Sunday, February 22, 2015

Elm Tower, Chicago
  by: chicago designslinger

[Elm Tower, Chicago (2002) A Epstein & Sons International, Inc., architects /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Although the architects at A. Epstein & Sons seem to have looked to the historic Art Deco and Art Moderne periods (with a splash of Gothic something or other thrown-in) for some sort of inspiration in the design of the exterior of the tower at the corner of Elm and Dearborn Streets, the structures that were torn down to make way for the 20-story condo building had a much larger impact on the area's modern history.

  [Elm Tower, Chicago, 1155 N. Dearborn Street, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The story begins with that big fire in 1871 that destroyed much of the city, including this near north side neighborhood. By 1874, large single family homes and 4-story rowhouses started filling-in city lots left empty and forlorn in the fire's wake. The site where the Elm Tower now stands once contained a group of these immediate post-fire, Italianate-style row house residences, which were located in the middle of the short block on North Dearborn Street. In 1886, a map of the area shows that the corner lot at Elm Street was still vacant, though by 1906 a three-sectioned row house was standing on the corner, with their front doors facing Elm. 

  [Elm Tower, Chicago, Near North Side, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

This was the group of buildings still standing when development plans were announced for Elm Tower in late 1999. The following April, the Chicago Tribune reported that a local neighborhood group was fighting the demolition of the row houses in an effort to save some of Chicago's earliest post-fire residential construction which was slowly disappearing from the city's streets. The Washington Square Association hoped to save the houses, especially when they discovered that the corner, three-family brownstone had once been the mansion of real estate developer Albert L. Coe, designed and built by architects Treat & Foltz in 1888. The Tribune article stated that Coe had planned the rebuilding of Chicago in the house, although by 1888 the 56-year-old Coe and his business partner A.B. Mead had already spent a good deal of time and money rebuilding swatches of Chicago's post-fire real estate. But he must not have stayed in the house for very long. By 1891, the exclusive Chicago Blue Book listed Mr. Coe's address at the Ontario Flats, one of the city's first, elite apartment blocks, and at the time of his death in 1901, he was residing on posh Bellevue Avenue just off Lake Shore Shore.
Although the Association couldn't save these buildings, it did spur the city to expand the existing Washington Square Historic District in 2002 to include a group of buildings along Dearborn that had survived the extensive redevelopment and destruction of Chicago's past.

McCormick Building
 by: chicago designslinger

 [McCormick Building (1910/1912) Holabird & Roche, architects /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

McCormick. It's a name that's familiar to generations of Chicagoans, and because of the vast halls of McCormick Place, to millions of visiting conventioneers. The McCormicks were rich, powerful and provided the city with a number of buildings that bore their name over the years, including the 20-story brick block at the corner of Van Buren Street and Michigan Avenue. Built in two phases, the building housed the offices of one branch of a McCormick family fortune, a trust set up by Leander McCormick in the 1890s, which grew in size and provided his heirs with a steady and generous stream of income for decades.

  [McCormick Building, 330-332 S. Michigan Avenue, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The McCormick name had been attached to a number of other buildings around town before Leander's son Robert Hall McCormick decided to build another familial titled structure. He hired the prominent Chicago architectural firm of Holabird & Roche, who had designed a cluster of buildings for the McCormicks on Michigan Avenue near Monroe Street in 1890. Today those three, historically significant structures, known as the Gage Group, were originally called the McCormick Buildings. A little further south down Michigan at Van Buren, stood the 1880s-era Victoria Hotel which had started life as the Beaurivage Bachelor Apartments, one of the city's earliest and chicest apartment hotels for sophisticated gentlemen. R. Hall bought the old hotel and tore it down in 1909 to make way for his latest real estate investment. The design was atypical for an architectural firm that had helped create the now famous Chicago School, with its broad wide window openings filling the open spaces of the underlying structural steel frame, but it worked perfectly for McCormick. So much so that the architects were called back in 1911 to design an addition to the recently completed structure, when McCormick got hold of the property just to the north of his building and constructed a seamless extension that doubled the size of the original.

