Potter Palmer recovered from the Great Chicago Fire, but two years later he faced the challenge of the Long Depression. He was better prepared for this crisis and sold several of his buildings to become debt free. He also developed Chicago’s Lake Shore Drive commercial district. The drive became Chicago’s most prominent address, replacing Prairie Avenue.
The Palmer’s increased the size of their family. Their son Honoré Palmer (1874-1964) was born in 1874, and one year later their son Potter Palmer II (1875-1943) was born. Bertha “Cissie” Palmer devoted her time to her family and to social, business and political causes.
From 1889-1891, Potter Palmer built 50 houses on Dearborn, State and Astor Streets. These homes were to be mansions built by skilled tradesmen who installed plumbing, gas fittings, bell and speaking tubes, sewage pipes, cold air and steam warming ducts, furnaces and electrical connections, all the modern conveniences of the period.
While Palmer was often considered as a possible mayoral candidate by the Democratic Party, he was never selected. He supported the party’s candidates and policies. When the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 was being considered, he promoted it and gave $200,000 to the Women’s Building. His wife Bertha also supported the exposition, and she became president of the Board of Lady Managers for the event.
During his life, Potter Palmer sponsored the arts and the establishment of the Art Institute of Chicago. He and his wife traveled to Europe numerous times to increase their art collection. Their collection of Impressionist Art is contained at the Art Institute.
On May 4, 1902, Potter Palmer experienced heart failure and passed away, just before his 76th birthday. He is buried in the family plot in Graceland Cemetery.
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