Friday, February 27, 2015

South Water Market - University Commons
 by: chicago designslinger

 [South Water Market - University Commons (1925/2007) Fugard & Knapp/Pappageorge Haymes, architects /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

There was a time not all that long ago, when "locally grown" and "locally sourced" was the norm and not the exception. Back before our food was chemically mass produced for corporate consumption, fruits and vegetables were usually sent to a central distribution point where wholesalers could sell seasonal produce grown by nearby farmers to grocers and restauranteurs located within a non-spoilage distance. Chicago, a major distribution center for all manner of products, became the center point of a produce wheel whose spokes stretched out to Cleveland, St. Louis, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, and points in between.

  [South Water Market - University Commons, West 14th and West 15th Place between Morgan and Racine Streets, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

It's hard to imagine today, but the bustling produce trade was centered along the south bank of the main branch of the Chicago River from Michigan Avenue to Wells Street. The classically landscaped Wacker Drive that you stroll along today offering great views along the riverbank didn't exist 85 years ago. Warehouses lined river's edge, and a street that no longer exists South Water Market, was packed with horses, wagons, wholesalers, and their fresh fruits and vegetables. The street was messy, noisy and bursting at the seams, and served its purpose for nearly 60 years. Then in the early 1920s, the city decided to start implementing a plan that would transform the market along with Chicago's urban landscape. Proposed by Daniel Burnham and his cohort Edward Bennett in 1909, the Chicago Plan became the blueprint to finally pull the city out-of-the-mud and into a beautiful, classically inspired garden town. The dirty cacophonic produce market, so close to the central business district, didn't fit into the panoramic pristine plan.

  [South Water Market - University Commons, National Register of Historic Places, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The challenge was getting over 200 merchant/vendors to agree to move. After several attempts things finally got rolling in 1922 when the city condemned all the property as unsafe and unsanitary, and offered buy-outs. An idea was put forward to build a brand-spanking new, state-of-the-art facility as an alternative, and many of the produce wholesalers signed-on. Land for the massive project was secured as 1924 was drawing to a close, and by August 30, 1925, the last produce dealers of the old South Water Market were moving their wares over to the new South Water Market on 14th and 15th Place, between Morgan and Racine Streets, just west of Halsted.

  [South Water Market - University Commons /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

One-hundred and sixty-five uniform 25 foot by 80 foot storefronts, or stalls, were    lined-up party wall to party wall in 6 buildings that varied in length from 450 feet, to over 800 feet. Architects Fugard & Knapp wrapped the 3-story structures in decoratively embellished, glistening glazed, terra-cotta tiles and replaced the old canvas awnings that hovered over crumbling sidewalks, with sturdy, crisp, clean iron and glass canopies that provided cover over wide loading docks. The streets were 90 feet wide, nearly double the width of the street along the river, and the entire complex was cooled by pipes running underground and linked to individual stalls by the Chicago Cold Storage Company, keeping the fruits and vegetables chilled. This was big business, generating over $800 million in trade. Yet amazingly, for all the great planning, the market wasn't linked to the adjacent rail line that ran along the southern edge of the property. So it was left to horses and wagons, and at the time small trucks, to move goods in and out of the facility. By the 1930s as truck grew ever larger in size, maneuvering the 90 feet between buildings became harder and harder, and by the 1980s, Chicago was no longer the Midwest's dominant produce trading force.
Like the old market street before it, by 1996 the "new" South Water Market was outdated and losing more and more of its market share. In 2003, 59 of the remaining 62 owners sold their stalls and a few of them moved to a new state-of the-art facility. The new/old Water Market buildings were then converted into 800+ residential loft condominiums under the supervision of architects Pappageorge Haymes. The market's replacement no longer carried the South Water name, and the new Chicago International Produce Market on South Wolcott Street is currently home to 19 produce wholesalers including the oldest in the city, Strube Celery & Vegetable founded on South Water Market - next to the river - in 1913.
M. Houlberg Company Building
 by: chicago designslinger

 [M. Houlberg Company Building (1903) Charles F. Sorenson, architect /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

In 1893 Chicago hosted the World's Columbian Exposition. Dubbed the White City due to the fact that almost every structure at the Fair was painted white, the event was a big hit. Although the white, frosting-like decorated structures had all the appearances of real buildings, in reality, they weren't made to last. The steel frames of the exhibition buildings were covered in staff, a mixture of plaster of Paris and hemp fiber, which kept a small army of plasterers and painters very busy. Danish immigrant M. Houlberg was among them.


