Eye on Evanston: Thoughts on Design | Sherman Gardens, Evanston’s mid-century modern gem

When Design Evanston authors began working on their book Evanston: 150 Years 150 Places, hundreds of homes, multi-family buildings, institutional and religious structures were considered for inclusion. In the yearlong process, a few important places were inadvertently left off the list.

One was Levere Memorial Temple, a landmark, and part of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon building at 1856 Sheridan Road. It has become one of the most popular Open House Chicago sites in Evanston because of its large collection of Tiffany stained glass windows.

Another missing from the list was Sherman Gardens, a grouping of three residential buildings built in 1946-1948 at 1856-1866 Sherman Ave. in Evanston.

Originally known as Sherman Garden Apartments, the buildings and distinctive courtyard were designed by architect Henry K. Holsman. Few other mid-century modern residential structures in Evanston match the unique features of Sherman Gardens.

Sherman Gardens site plan Credit: H.H. Holsman

Henry Kerchner Holsman was born in Dale, Iowa, on July 3, 1866. Following his education in local schools, he entered and studied architecture at Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa, graduated and practiced his profession for 65 years. Over his lifetime, he designed more than 1,000 private homes, 10 churches, six banks and a number of college buildings. Holsman’s ”Historic Campus District” at Parsons College in Fairfield, Iowa, comprised of five buildings built between 1903 and 1915, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.

Early in his career Holsman was well known in the automobile industry. The Holsman Automobile was manufactured from 1901 to 1911 in Chicago, which was the center of automobile invention in America at the time. Holsman designed, manufactured, and sold the Holsman Automobile.

He applied for and received several patents pertaining to automobiles and is credited with the invention of the first usage of the “reverse” gear.

Thirty years after he designed the Parsons College project in Iowa, Holsman had fully embraced his architectural career in Chicago and he began work on a new project in Evanston.

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