Monday, February 16, 2015

Arcaded Away
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Auditorium Building (1890) Adler & Sullivan, architects /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Although heralded today as one of architecture’s great masterpieces, the Auditorium Building barely survived the 20th century. The project never met the financial windfall its investors had hoped for, and by the 1930s the association that had constructed the largest privately constructed building in the nation at the time, filed for bankruptcy. But even after surviving one demolition threat after another, the building underwent an alteration that significantly altered its original design when an “arcade” was cut-through the southern bay of the ground floor in 1952.

  [Auditorium Building, 430 S. Michigan Avenue, Chicago /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The pedestrian arcade was carved out of the building because of a street widening plan first  proposed by the city in 1941. Congress Street ran along the south side of the massive granite structure which had grown from its original 38-foot-width to an expanded 62-feet. By the time the city jumped on to the federal government’s super-highway building program in the early 50s, the highway connecting artery ran right along the edge of the building’s southern facade. This meant that there was no longer a pedestrian sidewalk between the building and the street so the city created an open pedestrian arcade that cut through the first floor, and paid the building’s new owner Roosevelt College $500,000 for the right-of-way, which helped the school offset the cost of their recent purchase of the property.

  [Auditorium Building, National Historic Landmark, Chicago /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

While the building was saved, the Auditorium lost one its more famous interior spaces which ran 65 feet along Congress Street. The long, narrow Oak Bar & Room, packed to the rafters with Louis Sullivan’s exuberant foliage in wood and plaster was removed for the sidewalk overhaul and was hauled away along with a portion of the Auditorium Theatre’s ticket lobby. You can see the line of the theater’s old, cast iron entry canopy in the rust stains and mortar-plugged holes that still remain imbedded in the grey, granite stone blocks.
Supreme Reprieve
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Auditorium Building (1890) Adler & Sullivan, architects /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

It stands proudly as one of brightest stars in Chicago’s architectural firmament. For scholars and laymen alike, the Auditorium Building represents the team of Adler & Sullivan at their best and is heralded as a masterpiece.

  [Auditorium Building, 430 S. Michigan Avenue, Chicago /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Chicago had never seen anything like it. But by the time the 350-room hotel and commercial office building with one of the most beautifully decorated and detailed auditoriums ever constructed was finished in 1890, the multi-million dollar investment was already on its way to becoming an anachronism. Unfortunately the massive structure was never the financial success its shareholders had dreamed it would be, and from almost the day of its dedication, the hotel portion of the ground breaking multi-purpose building was already considered obsolete. For one thing, it didn’t include private baths which would soon become all the rage in an upscale hostelry, and because of the amount of space eaten-up by the theater, there weren’t enough hotel rooms to help pay the mortgage and there weren’t enough offices to help float the note.

  [Auditorium Building, National Historic Landmark, Chicago /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

As early as 1910 the Chicago Auditorium Association, the consortium that owned the structure, began exploring the idea of demolishing the theater to make room for more hotel rooms, and even turned to Louis Sullivan for ideas. A concept arose in the late 1920s which called for the demolition of the entire building and replacing it with a new modern high-rise. But the Association didn’t own the land on which their building sat, and with a lease that ran until 2085, (yes you read that correctly – 2085) the trusts and hereditary estates that owned the land had the right to say no to the demo. Inevitably law suits were a-flying and the case ended up before the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1931 the Court ruled in favor of the property owners, and the building got its first reprieve. The Association went bankrupt, the property owners took possession and came up with their own plan to demolish the structure. But when they found out that the building would cost more to demolish than the land it was sitting on was worth, Sullivan’s design got another reprieve.

  [Auditorium Building – Roosevelt University, National Register of Historic Places, Chicago /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The Auditorium Building and its acoustically perfect theater finally closed its doors for good in 1941. Ironically not because of sad state of things but because of a loss of power – not political – but heat and electrical. In 1893 the Association had built another hotel across the street designed by architect Clinton J. Warren called the Annex, and in 1898 a state-of-the art power plant was constructed at the southern end of the Annex building which provided power to the Auditorium via a tunnel under Congress Street. By 1941 the folks who owned the Annex were not owned by the Auditorium group and they cut-off the power supply because of long overdue bills. With no heat and electricity, Adler & Sullivan’s long-neglected architectural wonder had no choice but to close-up shop. In 1942 the City of Chicago took over and turned a portion of the hotel into a temporary housing and service center for the military, and the theater was converted into a bowling alley for the servicemen. When the war ended it looked like things were really over for the Auditorium, but a very active and dedicated group of citizens worked hard at trying to preserve the theater, and therefore the building. In 1947, the new, one-year-old Roosevelt College bought the structure along with the remaining leaseholds, and for the first time in its history the building its property owner were one and the same.
Time & Life
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Time & Life Building (1968) Harry Weese & Associates, architects /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Some of you may remember the amazing photography that arrived in the weekly edition of Life Magazine, many of you have probably never even heard of Life. Time Magazine on the other hand is still publishing a print weekly of world news and events, but for how much longer in our digital age is anyone’s guess. In 1968, when construction began on architect Harry Weese’s Time & Life Building, life and times were very different.

