Eben Roberts


Eben Ezra Roberts was born in Boston, Massachusetts on April 24, 1866, one of four children of George Smith Roberts and Hattie Whitman Sanborn. His father, a woodcarver by trade, instructed young Eben in the art of mechanical drawing. After completing his studies at the Tilton School in Tilton, New Hampshire, he followed his older brother, Dr. Thomas Elmer Roberts, to Chicago, Illinois. In 1889 he went to work for the architect Solomon Spencer Beman at the company town of the Pullman Palace Car Company as a site superintendent. On October 22, 1892 back in Meredith, New Hampshire he married Rossie M. Willey. Together they had a daughter and son, the latter who would eventually go into practice with him.

Eben left Bemen's employ in 1893 to establish his own practice in the village of Oak Park, Illinois. Roberts' commissions were primarily for private residences and his practice soon became the largest in the village, with almost 200 houses that have been attributed to him. He designed houses in many different popular styles, from the Queen Anne and Classical style, influenced by Bemen, to the Prairie style, influenced by his Oak Park contemporaries. But he always added his own decorative features so as not to replicate any one style exactly.

In 1912 Roberts moved his practice to Chicago to specialize in commercial architecture. Some of his commercial commissions included a municipal building, the Second Scoville Block, addition to the high school in Oak Park and a portion of the Julia C. Lathrop Homes in Chicago. In 1923 his son Elmer became his partner and they practiced together for three years until Eben became ill and retired. He died in Muskegon, Michigan on August 4, 1943, just three months after the death of his wife.