The Burtons of Burton Place


Miss Babbs Anne Burton at the foot of the graceful stairway of the Burton duplex at 1448 N. Lake Shore Dr. on June 11, 1938.  





By Megan McKinney


When the elegant cooperative building at 1448 N. Lake Shore Dr. and Burton Place was being constructed in 1926 and 1927, Oliver Milton Burton stepped up and claimed two prime units as personal Burton territory, an appropriate move for the man for whose family Burton Place was named.


The timeless façade of 1448 N. Lake Shore Dr. faces Burton Place.


Architects Frank A. Childs and William Jones Smith, whose design for 1448 was inspired by the glorious Château at Blois, France, happily tailored the magnificent duplex 7-8A to Burton’s specifications. It remains today the only such unit in the building.


The graceful Childs & Smith stairway at which Babbs Anne Burton was photographed on her wedding day in 1938.


Oliver Burton is a superb example of a classic silver spoon heir who continued in the same energetic tradition as the dynasty founder. According to records in the Newberry Library, John Burton Sr., a native of England, was “owner of the almost immeasurably valuable land between Clark Street and Dearborn Avenue, and extending from Burton Place (named in his honor) to Lincoln Park.” This was, in 1845, a mere seven years following Chicago’s incorporation as a city; however, John Burton was soon “known for his elaborate English gardens.”

His son, John Burton Jr. would establish the J. Burton Company in 1896 to manufacture cotton felt, where third generation Oliver Burton began his business career and became the company’s president in 1907. Oliver had also organized the Dixie Cotton Felt Mattress Co. as an outlet for materials his father was producing, and, as a result of a 1917 merger of the two companies, the firm became Burton-Dixie Corporation—with a main factory in Chicago and plants in nine other cities. Oliver supervised the operation from his office at 2024 S. Racine.


Oliver Milton Burton.


When Oliver married Anne Tatham on October 20, 1909, the wedding took place at 2818 Sheridan Road, home of Anne’s sister and brother-in-law, Mr. and Mr. Walter Schuttler. Only family and close friends were present.

Initially, the young Burtons lived at 185 E. Chestnut St. and Oliver’s clubs were the Chicago Athletic Club and South Shore Country Club. By 1931, he had added the Racquet and Indian Hill Clubs.

In mid-February 1938, Oliver and Anne held a Saturday afternoon cocktail party in the 1448 N. Lake Shore Dr. duplex to announce the engagement of their daughter, Babbs Anne, to John Washburn Wastcoat, son of Mr. and Mrs. Washburn Wastcoat of Boston. Of the party, the Chicago Tribune society editor wrote, “The announcement of Miss Burton’s engagement to young Mr. Wastcoat . . . surprised quite a few, but not all, of the young people who gathered Saturday in the Burtons’ hospitable living room.”


The Burtons’ hospitable living room overlooking the lake today.


The living room from another perspective.


The Tribune writer went on to inform readers, “Miss Burton is an active member of the Chicago Junior League. She was introduced to society at a dinner-dance at the Indian Hill Club in 1935, and spent that year at Mlle. Fontaine’s school in New York. Previously, she attended the Girl’s Latin School and the Country Day School in Warrenton, Va.” She added, “Mr. Wastcoat was graduated in 1934 from Amherst College.”


The view from “the Burtons’ hospitable living room.”


The couple’s wedding, which took place on June 11, 1938 in St. Chrysostom’s Church, with the reception following at the Indian Hill Club, was later described by the Chicago Tribune as “one of Chicago’s social events” of the year.


Today’s view from a window of the stately dining room duplex 7-8A, 1448 N. Lake Shore Dr.


The Oliver Burtons also acquired a Lake Forest estate, at the intersection of Conway Road and Burton Lane, which was expanded from seven to 87 acres in 1940. At his death in 1955, Oliver left an estate of $2 million in trust to his widow and selected charities.

The prime location duplex that Oliver Milton Burton claimed as his home is currently for sale by the Julie Harron Real Estate Group for $1.7 million.  The four-bedroom, four-and-one-half-bathroom duplex 7-8A at 1448 N. Lake Shore Dr. has two floors of stunning lakefront windows with bay window views to Navy Pier.

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Author Photo:

Robert F. Carl