Monday, August 23, 2021

The History of the Marshall Field Mansion and Family.

Marshall Field's house was located at 1905 South Prairie Avenue in Chicago. The architect, Richard Morris Hunt, designed the Breakers and the Biltmore estates for the Vanderbilts.

The cost came to about $2,000,000 ($45,500,000 today). It was the first house in Chicago to feature electricity and lighting. The 3-story plus basement house was red brick with stone trim and a mansard roof.
The Marshall Field Sr. Mansion, 1905 South Prairie Avenue, Chicago, Illinois.

The Marshall Field Sr. Mansion, 1905 South Prairie Avenue, Chicago, Illinois.
In 1862, when Marshall was 28, he met a visiting Ohio girl, 23-year-old Nannie Douglas Scott, at a party. Nannie was the daughter of a prosperous Ohio iron master. When he learned she was leaving town the next day, he went to the train station to see her off. As Nannie boarded the train back to Ohio, the normally reticent Field, who approached every aspect of his life with succinct trepidation, impetuously jumped aboard the train car. As the train puffed, lurched, and chugged into life, Field burst forth with a marriage proposal to Nannie. Although shocked by her admirer’s impulsive act, she immediately accepted, particularly in front of the other passengers. His courage then extinguished, Field got off the train at the next stop and went back to work.
The Marshall Field Sr. Mansion Hallway, 1905 South Prairie Avenue, Chicago, Illinois.
The Marshall Field Sr. Mansion Library, 1905 South Prairie Avenue, Chicago, Illinois.

Marshall and Nannie were married in Ironton, Ohio, in 1863. The couple had planned to marry the year before, but the death of Nannie’s sister, Jennie, caused the wedding to be postponed.
Nannie Douglas Scott Field with the Field children, Marshall Field, Jr. and Ethel Beatty Field. Louis Field died in 1866 as an infant.
Nannie led Marshall Field into "hell-on-earth life.” Their dinner table arguments were loud, excruciatingly shrill battling scenes (even before the servants), and the talk of Prairie Avenue children, who were sometimes present at mealtimes with little Ethel and Marshall II. Eventually, Marshall and Nannie separated; he was alone in his mansion, and she was in France and England.

Marshall Field II (or Jr.) built an 8,000-square-foot house at 1919 South Prairie Avenue, next door to his father, in 1884. 

They were divorced in the 1890s. Nannie moved to France permanently, where rumors floated that she had become addicted to drugs. On Sunday, February 23, 1896, she died in Nice at 56 years old from peritonitis disease (an inflammation of the tissue that lines your abdomen and can be serious and deadly). She is buried in the Field plot at Graceland Cemetery, Chicago.

Delia Spencer Caton, a longtime friend and romantic interest of Marshall lived in the house behind Field at 1900 South Calumet Avenue.
Delia Spencer Caton Field

After Delia Caton's husband Arthur died in 1904, Field and Delia decided to marry.

Delia was 46 years old, 24 years younger than her 70-year-old fiancé. They were married at St. Margaret’s Church in Westminster Abbey in London, England, in 1905. The ceremony was quiet and attended only by a few friends. 

There were plenty of rumors thrown around. One was that Marshall and Delia were romantically involved before the death of her husband. A second rumor was about a tunnel connecting the Field and Caton houses.

Marshall Field, the richest merchant in the world, died at 4 o'clock on Tuesday, January 16, 1906, at 4 o'clock in the afternoon at the Holland House in New York City of exhaustion following a bout of pneumonia. He had amassed a fortune of $150 million ($4.5 billion today).

After Marshall Field died, his wife, Delia, inherited the property. She chose to live in Washington, D.C. and deeded the mansion to Marshall Field III in 1906. 

Field III donated the property to the Association of Arts and Industries with the stipulation to use it as an industrial art school. László Moholy-Nagy and Walter Gropius founded the "New Bauhaus" in 1937, a graduate school teaching systemic, human-centered design. Today it is the IIT Institute of Design at the Illinois Institute of Technology.  

The house was ultimately razed in 1955.

By Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.


  1. Never knew the history of the Marshall Field family, or home. Thank you for the information.

  2. Once again, I had no idea all of this took place in Marshall Fields life. You hope life goes well for them and it didn't. Thanks for the update.

  3. Fascinating. Thanks for the research, thanks for the read.

  4. So very interesting. Thank you.


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