  [McCormick Building, Historic Michigan Boulevard District, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Robert Hall McCormick, Jr. took over the reigns of his father's and grandfather's real estate empire in 1917 and continued to oversee the trust from the family offices at the top of the building. Robert, Jr. liked the building so much that he lived in a penthouse suite on the 20th floor where he introduced his third wife to Chicago society in 1945. Before his death in 1963, McCormick, Jr. invested in an apartment building venture that involved developer Herb Greenwald and architect Mies van der Rohe. McCormick was so enamored with Mies' open floor plans and glass to ceiling windows that he moved from his Michigan Avenue penthouse and into an apartment with a stellar lake view at 860-880 Lake Shore Drive.
Today there are people living in the top 6 floors of the building Robert, Jr. once called home. And even though a family member hasn't had a financial interest in the building for decades, it's still called The McCormick.
Horatio N. May House
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Horatio N. May House (1891) Joseph L. Silsbee, architect /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Architect Joseph Lyman Silsbee was a busy man in 1890. Residential commissions were piling in, and he and his team were hard at work on a few projects for the big World's Columbian Exposition which was going to open in Chicago in a couple of years. The year before, his client Jenkin Lloyd Jone's nephew Frank Wright, whom Silsbee had brought to Chicago and into his office from the young man's Wisconsin home, had left the firm for the much larger offices of Adler & Sullivan. But that was several years before Frank Wright became the Frank Lloyd Wright we know today.

  [Horatio N. May House, 1443 N. Astor Street, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

One residential commission on Silsbee's drafting table at the time was the home of Horatio  and Anna May. May had made a lot of money in the wholesale grocery business as well as by investing his ever growing income in real estate. He purchased a large double lot on a sparsely populated but expanding Astor Street in the late 1880s and decided to build a house on one of them at No. 147 Astor. He hired J.L. Silsbee as his architect.

  [Horatio N.  May House, Gold Coast National Historic District, Chicago/Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

While overseeing work on the May house and the designs on a couple of buildings for the World's Fair, Silsbee was also busy working with engineer Max E. Schmidt on what would become one of the Fair's more popular and well traveled attractions, the Movable Sidewalk. Looping its way through the Fair grounds, the "Multiple Dispatch Railway of Endless Moving Platforms" was made-up of a stationary platform which you stepped from and on to a very slowly moving platform. Then it was just an easy step over to a faster moving platform where you could sit on a canopied covered bench until you were ready to disembark at your destination. Never traveling much faster than 3 miles per hour, the conveyance moved approximately 40,000 people an hour through the acres of Fair grounds. It was so popular that in November, 1893 a consortium of businessmen proposed building an elevated movable sidewalk in the downtown commercial district to accompany the new elevated loop railroad. The elevated railroad got built, but not the walkway.
Anna May was also quite the innovative thinker and planner. She lived north of the river in her secluded community and all of her shopping was done south of the river in the central retail district. The bridges crossing the river were ugly and crowded and Anna had an idea that there was a better way to traverse the dividing waterway by building a boulevard that would travel under the river bed. Chicago Mayor DeWitt Cregier had proposed building an expansive bridge at a wide point in the river connecting Michigan Avenue with the north side at a cost of $5,000,000. Anna believed the bridge idea was old school and proposed constructing a 50-foot-wide, 3,200-foot-long, slowly-receding, road and pedestrian boulevard tunnel just east of today's Rush Street, that would burrow under the river and rise again on Michigan Avenue at Randolph Street. She hired Silsbee to work with her on the plan which included Corinthian-capped columns supports, white glazed tile walls and electric lighting, all coming in at a much less costly $1,500,000. Thirty years later the Michigan Avenue Bridge connected the two sides, while Mrs. May's tunnel scheme never saw a shovel put to ground.
When her husband died suddenly in 1898, Anna May hired Silsbee to design the May Chapel in Rosehill Cemetery - the end point of an interesting architectural relationship.
105 W. Madison Building, Chicago
 by: chicago designslinger

[105 W. Madison Building (1928) D.H. Burnham & Co., architects /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The monumental architect Daniel Burnham died in 1912, but his namesake firm lived on in a couple of interpretive reiterations over the next few years. First as Graham, Burnham & Co. when lead designer Ernest Graham partnered with Burnham's two sons, Hubert and Daniel, Jr. Then when Graham went off on his own to carry on in the grand classical Burnham tradition, the Burnham boys set up an office of their own and went back to using D.H. Burnham & Co.

   [105 W. Madison Building, 105 W. Madison Street, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

In 1928 the brothers completed construction on a rather nondescript, terra cotta coated building located on the southwest corner of Madison and Clark Streets. The 23-story tower looked like any number of tall office buildings in downtown Chicago, but for the Burnham's it marked the end of an era, there wasn't a traditional acanthus leaf, fluted column, or scotia in sight. Their geometrically-inspired decoration for 105 W. Madison Street found inspiration in the distinctive contemporary designs of their era rather than the historicism of the ancient Greece and Rome - change was in the air.

