To begin at the beginning, Frances Glessner Lee, our heroine, was born in Chicago to the co-founder and vice president of International Harvester, which means that she was very rich indeed, and very much a part of Chicago’s uppermost crust. But her parents were not exactly like the Marshall Fields and the Armours (the meat-packing Armours, that is). Mrs. Glessner was a "pianist, seamstress, creator of silver jewelry and objects, and beekeeper." The house Mr. Glessner built and loved—designed by the formidable H.H. Richardson—was more like a fortress than a residence. "When it was erected," the author tells us, it "provoked an uproar in the neighborhood …. [S]ome mistook it for an apartment building or a church; others compared it with a fort or a jail." One critic described it as "pathologically private."
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