An Introduction to Edward Dart
This is the first post in a 5-part series on Edward Dart by guest author Matt Seymour.
Edward Dart was one of the most prolific Chicago architects of the 1950s through the 1970s until he died suddenly at age 53. Best known for his church designs, and at one time referred to as Chicago’s leading church designer, Dart designed modernist homes and other structures, primarily in the Chicago area. His incorporation of a building to its site, the natural materials he selected for his structures and the spaces he created truly made Dart a unique mid-century architect. Despite this broad body of work, though, Dart remains largely unknown outside of the Chicago architecture community.
When Dart finished school in 1949, he began working for Edward Durell Stone in New York City. Shortly after, Dart moved to Chicago to begin working for Paul Schweikher, who he knew from Yale, at the firm of Schweikher and Etling which was in Roselle, Illinois. Dart worked with Schweikher for only a few months and then began practicing on his own. In 1952, he got his first church commission— St. Michael’s Episcopal Church in Barrington and by 1954 Dart was a member of the American Institute of Architects. In the 14 years that Dart had an independent practice, he designed 88 buildings and his office moved to four different locations in and around Chicago. Dart was named a fellow of the American Institute of Architects in 1967 for his “notable contribution to the advancement of the profession in design.”
In 1965, Dart joined the prominent firm of Loebl, Schlossman & Bennett, which then became known as Loebl, Schlossman, Bennett & Dart. Dart designed 31 buildings with the firm, including what is considered to be one of his best designs— St. Procopius Abbey in Lisle, Illinois, completed in 1970. In the same year, he became the principal architect of Water Tower Place on Michigan Avenue in Chicago. The building is still one of the most notable on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile.
Edward Dart died unexpectedly at age 53 on July 9, 1975 while still a prominent architect with Loebl, Schlossman, Bennett & Dart. In a 1975 Chicago Daily News article that was written shortly after his death, Dart’s character and architecture were summarized:
“Looking at today’s urban skyline, Edward D. Dart worried that it lacked guts as well as humanity, and said: ‘Architecture is humorless. It says nothing. It neither laughs nor does it cry.’ An architect concerned with humanity, Mr. Dart died suddenly this week at age 53, depriving Chicago of its leading church designer. His masterpiece was the rambling St. Procopius Abbey in suburban Lisle, a linked complex of buildings deftly related to its site. His housing also was outstanding, such as the sloped roof cluster for the Chicago Theological Seminary at 58th Street and Dorchester. By general agreement, he was considerably less sure of himself doing tall, large buildings. Ed Dart’s forte was the human scale.”
For the twenty-five years he practiced architecture in Chicago, Dart’s innovative approach to design contributed greatly to the architectural legacy of Chicago.
“Ed Dart: Architect,” Chicago Daily News, July 13, 1975, n.p. Edward Dart Collection, Ryerson Burnham Libraries, Art Institute of Chicago.
Susan Dart, Edward Dart: Architect (Evanston, IL: Evanston Press, 1993), 132.
 Dart, Edward Dart: Architect, 146.
Rex Allen, Letter to Edward Dart, March 14, 1967, Edward Dart AIA Membership file.
Chicago Daily News, July 13, 1975. Edward Dart Collection, Ryerson Burnham Libraries, Art Institute of Chicago.