  [105 W. Madison Building, Chicago, Chicago Real Estate Board Building /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

A few months after construction got underway, Hubert & Daniel Burnham changed the name of the company to Burnham Brothers, simpler, more accurate, and perhaps a sign that they had emerged from the classical shadow of their father and were ready to make their own mark in the world. In 1942 the Chicago Real Estate Board moved into the building from their West Randolph Street offices which garnered the naming rights of the building for the Board, a title that the tower held on to until 1970 when the real estate concern vacated the structure after a substantial rent increase. By then the brothers long association with architecture had come to an end. Hubert left Chicago in 1955 after retiring as a partner in the extended firm name of Burnham Bros. & Hammond and relocated to La Jolla, CA. where he died in 1969 at age eighty-seven. Younger brother Daniel, Jr. on the other hand remained active in the firm until his death in a car accident in 1961, age seventy-five.
451 W. Wrightwood, Chicago
 by: chicago designslinger

 [451 W. Wrightwood, Chicago (1928) Raymond A. Gregori, architect /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

During the mid-to-late 1920s Chicago experienced a boom in tall apartment building construction. Focused primarily along the lake front and nearby neighborhoods, the city's relatively low-rise residential skyline was punctuated by these rising 12, to 15, to 20-story towers. Some were built with large, expensive, 9-room-and-up floor plans, while others provided 1, 2 or 3-room apartments at a more affordable price. But even the developers of these less expensive, smaller-quartered-units spent money on elaborate exterior decoration, providing their buildings with a visual umph that belied their more modest accommodations.

  [451 W. Wrightwood, Chicago, Park Royale Apartments /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

When builder and developer Ben Bogeaus purchased the large corner lot in the Lakeview neighborhood in 1927 where the Williams family mansion once stood, he called on architect Raymond A. Gregori to design two, multi-story apartment buildings. The two structures would share a common courtyard and both would offer smaller sized residential units, but the builder wanted each building to have something distinctive that would catch the eye of a passerby, or make a good first impression on a potential renter. Many developers thought that the spending a few extra dollars on an additional flourish or two would pay-off when it came time to market their investment. So a lot of architects around the city were dressing-up the exteriors of these rather bland brick towers with some sort of interpretative re-imagining of a past architectural era, and the more styles you threw in, the better. Gregori went wild with the tower at the corner of Wrightwood and Hampden Court, concocting a decorative scheme that seems to have been inspired by ancient Babylon, the Middle East, with a smattering of Italian Romanesque thrown in for good measure.

  [451 W. Wrightwood, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The 14-story Park Royale Apartments would provide apartments of 1 to 4 rooms, starting at $40/month and peaking at $140/month. The Park Royale, unlike its sister building the Park Central next door, would provide hotel-like accommodations with furnished apartments, a concierge, and 24-hour switchboard and elevator service. Bogeaus' $2.5 million investment also included an elaborate, 65 X 100-foot long lobby with Florentine-style trimmings, along with a Wizard of Oz themed playroom in the tower penthouse for the youngsters. The building held on to its Park Royale name while going through several changes in ownership and management over the ensuing decades, but by 1983 the name had been changed to the less regal sounding Wrightwood Court. Today, while Gregori's Royale has held on to all of its extravagant decoration, it is now known simply as 451 W. Wrightwood.
Anshe Emet Synagogue, Chicago
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Anshe Emet Synagogue, Chicago (1910) Alfred S. Alschuler, architect /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

1926 was a big year for Congregation Anshe Emes. Organized by a small group of men in the parlor of Louis Sax's near north side Chicago home in 1873, 53 years later the 1,000+ members of Anshe Emes were able to raise $325,000 in cash and purchase a 1,300-seat house of worship on North Pine Grove Avenue.

  [Anshe Emet Synagogue, Chicago, Anshe Emes Synagogue, 627 W. Patterson Avenue, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

This was not the Conservative Jewish congregation's first move. That occurred in 1876 when the original members were able to raise enough funds to rent Phoenix Hall on Division Street for weekly services. By 1893, things were going well enough that the group was able to build their own synagogue around the corner on Sedgwick Street, but one more move had to happen before settling into their Pine Grove sanctuary. By 1914 the folks who worshipped at Anshe Emes were moving up and away from the old neighborhood and relocating further north. So that same year, the congregation purchased an empty lot on Gary Place (now Patterson) near Addison just off today's Broadway. The new building was not much larger than the Sedgwick property, but it did include a social hall and enough space for classrooms.

