Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Stevens Hotel
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Stevens Hotel (1927) Holabird & Roche, architects /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The 1920s were considered the "Roaring" decade and Chicago was humming right along with the rest of the country. One of the thousands of businessmen whose company was buzzing and humming with the times was J.W. Stevens, owner of a large insurance company who had gotten into the hotel business with his son E.J. in 1906. The Hotel LaSalle was one of those opulent turn-of-the-century, Beaux-Arts hostelries that were once the definition of luxurious accommodations. So when the pair decided to open another hotel in the early 20s, they returned to the architects of the LaSalle, Holabird & Roche with a request to design, what was to become, the largest in the world.

  [Stevens Hotel, 720 S. Michigan Avenue, Chicago /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

To make the claim of "largest" the owners asked the architects to build them a building containing 3,000 guest rooms, far beyond the capacity of any other hotel at the time. The signature step-back towers of the Stevens hotel were not so much decoration as they were the result of trying to fit all those rooms, with a private bath, on the half-square block piece of property along Chicago's famed Michigan Avenue. The towering set-backs gave each room a window or two providing light, air and a potentially spectacular view.

  [Stevens Hotel, Historic Michigan Boulevard District, Chicago /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The team at Holabird & Roche returned back to the Beaux-Arts antecedents of the LaSalle for much of the detailing on the modern building. Although the tower shafts were simple brick piers, the base and crown of the structure were filled with attractive bits of classical whimsy. And when the $28 million hotel opened in 1927, not only would it stake the claim to be the largest in the world but it seemed like the ideal time to build such a humongous hotel. Chicago was he convention capital of the world and always in need of more and more hotel room to accommodate the millions of visitors the convention industry brought into town. What no one foresaw however was that so much of the past decade's roar would turn into such a disastrous whimper after the stock market crash in 1929. 
Roanoke/Lumber Exchange Building, 11 S. LaSalle Street
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Roanoke/Lumber Exchange Building, 11 S. LaSalle Street (1915) Holabird & Roche, architects; (1922) Holabird & Roche,  Andrew Rebori, architects; (1982) restoration, Hammond, Beeby & Babka, architects /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Leander J. McCormick became a very wealthy man in partnership with his brother Cyrus as the owners of the McCormick Reaper works. As with many families, blood was not always thicker than water, and by the late 1800s Leander had had enough of Cyrus and the company. He sold most of his shares in the business and used some of the cash to invest in real estate which is where the story of our building begins.

  [Roanoke/Lumber Exchange Building, 11 S. LaSalle Street, Chicago /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

In 1888 Leander purchased a piece of property at the corner of LaSalle and Madison streets in Chicago's business district. The Major Building, built right after the Great Fire in 1871 and renamed the Roanoke, was 7-stories of Italianate gobbledeegoop, which stood on the site. By 1914 the Roanoke was outdated and no longer competitive in the downtown commercial market so the Leander McCormick estate took action. Leander had died in 1900 and left a large portion of his estate in trust, including his property holdings. To maximize the trust's income, old properties were given new life, and the very busy architectural firm of Holabird & Roche were asked to design a new building for this corner lot. A major tenant, the Lumberman's Exchange, signed on to lease 10 floors of the new structure and the building was alternately known as the Lumber Exchange and the Roanoke.

  [Roanoke/Lumber Exchange Building, 11 S. LaSalle Street, National Register of Historic Places, Chicago /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Demolition of the old building began in 1915 and before you knew it a 16-story skyscraper towered over the site. Holabird & Roche were masters in the art of high-rise design, and although the building was built with an ordinary structural steel frame, the designers added Portuguese Gothic flourishes to the exterior to give the exterior some pizzazz. Originally topped by an ornate crown, the cornice was removed in 1922 when the building grew by an additional 5 stories, which was designed by the same architects, and further maximized the property's income for the trust.
In 1925, the estate purchased an additional lot to the east of the existing LaSalle street frontage and Holabird & Roche, along with Andrew Rebori, added a 33-story tower to the building complex. The McCormick's were still the trustees, with Leander's grandson Robert Hall serving as chairman of the trust's board, but the landholdings were overseen by a manager who was employed by the family. In 1981, Equity Associates partnered with the trust and took over management of the family's real estate interests. At that time architects Hammond, Beeby & Babka were brought in to oversee the renovation and rehabilitation of the 66-year-old building which was renamed the 11 South LaSalle Street Building, still a piece of the McCormick property pie.
Lincoln Park Presbyterian Church
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Lincoln Park Presbyterian Church (1888) John S. Woollacott, architect; (1898) addition, William G. Barfield, architect /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Through controversy, dissent, money problems, shrinking membership, mergers and consolidations, the Fullerton Avenue Presbyterian Church weathered it all and survived to become the Lincoln Park Presbyterian Church, no stranger to a similar set of challenges.