[Time & Life Building, 541 N. Fairbanks Court, Chicago /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Chicago was the location of the magazines 2,500 employee subscription department and the company was running out of room at its Michigan Avenue headquarters. Weese provided the Time/Life corporation with a structure that was well suited to their specific needs with floor spaces free of interior columns and an innovative elevator system which delivered arriving and departing employees more efficiently. Both choices ate-up less square footage inside which made for a more attractive sales pitch to the outside tenants who would occupy the upper 12 floors of the 30-story structure. The trapezoid-shaped, structural columns ringed the outside of the building and shrunk to rectangles as they neared the top while the elevators were double stacked, meaning one cab sat on top of the other which reduced the number of elevator shafts required for the building.

  [Time & Life Building, Streeterville, Chicago  /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Weese also used a new product developed by the U.S. Steel called Cor-Ten. The product was meant to rust as it aged which made for an interesting looking exterior that would require little or no upkeep. It was quite controversial with the public, and still is. Some people like it, some hate it. And the U.S. Steel corporation no longer recommends using their product in architectural situations as siding or roofing. The steel has been found to not hold up as well as everyone thought it would in the snow, ice, and acid falling rain. Plus the rust stains everything that it sits on, so USS stopped pitching it as an architectural building material 20 years ago. Needless to say there are no more employees of Time & Life working here. Life as a print publication went out of business years ago, and Time’s subscriptions are probably handled in some overseas call center. So today Weese’s rusting trapezoid columns provide the expansive interior floor space to nearby Northwestern Hospital and the central offices of the Chicago Park District.
Stanford White's Final Design
 by: chicago designslinger

 [William Wallace & Evaline Cone Kimball Monument (1908) Stanford White, McKim, Mead & White, architects /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

In 1906, Evaline Cone Kimball decided that she and her husband William, who had died in 1904, should have a cemetery marker worthy of their status as one of Chicago’s pre-eminent social register couples. Instead of asking one of the city’s pre-eminent architectural firms to design the monument, she turned instead to the prominent New York firm of McKim, Mead & White. In June of that year when Stanford White was shot and killed by high-society millionaire Harry K. Thaw, the architect had supposedly just completed the design of the Beaux Arts grave marker – which would have made the Kimball colonnade his final work. 

 [William Wallace & Evaline Cone Kimball Monument, Graceland Cemetery, 4401 N. Clark Street, Chicago /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

 William Kimball had come to the city 47 years prior to his death and opened a small, retail piano store. By the time he died in 1904 he owned the largest piano and organ manufacturing concern in the world with a huge production facility on the city’s west side. The place was so large in fact that a railroad car trunk line circled through the complex delivering the raw materials needed to make the instruments at one end and coming out at the other end loaded with the finished product packed and ready for delivery around the country.