  [Anshe Emet Synagogue, Chicago, 3760 N. Pine Grove Avenue, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Anshe Emes was not the first Jewish congregation to locate in the neighborhood. In 1910 architect Alfred Alschuler designed a large sanctuary and meeting hall building for the Reform congregation Temple Sholom, which was just around the corner and up the block from Anshe Emes. When Temple Sholom decided to move a few blocks over to Lake Shore Drive and build a new house of worship in the mid-1920s, the members of Anshe Emes decided to buy the soon-to-be-vacated building and move around the corner. It was in 1929, when Rabbi Solomon Goldman was formally installed as the spiritual leader of the synagogue that the "s" in emes was replaced by a "t", and Anshe Emes became Anshe Emet. In Hebrew, the word for truth is emet (אֱמֶת).
Cobbler Square- Western Wheel Works Building
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Cobbler Square - Western Wheel Works Building (1889-1895) Henry Sierks, Julius H. Huber, architects; (1985) adaptive reuse, Kenneth A. Schroeder & Associates /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

With the magnifier icon at hand and zoom function in operation, a close look at Robinson's 1886 Map of Chicago shows a double-store-fronted building on Wells Street just south of Schiller bearing the inscription Western Toy Company. It's the spot where Adolph Schoeninger reopened for business after the Chicago Fire had wiped his successful toy operation from the map in 1871, and left German immigrant bankrupt. By 1889 on the other hand, Schoeninger's toy company had morphed into the Western Wheel Works, one of the country's largest bicycle manufacturers, and construction began on a multi-story manufacturing plant directly behind the 2-story toy store.

  [Cobbler Square - Western Wheel Works Building, 1350 N. Wells Street, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The success of Western Wheel Works had quite an impact on the block bounded by Wells, Schiller, Evergreen (then Sibel) Streets and North Park Avenue. Eventually, piece by piece, Schoeninger took over existing residential properties, tore the houses down, and built another portion of his factory complex. By the time the maze of structures was completed around 1893, all of the buildings seen on the Robinson Map were gone except for a line of them along Wells Street, which included the original toy company store. Comprised of 16 individual structures, the buildings wound their way around a city alleyway that zig-zagged through the property which had once serviced the former residential community, and had somehow survived intact.

[Cobbler Square - Western Wheel Works Building /Image & Artwork: chicago desingslinger]

In 1900, Western Wheel Works, a company that was selling 70,000 bikes a year in 1896, went out-of-business as bike sales began to take an over-the-cliff nose dive in the U.S. The Liquid Carbonic Company, makers of soda fountains and related supplies took over all 16 buildings where they made everything from marble counter tops to mahogany wood cases and bars, to the syrups that flavored soda-infused drinks. By the mid-1930s the complex was serving a variety of manufacturers, including the makers of Dr. William Scholl's line of foot care products. And in 1954, Scholl celebrated the 50th anniversary of the founding of his company by building a final addition to the complex along Wells Street, where the original Western Toy Company building had finally been demolished.
The Scholl company left their Chicago plant in 1980 and moved to Tennessee. Soon after plans were in the works to convert the maze of structures into one, cohesive housing community, and Cobbler Square was born. A few of the inner buildings were demolished to open-up the interior while expanding the original city alleyway, and Scholl's Wells Street addition was altered to create a grand entrance to the 292 apartment complex and to once again provide retail space along Wells. And although Schoeninger's toy shop is long gone, the store once sat just behind the tree on the right side of the photo, where a national retail chain is now located.
Cuneo Family House
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Cuneo Family House (ca. 1889) /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

One of the more remarkable finds along a street with many remarkable architectural features, is an amazing example of how metal can be molded into shapes that seem to defy the alloys rigid nature. Coils, and vines of delicately wrought leaves have wrapped this greystone mansion on State Parkway for all of its 122 years. That the house was able to hold on to these decorative accoutrements, especially during the Second World War when the city was virtually stripped of anything iron (like railings and fencing) to support the war effort, may be a testament to the fact that the house remained in the hands of one family for over 70 years.

  [Cuneo Family House, 1364 N. State Parkway, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

John B. Cuneo left Genoa, Italy in 1857 with his wife Katherine and two young sons, and came to Chicago. He opened a grocery store where Lawrence, Andrew, and Frank (born in Chicago in 1862) got their first taste of the retail trade, and where they must have realized that real money was to be made in wholesaling and not retailing. Because in 1879 Andrew joined Garibaldi & Arata, wholesale fruit traders, becoming a partner in 1882. In 1880, Frank joined Garibaldi & Cuneo, while brother Lawrence formed Cuneo & Boitano with Louis Boitano. Andrew left Garibaldi and Frank, and joined forces with Lawrence. Boitano left the brothers in 1893, and the firm went on to sell massive amounts of fruits and nuts under the name Cuneo Bros. While all of this moving around and trading up was going on, John's three sons built large single-family homes within blocks of one another on the city's near north side. Lawrence on La Salle Boulevard, Andrew on Astor Street, and Frank on State.

