Celebrity Bachelor at Hull-House

In April 1907, Hull-House was likely abuzz when its very own Mr. Le Moyne was named one of Chicago’s most eligible bachelors. The Chicago Tribune reported that the 45-year-old Louis V. Le Moyne—a “good” landscape gardener “fond of the esthetic”—was quite a catch with his $10,000 annual salary. Le Moyne (who was actually 47) was, apparently, a more serious fellow than such an accolade might indicate. But one cannot help but wonder what some of his fellow Hull-House residents, like Julia Lathrop or Jane Addams herself, may have thought about having a celebrity bachelor in their midst. Given the familial atmosphere on the Hull-House campus, it seems probable Mr. Le Moyne endured a good bit of teasing for it, regardless.

Louis Valcoulon “Val” Le Moyne was born in Chicago in 1860, the son of a prominent lawyer and one-term Congressman. Louis was a talented athlete, serving as captain of his Harvard baseball team in 1884 and winning tennis championships in 1887 and 1888. As a young man, Le Moyne was a patent attorney in his father’s law office, and he drew a $1,200 salary from the U.S. Patent Office as a fourth assistant examiner. For many young men of his generation, Le Moyne’s life might have appeared quite comfortable, if not absolutely ideal. However, work in patent law and as a federal bureaucrat was not Le Moyne’s passion. Instead, he developed an interest in reform activities and was inclined towards more artistic pursuits, as well.

In 1897, Le Moyne began teaching astronomy classes at Hull-House and directing the settlement’s Henry Clay Club, which hosted debates on political and social issues of the day. In 1901, Le Moyne served, alongside Jane Addams and Anita McCormick Blaine, on the Committee on Investigation on a study of Chicago tenement conditions with the City Homes Association. Le Moyne reinforced his commitment to settlement work when he moved into Hull-House in the winter of 1903. At Hull-House, Le Moyne continued his work with the Henry Clay Club, became one of the directors of the Hull-House Men’s Club, and was an officer of the Henry Clay Debating Club. When he became a resident of Hull-House, he was one of thirteen male residents. Yet while he may have been even at that time the most likely male resident to become one of Chicago’s most eligible bachelors, it was his friend and fellow resident Edward Yeomans who found a wife, marrying in 1904. In 1905, Le Moyne was an usher at the wedding of another friend; but, as yet, no woman in Chicago or elsewhere had caught Mr. Le Moyne.

Le Moyne’s decision to move to Hull-House may have corresponded with the shifting of his professional focus from patent work to landscape architecture. In 1905, he designed the grounds of a community of nine model cottages for workingmen in Lake Forest, Illinois. His design for the cottage yards featured lilac hedges, linden trees, front flower beds, and back vegetable garden plots. In 1907, Le Moyne was making a study of grand European and American homes, and he traveled to Italy that summer to visit seven Italian villas. When he returned to Chicago, he completed work for a book, and in 1908 published Country Residences in Europe and America, a “sumptuous volume containing 500 photographs and complete ground plans of 46 of the most famous and architecturally beautiful estates of the world.”

1919 Passport Photo

Le Moyne remained at Hull-House for the next ten years. In September 1918, his father died and left him a comfortable inheritance. Sometime after that, he left Hull-House and Chicago, settling in Baltimore, where he continued to work as a landscape architect. In 1919, he traveled to Europe, and on his passport application reported his intention to open a branch office in England, presumably an office related to his work in landscape design. He died on July 29, 1928, in Baltimore, at the age of sixty-eight. The funeral was held in the residence of his brother Francis Le Moyne. There was no wife nor any children to mourn him. Louis Le Moyne had remained a bachelor to the very end.

By Stacy Pratt McDermott, Associate Editor

Sources:  1880 U.S. Federal Census; 1910 U.S. Federal Census; 1920 U.S. Federal Census; U.S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925; Biographical Directory of Congress; Chicago City Directory, 1889, p. 1073;  “Baseball Media Center: All-Time Captains,” Harvard Athletics Website (gocrimson.com); “Interior Department Changes,” Evening Star (Washington), Oct. 28, 1887, p. 5; “Tenement Conditions in Chicago,” Chicago Tribune, June 2, 1901, p. 37; “In the Society World,” Chicago Tribune, Apr. 27, 1905, p. 9; “Floor Designs of Model Cottages,” Chicago Tribune, Oct. 15, 1905, p. 4; “Matrimonial Chances for Chicago Girls,” Chicago Tribune, Apr. 14, 1907, p. 47 (image); “The Sport in Which Millionaires Are Champion,” Chicago Tribune, Aug. 11, 1907, p. 65; “A Great Combined Holiday List,” Chicago Tribune, Dec. 18, 1908, p. 9; “Settlement Worker Gets Income by Le Moyne Will,” Chicago Tribune, Sep. 11, 1918, p. 5; “Le Moyne,” The Baltimore Sun, July 31, 1928, p. 19; Louis Valcoulon Le Moyne, Country Residences in Europe and America (New York: Doubleday, Page & Co., 1908);  Hull-House Bulletin 2 (Feb. 1, 1897, no. 2), p. 8; Hull-House Bulletin 2 (Nov. 1, 1897, no. 7), p. 7; Hull-House Bulletin 6 (Mid-Winter, 1903-1904, no. 1), p. 6; Hull-House Bulletin 6 (Autumn 1904, no. 2), p. 10; Hull-House Bulletin 7 (1905-1906, no. 1), p. 14; ; Julia Day Yeomans to Jane Addams; Hull-House Year Book 1906-1907, May 30, 1904; Jane Addams to Julia C. Lathrop, February 12, 1907, all in Jane Addams Digital Edition.

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