As defined by the Historic Chicago Greystone Initiative, a greystone is a brick building with a limestone façade. Largely built during the Greystone Era, 1890 to 1920, these multi-unit buildings were designed to house Chicago’s growing population.
Because greystones were more expensive to build than frame buildings, they were the choice of the middle and upper classes. Many greystone mansions border the city’s boulevards and parks, while two-to-six unit greystones line Chicago’s side streets.
Limestone is a soft stone that is easy to carve. Builders made the most of this quality, adding simple or ornate flourishes to greystone facades, giving each one its own look. Architectural styles of greystones are
- Romanesque, identified by arched windows and doorways
- Queen Anne, with a variety of materials including wood, stone and pressed metal; and expansive porches, pressed metal bays and turrets
- Chateauesque, with high-peaked hipped roofs, elaborate dormers and tall chimneys
- Classical Revival/Beaux Arts, with ornaments like columns, pediments and cornices; symmetrical facades; and minimal use of bays and towers
Although many greystones have been demolished, about 30,000 still stand in Chicago. North Lawndale, a neighborhood just five miles west of Chicago’s Loop, has the highest concentration of greystones in the city – over 1700. About 60 percent are two-unit buildings.
that provided background information for this page and the following
two pages of this website:
Design Guidelines, published by the Historic Chicago Greystone
Initiative, Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago, 2009.
from North Lawndale: Past, Present and Future. Exhibition Guide, published by the Chicago Architecture Foundation, 2007.
Chicago Greystone in Historic North Lawndale, published by the City
Design Center in the College of Architecture and Arts at the University
Illinois at Chicago, 2006.
Website, Steans Family Foundation.