  [Cuneo Family House, Gold Coast National Historic District, Chicago/Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Garibaldi & Cuneo grew into one of the largest fruit and nut wholesalers in the country.   The company cornered the banana market in the U.S., and Frank caught a lot a flack for trying to fix prices. He left State Parkway (then State Street) in 1906 when he moved farther north, literally, to a house on Sheridan Road. Frank had purchased a piece property at the corner of Wilson Avenue and Sheridan which inluded a large single family home. Thinking that Wilson could be come a major commercial district and profitable real estate investment, he had the entire multi-ton, three-story brick house moved two blocks north as he began transforming Wilson from a sleepy, quiet, primarily residential avenue into a thriving, commercial hot-spot. Andrew meanwhile left his house on Astor and moved into Frank's 18-room greystone mansion, where the elder Cuneo brother died in 1927. The Cuneo family continued to call the State Street house home when Andrew's daughter and her husband Dom Rocca took over as owners. And in 1947, Rosemary Cuneo Rocca was married in her family's homestead wearing great-grandmother Katherine's wedding lace. In 1960 the last member of the Cuneo family left the great house, and after a few subsequent owners and a restoration or two, it remains a single family residence to the present day.
Immaculata High School, Chicago
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Immaculata High School, Chicago (1922/1955/1956) Barry Byrne, architect /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

In 1902, 18-year-old Barry Byrne walked into the Oak Park offices of Frank Lloyd Wright   and found himself a job. Byrne wanted to be an architect, and after seeing an exhibit of Wright's work in Chicago, the young man traveled out to Wright's studio, and with no training behind him, was taken-in under the Prairie architect's masterful wing. Barry stayed with Wright until 1908 when Wright's affair with his client's wife wreaked havoc in the Oak Park office, and the future didn't look too promising at the Wright studio. After working in partnership with architect Andrew Willatzen for 4 years, and a stint with Prairie-stylist Walter Burley Griffin, Barry Byrne struck out on his own in 1915. Then in 1922, Byrne, now exploring themes beyond the confines of his Prairie-era, was commissioned to design a girl's high school for the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary on the city's north side, one of several ecclesiastically-based jobs to come his way in the mid-to-late 1920s.

 [Immaculata High School, Chicago, 640 W. Irving Park Road, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The Sisters of the BVM had purchased a large piece of property at the corner of Irving Park and Sheridan Roads in 1921 and were ready to build. The parcel was home to one of the largest single family mansions in the city, Ralph Stebbins Greenlee's three-story, 15-room, 12,000 square foot house packed to the rafters with hardwoods imported from South America. The new school building would sit on what had once been the Greenlee's large front yard, and once the building was completed, the nuns would use the house as a convent for sisters teaching at Immaculata High. In just a few years, 1,000 young women were walking through the doors on Irving Park Road every weekday morning from September through May. And in 1955, a semi-retired Barry Byrne was asked back to the Immaculata campus to design a new convent building along with a school addition that would replace the old Greenlee mansion.

   [Immaculata High School, Chicago, American Islamic College Building, National Register of Historic Places, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

But the good times didn't last. By 1981 enrollment dropped to less than half of what it had been, and the religious order running the school was running-out of nuns. There were only 366 BVM-affiliated sisters under 50 in the entire country, and of the 23 sisters still left at Immaculata, only 5 were under 50. Not that the age of 50 is that awful, but the nuns could see the handwriting on the wall, and despite every attempt to keep the high school open the doors closed on the last day of class in May, 1981.
Then in 1983 the American Islamic College, which had been established in the same year that Immaculata ceased operations, bought the empty school buildings and now vacant convent. The College had more space than they needed and went on a leasing spree, renting sections of the building to the Lycée Français de Chicago as well as Park View Montessori of Chicago, who now all call Barry Byrne's ecclesiastically-inspired, educationally-inclined building, home.
Joseph T. Ryerson House
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Joseph T. Ryerson House (1921) David Adler, architect /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

There was a time in Chicago when the name Ryerson meant steel in the same way that the name Field meant retail, and Armour meant meat. Joseph T. Ryerson came to Chicago in 1842 and soon thereafter founded the Joseph T. Ryerson & Son steel processing and wholesale company. However, he is not the Joseph T. Ryerson who built this mansion in 1921 on Chicago's Gold Coast. That honor belongs to grandson Joseph T. Ryerson II (sometimes known as Jr.), who at the time of the house's construction was the president of his grandfather's company.

