Thursday, February 19, 2015

1301 North Astor Street, Chicago
 by: chicago designslinger

[1301 North Astor Street, Chicago (1929) Philip B. Maher, architect /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

If you had the choice, would you want to move back into in the house you grew up in after your parents died? Maybe it would depend on the house. Well, after Bertha Honore Palmer's death in 1918, Potter Palmer, Jr., who later removed the Jr. and replaced it with a II, took up residence in his parent's castle on Lake Shore Drive. But by 1928 he and his wife Pauline were ready to move on, and he sold the many-roomed mansion with a leaseback option that cost him $100,000 per year in rent, until he found a new place to live. And by 1930, the top three floors of a new cooperative apartment building at 1301 N. Astor Street were ready for the Palmer's to move into. 

 [1301 North Astor Street, Chicago, 1301 N. Astor Street, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The building was just around the corner from the Palmer estate, so they didn't have far to go. The lot, on the corner of Goethe and Astor, had been occupied by a large single family home then owned by Frederic Norcross. Norcross sold the house and land to a building syndicate made up of people like the Palmers and Norcross, who were tired of living in unsustainable old mansions and ready for a change. Not that their new apartments were small, but 3,500 square feet or so was much more manageable than say 15,000 or more. Plus architect Philip Maher interviewed each owner so that the interiors of each individual unit could be customzied to suit their tastes.

 [1301 N. Astor Street, Chicago, Gold Coast National Historic District, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

At 16 floors, three of them taken over by the Palmer tri-plex plus the ground floor lobby,   12 floors were left for the remaining 9 owners to divvy up. While some apartments were duplexed for two level living, Frederic Clay Bartlett was happy with the one-leveled second floor unit which provided a formal entry foyer, large living room and dining room, a library, 3 bedrooms with baths, a large kitchen with butler's pantry, plus servant's quarters, all done-up by society architect and designer David Adler. Bartlett and his wife Helen were avid art collectors, and he had learned a lot about painting while studying with with James Whistler in Paris. In 1926 Bartlett gave the Art Institute of Chicago a chunk of his collection of Impressionist paintings in memory of Helen who had died the year before, including one of the museum's most publicly recognized and revered paintings Georges Seurat's, A Sunday on La Grande Jatte - 1884. Bartlett himself painted a mural that filled the walls of his expansive dining room, which was still there 50 years later when Gene Siskel, the film critic and Roger Ebert's thumb's-up thumbs-down movie review partner, bought the Bartlett apartment in the early 1980s. 

Pontiac Building, Chicago
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Pontiac Building, Chicago (1891) Holabird & Roche, architects /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

In 1886 a seismic event of sorts occurred in Chicago, Illinois when construction got underway on a building designed by an architectural firm making a leap into the 20th century. William Holabird designed the Tacoma Building, a groundbreaking adventure in new framing techniques that opened up all kinds of new possibilities in high-rise commercial construction. Demolished just 40 years later, the Tacoma put the young firm on the map, and it was just the beginning.

  [Pontiac Building, Chicago, 542 S. Dearborn Street, Chicago /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

When the Pontiac Building was built in 1891, the firm of Holabird & Roche had reached another milestone. Bostonians, and real estate moguls Peter and Shepherd Brooks spent a lot of money constructing buildings in Chicago. They had the cash and determination to make an major investment in the city they believed would be country's largest by the turn of the century. Any architect would like to have the Brook's brothers as clients, and for a number of years that's exactly what helped keep Daniel Burnham and John Root busy, Brooks brothers projects. But in 1889, the men from Boston decided to give the team who had designed that unusual looking Tacoma Building a try, while Burnham & Root got busy planning the upcoming World's Columbian Exposition.

[Ponitac Building, Chicago, South Loop Printing House National Historic District, Chicago /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The brothers had purchased a piece of property in 1884 and planned on constructing a typical loft building to warehouse product for companies doing business with the massive railyards located nearby. When they hired H&R in 1889, that was the brief given to the designers. Not pushing the framework of existing structural framing technology too far, the architects did try something new by extending the standard single window bay across two structural bays rather than the typical one to one ratio. You can see the experiment on the building's facade. The standard, angled single bay rises through the middle of the building while the double bay gently curves across the facade as it rises to the cornice at the top. Not exactly groundbreaking, but innovative nonetheless. As construction was underway, the nearby commercial office district was pushing its way south, and as a result of the flexible floor plan, the interior was divided into top-of-the-line, leaseable office space.
The partnership between the architects and the brothers proved to be successful. Holabird & Roche designed and oversaw the construction of several Brook's buildings, including a project that broke more new ground in 1893 when construction of the Marquette Building got underway, garnering the team worldwide recognition.
University of Illinois at Chicago
 by: chicago designslinger

