The Jeanette S. and Ellis K. Fields Research Center
In recent years we have assisted the staff of the PBS science series Nova with their documentary Forgotten Genius, about the life of Dr. Percy Julian; author Nancy Horan with her bestselling novel, Loving Frank; WTTW Public Television with Chicago’s Western Suburbs: From Prairie Soil to Prairie Style,with Geoffrey Baer; and Ken Burns production company, Florentine Films, with their documentary Frank Lloyd Wright. We have also assisted the authors and supplied photographs for virtually every Oak Park and River Forest history written in the last 20 years.
In Memoriam: Jeanette S. and Ellis K. Fields
Jeanette S. Fields was a founder and the first Executive Director of the Chicago Architecture Foundation and a leader in efforts to identify and preserve significant buildings. She created the CAF docent training program and started the Chicago Architecture Tours that have become so popular with tourists and residents alike. But her love of architecture went much deeper than just the beauty of the buildings. She viewed architecture in the context of the community. The cultural heritage, the community history, the architect's biography-- these were equally important parts of a structure's story. For Jeanette, the story behind the building was every bit as important as the building itself.
In 1970, the same year she became Executive Director of CAF, Jeanette and Ellis bought Frank Lloyd Wright's 1901 Davenport House in River Forest. It was in terrible condition, but the Fields worked tirelessly to bring it back to life. Jeanette quickly became involved in the local community. She and a group of like-minded architecture devotees joined together to start the acquisition and restoration of the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio. Her efforts led directly to today's Frank Lloyd Wright Trust. She was one of the founders of the Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park and served on the boards of numerous architectural foundations and committees. And she was also an early, ardent, and steadfast supporter of the Historical Society.
Ellis K. Fields was often described as a "renaissance man." A brilliant chemist by profession, he graduated from high school at age 16 and received his PhD from the University of Chicago at 21. Over his lifetime he earned 220 patents for chemical processes and engineering and had 123 articles published in academic and professional journals. He worked as an industrial chemist with Amoco Corporation for over 40 years; he taught graduate level chemistry; and he served as president of the American Chemical Society. But his interests went far beyond chemistry. He was also a passionate advocate for wildlife conservation, a member of the Board of Directors of Brookfield Zoo, a human rights advocate, a talented violinist, an avid hiker, and an amateur winemaker. But, perhaps most important, he is remembered as a kind, gentle, generous man with an endless curiosity about the world.