 [William Wallace Kimball & Evaline Cone Kimball Monument and Sarcophagi, National Register of Historic Places, Chicago /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Evaline M. Cone Kimball lived on for another 16 years in the grand mansion she and William had constructed on Chicago’s fashionable Prairie Avenue in 1893. Unfortunately the last few years of her life weren’t great. Evaline probably suffered from Alzheimer’s, but in those days people her age were either called dotty at best, or crazy at worst. The Kimballs had amassed a pretty decent art collection, and in 1916 it was put on display at Chicago’s Art Institute. Apparently poor Eva didn’t quite understand what was going on and became distraught over the loss of her paintings. So they were brought back to her mansion and rehung on the bare walls. By 1920 she was deemed incompetent by the court and her property was put in trust, overseen by her longtime bank and attorney. The paintings were loaned back to the Art Institute, the house closed up, and all it’s fine furnishings dispersed. Evaline died in 1921 in the Berkshire Hills, and since she and William had no children her $2,000,000 will was contested by relatives from her side of the family on the grounds of her mentally incompetency. Although they were looking to get a cut of the Kimball largess, the court found they had no case. As a result, in 1923, the Art Institute created the William W. and Evaline M. Kimball Room featuring the artwork that had provided Eva so much comfort, now a part of the museum’s permanent collection.
Last Row Standing
 by: chicago designslinger
 [1029 N. Dearborn Street, Chicago (1875) /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
Brownstones are ubiquitous in New York City, not so much in Chicago. And if you know where to look you’ll find a dusty, dark-stoned facade here and there, but to find a entire row of them still standing in the city is pretty unique.
  [1023-29 N. Dearborn Street (1875) Washington Square Historic District, Chicago  /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
Built in 1875, and once part of a line of 10 Italianate-styled row houses, 1023-29 N. Dearborn Parkway are book ended today by sleek, 21st century condo blocks. Although number 1029 at the north end of the trio has been maintained with care, the middle number at 1025 sits abandoned and forlorn while 1023 has barely survived intact.
  [1025-23 N. Dearborn Street, Chicago /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
In 1875 a city directory lists Henry Field, brother of the retailer Marshall as the occupant of number 1023. A few years later Stuyvesant Peabody, whose parents owned a large mansion up the street, briefly occupied the home. Like many of these grand, old residences the large rooms were chopped-up into smaller spaces and the building became a rooming house for men. But in 1934 after the repeal of Prohibition, a nightclub, Le Boeuf sur le toit opened its doors on the lower floors of the row house, and by 1950, Le Boeuf was serving meals on their sidewalk cafe while inside patrons were listening to the songs of the one-named chanteuse, Poppy.
The fashionable and very successful restaurant/nightclub suffered extensive fire damage during Poppy’s heyday, and did not return. The row is now part of the Washington Square Historic District, today a hair salon occupies the built-out ground floor of number 1023, and its the brownstone facade has been painted over since these pics were taken a few weeks ago.
Prentice Women's Hospital
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Prentice Women’s Hospital  (1975) Bertrand Goldberg, architect /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

It’s hard to imagine that the architect of these round lobes went to Germany in the early 1930s to study at the famed Bauhaus under the tutelage of Mies van der Rohe, known for an adherence to straight lines and 90 degree angles. What’s even more amazing is that when a young Bertrand Golberg left Germany in 1934, after the rise of the Nazis, he went to school at Chicago’s Armour Institute, soon to become the Illinois Institute of Technology where the Department of Architecture would become world renowned under the directorship of his former teacher, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. And he had such a rapport with his mentor that Goldberg would serve as Mies’ translator when the German-speaking architect met Frank Lloyd Wright in the late 1930s. So how did this young man with a Miesian upbringing give birth to these round towers? In 1955 Goldberg said, he “received this terrible shock when I realized that Mies was not a man of his time.”

 [Prentice Women’s Hospital and Maternity Center Building, 333 E. Superior Street, Chicago /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Bertrand Goldberg burst out of the Miesian mold with his cylindrical Marina City Towers in 1959 and never looked back. The cloverleaf of Northwestern Memorial Hospital’s Prentice Women’s & Maternity Pavilion continued on the curvilinear-formed theme, which allowed for an interior floor plan that eliminated the long, traditional hospital corridor with the nurse’s station stuck at one end. The outer edges of this circular plan were lined with patient rooms clustered around a central core containing the nurse’s station, floor access, and support services, which made for a better patient, and care provider, interaction. When the Institute of Psychiatry took over a floor of the building, doctors found that the design played a large role in the positive treatment and therapy of their patient population.

  [Prentice Women’s Hospital Building – Institute of Psychiatry, Streeterville, Chicago /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Goldberg’s pavilions served their purpose well. The hospital was designed to handle 3,000 births per year and by the turn of the 21st century, Prentice was handling more than double that amount. With a need to expand, and to integrate advancing technologies, Northwestern Hospital left the Prentice pavilions and opened on a new, nearby maternity and psychiatric care facility in 2007. Goldberg’s groundbreaking, concrete cylinders now sit empty. The building, under the ownership of Northwestern University, will probably be torn down in the next few years to be replaced by a research facility. Preservationists are urging the university, and the community at large, to save and preserve this unique Chicago treasure. An update. After a vote by the city’s Landmark’s Commission to designate the building, the head of the Department of Housing and Economic Development which oversees the Commission’s staff, wrote an extensive report in support of demolition. Court battles ensued, and just a few days ago, on March 22, 2013 the city issued a demolition permit to Northwestern.
Judge Tree's Studios
 by: chicago designslinger