 [University of Illinois at Chicago (1965) Walter A. Netsch, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, architects /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Once upon a time in the city called Chicago, there was a mayor named Daley and a   powerful university with the name of Illinois looking to build a college campus. The university's home was a couple hundred miles south of the city, but the school had a satellite campus located at Chicago's Navy Pier. After the Second World War, and lots of federal dollars coming Chicago's way in the early 1960s, the school told the Mayor they'd like to expand and create a real campus for students in the greater metro area, and the Mayor was ready to oblige. There were several sites considered, (one would have taken over Garfield Park on the city's west side) but Hizzoner favored a large, and likely to be abandoned railyard just south of the Loop business district. The Mayor could see the handwriting on the wall in 1961 and knew that once the railroads left the urban core, there would be a lot of derelict property just south of the business center, which was not a good thing for his city. But the railroads weren't very cooperative, so another site was selected in a densely populated neighborhood that had recently been designated a slum area with a large scale redevelopment plan in the works. And much to the chagrin of the residents of that community, a lawsuit and a court decision siding with the city, the architectural firm of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill was hired and demolition began.

 [University of Illinois at Chicago, Halsted & Harrsion Streets, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

SOM was a major architectural firm with lots of clout and lots of projects going on all over the world. Walter Netsch, a firm partner and the design team leader, was not an adherent of the Mies van der Rohe school of design, which was very popular at the time. Netsch blazed his own path, much more interested in exploring the geometry of the square and angle and all the possibilities therein. He achieved a certain level of fame in 1962 with his Cadet Chapel at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs with its soaring triangular angulations. At U of I, he not only used similar formations in an interesting curtain wall of glass, but given the fact that the University was on a tight budget, used concrete as the primary building material. The surface of the cement was roughed-up so that the pebble aggregate would rise to the surface, making it more texturally interesting and make it much harder to paste non-sanctioned flyers and posters on its stony surface.

  [University of Illinois at Chicago, Hull House, 800 S. Halsted Street /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

In 1889, Jane Addams got some of her rich society friends together and raised enough money to open the city's first settlement house in one of the city's poorest, tightly packed and ethnically diverse neighborhoods where she rented Charles Hull's old, house, which had been standing on Halsted Street since 1856. By 1962, Hull House was a series of interconnected buildings located on a multi-block piece of property at what was going to become the eastern edge of the new, Chicago campus. The complex was demolished along with the rest of the neighborhood, and remnants of the original mansion were dug out from under the layers of additions and extensions that had grown to engulf Mr. Hull's home over the ensuing years. Then the University reconstructed a romantically recreated version of the house dating back to the 1850s, and in a nod to Ms. Addams and all her good works, the interior was restored and returned back to its 1880s appearance when Ms. Addams and her partner Ellen Starr first moved in. The destruction of the neighborhood and the settlement house was considered somewhat brutal, which is what many people came to call Netsch's campus experiment - brutal. 
Fred A. Cary Houses
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Fred A. Cary Houses (1892) Treat & Foltz, architects /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

In August 1891, Fred A. Cary paid $13,000 for a city lot 40 feet wide by 125 feet deep and built two houses. Well, one 3-story single family house and one 4-story apartment building to be exact.

  [Fred A. Cary Houses, 1353 N. State Parkway, Chicago /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Architects Treat & Foltz designed almost identical facades, save the fact that one building was taller than the other. Like many of his wealthy neighbors, Cary was involved in the real estate business and while providing a large home for him and his family, he built the apartment building next door for a better return on his $13,000 investment. And since there was only one large apartment per floor, Cary could rent to a more elite clientele willing to pay a premium price to live in a nice, upscale neighborhood.

[Fred A. Cary Houses, 1353 N. State Parkway Apartments, Gold Coast National Historic District, Chicago /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Although the area retained its sheen and social cache through the ensuing decades, even Chicago's famed Gold Coast saw its social cache decline somewhat with the onset of the Great Depression in 1930. Many of the old mansions were converted into apartments, some into officially designated "rooming houses." I can remember in the mid-1970s when you could stroll through the neighborhood and see once grand houses looking a little worse for wear with a slew of mailboxes lining the walls of a front entry hall. As for Fred's properties, in the early 50s Cary's former house and 9-room, floor-through apartments were combined into one apartment complex and divided into 2 1/2 to 4 room apartments. The original entry of the apartment building was sealed-up and a brick box was erected in a newly created below-grade entryway, wrapped by a matching brick wall. The stairs of the former residence were removed and the porch was sealed-off to become a small private balcony.
What makes this little group kind of unique in today's Gold Coast, is that it is one of the few   remaining remnants of a not-so-glamorous era in the neighborhood's history. So many of the mansions turned rooming/apartment houses have been converted back into large, single family homes that the Cary group stands virtually alone among its, once again, upscale neighbors.
Pritzker Park, Chicago
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Pritzker Park, Chicago (2009) Hoerr Schaudt, landscape architects /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

