Sunday, March 1, 2015

Lake View Presbyterian Church, Chicago
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Lake View Presbyterian Church, Chicago (1888) John Wellborn Root, Burnham & Root, architects /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

In 1887 architects Daniel Burnham and John Wellborn Root were asked to design a  church for the Presbyterian congregation of Lake View township. The membership had come together as a group three years before and were currently holding their Sunday services in a tent. They'd acquired a nice corner lot at Addison Street and Evanston Avenue (later Broadway) within sight of the prominent Lake View Town Hall building at Addison and Halsted Streets, and were ready to build a more permanent place to worship.

  [Lake View Presbyterian Church, 716 W. Addison Street, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Burnham and Root my have seemed an odd choice to be asked to design a church. Known for their big commercial projects in downtown Chicago like the Grannis, Montauk, Phoenix, Rand McNally and the recently completed Rookery Building, the partners were making quite a reputation for themselves as one of the city's go-to firms for tall building construction. But as successful as Daniel Burnham was in getting the firm the big jobs, John Root, as his sister-in-law and biographer Harriet Monroe wrote, "longed to build churches."

  [Lake View Presbyterian Church, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

John Root had recently undertaken another church project on Chicago's south side for the Roman Catholic parish of St. Gabriel. But his design for the Presbyterians turned away from the heavy brick exterior of the church in the city. Lake View at the time was not located within the corporate boundaries of the city it bordered, and was remote, sparsely populated by people or their buildings, and had a very suburban look and feel. The fire resistant masonry edifice for St. Gabriel was appropriate for its urban site, but for Lake View's largely pastoral setting, Root went for the more organic rustic look and clad his clean-lined building in unpainted wood shingles, which fit nicely into the rural landscape. Tagged the "Shingle Style" in the 1950s, the amalgamation of stained wood surfaces was generally referred to as "Seaside Cottage" in Root's day, and had become a popular style of choice along the shoreline of the country's northeastern seaboard before moving westward. But Root's small building, unlike many of its East Coast predecessors, was a simple statement of organic geometric forms shaped in wood.

  [Lake View Presbyterian Church /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The Lake View Presbyterians had coughed-up $13,000 for Root's design, and by 1898 had grown in size and bank account to build an addition on the north side of the Root structure. A parish house followed in 1911, and then in the early 1940s Root's stained-wood, natural-appearing structure was covered in a very inorganic coat of large white asbestos tiles. Then in 2005 the congregation decided to restore the church back to its original Rootian roots and hired the architectural firm of Holabird & Root (as in John Root, Jr.) to oversee a $1.2 million restoration.

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