and solid – they look terrific over 80 years after their construction – but nothing new or groundbreaking for their time. Mills & Sons’ work would be just a larger-than-average notch in the Bungalow Belt were it not for an unusual decorative decision: these are, perhaps, Chicago’s only Sullivanesque bungalows.






The terra cotta trim was supplied by the Midland Terra Cotta Company (1), 105 W. Monroe in the Loop. Midland Terra Cotta made an entire line of Sullivan-inspired stock ornament. Their work wound up on quite a few of Chicago’s commercial buildings, though of course the Leiber-Miester was given no credit and, undoubtedly, no compensation. The intent was simply to make the buildings more “ornamental”, in the words of Midland’s own design drawings. Whereas Sullivan carefully integrated his ornament to enhance and reinforce the big idea of the building – developers just dropped it in because it looked nice.

And, well, doesn’t it?



Blocks of catalog ornament were used to accent window surrounds, the heads of arched basement windows, porch columns, and simple expanses of brick wall. The ornaments are a ubiquitous marker of John Mills’ Elmwood Park bungalows, clearly delineating the extent of his development.

Mills & Sons took pride in their work, touting the “colorful terra cotta trim” and high-quality face brick in their advertisements. Pride could not save them from the onset of the Great Depression, however, and the company went into receivership in 1932, based on a motion filed by the Hydraulic Press Brick company. The company survived, however, and would go on to build wartime housing further west in the early 1940s.

Note 1 – Chicago Tribune display ad, March 11, 1928 – Mills & Sons Westwood. The ad lists all the major suppliers of building components including brick, hardwood floors, fireplaces, door hardware and much more.


7 thoughts on “Elmwood Park’s Sullivanesque Bungalows

  1. Terrific article and photos, as always. Oh, those butt-ugly metal awnings, I despise them! There outta be a law…..

  2. Sullivan was passe and also dead by the time these bungalows went up. It is amazing to see his (sadly uncredited) cultural influence.

  3. Beautiful. And so much like my grandparents’ house near Austin and Addison, although I don’t think theirs had the Sullivanesque trim. Now I know why the laundry on Grand Ave was called the Westwood Laundry!

  4. Incorporated in 1910, Midland Terra Cotta Company was located in Cicero, Illinois at West 16th Street and South 54th Avenues. That was the location of the factory; their main offices were in downtown Chicago. According to Walter Greer’s “The Story of Terra Cotta”, the company’s significant installations included Municipal Pier (Navy Pier), Medinah Temple, Sisson Hotel, and the Elks Club, all in Chicago.It was acquired by the American Terra Cotta Company of Crystal Lake, Illinois which is extant today. However they ceased operation of clay products in 1966 and are known as T.C. Industries of Crystal Lake. Midland was known for designing and fabricating the finest terra cotta made and was the preferred supplier for Louis Sullivan, who used it extensively on and in his buildings. Their shop drawings are part of the Architectural Archives of the University of Minnesota. In the archives, Midland jobs began in June of 1911 and continued to September, 1938, making it a very complete collection of the firm’s work during that period. Midland was torn down to make way for the new Freshman Center of Morton East highschool. I watched the building demolition. There wasn’t a brick that wasn’t gathered and sold! The “gleaners” were Chicago Antique Brick Company. Midland is a proud part of Cicero history.

  5. Thank you for sharing this. I grew up in Elmwood Park and enjoyed the article very much.

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