In the mid-1980s the city of Chicago was looking for a place to house all the books of the city's main library. Architects Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge's 1897 building was out-of-date, stuffed to the rafters, and the library needed more room. After years of "temporary" housing, and thoughts of converting an old department store into the library, a plan was finally approved to build a brand new building at the southern end of the city's State Street retail corridor. A stretch of the street that was kind of forlorn and forgotten.

  [Pritzker Park, Chicago, 344 S. State Street, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Once anchored by the Goldblatt's and Sears flagship department stores, by 1987 both buildings were standing tall but empty. The city owned a piece of property directly across the street from the Sears building, and after years of discussion and lots of book shuffling, decided that's where the main library building would be built. However, if the urban renewal project was going to be truly successful something would also have to be done with the block just to the north, across Van Buren Street. Once the site of architect's Marshall & Fox's Rialto Theatre, only the Rialto name survived, now painted on a signboard above the doorway of one of the transient hotels on the block. In order to get rid of the hotels and the down-and-out retail establishments along State, the city used their powers of eminent domain to purchase the property and then demolish all of the buildings. This way the site would be ready and available for future commercial development, a nice accompaniment to their $150 million investment in the new library building, and the future success of South State Street.

  [Pritzker Park, Chicago, Loop Retail National Historic District, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Some members of the library board thought that a small park would be a much better compliment to the future library, and although there were some powerful forces working against them, the park advocates won. In 2008 the city turned over the small patch of green to the Chicago Park District who hired landscape architects Hoerr Schaudt to re-imagine the corner and provide space for large-scale, temporary art installations as well as the usual grass, trees and flowers. The park was named for Cindy Pritzker, a member and former President of the library board who played a major roll in raising millions of dollars for Chicago's public library system.

  [Pritzker Park, Chicago, Eye, Tony Tasset, artist /Image & Artwork: designslinger]

Last summer Tony Tasset's Eye was under construction in the plaza intended for such  public displays of art. Working with the Park District, the Chicago Loop Alliance helped raise funds and coordinate the installation of Tasset's overscaled replica of his own eye, and Pritzker Park was launched.
Painters District Council 14, Chicago
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Painters District Council 14, Chicago (1956) Vitzthum & Burns, architects /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

At first glance this little, limestone box looks like it might have been built sometime in the late 1920s, or maybe early 30s, during the age of jazz and Art Deco decor. But, it was actually built in 1956, designed by architects Vitzthum & Burns for Painters District Council 14.

  [Painters District Council 14, Chicago, 1456 W. Adams Street, Chicago /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Since 1920, the Council's offices had been located in an old rowhouse just a few doors down at 1446 W. Adams Street on Chicago's near west side. They had purchased the home of Dr. Florenz Ziegfeld, father of the Follies impresario, where the director of the Chicago Musical College had moved his family in 1882. The Council owned a corner lot 100 feet west of the Ziegfeld place and by the early 50s decided it was time to leave their 85-year-old building for a brand new home.

  [Painters District Council 14, Chicago, Near West Side, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The Council, founded in 1887 as the Brotherhood of Painters and Decorators of America, played a big role in helping to establish the 5 day-a-week, 8 hour workday. The organization grew to include wallpaper hangers, and kept on expanding to become the overseers of a variety of trades who still add the final touches to a building. John Burns died in 1956, but his business partner of 40 years Karl Vitzthum, practiced architecture until his death in 1967 at the age of 87. Burns and his wife Elizabeth were the parents of 8 children, and named one of their sons Thomas Vitzthum Burns, in honor of John's friend and associate. When Thomas Vitzthum died in 1999, his life was fondly remembered by his widow, their 6 sons, and 15 daughters.
William D. Kerfoot House
 by: chicago designslinger

 [William D. Kerfoot House (1895) John N. Tilton, architect /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

By the time William Kerfoot built this house in 1895 he had achieved a sort of fame, and not just because he was one of the most successful and wealthy real estate men in Chicago, but because of his response to the Great Fire of 1871.

