JUNE 4, 2021
(This article was originally published in the May 2021 edition of The Arch newsletter.)
Richard Driehaus was a phenomenal philanthropist and preservationist. His passing on March 9, 2021, deeply saddened all of us at Landmarks Illinois and he will be greatly missed. His enthusiastic spirit was infectious and his active involvement in his philanthropy created a partnership with Landmarks Illinois that began decades ago and deepened over time. His impact on preservation throughout Illinois will continue through the work and generosity of The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation. We asked Anne Lazar, Executive Director of The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, about Mr. Driehaus’ involvement with historic preservation and his relationship with Landmarks Illinois.
LI: How did Mr. Driehaus’ involvement with historic preservation develop throughout his life?
AL: Richard’s appreciation of architecture began at a young age while growing up in the Brainerd neighborhood on Chicago’s Southwest Side. Raised in a bungalow on Elizabeth Street, his newspaper route provided him with a daily opportunity to tour the surrounding blocks, distinguish the different bungalow styles and cultivate what would become a lifelong passion for architecture and preservation. Even at a young age, Richard was drawn to historic architecture, and throughout his life remembered the distinctive details of his childhood home. As he continued to gain financial stability, he was always committed to investing in something other than himself, leading to his lifelong support of communities, architecture and historic preservation.
LI: How did Mr. Driehaus first become involved with Landmarks Illinois and its work?
AL: Carol Wyant, Executive Director of Landmarks Illinois from 1987 to 1994, first phoned Richard in 1990 to introduce herself and to thank him for meticulously restoring the Ransom Cable mansion at Wabash and Erie Streets in Chicago. That first pivotal conversation led to them meeting regularly and developed Richard’s interest in supporting the organization’s needs. General operating support began in 1992, and was followed in July 1993 with the Celebration of Chicago Architecture along the Chicago River and the first Landmarks Illinois Richard H. Driehaus Preservation Awards.
LI: Why did Mr. Driehaus continue to financially support the organization over the past several decades?
AL: Richard recognized early on that historic preservation has the power to enhance peoples’ lives and their communities. He valued Landmarks Illinois’ statewide mission supporting efforts on a wide scale from small rural communities to Chicago’s diverse metropolitan region. Preserving these architectural landmarks not only allows us to tell the stories of our past but can also serve as a catalyst to revitalize communities and boost local economies. Richard appreciated how preservation awards honored excellence, provided inspiration through example and brought important issues to light. The Landmarks Illinois Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Preservation Awards has done just that for nearly 30 years, and Richard was committed to continuing to support the program to honor the dedicated work of preservationist throughout the state.
LI: Mr. Driehaus was well known in Chicago and the nation for his philanthropy. What is one thing you would like people to know that they may not already?
AL: Richard was a visionary who approached life with a spirit of kindness and generosity. His intellectual curiosity never wavered throughout his life, and he recognized the power of philanthropy to inspire and make a difference in individual’s lives. I was privileged to spend a great deal of time with him. He remained enthusiastic about each and every organization funded by the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation. Providing financial support was anything but simply transactional for Richard, and being with grantees was inspiring and brought him great joy. He believed strongly in giving individuals the chance to create their own success and lived with a spirit of gratitude for those who provided him with opportunities throughout his life.
LI: Did Mr. Driehaus have a favorite historic place that he loved to visit or was especially fond of?
AL: Richard’s Chicago residence is an 1887 architectural gem built in the Queen Anne style. His dedication to architecture and historic preservation is evident throughout the home, and the interiors were designed to house items from his extensive collection of European and American decorative arts.
LI: How do you and the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation plan to carry out Mr. Driehaus’ legacy and passion for preservation?
AL: Richard’s endless curiosity, enthusiasm and dedication to the organizations that meant so much to him will be the model used as we continue to advance his work and promote his legacy and tireless mission of giving. We move forward with this work not only with a commitment to continue his philanthropy but to do so in his spirit, which will guide us and live within us always. His commitment to architecture and historic preservation was steadfast and will remain a priority for the foundation.
Pictured above: Richard Driehaus at the 2018 Landmarks Illinois Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Preservation Awards Ceremony. Mr. Driehaus’ foundation has financially supported the annual awards program since 1994. (Credit: Pivot-Photography)