John Mills Van Osdel

John Mills Van Osdel

American architect
Date of Birth: 31.07.1811
Country: USA

  1. Biography of John Mills Van Osdel
  2. Early Life
  3. Architectural Career
  4. Legacy

Biography of John Mills Van Osdel

John Mills Van Osdel was an American architect, best known as the first of the Chicago architects. Under Van Osdel's guidance, most of the city's iconic buildings were constructed. He also worked extensively in Illinois and the Midwest, although unfortunately, many of his creations did not survive to the present day.

Early Life

John was born in Baltimore, Maryland. His first commissioned project was designing the home of Chicago's first mayor, William Ogden, located on Rush Street. It was Ogden who gave the young architect a chance shortly after his arrival from New York, a decision that proved to be wise.

Architectural Career

In 1844, Van Osdel opened the first architectural firm in Chicago, and he is credited with creating the city's first set of building codes and regulations. He quickly gained a reputation as one of the greatest architects of his time and was compared to titans such as William LeBaron Jenney, Dankmar Adler, Louis Sullivan, Daniel Burnham, John Wellborn Root, and Frank Lloyd Wright.

From the founding of the city in 1837 until the Great Fire in 1871, Van Osdel, alongside William W. Boyington, was considered the leading architect in Chicago. Unfortunately, the devastating fire destroyed many of Van Osdel's buildings. However, some of the surviving structures have been recognized and included in the National Register of Historic Places. Van Osdel was responsible for designing the Palmer House, Tremont House, and Page Brothers Building in Chicago, the Illinois Executive Mansion in Springfield, one of the buildings at the University of Arkansas, and several courthouses throughout Indiana. He also played a key role in creating the first building in the Lake Street business district.


John Mills Van Osdel passed away in 1891 in Chicago at the age of 80. His contributions to the architectural landscape of Chicago and the Midwest remain significant, even though many of his works were lost to history.