[M. Houlberg Company Building, 1629 N. Milwaukee, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Danes had been immigrating to Chicago since the 1840s, but after Otto von Bismark took away a piece of the Danish state following the death of King Frederick VII in 1863, Chicago saw an influx of Danish nationals arrive and settle in an emerging Scandinavian community along North Milwaukee Avenue. Houlberg was one among thousands who fled Denmark in the hopes that he'd find a better life in the new world. He made his way to Chicago, worked at the Fair, and in 1900 opened a decorating and painting business in the heart of the Swedish, Norwegian and Danish community. By 1903 he was doing well enough to be able to hire architect Charles F. Sorensen, a fellow Scandinavian, to design a building to house M. Houlberg Co. Painters & Decorators as well as the Houlberg family in an apartment above the store. Sorenson was one of the community's go-to guys when it came to designing 2-flats, commercial structures and churches, and his work was scattered throughout an area that stretched from Wicker Park to Humboldt Park, all the way to Logan Square, encompassing almost the entire settlement.

  [M. Houlberg Company Building, Wicker Park National Historic District, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Houlberg sold paints, varnishes, wallpapers, and even provided decorating services to boot. He earned a whopping $10.00 in 1904 painting the tile ceiling of the Linne School building, and he soon became an officer of the Dania Society which helped with business connections, and which conveniently met around the corner on North Avenue in Wicker Hall. The Houlberg Company was out of its orginal home at 1629 N. Milwaukee Avenue by the mid-1920s when the family relocated a mile to the north in the 3300-block of Milwaukee. The old store and apartment went through several owners, one of whom, Norbert Prehler used the Houlberg property to store additional inventory of his Prehler & Associates industrial supply company which was headquartered in the building next door.
Prehler sold his company and his properties in 1987, and today Sorenson's fanciful ornamental tin cap - still bearing Houlberg's name - has been highlighted once again in a recent restoration of the building's facade.
Joseph Regenstein - Joe & Rika Mansueto Library Buildings
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Joseph Regenstein Library Building (1970) Walter A. Netsch, Skidmore Owings & Merrill. architects /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

In the mid-1950s the folks who ran things at the University of Chicago decided that it was time to ditch the historic Gothic Revival style that the school had embraced since 1892 for its campus buildings, and move into the modern age. And to that end the trustees began raising money to implement a expansive building plan sans a historical revival style. By the early 60s when the decision was made to build a new library the family of Chicago industrialist Joseph Regenstein stepped-up to the plate with a cool $10 million to help finance the construction. It was the largest donation to date.

[Joseph Regenstein Library Building, 1100 E. 57th Street, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Regenstein had taken his father's paper company and turned it into a major supplier of all manner of paper products. With that, and his venture into plastics manufacturing, he became a wealthy man. He died in 1957, and his wife Helen who oversaw the family foundation decided to make a donation to the school in 1965 in honor of her husband and to the city where his family had made its fortune. Chicago's powerhouse architectural firm of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill was brought in to design the new facility under the supervision of lead partner Walter Netsch.

    [Joseph Regenstein Library Building, University of Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Netsch had come to know Helen socially, and according to an oral history he did with Chicago's Art Institute in 1995, she was instrumental in securing a number of commissions for Netsch and his firm. He had recently completed the master plan and building design for the University of Illinois' Chicago Circle Campus, and translated the architecturally Brutalist notions from that project into another form of Brutalism for the exterior of the Regenstein Library. The stark, heavy, rough-surfaced, monumental concrete forms had begun to show-up on the architectural scene in the early 1960s. Architect Paul Rudolph built a quintessential expression of Brutalism in 1958 at Yale University, and yet another fine example on the U of I campus at Urbana in 1967. Netsch on the other hand decided against using concrete for the large 4 x 8 foot exterior panels that wrapped the Regenstein project, and switched to limestone for the comb-cut, incised surface. And when the building opened in October, 1970 it was the largest structure on campus in terms of square footage.

  [Joe & Rika Mansueto Library Building (2011) Helmut Jahn, Murphy/Jahn, architects/Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

In an era when the traditional bookstore seems to be disappearing from the planet, the Regenstein was actually running out of book space by the turn of the 21st century. Unlike many of the major universities in the country, the librarians and trustees at U of C decided not to move the massive book and manuscript collection to an off-site location, and made the commitment to somehow expand the storage space in or near Netsch's 35-year-old building. Chicago's ├╝ber-architect Helmut Jahn proposed a state-of-the-art storage and book retrieval facility capped by a glass-enclosed reading room. It was going to cost money, around $80 million to be exact, but the trustees gave the okay, and two U of C alumni Morningstar, Inc. millionaires Joe and Rika Mansueto stepped-up to the plate with a $25 million donation. Below the low-slung domed structure dedicated in 2011, three levels of below-ground, climate controlled chambers hold 3 million books - with room for more.
Edward Bankes House
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Edward Bankes House (ca. 1900) Henry Worthmann, architect /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

In the early 1840s New York City real estate investor Thomas Suffern put some of his money into a piece of land located on the outskirts of a ten-year-old city called Chicago. He purchased the 160-acre section far out beyond the city limits, right next to a large piece of open prairie owned by the government. When the canal connecting Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River got underway, the Feds stacked-out large swaths of acreage far from the canal itself to provide future returns on their canal investment. Suffern himself began to invest the income he earned from his tobacco business into Manhattan real estate in the 1820's, developed the northern edge of Washington Square in the 1830s, and got out of the tobacco business as his real estate ventures began to bring in a much better return than the sale of dried nicotiana leaves.

