Historic Structures

Samuel M. Nickerson House - American College of Surgeons, Chicago Illinois

Date added: November 23, 2022 Categories: Illinois House Mansion Office

The house was designed in 1883 by one of Chicago's earliest architects, Edward Burling, for Samuel M. Nickerson, a wealthy banker. Nickerson spared no expense in creating his "Marble Palace," so-called because of its elegant interior which was finished in marbles, rare woods, and other rich materials. The original character of this spectacular home is beautifully preserved to this day.

The Nickerson Mansion was one of the most expensive and lavish homes built in Chicago before the turn of the century. "Nickerson's Marble Palace" as it was widely known, was the showplace home of Samuel M. Nickerson, a prominent Chicago banker and one of the wealthiest men of his time. Nickerson was born in Massachusetts and came to Chicago in 1858 to enter the distilling business. He soon became involved in banking, being one of the founders of the First National Bank of Chicago in 1863. He was president of this, the oldest bank in the city, when he built his North-Side mansion in 1883. Nickerson was also the first president of the Union Stockyards National Bank, as well as the founder and president of the old Chicago City Street Railway Company. Nickerson was an active participant in the cultural life of Chicago, leaving a large collection of artifacts to the Art Institute.

The Nickersons and their son Roland lived in the house until 1900, when they moved to New York. The Mansion was sold to Lucius G. Fisher, the president of the Union Paper & Bag Co. of Chicago, who maintained it with few alterations. The Fishers added a few stuffed animal heads and their collection of antique weapons to the house, but otherwise left it unchanged. (Fisher was the builder and namesake of the Fisher Building, designed by D. H. Burnham in 1896, and located at 343 South Dearborn Street, at the northeast corner of West Van Buren Street, in Chicago.)

In 1919 the house was purchased by more than 100 of Chicago's leading citizens and presented to the American College of Surgeons. The College, founded in 1913, had been considering a number of major American cities for the location of its headquarters. The civic gesture of the Chicagoan's who purchased the house brought the College to the city and the Nickerson Mansion. The names of the donors may be seen inscribed on a bronze tablet outside the door of the building.

The building has been used for offices since 1919, however, very little of the original ornamentation has been altered by the change-over. The house has continued to be associated with the medical activities that are centered in Chicago.