  [Joseph T. Ryerson House, 1406 N. Astor Street, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Believe it or not, there was already a large single family home standing on this Astor Street plot of land, the Edward J. Martyn residence designed in 1890 by architects Jenney & Mundie. But Joe and Annie Ryerson must not have found William LeBaron Jenney's style conducive to their tastes, so the 30-year-old house was torn down to make way for architect David Adler's homage to late 18th-century Paris. Adler was a master classicist. Trained at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, the designer had a pitch-perfect sense of symmetry and scale no matter which classically-inspired era he chose to design in. In 1947 the Ryersons hosted a party in their 16,000-square-foot, 22-room, Directoire-inspired mansion to raise money for the American Aid to France Fund. In attendance, along with 100 Francophile-friendly Chicagoans, was none other than Maurice Chevalier to lend a helping hand. The Chicago Tribune took their readers through the house as guests "checked their wraps on the ground floor before going up a gently curving staircase to the drawing room, library and dining room" which "is particularly suited to entertaining."

  [Joseph T. Ryerson House, Gold Coast National Historic District, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

In 1931 Ryerson called on the architect once again to add an additional story to the house because he needed more space for his gigantic collection of Chicago-related memorabilia. The collection was passed-on to the Chicago Historical Society after Ryerson death in 1947, and in 1949 the house itself was passed-on to new owners. Sixteen years later 1406 Astor Street was back in the headlines, only this time the story wasn't about parties, it was about the controversial proposal to convert the 22-room single family home into an 11-unit, multi-family dwelling. Then in 1985 architect and interior designer John Regas purchased the apartment building for a reported $1.8 million, and began an extensive 15 year restoration of the house, converting it back into a single family home that David Adler and the Ryersons, would be proud of. Regas sold the home in 2006 for $9.2 million, and the new owners added another story along with a brush-covering row of tall, thick, tree/hedges that almost obliterate the house from view during leafy months.
West Burton Place - Carl Street, Chicago
 by: chicago designslinger

 West Burton Place - Carl Street, Chicago / Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger

In urban history a story is often told about artists moving into older, neglected areas large cities because the rent is cheap, and artists are generally poor. In the late 1920s, an enterprising Chicago-based artist got a few friends interested in moving into a neighborhood originally settled by the city's German speaking community in the 1870s. But the area was changing, becoming more transient, on the decline, and therefore cheap to live in.

  155 W. Burton Place / Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger

When artist/contractor/entrepreneur Sol Kogen took up residence at 155 W. Burton Place in the 1920s, the street was known as Carl Street. The building was nothing remarkable, just one of a number of 1880s-era Victorians that lined the block. But Sol was an enterprising individual, and he convinced his friend, and fellow Art Institute student Edgar Miller, to help him convert the "old" Victorian into an contemporary, modern structure. It was the beginning of the art community settling into Chicago's Old Town neighborhood.

155 W. Burton Place / Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger

Over the next decade, the Burton Place was transformed. The Victorian bric-a-brac was removed, the Mansard roofs were demolished, projecting bays were stripped of ornament and bricked over, and window openings were reworked as the artist/owner saw fit. #151 was built in 1887 and remodeled in the 1930s, which is apparent when you consider the windows. Supposedly, they were scavenged from the 1933 Chicago World's Fair when the giant exhibition closed and demolition of the Fair began.

  156 W. Burton Place; 161 Burton Place / Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger

In this panel of pictures you can see what an original building looked like and how one was reworked. The photo on the left shows a Victorian era facade alongside a remodeled facade, created when Kogen and several artists converted a group of buildings on this side of the street. In the picture on the right, the redone #161 overwhelms its Victorian neighbor at #159.

    147 W. Burton Place; 152 W. Burton Place / Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger

The photo on the left shows #147 with its intact 1880s facade; take note of the projecting bay window. The photo on the right is #152. You can still see the outline of the original bay of #152, but it has been enclosed and given a sleeker, cleaner profile which was much more in keeping with the "modern" style of the 1930s when this building was redone.

161 W. Burton Place / Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger

Here at 161 Burton, you can't help but feel the pull of the contemporary design aesthetic of 1940, which obliterated the Carl Street building constructed in 1879, and turned the single famliy home into several apartment units.

    160 W. Burton Place / Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger

If you look closely at the flat facade of #160, you can see hints of the original window openings in the shadows created by the brickwork. This building contains a line of terra-cotta glazed tiles which Edgar Miller said were reproductions of his work done by Kogen, without Miller's approval or authorization.  

 160 W. Burton, detail of sculpture / Images &Artwork: chicago designslinger

Here are some close-up shots of the sculptural pieces.

  143 W. Burton Place/ Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger

When you are riding the southbound La Salle Street but you can't help but notice this building at the corner of Burton Place. The now retro-looking, modern design continues along the La Salle street side of the apartment house, and was built by artist Theophil Reuther. I should say he reworked the original building into the Theophil Studios apartments located at #143 Burton.