[Tree Studio Building & Annexes (1894) Parfitt Brothers, architects; (1912) Hill & Woltersdorf, architects, annex; (2002) Daniel P. Coffey & Associates, architects, restoration and rehabilitation /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

 Judge Lambert Tree was a member of an old Chicago family. And he built this building on the west lawn of the Tree homestead, which had been in his wife’s family – the Magie’s – since 1840.

 [Tree Studio Building, 601-23 N. State Street, 4-10 E. Ohio Street, 3-7 E. Ontario Street, Chicago /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The Judge and Mrs. Tree were on their way to Egypt in 1894 with a stop-over in New York when they saw a building on Madison Avenue and 56th Street built to house artist’s studios. It made quite an impression on the couple. They were both big supporters of Chicago’s Art Institute and partons of the arts, so the Judge got in touch with the architectural firm Parfitt Brothers and told them to draw-up plans for a similar building that the Trees would construct back home.

 [Tree Studio Building & Annexes, National Register of Historic Places, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The Tree property filled one square city block and their large, sandstone mansion stood at the eastern edge. So the Judge divided the plot of land in half from north to south and at the western edge built the Studio Building. It would have two-story loft spaces on the second floor with large windows facing the street and skylights to capture the sun’s north light with retail establishments on the ground floor catering to the arts community. He also set-up a trust which would help defray the cost of the upkeep of the building in an attempt to keep rents low for his almost perpetually, financially struggling, artistic tenants. 

  [Tree Studio Building and Annexes, City of Chicago Landmark /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

After the Judge died in 1910 his house was demolished and the eastern portion of the plot was sold to the Shriners fraternal organization. They built Medinah Temple, a large meeting hall/auditorium right up to the north/south dividing line that divided the Tree property in two. The trustees of the Tree estate filled in the space behind the original Studio Building to the Temple’s back wall with an annex on Ohio Street in 1912 and Ontario Street in 1913. The annexes created a private courtyard which became a little green oasis in a neighborhood that was changing from a quiet residential neighborhood to a busy, noisy, congested commercial and retail district.
The Shriners took an option on the purchase of the Studio in 1920 but let it lapse. Then in 1956 the organization finally purchased the Studio and Annex Buildings in order to maintain control over the old Tree city block. By 1998 with membership falling, the Shriners put the block on the market and for a while it looked like the Studio Building would be demolished for a high-rise residential building replacement. The preservation community waged battle, and after the Mayor made it known that he wanted Medinah Temple spared, a deal was reached with developer Albert Friedman and the buildings were saved, rehabilitated, and painstakingly renovated under the supervision of Friedman and Coffey & Associates architects. The Tree subsidies ended decades ago, so although the studios are still available, the market rate rentals are beyond the means of many a struggling artist.

La Salle Street Church
 by: chicago designslinger

 [LaSalle Street Church (1882) Chicago /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The LaSalle Street church building has survived the widening of the street in the 1930s, which obliterated the front facades of most of its neighbors, the changes of the ethnic and racial make-up of the neighborhood, and several different congregations who have used the facility as a house of worship.   

 [LaSalle Street Church, 1136 N. La Salle Street /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

It all begins in the early 1880s when the Scandinavian immigrant community built Trinity English Lutheran Church on LaSalle Avenue. They moved from their previous home at Dearborn and Erie Streets into a neighborhood of German and Irish immigrants who didn’t participate in Sunday services at Trinity since the Irish were Catholic and the German Lutherans attended their own churches. As those ethnic groups began to assimilate and prosper and started an exodus out toward neighborhoods farther away, they were followed by other nationality groups and people of other races.