  [Lincoln Park Presbyterian Church, 600 W. Fullerton Parkway, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The congregants who made up the Fullerton Avenue Presbyterian Church moved from another location just down the street to occupy their new building in 1888. Designed by John Woollacott with a creamy, Michigan sandstone exterior, the sanctuary was built to hold 800 members - a number never reached. The stable looking building was shaken to its rock foundations in July, 1895 when the pastor, Rev. Dr. John Rusk abruptly resigned. He had been called to the church after the previous pastor killed his wife and then committed suicide. Rusk left, accusing church elders of holding back progressive reform, and causing the horrible act that had occurred under their watch. Things had settled down enough enough by 1898 that architect William G. Barfield was hired to expand the original building 25 feet, in a harmonious transition joining old and new.

  [Lincoln Park Presbyterian Church, Chicago /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

This Lincoln Park area was teaming with Presbyterians back in those days. Within a six block radius there were four Presbyterian congregations and most prominently, the McCormick Theological Seminary, endowed by the wealthy and very staunch Presbyterian Cyrus McCormick and his wife Nettie. In 1932, merger talks got underway between the Seminary's Covenant Church and Fullerton Avenue, which resulted in Covenant moving from their building and into Fullerton's. Thirty years later nearby Christ Church became part of a 1966 urban renewal district, and with demolition looming the congregation joined-up with Fullerton-Covenant which then became Lincoln Park Presbyterian. Still, it was hard to fill up sanctuary pews, and by the time the Seminary left the neighborhood in the early 1970s, membership was at a low point. And as if things weren't bad enough, the tall, wood steeple which was in dire need of repair, yet so beautifully topped-off the corner stone tower, had to be removed.
Times were tough for the small church, but as the neighborhood transitioned from downtrodden to more upscale, parish rolls grew and parishioners donated the large sums of money required to maintain the upkeep of their charming, little gem of a building. In 1968, the church became a sanctuary for anti-war demonstrators during the explosive Democratic Convention, and congregation members were spied upon by Chicago police looking for subversives in their ranks. Under the leadership of current pastor Jeffrey Doane, the church reached out to Chicago's gay and lesbian community at a time when most religious institutions turned their backs on them. And in 1985, the church along with other area institutions, founded the Lincoln Park Community Shelter, providing services to the neighborhood's homeless population. In 2005 as the area surrounding the church became more and more affluent, neighbors complained of harassment by shelter residents, and the church found itself at battle with its neighbors. After a series of talks and heated discussions, a settlement was reached in 2006 and the Shelter still provides 25 beds for overnight guests.
Lenke, Horn & Conway Houses, Pierce Avenue, Chicago
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Lenke, Horn & Conway Houses, Pierce Avenue, Chicago (1890) Lutken & Thisslew, architects /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

On August 24, 1890 the Chicago Tribune's Real Estate Transaction column carried a small item stating that, "Lutken & Thisslew are preparing plans for 3 handsome stone front residences to be built on Ewing Place, near Wicker Park. They will have steam heat and all conveniences, and cost $25,000." After that Lutken disappears from sight, but Charles Thisslew went on to design a number of apartment "flat" buildings in the city, factories, and in 1900 a large three building complex for Norwegian Deaconess Lutheran Hospital. The three single family dwellings the architects designed for Ewing Place, which came to be called Pierce Avenue, were identical on the face of it except for the use of a different stone on the middle one at No. 85 Ewing, or today's 2150 W. Pierce Avenue.

  [Lenke, Horn & Conway Houses, Pierce Avenue, Chicago, Michael W. Conway Residence, 2146 W. Pierce Avenue, Chicago /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The easternmost residence was originally the home of the Michael Conway family. The house was also once occupied by Judge & Mrs. Kickham Scanlan, all prominent enough persons to have been listed in Chicago's Blue Book, a directory of social exclusivity. Unfortunately the original, second story double-window arrangement was altered at some point and turned into a large single-paned window. But the arches above the two windows remained and still top-off the larger opening.

  [Lenke, Horn & Conway Houses, Pierce Avenue, Chicago, John C. Horn Residence, 2150 W. Pierce Avenue, Chicago /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

 Sitting in the middle is the former home of John C. Horn, a furniture manufacturer who joined his Ewing Avenue neighbors on the Blue Book list in 1902. Many of Wicker Park's property owners were men of means, not necessarily millionaires but definitely members of the upper middle class with the requisite number of servants and club memberships. Lutken & Thisslew chose limestone for their middle house, which has withstood the ravages of freezing winter temperatures and boiling hot summers in much better shape than its neighbors. 2150 Pierce has also held on to its original front porch, which makes it the the most intact facade of the three.