  [Edward Bankes House, 1036 N. Hoyne Avenue, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

His Chicago investment was far out-of-town, outlined today by Division Street, Chicago, Western, and Damen Avenues. Chicago Avenue, the only street plotted-out that far west in the mid-1840s, ended at a stone quarry located at the southwest corner of Suffern's acreage, at what today would be the intersection of Western and Chicago. The section made it into Chicago's corporate borders in 1851 when the city annexed a chunk of land west of town, which ended, appropriately, at the newly named Western Avenue. By 1862, seven years before Thomas Suffern's death, the 160-acre square had been evenly subdivided into smaller sections with streets named after his daughters Mary, Agnes, Janet, which eventually became Hoyne, Oakley and Augusta. There was a Suffern Street, now Leavitt, and Thomas, which still goes by that name. Suffern's family was still reaping the benefits of his 1840-era investment 60 years later when a 5-acre parcel bounded by Leavitt, Haddon, Thomas and Oakley Streets was sold by his estate to the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth in 1900 - now the site of St. Mary of Nazareth Hospital. And it wasn't long after that sale that a Mr. Edward Bankes set his sights on a small piece of Thomas Suffern's remaining acreage.

  [Edward Bankes House, Ukrainian Village Historic District, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

As the 19th century drew to a close the Suffern subdivision finally started to fill-up. Housing had first been constructed in the northwestern quadrant in the 1880s and the march of dwellings and commercial buildings moved in a southwesterly direction over the next 20 years. By the time Edward Bankes started buying-up property in the area, another street had been cut-through the area named Cortez. Bankes bought land along Cortez, centered on Hoyne Avenue, extending eastward to Damen and west to Leavitt. Between 1906 and 1907 he sold 5 of his vacant Cortez fronting lots for a tidy $7600, at a time when the average wage was $300/year.

  [Edward Bankes House, Ukrainian Village /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

In 1905 Mr. & Mrs. Edward Bankes had moved into a large two-and-a-half story limestone fronted, pressed-brick-sided, 4,000 square foot house on the northwest corner of Cortez and Hoyne. It was one of the largest in the neighborhood and conveniently bordered by his Cortez Street investment. Largely populated by German-American immigrants, the area would undergo a major ethnic transformation just before and after the First World War. By the mid-1920s the community was an enclave of Slavic speaking peoples from Poland, Russia and the Ukraine. By the 1950s the Bankes' large single family dwelling had been divided into two apartments, and in 2002 the corner was included in the borders of the city's Ukrainian Village Landmark District - which fits snugly inside the original outline of Suffern's 160-acres.
St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church & School Buildings, Chicago
 by: chicago designslinger

 [St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church & School Buildings, Chicago (1905-06) Worthmann & Steinbach, architects /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

In 1517 an Augustinian monk named Martin Luther nailed his theses to a church door in a city located in what was then the massive Holy Roman Empire, now located in a part of Germany. In 1905 a group of German immigrants, built a Lutheran church in a Chicago neighborhood on the outskirts of the city's West Side, now known as Ukrainian Village.

  [St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church & School Buildings, 925 N. Hoyne Avenue, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Although the country we know today as Germany today didn't come into being until 1871, the people who immigrated from the land of Luther to Chicago in the middle of the 19th century were known as Germans. Like most immigrants they brought their native language, culture and religion with them, and as more and more native Saxons, Hessians, and W├╝rttembergians flooded into the city, they established German-speaking communities on the city's north and west sides. When a colony developed in and around Chicago Avenue and Noble Street in the mid-1860s, a group of Germanic Protestants established a parish under the auspices of St. Paul's Church, the city's first German Lutheran place of worship, founded in 1846.

  [St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church & School Buildings, Ukrainian Village Historic District, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Evangelische Lutherische St. Johannis Kirche held its first service in a brand new frame church building at the northwest corner of Superior Street and Bickerdike (today's Bishop Street) on October 13, 1867. Much like the migration from the old country to the new, as the community became more established they moved from the old neighborhood to a newly developing neighborhood further west. In 1905 parishioners purchased seven city lots on Hoyne Avenue at the southwest corner of Cornelia (Walton Street), hired architects Worthmann & Steinbach, and built a much larger, and more prominent, brick church and school building. The school opened its doors in September, while the Reverend Henry H. Succop had to wait a few months for the church to be ready for its first sermon on February 11, 1906.