  Sidewalk on the east side of the street starting at #151 / Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger

These buildings are still lovingly maintained. I have no idea whether or not artists still occupy any of the apartments which were carved out of large Victorian homes years ago, but it's nice to see that the reworked, remodeled buildings have survived. Right down to the sidewalks.
Theophil Studios
 by: chicago designslinger

[Theophil Studios (1940) Frank J. Lapasso, architect /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Theophil Reuther was an artist. It seems impossible to find any of his artwork around anywhere these days, but if you wander over to the corner of La Salle & Burton Place in Chicago's Old Town neighborhood, you can find his name pressed in concrete.

   [Theophil Studios, 143 W. Burton Place, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

But before we begin to tell you the story about the Studio building, we should start by letting you know that 143 Burton Place was not originally at the corner. That spot once belonged to No. 141 Carl Street (which was the name of the tiny half-block long street until 1936). For over 40 years, a skinny 16-foot-wide dwelling stood at the southwest corner of La Salle and Carl, and in 1906 there was an apartment building standing right next door at No. 143. But by 1935, No. 141 had been wiped from the map and replaced by a sidewalk when La Salle Street was widened by several feet to relieve automobile congestion.

 [Theophil Studios, Old Town, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

A transformation of another sort had already been underway on the block. In 1927 former School of the Art Institute students Sol Kogen and Edgar Miller took an old 1870s Italianate/Second Empire-styled house at No. 151 Carl Street and turned it into a modern, beautifully handcrafted, multi-unit, studio building. Over the next few years Kogen convinced other artistic types to join him on his adventure, and one by one, building after building, with Kogen at the helm, the former Carl Street of mansard roofs and bracketed-cornices became the Burton Place we see today.
Reuther was a late comer to the block, and after his alterations, there would be no more Kogen/Miller-like conversions on the block. And although Kogen participated in Reuther's 1940 redo, the artist turned to architect Frank Lapassso to draw-up plans for the transformation, bearing in mind the standards set by Kogen and Miller years before. One contribution that Kogen apparently did make was in providing a couple of glazed terra-cotta plaques which were embedded into the Theophil Studios' stucco facade. Decades later when Edgar Miller revisited the street, he said that while Kogen lined the block with Miller's art, he never asked for Edgar's permission, and never gave the artist credit.
Schiller Building - Garrick Theater
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Schiller Building - Garrick Theater (1892) Adler & Sullivan, architects; 64 W. Randolph Street, Chicago - Schiller Building - Garrick Theater, Balcony Arcade, Second City Chicago, 1616 N. Wells Street (1961) Seymour Goldstein, architect /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Sometimes the only way you can see a great building is through what's left of it, scattered hither and yon in bits and pieces salvaged during the structure's demolition. Unfortunately, that's the case with Dankmar Adler and Louis Sullivan's Schiller Building. Built in 1892, the multi-purpose, high-rise building was constructed for the German Opera Company and housed within its 17 stories was one of the city's most acoustically perfect, and beautifully appointed auditoriums. But by the late 1950s the building cost more to heat and maintain than the rental income it could provide.

  [Schiller Building/Garrick Theater, portrait bust, 827 N. Dearborn Street, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The German Opera company lasted only a few years and by 1898 the theater building was under new ownership with a new name, the Dearborn. When the Schubert Brothers took over the auditorium space in 1902, the theater, and the building, were renamed the Garrick. In the 1930s, the Chicago-based movie theater chain Balaban & Katz took over the management, and eventually they were the owners who could no longer afford to keep shelling-out money for a building considered a financial liability. Although it was apparent that the old place had seen better days, it was still a first-rate Adler & Sullivan building, and the impending demolition was a call to action for a preservation movement just beginning to emerge in one of the world's great architectural capitals.

