Sunday, February 22, 2015

Theophil Studios
 by: chicago designslinger

[Theophil Studios (1940) Frank J. Lapasso, architect /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Theophil Reuther was an artist. It seems impossible to find any of his artwork around anywhere these days, but if you wander over to the corner of La Salle & Burton Place in Chicago's Old Town neighborhood, you can find his name pressed in concrete.

   [Theophil Studios, 143 W. Burton Place, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

But before we begin to tell you the story about the Studio building, we should start by letting you know that 143 Burton Place was not originally at the corner. That spot once belonged to No. 141 Carl Street (which was the name of the tiny half-block long street until 1936). For over 40 years, a skinny 16-foot-wide dwelling stood at the southwest corner of La Salle and Carl, and in 1906 there was an apartment building standing right next door at No. 143. But by 1935, No. 141 had been wiped from the map and replaced by a sidewalk when La Salle Street was widened by several feet to relieve automobile congestion.

 [Theophil Studios, Old Town, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

A transformation of another sort had already been underway on the block. In 1927 former School of the Art Institute students Sol Kogen and Edgar Miller took an old 1870s Italianate/Second Empire-styled house at No. 151 Carl Street and turned it into a modern, beautifully handcrafted, multi-unit, studio building. Over the next few years Kogen convinced other artistic types to join him on his adventure, and one by one, building after building, with Kogen at the helm, the former Carl Street of mansard roofs and bracketed-cornices became the Burton Place we see today.
Reuther was a late comer to the block, and after his alterations, there would be no more Kogen/Miller-like conversions on the block. And although Kogen participated in Reuther's 1940 redo, the artist turned to architect Frank Lapassso to draw-up plans for the transformation, bearing in mind the standards set by Kogen and Miller years before. One contribution that Kogen apparently did make was in providing a couple of glazed terra-cotta plaques which were embedded into the Theophil Studios' stucco facade. Decades later when Edgar Miller revisited the street, he said that while Kogen lined the block with Miller's art, he never asked for Edgar's permission, and never gave the artist credit.

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