[Lenke, Horn & Conway Houses, Pierce Avenue, Chicago, August Lenke Residence, 2154 W. Pierce Avenue, Chicago /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The third, and westernmost of the trio of Romanesque Revival, rusticated stone houses  was owned by August Lenke, a partner in a Chicago coal company. What makes the Lenke house unique is that its owners were the longest original occupant family of the three. When the widower died in 1929 at the age of 88, he had lived at 2156 W. Pierce (formerly No. 93 Ewing Place) for almost 40 years. Soon after his death as the neighborhood changed, large single family homes like his were divided into multi-unit dwellings. In the early 1980s, many of Wicker Park's grand old houses had been divided into so many rooms that they were shells of their former selves and often could be purchased for less than their original 1890s construction costs. But as the neighborhood changed once again from poor to more affluent, housing prices skyrocketed. The Conway/Scanlan house which cost $25,000 in 1890 sold for $1.52 million in 2007. Based solely on inflation, $25,000 in 1890 was worth $570,000 in 2007. To look at it another way, if you bought something in 2007 for $25,000 it would have cost you $1,127 in 1890. Of course, 2007 real estate dollars may not be worth as much as 2011 dollars given today's market. Last Tuesday it was reported that 38% of area homes are underwater.
Robert W. Roloson Row Houses
by: chicago designslinger

 [Robert W. Roloson Row Houses (1894) Frank Lloyd Wright, architect /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

On his way to becoming the master practitioner of the Prairie Style, Frank Lloyd Wright was sowing the seeds of his signature look in a group of projects he designed in the 1890s. The Roloson Row Houses were one of those early experiments.

 [Robert W. Roloson Row Houses, 3213-19 S. Calumet Avenue, Chicago /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Robert Roloson was member of Chicago's Board of Trade and used his grain merchant earnings to invest in real estate. In 1893 he acquired a piece of property on South Calumet Avenue not far from his posh Prairie Avenue address and asked Wright to either draw up plans for a remodel of an existing row of houses, or to design a group of rowhouses from scratch. There is a debate about which offer was made to Wright since the true nature of the commission has been lost to the history books.

[Robert W. Roloson Row Houses, National Register of Historic Places, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

In 1940, historian Grant Manson was on the hunt for "lost" Louis Sullivan buildings. Searching on Chicago's south side, Manson stumbled upon this row in the 3200 block of Calumet thinking they may be from Sullivan's portfolio of work. The decoration on the spandrel panels were pure Sullivan, but Manson discovered that the project actually came from Wright's office. The young architect had recently worked for Sullivan but had been fired when Sullivan discovered that Wright had designed three houses on the side, which infuriated the older man who felt betrayed by his protégé. The confusion about whether or not the row houses were built from the ground up or were just reworked, came when conflicting reports surfaced about just what Robert Roloson had purchased in 1893, an empty lot or 4 attached houses. Subsequent scholarship has given Wright the "from scratch" authorship because the interior contains imprints of Wright's hand, the kind of detail work usually not seen in a remodel.
Roloson sold his Calumet Avenue investment not long after Wright put his stamp on the property. In 1964, as the result of a massive urban renewal project that was transforming the area, the Roloson group was scheduled for demolition. But the city pulled back in this four block by four block neighborhood, which as a result came to be known as The Gap. Then in 1979, banker James Hutchinson and his sister Dr. Janice Hutchinson, reassembled the properties under a single owner and began a renovation and rehabilitation project, urban pioneers in what is now the city's gentrifying Bronzeville community.

Metropolitan Tower - Straus Building
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Straus Building (1924) Graham. Anderson, Probst & White, architects (2008) adaptive reuse, Pappageorge/Haymes, architects /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

In 1924 S.W. Straus & Company was one of the leading investment bond brokers in the country as well as one of the nation's largest property financiers. Straus was started in Chicago in the 1870s and still occupied office space in a building the company had moved into soon after its founding. S.W. himself chose a south Michigan Avenue site for the company's new Chicago headquarters in a developing south Loop market. The area had been looked upon as the business district's poor relation, but now was considered hot property by the city's real estate community.

  [Metropolitan Tower/Straus Building, 310 S. Michigan Avenue, Chicago /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Architects Graham, Anderson, Probst & White designed the building just after a major zoning change was approved by the city. Up until 1919, when the code was revised, there had been a height limit of 260 feet on tall buildings. Under the revision the limit was extended, and you could build taller once you figured out how to comply with the formulaic rule based on the lot size, the building footprint, cubic feet, adjoining building heights; As long as the building stepped back from it's bulky base as it climbed into the air, you could build taller than 260 feet, and for a brief time the Straus was the tallest building in the city. The architect's choice of a ziggurat cap, topped by a beehive-shaped, blue-glassed light beacon, allowed the design to pass zoning muster, and made the building, to this day, stand out along the architectural streetscape of South Michigan Avenue.