 [LaSalle Street Church, Trinity English Lutheran Church /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger] 

The building became Christ Church of the Deliverance and soon thereafter was called the Elm-LaSalle Bible Church. The formidable Moody Bible Institute campus was located further south on LaSalle Street and the church building was located north of the old Trinity parish church. Moody took over the facility and ministered to the recent wave of Italian immigrants who had moved into the area. In 1942 one of the biggest changes the neighborhood would undergo through in its long history was brought about by the construction of the massive, new government housing development being built nearby which bore the name of Francis Xavier Cabrini an Italian immigrant herself, and the first American citizen ever proclaimed a saint by the Catholic Church.
By the 1960s Elm-Street Bible Church was located in a community undergoing dramatic racial changes. Cabrini-Green’s population had changed from a housing project primarily made up of low-income whites to even lower-income blacks, and LaSalle Street became a dividing line between the poor minority community and the upper-income white community to the east in Chicago’s Gold Coast. There was a struggle within the conservative church hierarchy between those wanting to reach out to the minority group and those opposed. In the early 70s Moody turned over the reigns of operation and the building itself, to a new pastor and the remnants of the majority white congregation. The outreach didn’t work too well at first since the African American community distrusted the intent of the newly named LaSalle Street Church whose membership by now had dropped to 125 people. I was in high school at the time and our choir director was the music director of the church and we participated in the musical portion of Sunday services now and again. Soon after taking over the reins the new pastor, Rev. William Leslie, formed a consortium of neighboring churches to create the Chicago-Orleans Housing Corporation in an effort to build a large residential development a block west of the church for moderate to low-income families as a bridge between Cabrini and LaSalle’s neighbors to the east. It took a while, but in 1977 Atrium Village opened its doors and still provides housing today while Cabrini-Green has been almost completely demolished and has nearly disappeared.
The 128-year-old church building has survived, and provides a home to a progressive congregation ministering to the local community despite the ravages of time, weather,street expansion and political upheaval.
Sexton School
 by: chicago designslinger

[James A. Sexton Public School (1882) Chicago, IL. /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

In 1882, the Chicago Board of Education needed a high school on the north side of the city to accommodate the city’s expanding student population, and this was the result. One of Chicago’s first high schools, this beautiful Victorian Italianate structure is also one of the oldest public schools still standing in the city, and the first in a line of remarkable school buildings constructed by the Board over the next 40 years.   

 [Sexton Grammar School, 160 W. Wendell Street, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Originally known as the North Division High School, the name was changed in the late 1890s to the James A. Sexton High School. Sexton was born in Chicago in 1844 and enlisted in the Union Army at the beginning of the Civil War when he was just 17 years old. He was a Colonel by 21 and was almost always addressed as Colonel Sexton rather than Mister, until the day he died. After the war ended Col. Sexton eventually made his way back to Chicago where he opened a stove manufacturing business which made him a man of means and politically well connected. He was appointed Postmaster of Chicago by U.S. President Benjamin Harrison, and served for 5 years. Continuing his association with all things military, he became Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic. The GAR was the largest veterans organization in the U.S. at the time, made up of men who had served in the Union Army during the War Between the States. The Colonel happened to be in Washington D.C. when he died in 1899, and his body was brought back to his La Salle Street home, located around the corner from the school.

 [Ruben Salazar Bilingual Center /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

By 1900 Chicago had annexed itself into a much larger city and in the process acquiredseveral large high schools while its grammar school aged population was exploding. So the Board of Education spent $15,000 for upgrades on Sexton High and it became a grammar school. Unfortunately in the winter of 1901 the building was closed by the principal when the school ran out of coal to fire the boiler which provided heat for the classrooms. The local coal yard owners were owed money by the Board and they weren’t willing to deliver their heat source until the past due bills were paid. The issues of school funding, or lack thereof, seems to have been a problem even back then!
 Ninety-two year later, the building was renamed the Ruben Salazar Bilingual Grammar School and Center. Salazar had been created in the early 70s to help children whose primary language was not English and the Center moved into this building in 1993. Salazar was a reporter for the Los Angeles Times and was hit by a police gas cannister and killed in 1970 during a National Chicano Moratorium March protesting U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. The organization was formed and named in his memory.
 It’s pretty remarkable that a 128-year-old school building has survived the ravagesof time, the wear and tear of thousands of children, and can still look so good. The sturcture was rehabilitated in the late 1990s, and it’s a testament to the commitment of the Board of Education that the rehab was done with a sensitivity to the historic nature of the building. One of the best examples is in the windows. Instead of bricking in the openings and putting in smaller standard issue replacements which had been done in other older schools in years past, the new windows were built to modern specs within the old framework. Col. Sexton would have no problem recognizing the place.
Starck Update
by: chicago designslinger
 [Philip T. Starck House (1925) Mayo & Mayo, architects /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
After we posted about the Philip T. Starck house last week we received a comment with an amazing offer from a Starck descendant, pictures of the interior from the family archives! To say we were thrilled would be an understatement. So what follows are snaps taken by the Starck’s daughter who was an amateur photographer. We are so grateful for the opportunity to share these images with all of you out there in the wide web world.
 [Philip T. Starck House, 330 W. Wellington Avenue, Chicago /Image: Starck Family archive; Artwork: chicago designslinger]
The interior, ground level entryway.
  [Philip T. Starck House, National Historic Landmark, Meekerville District, Chicago /Image: Starck Family archive; Artwork: chicago designslinger]
The living room.
  [Philip T. Starck House, Lake View, Chicago /Image: Starck Family archive; Artwork: chicago designslinger]
The dining room.
  [Philip T. Starck House, Chicago /Image: Starck Family archive; Artwork: chicago designslinger]
And of course a piano. The Starcks built this house with the income they derived from the P.A. Starck Piano Company which was founded by Philip’s father. It was one of four in the house.

