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       Salem E. Munyer was a remarkable man. Born in Zahleh, Syria (now Lebanon) in 1886, he immigrated to the United States with his parents during his youth, settling in the New York City area. Salem graduated from Brooklyn's prestigious Erasmus Hall High School in 1906, then attended Harvard University for two years, where he was a respected Shakespearean actor and participated in debate. With funds running low, he relocated to Chicago in 1908, to be near his fiancĂ©e and to earn money to complete his studies. He gained his financial independence in just over two years by earning $75,000 (the equivalent of nearly two million dollars in 2016) in the real estate business.
      In 1910 Salem began a linen importing business located at 440 S. Dearborn in Chicago. He made frequent trips to Europe during the years 1911-1918, establishing agencies and factories in several European cities. Over the years he expanded his United States operation to include shops on Madison Avenue in New York City, the Greenbrier hotel in West Virginia, the Homestead in Virginia, and the Hollywood Beach and Boca Raton hotels in Florida.
      Salem married his cousin and childhood sweetheart, Wadia Munyer, in 1911. Because the State of Illinois did not allow marriage between cousins, the ceremony took place at a church across the state line in Kenosha, Wisconsin. In great style, Salem arranged round trip transportation for the wedding party and their 100 guests via a chartered rail service between the two cities.
      In 1915, the Munyers hired 30-year old architect John S. Van Bergen to design an apartment building for them as an investment. While Van Bergen's practice had only been established four years prior, he had been trained by the best of Chicago's progressive architects: Walter Burley Griffin, William Drummond and Frank Lloyd Wright. The building Van Bergen designed for the couple cost $54,000 and would become the finest Prairie style apartment building ever constructed, containing eighteen one, two and three-bedroom units, each with all of the hallmarks of a self-contained Prairie style home.
      On December 4, 1915, the Oak Leaves (Oak Park's newspaper) featured an article on the Linden Apartments, titled New Type of Apartment Building, noting that "Mr. Van Bergen is receiving many compliments upon the artistic taste displayed". The building is a pioneering example of a short-lived WWI era trend of apartment buildings designed to lure residents away from single-family home ownership by offering tenants luxurious buildings that feature all the comforts of home ownership without the accompanying annoyances. The Linden Apartments were an instant hit, fully rented upon completion of construction in late 1916 despite a glut of Oak Park rentals.
      Van Bergen's career went on for another 54 years and can be broken into three distinct phases: Oak Park Prairie (1911-1917); his Highland Park signature style (1920-1940), and Mid-Century Modern (1946-1967). Important commissions include the Alfred Bersbach house (Wilmette, Illinois, 1915), the Spenser Ewing house, with landscape by Jens Jensen (Bloomington, Illinois, 1920), the Charles R. Erwin house (Kenilworth, Illinois, 1925), and Braeside School (Highland Park, Illinois, 1928).
      Van Bergen wrote about the Linden Apartments, Munyer, and the arrival of WWI in an April, 1961 letter to H. Allen Brooks: "I was in business for myself at this time and I found that World War I in Europe, with the U.S. joining in 1917 caused a general unrest and a great fear. People were doubling up their families and would not think of expanding on their own. The future looked very black. I designed an 18 apartment building in Oak Park, Illinois during that time and the owner was one who could see into the future. There were over 200 vacant apartments in Oak Park at the time and banks tried to discourage him, but this building was half filled and completely rented before I completed it. It must have been the modern planning and type of building that filled the project. It is greatly desired, even to this day, so I am told."
The Linden Apartments became the Linden Landmark Condominium in 1976. Its pioneering Prairie style design and modern planning have stood the test of time, and continue to lure persons away from single-family home ownership to this day.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      TC   BDV

About Us

      The Linden Landmark Condominiums is a community of 18 residences in a historic, landmark building, on the corner of Linden Avenue and Ontario Avenue in Oak Park, Illinois.  The building was designed by John Van Bergen in 1916, and is a rare example of a multi-family building designed in the Prairie style of architecture. 

     As custodians of the historical and architectural design of this building, we are priveleged to celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2016.  We want to raise awareness, educate and promote to the current owners ande the public at large, the importance of preserving this special place for generations to come.

5.23.2016                                                                                                                                                                                                   

TC GP

 

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