  [Metropolitan Tower/Straus Building, Historic Michigan Boulevard District, Chicago /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Straus & Co. were forced to give up their building and their business empire in 1935 when the company went into receivership. The Continental group of insurance companies (which once included the Metropolitan Accident Company of Chicago) purchased the building in 1943 and used the property as their headquarters until 1972 when they relocated into a new building built around the corner. By 2004 the condo market was booming and many of the old office buildings along the Michigan Avenue wall were no longer competitive in a real estate market providing a series of brand spanking new, commercial office spaces in the city's business district. So the former Straus tower joined a number of other Michigan Avenue neighbors and flipped from commercial to residential, and in the process got a new name, Metropolitan Tower.
In one of those weird coincidences of history, when the Straus building was constructed in 1922 it replaced the 1872 Leland Hotel, which once provided luxury accommodations in 275 rooms. When the Metropolitan Tower condos came on line, the building provided 242 high-end, luxury apartments.
Saint Boniface Church
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Saint Boniface Church (1902) Henry J. Schlacks, architect /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

From a distance the soaring towers of Saint Boniface Church make quite an impression. But on   closer inspection, you might be taken aback to discover the boarded-up windows, mortar growing weeds, and chain link fence barricade. For those who admire historic buildings and 110-year-old craftsmanship, it's alarming and sad.

  Saint Boniface Church, 1358 W. Chestnut Street, Chicago /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

How did it happen that such a grand structure fell into such disrepair? Lack of funds, congregants,   and a Roman Catholic Archdiocese strapped for cash who basically abandoned the building in 1990, creating a perfect storm of consequences that brought Saint Boniface to its present condition.

  [Saint Boniface Church, West Town, Chicago /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Of course things weren't always in such a sorry state for the parish founded by German immigrants and named for a German patron saint. Saint Boniface, the church, had been standing on the site since 1864, and in 1902 the Rev. Father Evers asked Chicago's busy ecclesiastical architect Henry J. Schlacks, to design a new edifice for parishioners to worship in. The building was one in a long line of churches from Schlacks' office, and although St. Boniface was not his most elaborate, it made a powerful statement at the corner of Noble and Chestnut Streets with its bell towers and Romanesque details.

  [Saint Boniface Church, Chicago /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The original German congregation eventually gave way to a primarily Polish-speaking group of parishoners, which became Spanish-speaking by the 1970s. As numbers dwindled, there weren't enough members to sustain the parish financially and the Archdiocese couldn't continue to pay the tab for keeping St. Boniface open. Demolition began on the former convent in 2003, then the school building designed by Schlacks in 1896 fell to the wrecking ball. Preservationists tried working with the Archdiocese in an attempt to save the church building, but in December 2008 a demolition permit was filed with the city.
So how is St. Boniface still standing and continuing to crumble in 2011? Well the city stepped in, did a land swap with the Archdiocese, and a developer was found who now plans to turn the former church site into housing for senior citizens. According to the schematics currently on the drawing boards, most of St. Boniface will be razed this summer with the new building built in and around the existing red-brick facade and its imposing bell towers.
Marquette Building, 140 S. Dearborn St., Chicago
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Marquette Building, 140 S. Dearborn St., Chicago (1895) Holabird & Roche, architects; Hermon A. MacNeil,Edward Kemeys, sculptors (2008) renovation & restoration, Holabird & Root, architects /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

When attorney and real estate tycoon Owen Aldis determined that it cost just as much to build a 2nd Class office building as it did a 1st class structure which brought in higher rents, he devised a pioneering eight-point plan of design principles and management that became a standard in the real estate industry. It not only influenced the way developers thought about their buildings, but also created a set of requirements that architects had to work into their plans. Aldis also showed that decorative elements not only added to a building's curb appeal, but could be used in marketing his properties to a clientele willing to pay those higher rents.  

 [Marquette Building, 140 South Dearborn St, Chicago National Historic Landmark, Chicago/Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

He put his new theories to the test with his partners developers Shepherd and Peter Brooks, his brother-in-law Bryan Lathrop, and architects William Holabird & Martin Roche. The Marquette project was the first time the designers used an entire steel frame for structural support, which helped in fulfilling Aldis' requirements set-out in point Four: Generally, office space should be about 24 feet from good light, in number Six: Carefully consider and provide for changes in location of corridor doors, partitions, light, plumbing and telephones, and in number Seven: Arrange typical layout for intensive use. A large number of small tenants is more desirable than a large space for large tenants...  The steel frame allowed for an incredible amount of flexibility. With supports set at 23 feet on center, and by using a minimal amount of fire-proofing masonry to cover the piers, tenants were left with expansive window openings providing lots of natural light and interior partition walls could be arranged and re-arranged as needed.