  [William D. Kerfoot House, 1425 N. Astor Street, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The day after the fire had finally burned itself out, Kerfoot found that his office building was now just a smoldering pile of rubble. With the help of a cousin, he gathered together a stack of lumber and built a shack out in the middle of the street, in front of the still-to-hot-to-touch pile of stone, and opened for business. He was the first person to do so in the burn district, and when a photograph was published around the world of Kerfoot standing proudly in front of the shack with a hand painted signboard attached to it that read: Wm. D. KERFOOT is at 59 Union Park Place All gone but WIFE,CHILDREN /AND/ ENERGY, the real estate entrepreneur became an instant celebrity. Kerfoot and his sign summed up the drive, energy and determination of many of his fellow citizens as Chicago grew out of the ashes of destruction to become the second largest city in the U.S., and one of the country's economic powerhouses.

  [William D. Kerfoot House, Gold Coast National Historic District, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Twenty-five years after that picture was taken, Kerfoot moved his wife and children into the Bedford limestone-fronted house on Astor Street. He died there in 1918, followed nine months later by his wife Susan. The house was eventually broken-up into apartments, but once again provides elegant housing for a single family. And as for that photo, it is one of the most reproduced images from the fire, and has kept William Kerfoot's indomitable spirit alive and well.
First Baptist Congregational Church, Chicago
 by: chicago designslinger

 [First Baptist Congregational Church, Chicago (1871) Gurdon P. Randall, architect /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Since it's dedication ceremony on November 11, 1871, just one month after the Chicago Fire burned away just to the east, the tall spires of the Union Park Congregational Church have towered over Union Park's triangular patch of urban green space.

  [First Baptist Congregational Church, Chicago, 1613 W. Washington Street, Chicago /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

When the Rees & Rucker Map of Chicago was drawn-up in 1849 the intersecting streets   that eventually made up the boundaries of the park indicated that streets with housing lots were going to be laid out in that triangle. By 1855, this "suburban" location just 2 miles west of the downtown business district, was being developed into an upscale residential neighborhood with the park at its center. In 1862 a group of Congregationalists decided to form their own congregation in their burgeoning community and built a frame house of worship at Washington Boulevard fronting Ashland Avenue. It burned down in 1869. The members immediately got to work on building a new church and hired architect Gurdon P. Randall to design a substantial, fire-resistant stone edifice for the site. He didn't disappoint. Built of Joliet limestone, a very popular building material in Chicago at the time, the new structure not only missed being engulfed by the flickering flames of the Great Fire a mile away, but stood the tests of time by serving the original congregation, a merger with another congregation, a transition from a Spanish speaking congregation to a majority African-American Baptist congregation.  

 [First Baptist Congregational Church, Chicago, National Register of Historic Places, Chicago  /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

On Thursday, February 3, 2011 a member of the First Baptist Congregational Church   arrived at the building to find a huge hole in the roof and large chunks of Joliet limestone laying in a ruined balcony section and staircase. From February 1-3, 20.2 inches of snow fell in the city blown around by sustained wind speeds of over 50 miles per hour, and Chicago had its Blizzard of 2011. The wind had blown over the south tower and tons of stone came crashing through the roof, not only creating a large opening but causing damage to a portion of the church's historic Kimball pipe organ. Since the building is a registered historic landmark, any repairs will have to conform to landmark standards. So will the tower that survived fire, rain, wind, snow, and a series of owners over its 140 years rise again? That will depend on how much money the church can raise to finance the repairs required in these hard economic times.
Citadel/Bank One Corporate Center
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Citadel Center/Bank One Corporate Center (2003) Ricardo Bofill/Arquitectura, design consultants; DeStefano & Partners, architects of record /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The glimmering glass sheathed building at the corners of State, Adams and Dearborn Streets in Chicago's Loop, sits on the half block site once occupied by a Chicago retail emporium known as The Fair Store. In a nod to the old structure, the box at the front of the tower approximates the size of the State Street portion of the original 10-story Fair Building.

  [Citadel/Bank One Corporate Center, 131 S. Dearborn Street, Chicago /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Unlike some of its more upscale neighbors, Marshall Field's or the Boston Store, The Fair catered to Chicago's working class. The company was eventually purchased by the catalog giant Montgomery Ward & Co., and the building became the home of Ward's flagship U.S. store. But by the 1980s, Ward's corporate parent Mobil Oil Corporation, decided that there was much more value in the land than in the store, so in 1986 famed Chicago architect William LeBaron Jenney's 1891 building was demolished.

