John Van Bergen


John Shellette Van Bergen was born on October 2, 1885 in Oak Park, Illinois in 1885. In 1907, about a year after graduating from Oak Park River Forest High School he went to work for family friend Walter Burley Griffin as an apprentice draftsman at his Steinway Hall office. In January of 1909, after almost two years of experience at Griffins’ office and a three month study of architecture at Chicago Technical College, Van Bergen went to work for Frank Lloyd Wright in his Oak Park studio and was the last person hired at the studio before its’ closing in 1910. While at Wright’s studio he did working drawings and supervision for the Frederick Robie and Mrs. Thomas Gale houses.

In June of 1910, Van Bergen then went to work for William E. Drummond, staying with him until he passed his architects’ license examination in June of 1911. He then left to and opened his own office in Oak Park. In 1921 he moved the office to Cedar Avenue in Ravinia, Illinois (now part of Highland Park) where he continued to design primarily private residences. He always kept his practice small, never employing more that two draftsmen. He stayed at the Ravinia office until 1951 when he built a home and studio in Barrington, Illinois, living there until 1955 at which time he moved to Santa Barbara, California. He continued to practice architecture until age 82, two years before his death in 1969. Unfortunately most of Van Bergen’s records and drawings were destroyed in a home fire in 1964, leaving little original documentation of his life’s work.