  [Marquette Building, 140 S. Dearborn St., Chicago, National Register of Historic Places, Chicago/Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

No detail was too small in the building. The exterior door plates contained the portrait of a lion, or panther, head designed by sculptor Edward Kemeys. A major tenant in the building was N.W. Harris a banking company whose logo was the lion, or panther head, depending on who you ask. Over the doorways Hermon A. MacNeil created four bronze panels which told the story of Jesuit priest Jacques Marquette and his fellow explorer Louis Joliet, who stumbled upon the mouth of a river in 1674, which came to be called Chicago.
The building was a hit with tenants, owners, and the press when it opened in 1895. But like all good buildings, age and the modern appointments offered by newer buildings, put the once heralded Marquette into less desirable company. But by the 1930s, the somewhat forlorn looking building had been rediscovered by European modernists and acclaimed as a landmark by scholars Sigfried Gideon and Carl Condit in a style dubbed the Chicago School. But critical recognition wasn't enough to save the old building, and in 1971 the soot-darkended structure was threatened with demolition. In an effort to bring attention to the possible loss of another building in the city's portfolio of groundbreaking architectural innovations, preservationists picketed the site dressed like the 17th century explorers Marquette and Joliet. As a result of mismanagement by the owners, the bank foreclosed on the property and held on to the building until title was transferred to the MacArthur Foundation. The spectacularly restored building that you see today is the result of a commitment by the Foundation to preserve this historic treasure.
Marquette Building
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Marquette Building, Chicago (1895) Holabird & Roche, architects; J.A. Holzer, Tiffany Glass & Decorating Co., Amy Aldis Bradley & Edward Kemeys, sculptors (2008) renovation & restoration, Holabird & Root, architects /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

When Bostonians Peter and Shepherd Brooks and their Chicago agent Owen Aldis asked architects William Holabird & Martin Roche to design their newest project, Aldis was on a mission. A successful Vermont lawyer, he had come to Chicago in the 1870s to represent the Brooks brother's real estate interests in the city. They had built several buildings downtown but prior to beginning construction on the Marquette Building in 1893, the attorney had determined that the highest rents were collected in the best buildings. It seems somewhat obvious today that the nicer a building looked the higher the rent, but back then constructing a building as a speculative investment venture was a relatively new concept and fancy meant expensive. Commercial real estate had come to be defined as Class A or 1st-Class office space, and Class B or 2nd-Class. Aldis realized that it cost nearly as much to build 2nd-Class space as it did 1st, but the rents collected in prime properties was much higher, and therefore much more lucrative in the long run.  

 [Marquette Building, Chicago, 140 S. Dearborn Street, Chicago  /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

As plans were being drawn up for the Marquette, Aldis devised an 8-point plan of requirements for a top-draw commercial office structure. Third on the list was: The parts every person entering sees must make a lasting impression. Entrance, first story lobby, elevator cabs, elevator service, public corridors, toilet rooms must be very good.

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

With floors, stairways, ceilings and trim in Carrara marble, panels of gleaming glass mosaics, and bronze open-cage elevators topped by bas-relief portraits, the lobby fit Aldis' mandate to a tee. The mosaic artwork, designed by J.A. Holzer and executed by the Tiffany Glass & Decorating Co., depicted romanticized scenes of explorers Pere Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet. While the bronze portraits of Native Americans and those early Chicago explorers, were created by Chicago-based artist Edward Kemeys, with two of them provided by Amy Aldis Bradley, Owen's sister. And because of this attention to detail, no one could enter the Marquette without being wowed by what they saw. Preserved almost entirely intact in its 1895 splendor, the lobby still bears all the hallmarks of Owen Aldis' vision of a 1st-class office tower.

Marquette Building
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Marquette Building (1895) Holabird & Roche, architects (2008) renovation & restoration, Holabird & Root, architects /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Peter and Shepherd Brooks were two brothers from Boston who had made a fortune in shipping by the late 1870s and were looking for places to invest their money. They found an opportunity in Chicago real estate. The city was growing by leaps and bounds in the years following the 1871 fire, and the Brooks’ believed that the city would one day be the largest in the nation. They assembled a team of agents, builders and architects who would go on to construct some of Chicago’s most famous buildings, including Holabird & Roche’s Marquette.

  [Marquette Building, 140 S. Dearborn Street, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The Marquette was not the first project Brooks and company had put together, but William Holabird and Martin Roche were relatively new team players. The brothers and their Chicago agent Owen Aldis, had been using the powerhouse architectural firm of Burnham & Root, but had switched to H&R, including asking the team in 1892 to design an addition to Brooks-Burnham-&-Root’s 1891 Monadnock Building. Apparently pleased with their new design team, Aldis asked them move to join the real estate team on their next project, the Marquette.