  [Citadel/Bank One Corporate Center, Chicago Loop, Chicago /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The mid-80s were very much like today's real estate market - not good - so Mobil's plans for a big new high-rise never materialized, and the corner sat empty. Then starting in  2001, Ricardo Bofill's glass sheathed tower began to rise-up on the Dearborn Street side of the property and the shorter box rose on State Street. To save time and money Bofill and the architectural firm of record, DeStefano & Partners, used the building foundation of The Fair, which was buried and  left behind when the store was torn down above street level. So there's more of Jenney's original building still surviving than meets the eye. The main lobby entry of the new structure is actually on Dearborn Street, wrapped in sheets of clear glass reflecting the stunning design of Holabird & Roche's Marquette Building across the street, and giving the passerby a good view of a reproduction of the Winged Victory of Samothrace. Unlike the original 2200-year-old marble sculpture in the Louvre, this version is covered in gold.
J. Ira & Nicki Harris Family Hostel
 by: chicago designslinger

 [J. Ira & Nicki Harris Family Hostel (1886) Treat & Foltz, architects /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Way before this building provided travelers with hostel accommodations, undergrads with student housing, or the el blocking the view on Wabash Avenue, the former George F. Kimball (no relation to the piano king) Building warehoused sheets of plate glass, carpets, furniture, and printing presses.

  [J. Ira & Nikki Harris Family Hostel, George F. Kimball Building, 434 S. Wabash, Chicago /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Built in 1886 and designed by architects Treat & Foltz, the 7-story structure was your typical timber post-and-beam, open-floor-plan warehouse on the inside, with some decorative flourishes on the exterior that gave the building a little more visual interest. Kimball was a plate glass entrepreneur. He got involved in a new and emerging technology which allowed glass to be rolled in large structurally sound sheets that filled in the large open spaces of a brand new framing system made out of a steel frame. Chicago was a great place for Kimball to have opened his business since the more innovative architects of the period were all working in the city and designing buildings that needed these large pieces of glass to fill-in ever expanding openings.

  [J. Ira & Nikki Harris Family Hostel, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

George was no slouch when it came to understanding a product and its potential. He   hedged the plate glass market in 1884, made a fortune, then linked up with sheet glass manufacturers and gobbled up the distribution rights in territory after territory. He sat on the Board of Directors of the Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company and was instrumental in making sure that PPG provided 90% of the plate glass purchased in the United States. He sold his Kimball glass company to the Pittsburgh monopoly in 1896, retired, and died of a heart attack 10 years later. His son carried on as PPG's Midwest rep, but eventually sold his father's warehouse building which went on to house a variety of furniture and carpet wholesalers and retailers. The building even housed the printing presses of Encyclopedia Britannica for a time, and in 1947 Scripture Press, the largest independent producer of Sunday school materials, took over 55,000 sq.ft. of floor space.
After being converted into offices in 1985, the building underwent another change of venue in 2000 when the city and state put up money to provide housing for students attending nearby Columbia College and space for Hostelling International Chicago. Ira & Nicki Harris, Chicago philanthropists, gave over $1 million dollars to the project, which is how their name got on the building.
USG Building/Franklin Center, Chicago
 by: chicago designslinger
 [USG Building/Franklin Center, Chicago (1992) Adrian Smith, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, architects /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
Have you ever heard the phrase "post modernism" or "po mo?" The architectural    movement that cropped-up in the late 70s and was going like gangbusters by the early 90s? The turn-your-back on the Miesian box fad? Well, the tower designed by architect Adrian Smith of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) fits nicely into the "po mo" category.
  [USG Building/Franklin Center, Chicago, 125 W. Franklin Street, Chicago /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
Built in 1992, the USG Building was the smaller twin of AT&T Center, which had been constructed three years earlier. Smith was the lead design partner in the Chicago offices of SOM, often referred to as the IBM of the profession, who was leading the stodgy company into the 21st century. Gone were the skyscrapers that made SOM famous, like Chicago's Sears Tower and John Hancock Center, replaced by buildings whose decorative elements harkened back to another era. Post-modernism hit the mark with the general public who found the modernism of the mid-century "building box" boring and ugly. Soon "po mo" itself would become a derisive joke for many within the harsh critical world of architecture and design, but the USG building was heralded as an elegant reflection of a more humane and elegant period in architecture with its Art Deco inspired detailing.
  [USG Building/Franklin Center, Chicago /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
Adrian Smith became the star of SOM, which had principal offices in Chicago, New York and San Francisco. In 2006, Smith left the firm under not so great circumstances. He was 62 years old and the company had a long standing mandatory retirement age policy that when you turned 65 you were shown the door. But there had been bad blood brewing within the company, and younger partners were waiting with bated breath to see the old man retire. The partners, apparently lead by the New York office, voted to give Smith the title of consultant, considered a demotion and slap in the face. When his protege, and longtime SOM employee Gordon Gill was denied a partnership, Smith had enough and left SOM after 39 years with the company. He and Gill started their own firm, and all eyes were on the now competing firms. Whenever Smith & Gill beat out their former design home for a large splashy job, the press was all a twitter with the news of David trumping Goliath.
USG, the world's supplier of wallboard, moved their headquarters from the building in 2007 and the name was changed to Franklin Center. Adrian Smith and Gordon Gill have gone on to design some of the more recognized buildings constructed in the past 5 years, and SOM is as busy as ever, still sitting at the top of the corporate, architectural heap.
The Houghton Apartment Flats, Chicago
 by: chicago designslinger

