The historic Chicago Charnley-Persky House in the city's Gold Coast was flooded Tuesday during severe rain  (photo courtesy of Charnley-Persky House).

The Charnley-Persky House on Chicago’s Gold Coast experienced serious flooding brought on by storms that blew through Chicago on Tuesday afternoon. Water poured into the National Historic Landmark, which serves as the headquarters of the Society of Architectural Historians (SAH), through the sink and toilet of the second-floor powder room, on the north side of the house. The water flooded the room and traveled down through the ceiling and walls to the living room library on the first floor and on to the basement.

SAH staff attempted to mitigate the flooding of the 1891-1892 house, designed by Louis Sullivan with assistance from his junior draftsman, Frank Lloyd Wright. Once the flow of water stopped, staff members vacuumed up about two inches of water from a storage room in the north side of the basement and the flooded powder room. Water had rushed down along Sullivan’s ornately carved fireplace surround and enclosed bookcases. The original white oak woodwork and wood floors were dried with rags and towels, but a portion of the ceiling, saturated with water, eventually collapsed from the weight.

Though the historic landmark sustained water damage, it appears timing was everything in keeping that damage to a minimum. SAH executive director Pauline Saliga noted, “While this quirky flood caught us off guard, I am grateful that it happened at noon on a weekday when the SAH staff was ready to spring into action.  We were able to avoid more serious damage that would have occurred if the flood happened at night or over a weekend.”

Plumbing professionals on-site today cited a drainage pipe as the likely source of the backflow. They are expected to return tomorrow with a detection device to find the cause of the blockage and make necessary repairs.

SAH is assessing the damage and working with professionals to make repairs. Restoration architect John Eifler is advising SAH as it works to restore the damaged ceiling and walls of the house, which is recognized as a pivotal work of modern American residential architecture.

Typically open for public tours on Wednesdays and Saturdays, the Charnley-Persky House will be closed to guests this week until repairs can be made.

Individuals wishing to support the restoration efforts may contact Carolyn Garrett at or 312-573-1365.

Chicago's Historic Charnley Persky House Suffers Flooding in Chicago Torents