  [St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church & School Buildings, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Architect Henry Worthmann was a congregation member, and as such may have had the inside track on designing the buildings. At the time Gothic Revival was still a style of choice when it came to ecclesiastical decor and the architects incorporated Gothic-inspired flourishes in the brickwork and limestone, and the broad corner tower was topped by a steeple that climbed to 150 feet into the air. Unfortunately it was destroyed by lighting during a summer storm that came rumbling through the city in the wee hours of the morning on August 10, 1935 that also burned down Herman Cohrs barn in Homewood, and zapped the Town Hall police station's radio tower. The old-to-new migration continued, and by the mid-1920s the original German-speaking settlers were being replaced by immigrants who spoke Polish, Russian and Ukrainian. But St. John's Lutherans held on until 1974 when they finally closed-up shop, dissolved the congregation, and sold their buildings to the Seventh Day Adventist Church. The Adventist's Central Hispanic Church was itself out of operation by 2002 as the Spanish-speaking community's numbers dwindled when a wave of new, young, urban dwellers moved into the old neighborhood.
Vacant and vandalized, the St. John Church & School buildings were awarded landmark designation by the Chicago City Council on March 13, 2013 and added into the expanding boundaries of the Ukrainian Village Historic District, first established in 2002. The Adventist's still own the property, and with the help of the city's Landmarks Department, Landmark Illinois, and Preservation Chicago, perhaps a buyer can be found with the deep pockets required to preserve and adaptively reuse this piece of the city's historical ecclesiastical heritage.
Hans D. Runge - John F. Smulski House
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Hans D. Runge - John F. Smulski House (1884) Frommann & Jebsen, architects /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

In the later part of the 19th century lumber was big business in Chicago. Along with meatpacking and grain trading, the lumber industry made Chicago an economic powerhouse, and the largest lumber market in the world. Hans, aka John, Runge was one of thousands of German immigrants who came to Chicago and found work in wood. The surname - one of the oldest in Germany - means stick or staff, and eventually found its way into becoming the "rung" of a ladder. In 1884, after rising through the ranks to become the treasurer of the Wolf Brothers Milling Company on West Erie Street, he built himself a showy, wood-trimmed extravaganza on the city's northwest side.

  [Hans D. Runge - John F. Smulski House, 2138 W. Pierce Avenue, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The Wolf Brothers company produced everyday milled products like planed wood for doors, window sashes and blinds. So architects Frommann & Jebsen's turned, carved, bracketed, and perforated wood was a panoply of woodworking artistry that went a step further than the Wolf mill catalog. Plus by combining three city lots and placing the structure smack in the middle, Runge's Swiss Alps-like cottage was hard to miss.

  [Hans D. Runge - John F. Smulski House, Wicker Park National Historic District, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

On nearby Columbia Street, now known as Caton, John F. Smulski was making a name for himself in the world of politics. His father William was a Polish immigrant who came to Chicago in the late 1860s, founded the nation's first Polish language newspaper, and sent for his wife and son to join him and his newfound riches in 1881. John was 14 years old at the time, and after completing high school he went to Northwestern University and got a law degree. By the late 1890s Smulski was representing his northwest side community on the Chicago City Council before moving on to become City Attorney, then heading-off to become the Illinois State Treasurer. He left politics in 1907 to concentrate on running the bank he'd founded in 1905. Northwestern Trust & Savings Bank, at Milwaukee & Ashland Avenues and Divsion Street, was in the heart of the city's largest Polish enclave. It was the first financial institution in the city run by a Pole for Poles. Many banks took advantage of an immigrant's lack of English and understanding of the way the system worked to fleece the customer of their savings. So most people kept their extra cash hidden in storage spaces at home - like the proverbial mattress - to protect their hard earned dollars. But at Northwestern, not only was the bank president of Polish origin but the entire staff spoke Polish and the bank was able to earn the trust of the community. It became the Polish bank.

  [Hans D. Runge - John F. Smulski House, Wicker Park Historic District, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]


In 1909 the Chicago Blue Book listed the Smulski's address at 46 Columbia Street, and in 1910 at 2138 Ewing Place, which become Pierce Avenue shortly thereafter. The Runges had left the house they'd built with Hans' wood earnings in 1903, and the Smulskis would live at 2138 W. Pierce Avenue until 1917, not long after this country's entry into the First World War. Smulski had raised millions of dollars for his stricken homeland at the outset of the conflict which was not only losing population to war injuries but to devasting starvation. Through his efforts he became close friends with Polish concert pianist Igance Paderewski who became Poland's post-war Prime Minister in 1919, and who often visited the Pierce Avenue home. Smulski's life did not have a good end. In pain, and suffering from cancer, he shot himself in the head and died in his apartment at the Seneca Hotel on March 18, 1928.