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John Mills Van Osdel
Birth: May 21, 1811
Baltimore
Baltimore County
Maryland, USA
Death: Dec. 21, 1891
Chicago
Cook County
Illinois, USA

Architect, Inventor, Writer and Public Servant - John Mills Van Osdel is considered to be Chicago's first architect, having come from New York City to Chicago in 1836 at the invitation of Chicago's first Mayor, William B. Ogden, to design the mayor's house. He remained in Chicago and became what is considered to be Chicago's most well-known architect during the pre-fire period, opening what is thought to be Chicago's first architectural firm. His designs included the Old Market Hall, the second Court House, Tremont House, First Baptist Church, Rush Medical College, and the interior of the Holy Family Church (recently renovated), along with residences for many prominent Chicago families. He also designed the original Governor's Mansion in Springfield, University Hall at the University of Illinois at Urbana which later burned down, and the Old Main building at the University of Arkansas which has been renovated and still exists as one of only several remaining buildings that he designed. He owned property in Chicago which he sold to Potter Palmer, and subsequently designed the first three Palmer Houses. In 1871 when the Chicago fire started, Van Osdel rushed to the basement of the second Palmer House which was under construction and buried his account books. These books were preserved under the baked clay from the fire and are now in the archives of the Chicago Historical Society. This was the beginning of the use of clay as a fireproofing material around the new steel structures built after 1871. After the fire his firm planned and designed buildings that totaled a mile and a half of street frontage, and his clients included Cyrus McCormick, Potter Palmer, and other well known Chicago business men. He held several US patents, designed two of the first large steamer ships in Chicago, the James Allen and the George W. Dole, the first grain elevators erected in Chicago, the first bridge across the North Branch of the Chicago River, and pumps for moving water along the Illinois and Michigan Canal. Prior to leaving his home in Baltimore for New York, he wrote and published "The Carpenter's Own Book; or, the Young Man's Self-Instructor: In Three Parts" in 1834. His later writings include an essay entitled "Extracts, by a Working Man" on behalf of the election of Abraham Lincoln about the issue of extending slavery over free territory versus limiting its expansion, and a series of papers written for The Inland Architect entitled Recollections, which were publish in the 1880s, which described the early days in the building of Chicago, before and after the fire. During a brief return to New York City in 1840, he was the editor for the building department of American Mechanic, now Scientific American. Van Osdel served on the Chicago City Council and was instrumental in securing passage of the city's first building code after the fire. He was appointed by the Governor to the original board of trustees of the University of Illinois, serving from 1867 to 1873. After Lincoln's assassination, his coffin was placed on a dais within a catafalque designed by Van Osdel under the dome of the rotunda of the Cook County court house. 
 
Family links: 
 Spouses:
  Caroline Gailer Van Osdel (1815 - 1845)
  Martha McClellan Van Osdel (1817 - 1895)
 
Burial:
Rosehill Cemetery and Mausoleum
Chicago
Cook County
Illinois, USA
 
Created by: B. C. "Bud" Hopkins
Record added: Aug 02, 2010
Find A Grave Memorial# 55800440
John Mills Van Osdel
Added by: B. C. "Bud" Hopkins
 
John Mills Van Osdel
Added by: B. C. "Bud" Hopkins
 
John Mills Van Osdel
Added by: B. C. "Bud" Hopkins
 
 
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With respect and honor, in your memory. Rest in Peace.
- Sonia Sanchez Galarza
 Added: Dec. 4, 2012

- Lance
 Added: Jul. 31, 2012
 
This page is sponsored by: B. C. "Bud" Hopkins

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