Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Humboldt Park Receptory & Stables
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Humboldt Park Receptory & Stables (1895) Frommann & Jebsen, architects /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

When Frommann & Jebsen designed a stable and visitor center complex for Chicago’s Humboldt Park in 1895, people knew what a stable was, but visitor center was a head scratcher. So the building was called a receptory – as in reception or receiving space for guests – with an attached stable area for the guests horses and buggies. And in a gable-ending, cap-topping advertisement for the dedicated horse and buggy portion of the structure, the designers configured a wagon wheel and horse’s head to seal the deal. Apparently they didn’t see the need to do something similar to indicate that the building was also served as a rest station for bipedal mammals of the human variety.

  [Humboldt Park Receptory & Stables, 3015 W. Division Street, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The Humboldt Park neighborhood had originally been settled by Scandinavian immigrants who were followed by German-speaking migrants. At the time the city’s Park Board found picturesque designs charming and romantic so Frommann & Jebsen looked to the old country for a fanciful interpretation of recognizable architectural features from the homeland, which the Board labeled “German country house.” The sweeping roof lines, towers, gables and timbering provided just the kind of whimsical decoration the commissioners were looking for to enhance the appearance of a very utilitarian building providing horse stalls, canoe rentals and comfort station amenities for park patrons.

  [Humboldt Park Receptory & Stables, City of Chicago Landmark  /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
 The corner turret housed the office of park superintendent, Jens Jensen who went on to became Chicago’s premier landscape designer. Ironically, when Jensen became the head of the entire park system in 1905 he ordered the demolition of many of the park’s picturesque architectural structures in favor of a more organic and natural landscape. Perhaps he had nostalgic feelings for the old stables because under his tenure as general superintendent four Humboldt Park buildings built prior to the receptory were demolished. They were replaced with Prairie School era designs which were much more in keeping with Jensen’s redesign of the parks.
By the 1970s the building looked a little worse for wear with it’s aging asphalt shingled roof, falling down gutters and boarded up windows. The building hadn’t been used as a patron’s facility in decades and became a place to store machinery and supplies. After a devastating fire in 1992 which burned nearly 40% of the structure, the exterior underwent an extensive renovation in 1998, returning Frommann & Jebsen’s design back to its 1890s appearance. The receptory now welcomes visitors of the Institute of Puerto Rican Arts & Culture.

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