Saturday, February 21, 2015

Plymouth Building, Chicago
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Plymouth Building (1899) Simeon B. Eisendrath, (1945) W. Scott Armstrong, architects /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The Plymouth Building you see before you today doesn't look quite like the building that was built in 1898. Although it always stood squeezed in between the much larger Old Colony to the left, and the Manhattan Building to the right, it grew by a story-and-a-half in 1945.

  [Plymouth Building, 417 S. Dearborn Street, Chicago / Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Architect Simeon B. Eisendrath was a young, up-and-coming Chicago designer  at the end of the 1890s. He was born in the city in 1868, went to MIT for two years, and joined the prestigious firm of Adler & Sullivan in 1888 when he was just 20-years old. He ventured out on his own two years later, and although his portfolio was slim, he'd made enough of an impression that Chicago mayor John P. Hopkins appointed Eisendrath Commissioner of Buildings in 1894. The architect was brought in to clean-up a corrupt building inspection department, and soon found out that the entrenched, patronage-based establishment would have none of it. Ten months after his appointment he tendered his resignation to the mayor stating, "Aldermanic and other influences of the most insidious and evil kind have met me at every turn."

  [Plymouth Building, Chicago / Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

By 1898 Eisendrath was busy designing and overseeing the construction of apartment buildings and factories. After a devastating fire burned the Schoeneman Building to the ground in March of that year, the property's owner W.D. Stein asked the architect to design a modern, fireproof structure for the narrow site in between its larger, taller neighbors. Soon after completing the Plymouth, Eisendrath headed to New York  where he formed a lucrative business partnership with Bernhard Horwitz, designing movie theaters, apartment buildings and Jewish temples.
As for the Plymouth, in 1945 LaSalle Extension University, a Chicago-based business school, purchased the building and commissioned architect W. Scott Armstrong to remove Eisendrath's heavy cornice above the row of triple window bays, add another story, and give the building a few collegiatic Gothic flourishes. Now vacant, the property is scheduled to be renovated and converted into housing for some of the tens of thousands of students who fill nearby former department store buildings, turned university and college classrooms.

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