Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Michigan Boulevard Building
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Michigan Boulevard Building (1914/1923) Jarvis Hunt, architect /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

When you commissioned a building from architect Jarvis Hunt you knew you would be getting a solid piece of architecture that wasn't going to push any boundaries, be pleasing to the eye, and come decorated in a historical style of your choosing. As long as you were willing to go along with the architect's vision of how good planning and design could enhance the beauty of the environment it was built in.

  [Michigan Boulevard Building, 30 N. Michigan Avenue, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Hunt was an early and very vocal proponent of the City Beautiful movement, which had been promoted so effectively to the American public at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, and had brought Hunt to the city as the designer of the Vermont State Building. The architect came from a dynastically pedigreed Vermont founding family. His father Leavitt was the son of a Vermont congressman, who was the son of one of Vermont's early pioneers and onetime Lieutenant Governor, Jonathan Hunt, Sr. Jarvis Hunt's mother came from another prominent Vermont family. Her father William Jarvis - who served under Thomas Jefferson's administration as U.S. consul in Lisbon, Portugal - purchased a large estate in Weathersfield, Vermont when he returned to this country, where he raised sheep and made a fortune selling wool. Jarvis Hunt's uncle was the Gilded Age fave, New York-based architect Richard Morris Hunt, the first American to attend the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, and a major influence in determining with Daniel Burnham on how the World's Fair was going to look.

  [Michigan Boulevard Building, Historic Michigan Boulevard District, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

By the time Jarvis Hunt came around to designing this building on the southwest corner of Michigan Avenue and Washington Street in 1914, the architect was very familiar with the neighborhood overlooking Grant Park. The planters lining the Avenue's median strip today were first proposed by Hunt in 1903 in an effort to turn the Grant Park fronting street into a grand boulevard with a Parisian flavor. In 1913 he drew-up plans for a major overhaul of the city's scattered, ugly, smoke belching, Loop confining, rail yards and united them into one beautifully planned union station district running south of today's Roosevelt Road from State Street west to the river. His plan also called for straightening a crook in the river at the site - which actually happened 10 years later.
In September, 1912 Hunt along with Milton Trainer and Wallace Clark purchased the land and buildings at Michigan and Washington from Montgomery Ward. Ward's office tower and warehouse filled the rest of the block, but in 1909 the catalog merchant began to relocate his huge mail order operation to a new site fronting the Chicago River at Chicago Avenue, and didn't need the additional property for any further expansion. Hunt's original design for he and his fellow investors included a tower above the center portion of the u-shaped plan of the building, but it never got built. The building did grow by an additional 6 floors in 1923 however, after its original 16 were completed in 1914. Hunt retired in 1927 and moved to Florida where he died 14 years later, three weeks before his 78th birthday. He was buried in the family cemetery in Weathersfield, Vermont.

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