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

At the time, the architects, like many of their Chicago-based peers, were experimenting with new building technologies and design innovations which transformed the city and the world of architecture. One of the firm’s first experiments, the Tacoma completed in 1889, helped to propel architecture into the 20th century. In the Marquette, they moved farther into the future by supporting the entire building with a steel frame covered in a minimum of fire-proof required masonry, hinting at the framework beneath and allowing for wide open spans of glass, which became one of the benchmarks of modern construction and design. It also provided the architects with a system of construction that kept the office flush with commissions for the next decade-and-a- half. Utilizing the 3 basic components of the classical column’s base, shaft and capital, and applying that concept to the building  facade, the Marquette sits on a base articulated by a heavy, guilloche-patterned terra-cotta, with a wide expanse of a uniform repetition of window openings, topped off by a heavy, column-capitalizing cornice. The Marquette won accolades of praise and was heralded as a landmark by journals and newspapers of the time, and became one of the buildings that defined what later critics and architects came to call, the Chicago School.
19 S. Wabash/Jeweler’s Building
 by: chicago designslinger

 [19 S. Wabash/Jeweler’s Building (1882) Dankmar Adler & Co., Louis Sullivan, architects /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

If a building is over 100 years old it’s not uncommon for it to have gone through some changes. Often those changes include a series of names, and the structure located at 19 S. Wabash is now often referred to by its address. On the other hand, the building is also commonly known by a former name, the Jeweler’s Building, having once housed jewelry wholesalers and workshops since it is located in the city’s jewelry district. The only problem is that there is another prominent piece of architecture that appeared on the Chicago skyline in the 1920s which uses the Jeweler’s Building moniker. Some call the Wabash Avenue address the Iwan Ries Building, its current owner and occupant for over 60 years. Whichever name you use, what makes the building truly unique is that not only was it designed by a young Louis Sullivan for his then boss Dankmar Adler and is an example of the type of work the pair were turning out in the early years of their partnership, but it is the oldest surviving Adler & Sullivan building still standing – anywhere.

  [19 S. Wabash/Jeweler’s Building, National Register of Historic Places, Chicago /Images & Artwork: chicago designlinger]

If you’re at all familiar with the decorative laciness of Sullivan’s organic designs, you’d never guess that the facade of this building was typical of the architect’s work in the early 1880s. Built by Martin Ryerson as a speculative commercial structure, the building was leased to the S.A. Maxwell Company, a stationery, book and wallpaper retailer. The Maxwell retail store occupied the ground floor space and used the upper, open-loft floors for storage and office space. The interior plan was pretty straight forward, but the young architect designed a facade that stood out from its neighbors, a streetscape full of Italianate columns, capitals, arches with some quoining thrown in here and there.

  [19 S. Wabash/Jeweler’s Building, Jeweler’s Row Historic District, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Sullivan’s name was not on the door of the offices of Dankmar Adler & Co. when Ryerson came to call in 1881. The young architect was still a few years away from joining Adler as a full partner in their so-to-be legendary firm, but he was already making his mark on the Chicago landscape. Together, and alone, the pair built over 100 structures in the city of which, shamefully, only 21 remain. Thankfully the Levi family, 5th generation owners of Iwan Ries and the nation’s oldest family owned tobacconists, have done their best in preserving Sullivan’s facade. Although the ground floor has been substantially altered since its original appearance in 1882, the upper stories are the oldest preserved remains of Louis Sullivan’s career.
Charles H. Wacker Houses
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Charles H. Wacker Houses (1873/1884 remodel) /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The name Wacker is very familiar to most Chicagoans, and tourists often chuckle when they hear the word before realizing that there is no “h” between the w and a. But much of Chicago wouldn’t look the way it does today without the resolve of Charles H. Wacker’s implementation of the Burnham & Bennett Plan of 1909.

  [Charles H. Wacker Houses, 1836 & 1838 Lincoln Park West, Chicago /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Although Charles became famous as a result of his 17 year tenure as the first head of the Chicago Plan Commission, and therefore having the double-decked street named after him, he became wealthy running his father’s brewery operation. And it was papa Frederick Wacker who built the house that only child and son Charles, would grow up in and eventually own.  

 [Charles H. Wacker Houses, Old Town Triangle National Historic District, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Frederick got into the Chicago brewery business in the 1850s, but he was plagued by ill health and frequently left the city on extensive European rest cures. In 1873 after the Chicago Fire, Wacker built a house in the northern section of the burn district, but left in 1876 when he took his wife and son on an extended three year trip to Europe. Since he was not a healthy man, rest cures on the Continent were not uncommon in those days for the people who could afford them. Charles was only 20 years old when the journey began in his father’s homeland of Germany, with a long stays in Switzerland, Vienna and Paris. By the time the family came back to their Lincoln Park home in 1879, Frederick was on the mend and Charles was off to a career as a grain merchant with a Chicago trading company.
Frederick died in 1884 and Charles took over the brewery business. He remodeled the house on what was then North Park Avenue as well as the small cottage that originally stood behind the main house but had been moved from the rear of the lot and into the property’s side yard. He took-up residency in the big house with his wife and children and his mother-in-law moved into the cottage next door. As the neighborhood changed and original owners moved on, both homes were sold. In 1950 Otto Forkert bought Charles’ ornately carved and decorated Italianate dwelling and spent nearly 20 years preserving what was left of the original. In 1964 he purchased the house next door and once again the entire property was under the same ownership. Forkert eventually sold the big house, and in 2008 Amy Forkert sold the former mother-in-law cottage.
Citigroup & Ogilvie Transportation Centers
 by: designslinger