 [The Houghton Apartment Flats, Chicago (1888) Cyrus P. Thomas, architect /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

In June, 1888 notice was given that architect C.P. Thomas had a work in progress on Dearborn avenue for A.I. Marble at a cost of $45,000. The Houghton Apartment Flats would offer modern, high-class, 9-room apartments with large sunny rooms, steam heat, hot water, gas range, and hardwood floors throughout.

  [The Houghton Apartment Flats, Chicago, 1510-12 N. Dearborn Parkway, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The Houghton was known as a "French flat" building. The word apartment was first used to describe a group of rooms inside a grand house or palace in England and France back in the 1700s. In mid-19th century London, when large blocks of middle class housing were being built to provide tenants with a private living space comprised of a group of rooms on one floor of a multi-unit building, they were called flats. By the 1870s however a new term entered popular vocabulary in the United States when architects and their clients began constructing apartment buildings known as "French flats." Thomas even spent the summer of 1875 in Paris to get a firsthand look at the "French" design. As the Chicago Tribune reported on April 7, 1872: "The 'French Flat' system has been tried, and become very popular in New York and Boston and many people will be glad to know that there is some progress of its being introduced into this city. There are plenty of the best families in Chicago who would be very glad of an opportunity to consult their own comfort and set a good example to their fellow citizens by living in apartment houses."

  [The Houghton Apartment Flats, Chicago, Gold Coast National Historic District, Chicago /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

"French flat" had a nice ring to it and would market well as real estate developers were trying to convince upper and middle class residents that apartment living could be considered a refined living. In the middle of the 19th century many people of means associated multi-family living with the poor, piled up on one another in deplorable multi-storied tenement buildings. So providing large, roomy accommodations in a building with with a Parisian flair might help convince a reluctant clientele to take a leap of faith and move into a multi-family dwelling without the social stigma associated with those on the lower rung of the economic ladder.
As the city packed its streetscape with thousands of apartment buildings between 1880 and 1920, the word French was dropped and a combo of words "two-flat," "three-flat," even "six-flat" became ubiquitous Chicagoese. Almost every apartment building in the city became known by the number of "flats" it contained. Rental apartments were listed as - Flats to Rent - and were still being advertised that way into the 1930s when listings began to be categorized by area and then by how many bedrooms were available. But there is still a generation of Chicagoans who will say, "Oh you mean the two-flat down the street," generating a look of confusion on the face of the uninitiated.
John P. Wilson & Joseph C. Bullock Houses
 by: chicago designslinger

 [John P. Wilson & Joseph C. Bullock Houses (1877) Edbrooke & Burnham, architects /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Although this may appear to be one cohesive structure, it's actually two separate houses designed by two different architects for two different owners. What they do share in common, besides a wall, is that they were both built in 1877. The house on the left side of the photo belonged to a prominent Chicago attorney, one Mr. John P. Wilson, and the house on the right was owned and built by Joseph C. Bullock, of Bullock Bros. boots and shoes.

  [John P. Wilson House &  Joseph C. Bullock Houses, 1450 & 1454 N. Dearborn Parkway, Chicago /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

When Wilson and Bullock decided to build on Dearborn avenue in 1877, the area was at the northern reaches of the built-up portion of the city. Until recently the Catholic cemetery had been across the street, where the Cardinal had the dearly departed disinterred and moved to a new graveyard even further north. His Eminence graded and divided the property and began selling house lots in place of grave plots. Wilson in the meantime, was on his way to becoming the lawyer-to-go-to in all matters related to real estate and would go on to draft the plan for a gigantic multi-decade strategy to clean up the lake and provide area residents with clean drinking water. The Metropolitan Sanitary District is still fulfilling the proposal originally laid-out by Wilson.

