Tuesday, February 17, 2015

19 S. Wabash/Jeweler’s Building
 by: chicago designslinger

 [19 S. Wabash/Jeweler’s Building (1882) Dankmar Adler & Co., Louis Sullivan, architects /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

If a building is over 100 years old it’s not uncommon for it to have gone through some changes. Often those changes include a series of names, and the structure located at 19 S. Wabash is now often referred to by its address. On the other hand, the building is also commonly known by a former name, the Jeweler’s Building, having once housed jewelry wholesalers and workshops since it is located in the city’s jewelry district. The only problem is that there is another prominent piece of architecture that appeared on the Chicago skyline in the 1920s which uses the Jeweler’s Building moniker. Some call the Wabash Avenue address the Iwan Ries Building, its current owner and occupant for over 60 years. Whichever name you use, what makes the building truly unique is that not only was it designed by a young Louis Sullivan for his then boss Dankmar Adler and is an example of the type of work the pair were turning out in the early years of their partnership, but it is the oldest surviving Adler & Sullivan building still standing – anywhere.

  [19 S. Wabash/Jeweler’s Building, National Register of Historic Places, Chicago /Images & Artwork: chicago designlinger]

If you’re at all familiar with the decorative laciness of Sullivan’s organic designs, you’d never guess that the facade of this building was typical of the architect’s work in the early 1880s. Built by Martin Ryerson as a speculative commercial structure, the building was leased to the S.A. Maxwell Company, a stationery, book and wallpaper retailer. The Maxwell retail store occupied the ground floor space and used the upper, open-loft floors for storage and office space. The interior plan was pretty straight forward, but the young architect designed a facade that stood out from its neighbors, a streetscape full of Italianate columns, capitals, arches with some quoining thrown in here and there.

  [19 S. Wabash/Jeweler’s Building, Jeweler’s Row Historic District, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Sullivan’s name was not on the door of the offices of Dankmar Adler & Co. when Ryerson came to call in 1881. The young architect was still a few years away from joining Adler as a full partner in their so-to-be legendary firm, but he was already making his mark on the Chicago landscape. Together, and alone, the pair built over 100 structures in the city of which, shamefully, only 21 remain. Thankfully the Levi family, 5th generation owners of Iwan Ries and the nation’s oldest family owned tobacconists, have done their best in preserving Sullivan’s facade. Although the ground floor has been substantially altered since its original appearance in 1882, the upper stories are the oldest preserved remains of Louis Sullivan’s career.

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