Friday, March 6, 2015

425-449 North Clark Street, Chicago
 by: chicago designslinger

 [425-449 North Clark Street, Chicago (ca 1872-1874) Bauer & Loebnitz, Burling & Adler, William Arend, Otis H. Placey, architects / Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

"Reborn," "Rebirth," "Rebuilding," three "r's" used repeatedly in headline after headline as    Chicago built itself all over again following the devastating fire in the fall of 1871. Haines H. Magie, one of the city's early pioneers and one of its wealthiest citizens, was caught up in the frenzy of reconstruction investing tens of thousands of dollars to rebuild a property investment portfolio that had been consumed by the fire and been turned to ash. Magie not only lost a great deal of his building inventory in the Great Conflagration, but he had been severely burned while trying to save his north side home from the approaching inferno and had come close to losing his own life. His recovery was slow, but with his son-in-law Lambert Tree on hand to help the former dry goods merchant turned millionaire real estate mogul reclaim his property investment income, Magie and Tree got to work building buildings.

  [425-449 North Clark Street, Chicago / Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Augustus Bauer had arrived in Chicago in 1853 after a stop over in New York City where he helped oversee the construction of the Crystal Palace, and a degree in architecture from the Polytechnic in Darmstad, Germany. Thirteen years later Robert Loebnitz, another Polytechnic grad emigrated to the city, joined Bauer, and established a thriving architectural practice. Post-fire, many former clients and a slew of new ones hired Bauer and Loebnitz to design new "fireproof" buildings on rubble cleared lots, and when the time came for Magie and Tree to rebuild on the northeast corner of Clark and Michigan Street (today's Hubbard) they secured the services of the Polytechnic grads. It was a heady time for the city and its architects. On the first anniversary of the Great Fire in 1872, the Chicago Tribune counted 51 buildings totaling 2,711 linear feet of frontage, costing $2,723,000 having been designed and built under the Bauer & Loebnitz banner alone.

  [425-449 North Clark Street, Chicago / Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Twenty-five feet north of Magie's lot architects Burling & Adler were hired to design a 3-story business block with retail space on the ground floor. The second and third floors were set aside for a two level meeting hall, and soon after the building was completed the large room was being used by the Swedish Singing Society for their weekly gatherings and by the Germania Mannerchor every Tuesday and Thursday evening. Unlike Bauer or Loebnitz, Edward Burling came to the city in the early 1840s with no formal training as an architect, but he used his skills as a journeyman carpenter to find work on one of the the many incarnations of the city's famous Tremont Hotel. After a stint as a general superintendent for real estate tycoon William B. Ogden and his attorney and business partner William E. Jones, Burling was ready to start his own architectural practice. By the time a young Dankmar Adler joined the Burling office in 1871, the former carpenter had established himself as one of the city's go-to architects, and in 1872, the firm could boast of having completed 100 post-fire buildings comprising 8,675 feet of frontage, costing $4,022,000.

  [425-449 North Clark Street, Chicago / Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

As the rebuilding boom exploded between 1872 and 1875, a small 3-story structure was squeezed   into the lot between the Bauer & Loebnitz and Burling & Adler buildings. Architect William Arend designed a 3-story commercial building on the next piece of property to the north, and Otis H. Placey's 3-story design on the northeast corner of Illinois Street completed the west facing block. The row may have been brand new but the buildings looked very much like the thousands of facades that had lined the streets of the city prior to the fire. The immediate post-fire architects and their clients weren't interested in pushing the envelope much farther than they had before October 1871. This was no time to gamble, time was money, and other than making sure that the new construction was "fireproof," the innovations that would make Chicago's architecture world famous would have to wait.

  [425-449 North Clark Street, Chicago / Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Magie and Tree were able to lease most of their office space to a number of doctors, including Cook County physician Ferdinand Henrotin and founder of Henrotin Hospital. Eventually the offices above the corner saloon of the Magie Building were filled with lawyers who were just a hop-skip-and-a-jump from the County Courthouse and Jail on Michigan (Hubbard) Street. As the city grew and expanded, the area around the 400 block of north Clark fell into economic decline. Many of the rooms above the ground floor retail spaces became home to a transient population who were able to rent rooms by the day or the week, and the building stock suffered through neglect and disinterest.

  [425-449 North Clark Street, Chicago / Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Originally built by different owners employing five different architects, the cohesive looking facades along Clark Street were still fairly intact when Rick Bayless opened Frontera Grill in the old Burling & Adler building in 1987. Two years later the pioneering restauranteur opened Topolobampo in the same building, and in 2010 Xoco opened on the ground floor at the corner of Illinois Street originally occupied by John W. Stead's fish market. Freidman Properties restored the exterior of the Magie Building, and brought the interior office spaces into the 21st century.  Today the slightly altered but mostly restored row of "Athens Marble" and brick-fronted structures is one of the city's few remaining examples that gives a hint of what a Chicago street might have looked like right after the fire, and is the oldest post-fire commercial group that still occupies its entire original city block.

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