  [John P. Wilson & Joseph C. Bullock Houses, Gold Coast  National Historic District, Chicago /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The Mansard roof, which looks like one continuous band, plays a harmonizing visual trick giving the two separate structures all the appearances of a combined single unit. But a closer examination reveals that the Wilson house is a little larger, and its Second Empire detailing isn't quite as refined as the Bullock house next door. Unfortunately the Wilson's original front porch has been removed, while the Bullock's place looks just like it did 133 years ago. The reason for that may lie in the fact that the house was occupied by the same member of the Bullock family for over eight decades. When Bertha Bullock was 2 years old, her parents moved into this townhouse at the corner of Dearborn and Burton Place. Eighty-three years later, when Bertha Bullock Folsom died, she still resided at 1454 N. Dearborn Parkway.
Scottish Rite Cathedral, Chicago
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Scottish Rite Cathedral, Chicago (1869) Theodore V. Wadskier, architect (1873) Burling & Adler, architects /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

In 1869 the members of Chicago's north side Unitarian congregation moved into a new church building on Dearborn avenue, across the street from today's Washington Square Park. Architect Theodore Wadskier's choice of style and materials were not an uncommon site in Chicago at the time, rough-hewn Lemont limestone enhanced by Gothic Revival details. Two years after being consecrated, the church was caught up in the city's big fire which destroyed most of the church structure. After the inferno had cooled, the congregation raised funds to rebuild using the remaining remnants of the destroyed structure and incorporating them into a new edifice designed by architects Burling & Adler that looked very much like Wadskier's church.

  [Scottish Rite Cathedral, Chicago, 929 N. Dearborn Street, Chicago /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Unity Church was one of the more renowned Unitarian assemblies in the country. Led by the dynamic Robert Collyer, the Chicago church was a the forefront of articulating the Unitarian interpretation of the Bible which kind of stood outside the traditional Christian belief system, and were therefore very controversial in conservative Christian circles. So much so that Dr. Collyer once asked in a Sunday sermon, "Do Unitarians believe in the Bible?" His response was that, "Every word of God is pure to us. But we reserve the right to determine for ourselves, sincerely and honestly, what is the word of God. The Liberal Christian contends that the doctrine of the Bible's infallibility is as great an evil to the Protestant church as that of Papal infallibility in the church of Rome." With words like these, you can probably see why Unitarians were viewed as radicals by the followers of mainstream Christian orthodoxy. (Frank Lloyd Wright was a Unitarian - that should tell you something) By 1903 most of Unity's congregation had moved to other parts of the city and the trustees sold the property to the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine - or Shriners for short.

  [Scottish Rite Cathedral, Chicago, Unity Church, Washington Square Historic District, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The group, a branch of the Masons, another group not without controversy in certain Christian circles, purchased the church to use as a gathering place for special events. When they decided to build a new temple in 1905, their next door neighbors the Oriental Consistory of the Scottish Rite, took over the structure, removed the pews, and used the space to award Masonic degrees to their members, as well as hold meetings and other Masonically related ritual events in their new Scottish Rite Cathedral. Eventually the original Gothic arched window at the front of the building was sealed up, and the organization assembled behind the thick, ashlar stone walls until 2003 when the cathedral and adjoining properties were sold to a developer.
A large, high-rise condo building has been built in the Mason's former parking lot, and the battered 19th century mansions next door which the organization had used as office space, are being converted back into single family homes. As for the church/cathedral/assembly hall building, the original front window has been restored and the structure has been purchased by suburban-based Harvest Bible Chapel, an evangelical Christian congregation who are looking to establish a beach head in the city.
Luther McConnell House
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Luther McConnell House (1877) Asa Lyon, architect /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

When architect Asa Lyon added this decorative flourish to the facade of Luther McConnell's house in 1877, McConnell was moving into a newly developing residential community on Chicago's north side.

  [Luther McConnell House, 1401 N. Dearborn Parkway, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The lot McConnell purchased at the corner of Dearborn avenue and Schiller street had recently been the southwestern edge of the Catholic Cemetery. In the 1860s as the city grew out beyond its original small town boundaries, the cemetery, which had once been far from the city center, was decommissioned and divided-up into housing lots which the Cardinal sold to a monied clientele. McConnell was one of those select few. He'd made a small fortune working for Marshall Field, of retail fame, as the chief cashier of the Field empire. The family lived there happily. So happily in fact that when the McConnell's daughter got married in 1895, she and her husband moved into the back part of the house, which included its own entrance on Schiller.

