There is an interesting connection between UNITY TEMPLE and a house that will be featured on Wright Plus 2021, the John Klesert House. The Klesert House, located at 517 Keystone Avenue in River Forest, was designed for John and Grace Klesert by William Drummond and completed in 1916. Drummond worked with Frank Lloyd Wright from 1899 to 1909. The Kleserts lived in the house until November 1935 when they sold it to Warren and Helen Jackson. The Jacksons were members of the UNITY TEMPLE congregation. The Jacksons had two teenage sons, Warren, Jr. and Richard. Warren Jackson’s occupation was Secretary at his family’s wholesale stationery company, the Dwight & M. H. Jackson Company.
The Jackson family company made the newspapers in a variety of interesting stories. In July 1916, burglars blew up a safe in a restaurant in the Morrison Hotel building in Chicago where the company had its offices. The explosion caused a fire and their business suffered damage from smoke and water. In the early 1920s, Marshall Jackson was called to testify at hearings involving embezzlement by Illinois politicians. Marshall was a witness because his firm printed deposit slips and other documents for a non-existent bank fraudulently created by the corrupt politicians. The trial led to the indictment of the 26th governor of Illinois, Len Small, for embezzling over a million dollars.
In June 1921, Warren Jackson married Helen Morrison Blakeslee of Oak Park who was born in Canada. The wedding was held at his brother Marshall’s house. Reverend James Vallentyne, minister at UNITY TEMPLE from 1919 to 1925, officiated at the ceremony.
Warren, Sr., Warren, Jr. and Richard all registered for the draft in 1942 as the U.S. entered World War II. As mentioned above, Warren, Jr. served in the military during the war and Richard did as well. Both of their names are on a plaque in the archives of UNITY TEMPLE honoring congregation members who served in World War II. The Jacksons lived in the Klesert House for five and half years but continued to live in River Forest and Oak Park until their deaths.
by Ken Simpson
Ken Simpson is volunteer and interpreter for the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust and also guides guests on tours at Unity Temple. He is a researcher for the Wright Plus house walk, uncovering the history of homes and creating content for the tours.