 [Citigroup & Ogilvie Transportation Centers (1987) Murphy/Jahn, Helmut Jahn, architects /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Back when passenger railroad service provided the best way to travel long distances in this country, Chicago was the hub of the nation’s rail network with a group of spectacular terminal buildings. One such station stood where Helmut Jahn’s glass sheathed tower was constructed in the mid-1980s. With its post-Modern nod to Art Deco in undulating curves and alternating colors, the building was one in a series of designs that brought Jahn lots of press attention, and the title of architecture’s new Wunderkind.

  [Citigroup & Ogilvie Transportation Centers, 500 W. Madison Street, Chicago /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Built on a site occupied by a grand, classic, Renaissance Revival train station owned by the Chicago & North Western Railroad, the old building was not without its supporters. Preservationists urged the C&NW to refurbish the old terminal and include a new income producing tower which could still serve as a portal to the 50,000 people a day who passed through the building on their way to regional commuter trains, but city power brokers would have none of it. The Landmark’s Commission voted to declare the 1911 Frost & Granger depot a landmark, but were rebuffed in their efforts by the city’s Planning chief who felt that the aging building was a detriment to the city’s efforts to revitalize the area. The City Council, who has the final say in the landmark designation business, voted against the Commission’s recommendation and demolition began in 1984 Among the doors, hardware and marble salvaged from the old building, the C&NW clock was saved and now sits up high in the ceiling of the new building’s atrium entry to the commuter train shed.  

 [Citigroup & Olgivie Transportation Centers, West Loop, Chicago /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The portion of the old station that housed the train shed escaped destruction but was left to rust and peel until a $150 million rehabilitation effort was undertaken in 1993 and completed 4 years later. Today the former North Western Atrium building is called Citigroup Center, and the refurbished 1911-era train shed is known as the Olgivie Transportation Center with its recently opened, and hard to find, Chicago French Market. And Helmut Jahn, at age 71, may have aged beyond his youthful wunderness.
Champlain Building
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Champlain Building (1902) Holabird & Roche, architects (2010) facade restoration, Brush Architects, Holabird & Root, architects /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Holabird & Roche have the distinction of designing two buildings in Chicago that eventually bore the same name, the Champlain. This version started life in 1903 as the New Powers Building and bore all the hallmarks of an H&R high-rise commercial structure. The team had come up with a formula of taking a skeletal metal frame, covering it with a minimal amount of fireproofing masonry while leaving room for large expansive Chicago windows, and completing the entire project quickly and economically, making them a popular choice with commercial real estate developers. Although they’ve been often marginalized as designers who compromised decorative details to lower per square foot costs, their buildings are quite masterfully detailed.

  [Champlain Building, 37 S. Wabash Avenue, Chicago /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The building was built by a consortium of investors on a piece of property that already had a building standing on it. The architectural firm was so good at what they did that their 13-story tower opened for occupancy in December of 1902, just 8 months after demolition had begun on the old building. The new structure was named for Orville M. Powers, president and founder of the Metropolitan Business College, which offered a range of classes from bookkeeping, steno, dictation, Spanish and German, to law. The school took over floors 8 through 12, with an option to expand as needed, and occupied the building until the 1930s when the Gregg shorthand school took over the space and the building was renamed the Champlain. Ironically one of Holabird & Roche’s early, groundbreaking designs was also called the Champlain Building which stood at the corner of State and Madison for a very brief 22 years, from 1894 until its demolition in 1916.

  [Champlain Building, Jewelers Row Historic District, Chicago /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

In 1938 after the Powers name change, the building underwent a “modernization” which stripped   the first two floors of their original facades. The corner at Wabash and Monroe was changed again in 1945 when TWA moved in and Skidmore, Ownings & Merrill gave the airline a very sleek, and what we would now call “mid-century modern,” design. It was also in this year that the Illinois Institute of Technology architecture department moved their classes out of the Art Institute and into the Champlain. Department head Mies van der Rohe also set-up set up his private practice in the building at the same time, which must have made for a very convenient commute from the school to the office where Mies was working on his plans for the future architectural marvel, the IIT campus at 35th & State.
By 1988 the School of the Art Institute itself was outgrowing their studio building at the museum and purchased the nearby Champlain for additional class and office space. The building recently had its lower levels returned back to the original H&R design, replicating the ornate terra-cotta decoration surround at the Wabash Avenue entry and duplicating the original ground floor window openings, as well as rewrapping the structural steel in brick which was recreated to match the existing masonry. The building was renamed for donors John and Alice Sharp, so although there are no more Holabird & Roche Champlains left in Chicago, there are still a number of very sharp looking H&R designs still around.
Humboldt Park Receptory & Stables
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Humboldt Park Receptory & Stables (1895) Frommann & Jebsen, architects /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

