Friday, February 20, 2015

Humboldt Park Field House & Refectory
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Humboldt Park Fieldhouse & Refectory (1928) Michaelsen & Rognstad, architects /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

In 1927 Chicago voters approved a $10 million bond issue which would help fund improvements and expansion of the city's west side park system. One of those improvements came to Humboldt Park in the form of a new field house and refectory. The word refectory found its roots in the Latin word reficere, and was used by monks to describe the dining hall of their monasteries. Universities used the term to to designate their communal dining rooms, as did fraternities, and the Park District used the word to describe any of their buildings containing a large hall that might be used for meal service. Although the open-span, interior room of architects Michaelsen & Rognstad's homage to Dutch architecture could be used as a dining hall, its primary purpose was to serve as an indoor basketball court.

  [Humboldt Park Field House & Refectory, 1440 N. Sacramento Boulevard, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Christian Michaelsen and Sigurd Rognstad also benefitted from the voters largess, and the park commissioner's faith in their work, because the team ended up designing a total of 12 buildings scattered throughout the city's west side park system. This building replaced a large, wood-shingled, 1890s-era structure which had served as the backdrop for thousands of speed skating events held during the winter on an ice covered lagoon. The field house still buzzes with activity, from basketball players to yoga practitioners, to couples celebrating their nuptials with a catered meal in the refectory.

  [Humboldt Park Fieldhouse & Refectory, National Register of Historic Places, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

There was a time when you could skate, or boat, from the field house to the nearby boathouse, but that ended when a path was created that divided the single body of water into two. I can remember, and this was a while ago, when you were able to come out of the arched arcade level of the field house and go straight into the water. And years later, when the water's edge was lined with tall reeds, making it hard to even see the lagoon water. So it was a nice surprise to find kids enjoying themselves, splashing around in the water, cooling off on a hot summer day, with Michaelsen & Rognstad's Dutch-treat in the background.

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