Parisian Starckness
by: chicago designslinger
 [Philip T. Starck House (1925) Mayo & Mayo, architects /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
At a glance, you might think this house sits on a street in a chic Parisian neighborhood, but instead we’re in a residential area on Chicago’s north side. Designed in 1925 by the father and son team of Ernest and Peter Mayo for Philip T. Starck, the house looks French,elegant and expensive.
  [Philip T. Starck House, 330 W. Wellington Avenue, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
Philip Starck’s father started a Chicago piano manufacturing company in 1891, and by the time Starck the son became president, the P.A. Starck Piano Company had made the family very rich. Starck paid another wealthy city scion, meat packing heir J. Ogden Armour, $69,500 for the property. Ironically the land had once been the water’s edge of Lake Michigan, but by the time Starck made his purchase decades of landfilling had pushed the shoreline 1/2 mile to the east.
  [Philip T. Starck House, National Register of Historic Places, Meekerville District, Chicago /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Starck only lived in his $250,000, 16-room mansion for a brief ten years. He died in 1935 at the relatively young age of 54 and the family piano company, taken over by his son, survived until the late 1960s. Philip’s widow Mildred owned the home until 1951 when the house was purchased by the Ephpheta Center, a school for the deaf. The Beaux Arts jewel box is once again a single family manse, the residence of a wealthy Chicago financier.
The Newman Triplets

by: chicago designslinger

[Gustav R. Newman Residence, 2430 N. Orchard Street, Chicago (1895) Chicago, John Van Osdel II, architect /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

When you look at these three houses sitting side-by-side on Orchard Street, there is something about them that looks very much the same yet different.

  [Charles Newman Residence, 2424 N. Orchard Street, Chicago (1895) Chicago, John Van Osdel II, architect /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

They were designed in 1895 by architect John Van Osdel II for the Newman brothers - Charles,   Gustav and John – proprietors of the Newman Brothers Piano Company, and built, all at the same time, on three adjoining lots. While Van Osdel matched the design of each exterior, he changed the kind of stone used to face each house front. Perhaps this was Van Osdel’s way to reflect the fact that while these three structures and their owners were related, the houses, like the brothers, had different personalities.

  [John Newman Residence, 2434 N. Orchard Street, Chicago (1895) Chicago, John Van Osdel II, architect /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

By 1910, Gustav and John were dead and Charles’s nephews, and his brother’s heirs, ousted him as president of the company. According to Mrs. Gustav, the nephews “feared that their uncle would close up the business and not do the right thing by the boys.” So although personal harmony between the houses of the Newman clan didn’t last that long, Van Osdel’s harmonious Chateauesque design have survived the test of time.

The Rookery Building

 by: chicago designslinger 

[The Rookery Building (1888) Burnham & Root, architects; (1907) Lobby modernization, Frank Lloyd Wright, architect; (1932) Lobby and elevator modernizations, William Drummond, architect; (1990) Building restoration, Gunny Harboe McClier Corporation, architects, Takayama & Associates, consulting architects, Hasbrouck Peterson Associates, conservation consulting architects /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

On June 2, 1852 the City of Chicago purchased the southeast corner of Adams and LaSalle Street from P.F.W. Peck for $8,750. The water department was given title to the land and soon after they built a tall $40,000 brick water reservoir tank on the site. The structure survived the Great Fire of 1871.