When Frommann & Jebsen designed a stable and visitor center complex for Chicago’s Humboldt Park in 1895, people knew what a stable was, but visitor center was a head scratcher. So the building was called a receptory – as in reception or receiving space for guests – with an attached stable area for the guests horses and buggies. And in a gable-ending, cap-topping advertisement for the dedicated horse and buggy portion of the structure, the designers configured a wagon wheel and horse’s head to seal the deal. Apparently they didn’t see the need to do something similar to indicate that the building was also served as a rest station for bipedal mammals of the human variety.

  [Humboldt Park Receptory & Stables, 3015 W. Division Street, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The Humboldt Park neighborhood had originally been settled by Scandinavian immigrants who were followed by German-speaking migrants. At the time the city’s Park Board found picturesque designs charming and romantic so Frommann & Jebsen looked to the old country for a fanciful interpretation of recognizable architectural features from the homeland, which the Board labeled “German country house.” The sweeping roof lines, towers, gables and timbering provided just the kind of whimsical decoration the commissioners were looking for to enhance the appearance of a very utilitarian building providing horse stalls, canoe rentals and comfort station amenities for park patrons.

  [Humboldt Park Receptory & Stables, City of Chicago Landmark  /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
 The corner turret housed the office of park superintendent, Jens Jensen who went on to became Chicago’s premier landscape designer. Ironically, when Jensen became the head of the entire park system in 1905 he ordered the demolition of many of the park’s picturesque architectural structures in favor of a more organic and natural landscape. Perhaps he had nostalgic feelings for the old stables because under his tenure as general superintendent four Humboldt Park buildings built prior to the receptory were demolished. They were replaced with Prairie School era designs which were much more in keeping with Jensen’s redesign of the parks.
By the 1970s the building looked a little worse for wear with it’s aging asphalt shingled roof, falling down gutters and boarded up windows. The building hadn’t been used as a patron’s facility in decades and became a place to store machinery and supplies. After a devastating fire in 1992 which burned nearly 40% of the structure, the exterior underwent an extensive renovation in 1998, returning Frommann & Jebsen’s design back to its 1890s appearance. The receptory now welcomes visitors of the Institute of Puerto Rican Arts & Culture.
William Gilman House
 by: chicago designslinger

 [William Gilman House (1887) Louis J. Bourgeois, architect /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

When you stand in front of the William Gilman house today it’s hard to imagine that in the 1850s, 60s & 70s this near west side address was once in Chicago’s toniest neighborhood. Surrounded by vacant lots and buildings that have seen better days, the streets around nearby Union Park were once lined with large homes and rowhouses, filled with wealthy residents and their servants.

  [William Gilman House, 1635 W. Washington Boulevard, Chicago /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

When Gilman asked architect Louis Bourgeois to design a home for he and his family on Washington Boulevard in 1887 the neighborhood had already been usurped by South Prairie and Michigan Avenues as the prime adress for those living at the top of the economic ladder. And even with the up and coming Gold Coast community on the north side attracting the attention of the uber rich, the area around Washington and Ashland still had a certain social cache. So Bourgeois squeezed a French Renaissance Revival mansion in between a line of older Italianate rowhouses which stood on either side of it, where you can see remnants of those adjoining party walls in the now exposed brickwork of the mansion – ghosts of another era.

  [William Gilman House, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Bourgeois was French Canadian and had recently arrived in Chicago having worked in the big architectural firms of Adler & Sullivan and Burnham & Root. He didn’t stay in the city long, leaving for the west coast in 1905 where he designed a large mansion for artist Paul DeLongpre in a small hamlet called Hollywood, located outside the city of Los Angeles. After marrying DeLongpre’s daughter, Bourgeois became involved with the Baha’i community and would go on to design the Baha’i Temple, a soaring landmark in Chicago’s north shore suburb of Wilmette in 1920. The Gilman’s didn’t last long on Washington Boulevard. By 1896 the family was living in a large home on South Michigan in the Prairie Avenue neighborhood, and by the 1920s their former mansion had been converted into a rooming house. The house has been gutted and updated with a large duplex apartment on the upper floors. So although not much remains of the original Bourgeois interiors, the exterior has survived virtually intact with its ochre tinted stonework having been cleaned and restored, a reminder of late 19th century splendor.