Irving Kane (1857-1939) and Allen Bartlit Pond (1858-1929) were born and educated in Ann Arbor. They were the sons of Elihu Bartlit and Mary Barlow Pond. Elihu Pond was editor and publisher of an Ann Arbor newspaper and later the warden in the state prison at Jackson. Early in their careers, the brothers moved to Chicago. Irving Pond moved there in 1879 after receiving his degree in civil engineering from the University of Michigan. He worked as a draftsman in various architectural firms. Then in 1886, he joined his brother Allen (who had recently moved to Chicago) in the practice of architecture under the firm name of Pond & Pond. Together they shared credit for many buildings including Hull House, the Chicago Commons, the City Club in Chicago. And in Ann Arbor, their buildings included the Michigan Union and the Michigan League.
By Allen's own characterization, Irving was the more creative of the two and Allen the more scholarly. Consequently, in the Chicago firm of Pond & Pond, Irving was the more productive architect, while Allen assumed most of the responsibility for the business affairs of the firm. The firm accepted jobs throughout the country and Irving often traveled to supervise construction.
Like his father Elihu, Allen Pond worked diligently for reform in public and special education. He sat on the Board of the Public Education Association and became very interested in the cause of education for the blind and the handicapped. Allen had taught Latin for three years in Ann Arbor before moving to Chicago, and it was while teaching at Chicago's Armour Mission School that he was first introduced to the young Jane Addams. Excited by her idea of establishing a settlement house in Chicago on the model of London's Toynbee Hall, he helped Addams to locate the original Hull House building and to organize the settlement. One of the first trustees of Hull House, he remained on the board for life and became a close personal friend of Miss Addams. In her speech at his funeral, which is included in the printed text of the Memorial Service for Pond, she recounted their many years' work together. Miss Addams was acquainted with the Pond family in Ann Arbor and the family letters include many references to her visits and speeches there.
Except for the original building which was the old Hull family home, all of the structures in the Hull House complex were designed by Irving and Allen Pond. Both firmly believed that the social effectiveness of the project was dependent upon the physical environment. Allen repeatedly expressed the opinion that architecture, unlike the more ephemeral arts of music, literature and theater, and the less conspicuous arts of painting and sculpture, could greatly influence the human spirit. In an essay, he suggests that architecture "offers the opportunity to aid signally in making an environment that shall contribute to the health, comfort, charm and distinction of human life". The brothers' dedication to architecture was founded upon the belief that man needs beauty if he is to prosper spiritually. Art to them was a necessary counter-influence to the growth of industry and mechanization in the city.
These architects' involvement in settlement houses was not restricted to Hull House. They also designed and were active in the management of the Chicago Commons, the Northwestern University Settlement, the Gads Hill Center and the Henry Booth House.
Through his activities with Hull House and in an attempt to further the cause of Chicago's many reform movements, Allen initiated in 1896 an attack on corruption in the city government. The Municipal Voters' League, which he founded that same year, and the Union League Club were two organizations which were useful to him in effecting social change. As an expert on labor relations, he often served as an arbitrator in Chicago's strikes and boycotts.
The distinction between the professional and non-professional aspects of the Pond brothers' careers was never very clear. With the same talents by which they earned their livings, they were able to serve the city and bring about their ambitions of social change and reform. The belief in cooperation and the power of complementary forces - artistic, social and spiritual - is a theme which runs through the writings of both and is perhaps best exemplified by their own lives together.