  [The Rookery Building, 209 S. LaSalle Street, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Once the area had cooled down a bit, the city used the round tower as the starting-off point for the construction of a temporary city hall, courthouse, and library building. However, before construction could get underway birds starting nesting in the rafters of the scorched and exposed roof beams of the former water tank and the site came to be known as “the rookery.” Once government business was undertaken in the non-descript, 2-story structure surrounding the old water reservoir, Chicagoans still referred to the complex as “the rookery.”

  [The Rookery Building, National Historic Landmark, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

When the city finally completed their permanent government building on Courthouse Square in 1885, they put the word out that “the rookery” lot was available to rent, and after much controversy and charges of corruption, a 99-year lease was signed at a yearly rent of $35,000. without having to pay any taxes on the land,  just on the building. Once the signatures were dry on the document, the Chicago Tribune announced that architects Burnham & Root would design a first-class office building for the site and that the demolition of the ramshackle “rookery” would commence immediately.

  [The Rookery Building, National Register of Historic Places, Chicago/Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The Tribune also listed N.B. Ream, W.E. Hale, E.C. Waller, D. H. Burnham, and Owen Aldis as the directors and stockholders of the Central Safe Deposit, the corporate owners and developers of the new building. Aldis served as president and represented the investment interests of Peter and Shepherd Brooks, brothers and Boston developers who saw great opportunity in the booming city of the West. The brothers put-up more than half of the projected cost of the project and therefore held the largest share. Edward C. Waller, the safe deposit company’s secretary, was a well-known real estate developer in the city and was also the guy who had actually signed the lease. His company would serve as the property’s management firm. William E. Hale was another developer and Norman B. Ream owned the ornamental iron company that would be providing the iron work for the building. D.H. Burnham was Daniel Hudson Burnham of Burnham & Root, the firm designing the building.

  [The Rookery Building, City of Chicago Landmark  /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Because of a set of laws governing corporations and the ownership, construction and size of speculative commercial projects, a way to side step the arcane legislative action was to form a safe deposit company. By stating that the office block was owned by a company that needed lots of space for safes, developers and investors were able to skirt the law while technically complying with it. Even though Waller leased the lower two floors to the Illinois Trust Bank and the Northwestern National Bank, there was no correlation between the Central Safe Deposit Company, the banks, and the law-abiding size of the building.

  [The Rookery Building, LaSalle Street, Chicago  /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The lot was almost square, and the architects had three choices: design the plan in the shape of an H, an E, or fill the lot from property line to property line. The H and E plan would allow for the required air and light, but the building mass of a square would not allow for any windows openings in the interior offices. So the designers came up with an idea to simply cut a hole in the middle, like donut, and bring light and fresh air into the central offices while at the same time creating a spectacular inner courtyard lobby.

  [The Rookery Building, Chicago Loop /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The 11-story-plus-attic Rookery Building would not be the tallest in Chicago, but it would be the largest office building in the world because of the amount of cubic square feet the structure contained. Burnham & Root moved into 11th floor offices when the building was completed in 1888, and ten years later Frank Lloyd Wright would join them on the skylit level. When Edward Waller decided in 1905 that Root’s dark iron lobby needed a facelift, the building’s manager called on Wright. Even though the architect was no longer a tenant he had designed a couple of projects for Waller and he gave the building’s manager a white marble redo trimmed in gold that certainly brightened things up.

  [The Rookery Building, Chicago /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

When Edward Waller died in 1931 at the age of 85, he was still managing the 43-year-old property. The new management undertook another lobby redo in 1932 and hired architect William Drummond – who had been working for Wright during the previous update – to design new elevator cab doors and to rework the lobby by adding more leaseable space. In 1957 the glass in the skylight was painted over and the lobby was plunged into dingy darkness. In 1983 as the 99-year lease was coming to a close, the city began hunting for a buyer and found one in the Rookery’s next door neighbor Continental Illinois Bank. The bank gave the city $25 million for the aging structure and took over all 9 floors of its office space. The financial institution had big plans for Burnham & Root’s National Historic and City of Chicago designated landmark, and planned on an extensive rehab. Unfortunately soon after taking possession Continental filed for bankruptcy – the largest bank failure in the nation’s history up to that point.

  [The Rookery Building  /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Fortunately, Tom Baldwin an enterprising 35-year-old Chicago commodities trader, was interested in the property. He formed the Baldwin Development Corporation and undertook an extensive multi-million-dollar restoration and rehabilitation of the building. The exterior was cleaned, the offices modernized, the lobby was polished, and the skylight was restored back to its light-producing brightness.