Monday, February 23, 2015

LeMoyne Building, Chicago
 by: chicago designslinger

 [LeMoyne Building, Chicago (1915) Mundie & Jensen, architects /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Chicago architect William LeBaron Jenney has been called the Father of the modern skyscraper. And although he'd died 7 years before the LeMoyne Building saw the light of day in 1915, it was called "one of the last structures in the Loop to be built in [Jenney's] old commercial style," by historian Carl Condit.

[LeMoyne Building, Chicago, 180 N. Wabash Avenue, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

So how is it that an architect who'd been dead for a number of years come to be identified with a building designated as the last of his kind? Perhaps it's because the LeMoyne's architects started their careers under Jenney's tutelage and became the inheritors of his practice. In 1884 William B. Mundie, a young 21-year old architect, moved to Chicago and got a job as a draftsman in Jenney's office, the same year that 14-year-old Carl Jensen began to work for Jenney as an office boy. This also just happened to be the year that Jenney's Home Insurance Building appeared on the scene. It was this game changing design, once sanctioned as the the first completely metal-frame-supported high-rise structure ever built, that garnered Jenney's longstanding title as the father of the modern skyscraper. And as Condit noted, 21-years later, the office of Mundie & Jensen produced a building for John LeMoyne which brought to a close, a certain type of trailblazing commercial construction in Chicago.

    [LeMoyne Building, Chicago, Wabash Avenue, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Harkening back to an earlier generation of building construction, the LeMoyne bears a striking resemblance to another one of Jenney's groundbreaking creations the Levi Z. Leiter Building, constructed in 1879. The LeMoyne, with its wide, 3-bay-wide window openings and masonry clad steel, looks like it came directly from the WLB Jenney handbook. It seems obvious that Mundie and Jensen's years with the architectural innovator couldn't help but influence their own early work. Jenney recognized his talented draftsman by naming him a full partner in 1891, and the sign on the door was changed to Jenney & Mundie. After Jenney's death in 1907 the office began operating under the name Mundie & Jensen, and continued to do so even after Mundie died in 1939. By the time the former office boy turned architect died in 1955, the 85-year-old Jensen had taken on the title of Dean of Chicago architects.
The LeMoyne, built in the shadow of the El, was sold by John LeMoyne's heirs in 1948, and by the 1970s was looking a bit forgotten and forlorn, until being purchased by Chicago real estate magnate Arthur Rubloff in 1984 when the building underwent a major $7 million dollar rehabilitation. Although not listed in the canon of great buildings influenced by Jenney, Jenney & Mundie, or even by Mundie & Jensen, the hard-to-see LeMoyne marks an endpoint in Chicago's great building legacy.  

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