  [Luther McConnell House, Gold Coast National Historic District, Chicago /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

McConnell died in 1907 after 35 years with Marshall Field & Co., and the house was purchased by John T. Manierre, a descendant of a pioneer Chicago clan. Subdivided and apartmentized, the house underwent an extensive restoration by recent owner and lover of old buildings, Richard Driehaus. You can catch a glimpse of the house in the background of a scene in the movie Ferris Bueller's Day Off. When Ferris and his cohorts stumble upon Mr. Bueller coming out of the restaurant, that's the Schiller Street entrance of the old McConnell mansion behind them, in all its grey-painted glory.
McConnell Apartments, Chicago
 by: chicago designslinger

 [McConnell Apartments, Chicago (1897) Holabird & Roche, architects /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

What did the neighbors think when they saw a large steel framework rising up out of the ground on the corner of Division and Astor Street in their new, mansion-filled Gold Coast neighborhood in 1897? It couldn't possibly be one of those office buildings that were popping up all over downtown Chicago, not in their neck of the woods. And once the brick skin started defining the rounded and angled bays it looked even more like the type of building architects Holabird & Roche were also building in the heart of Chicago's commercial district. But the designers and their client were not laying out office floor plans for the interior but large, multi-roomed apartment floor plans for the exact same clientele that packed the streets of the Gold Coast with large, single family mansions.

  [McConnell Apartments, Chicago, 1210 N. Astor Street, Chicago /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

John McConnell was a property man. He bought and sold empty lots, bought empty lots and put up buildings, then sold the buildings, or held on to them for long term investment. Holabird & Roche, at the time, were at the forefront of a new building system using a skeletal steel framing system to hold the building up, which in turn could be covered in any type of skin the architect and client desired. The local residents weren't wrong in their assumptions that the building looked an awful lot like the architect's downtown structures with its projecting bays and elaborate cornice, and from the outside, there were similarities. But on the inside it was large, luxurious living for a discerning clientele.

  [McConnell Apartments, Chicago, Renaissance Condominium, Gold Coast National Historic District, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Even if it wasn't an office building, no one was sure they wanted an apartment building in their midst. After all, who would live in an apartment? Certainly not a Social Register registree, it was too déclassé. But John McConnell could see that the future, even for the upper strata of society, was about to change. Not only did he have all the apartments rented out before the building was completed, a number of the tenants were Socially Registered. In 20 years, more, much taller apartment towers filled the area, towering over the old mansions. A large, multi-roomed apartment in a socially select building, was much easier to maintain than a huge house and the staff that went with it.
John McConnell's apartments were eventually subdivided and converted into smaller units, hence the unattractive fire escape hanging from the front facade, a zig-zag of iron that did not hang from the front of Holabird & Roche's original exterior.
Humboldt Park Boathouse Pavilion
 by: chicago designslinger
 [Humboldt Park Boathouse Pavilion (1907) Schmidt, Garden & Martin, architects (2002) restoration, Bauer Latoza Studio, architects /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
The Humboldt Park Boathouse harkens back to a time when people were content to spend a summer afternoon or evening taking a leisurely paddle in a small rented boat on a man-made lagoon. This was the era of our grandparents, great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents, well before air conditioning, tv, the internet, and smart phones consumed our time and dominated our interests - leisure or otherwise.
  [Humboldt Park Boat House Pavilion, 1359 N. Sacramento Boulevard, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
Designed in 1907 by architects Schmidt, Garden & Martin, the building replaced a structure constructed at the time the park was being developed in the late 1870s. Thirty years later, former gardener and now superintendent of the West Park System Jens Jensen, turned to the Prairie Style inspired team to design a building which would fit nicely into Jensen's redo of the park's Victorian landscape. It helped that the older building was falling apart and needed some sort of overhaul due to years of neglect. Park commissioners who had a large pool of money under their control, had been diverting funds for Humboldt's maintenance and upkeep into vast patronage payrolls made up of friends and family. Jensen, who was no stranger to political machinations, had actually been appointed to oversee the park once before, but when he tried to buck the ward bosses they let him know just who was boss and fired him. He returned a few years later under reform minded politicians intent on cleaning-up the park's oversight.
  [Humboldt Park Boathouse Pavilion, City of Chicago Landmark /Image & Artwork: designslinger]
The boathouse, sometimes known as the pavilion, or refectory (a word that comes to us from medieval times and referred to the dining hall of a monastery) provided food from a concessionaire, respite from the sun under the large hip roof, and served as a staging area for the music court - which is now serves as a parking lot. The park went through some tough times in the 1970s, 80s and 90s, becoming a haven for gang bangers and drug dealers, and the boathouse was shut-up and sat empty and forlorn for a couple of decades. But in 2002, with a renewed commitment from the Chicago Park District, Bauer Latoza Studio was brought in to oversee the renovation and restoration of the building, returning the structure back to its original condition.