  [Schiller Building/Garrick Theater, terra cotta portrait bust, 2421 N. Geneva Terrace, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Even Chicago's political powerhouse Mayor Richard J. Daley advocated for saving the structure, and lost. The courts ruled that the government had no power to compel an owner to save a building since it infringed on the rights of private ownership. The city tried to raise $5 million to purchase the property but couldn't, so in the Spring of 1961 the Garrick started coming down. The Art Institute of Chicago saved a few pieces, so did Beloit College, and Richard Nickel, who would eventually work to protect Chicago's architectural heritage and lose his life doing so, photographed as much of the building as possible for posterity. In addition to museums, colleges and universities, a number of individuals collected bits of terra-cotta from the facade. Architect Seymour Goldstein included a section of the second floor balcony arcade to create an elaborate entryway to the Second City improve troupe's new location on Wells Street. And a couple of enterprising brick layers even worked some of the busts of famous German artists from the building's tower into decorative brick walls.
And what of the location of Adler & Sullivan's gem of a structure? It became a 5-story parking garage designed by architect William Horwitz. In a tribute of sorts to the original, Horwitz created a decorative screen out of poured concrete panels inspired by a remnant of the old building, which itself, was placed into a small opening in the garage's Randolph Street facade. And if you knew where to look, you could find the brown, terra-cotta rectangle sitting alone and forlorn among its concrete cousins. The garage itself is now gone, although no one seemed interested in preserving any pieces for posterity.
Montgomery Ward & Co. Administration Building
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Montgomery Ward & Co. Administration Building (1929) Willis McCauley, designer; Joseph Conradi, sculptor; (2002) adaptive reuse, FitzGerald Associates Architects /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Aaron Montgomery Ward printed a single broadsheet in 1872 that carried 168   nonperishable items which could ordered and delivered to you at home. In 1929 when Montgomery Ward & Co. built their Administration Building on the southwest corner of Larrabee Street and Chicago Avenue, the broadsheet had grown into a catalog containing over 20,000 items printed on over 1,000 pages, and earning the company over $150 million in sales. 

[Montgomery Ward & Co. Administration Building, 619 W. Chicago Avenue, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The Ward organization had grown so large by the late 20s that they had their own in-house engineering department overseeing all company construction, which by 1926 included Ward-built retail stores. Willis McCauley, head of the department, is credited with the design of this 400,00 square foot building which Wards built across the street from their 1908 headquarters. The new building would provide office space for 1,000 clerks, a floor of telephone phone operators, a floor of catalog processors, a ground floor retail operation, and a top floor of executive suites.

  [Montgomery & Co. Administration Building, One River Place, National Historic Landmark, Chicago  /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The tower was capped by sculptor Joseph Conradi's 16 foot statue called "The Spirit of Progress." The torch-bearing figure was inspired by the statue "Progress Lighting the Way for Commerce" which had once topped Ward's Tower Building on Michigan Avenue. Unfortunately the lights went out for Wards in 2000 when the company went out of business. The building was converted into residential condominiums in 2002 under the supervision of FitzGerald Associates Architects, and in 2010 "Progress" was re-lit when fiber spot lights were installed around the statue.

Montgomery Ward & Co. Mail Order & Catalog House Building
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Montgomery Ward & Co. Mail Order & Catalog House Building (1909) Richard E. Schmidt, Garden & Martin, architects; Addition (1917) Montgomery Ward & Co. Engineering Department, architects (2002) adaptive reuse; Gensler & Pappageorge/Haymes, architects /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

It was the of its time. It started out in 1872 as a single sheet of paper, which by 1906 had grown into a catalog offering-up thousands of items for sale ranging from spittoons to stoves, weighing-in at a hefty 4 pounds. Aaron Montgomery Ward's mail order catalog company was a retailing behemoth, and by 1905 a move was in order. The old warehouse/office complex on Michigan Avenue overlooking Grant Park was too small and outdated so the hunt for a new location was on.

  [Montgomery Ward & Co. Mail Order & Catalog House Building, 600 W. Chicago Avenue, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Space was an issue, but so were the Teamsters. In the Spring of 1905 there was a very public, very contentious, and very messy Teamster's strike. The Teamsters drove the teams of horses, that pulled all the wagons, that carted all the Ward's dry goods. In November 1905, Charles H. Thorne, Montgomery Ward's nephew and treasurer of the company announced that the catalog concern would be leaving Michigan Avenue and moving to a new location. The only requirement was that the site be adjacent to railroad lines or the river. As quoted by the Chicago Tribune Thorne stated, "We intend to do business without teamsters. At least we shall employ only a few. Teamsters are troublesome especially while the union is in charge of the present leaders. In our new location we shall have little need for their services. We shall possess either direct railroad facilities or lighterage advantages on the river front."  In May 1906 the company completed the purchase of a large tract of land right next to the north branch of the Chicago River on one side, and the tracks of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul railroad on the other. So Thorne not only got direct access to a line of tracks, but he also got his river frontage, all in one fell swoop.

  [Montgomery Ward & Co. Mail Order & Catalog House Building, National Historic Landmark /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Thorne called on architect Richard E. Schmidt, who had designed Ward's Michigan Avenue headquarters, to design and build a structure that would provide plenty of space for offices, a warehouse and a distribution facility all in one building. By this time Schmidt was now in business with architect Hugh Garden and structural engineer Edgar Martin, and the team delivered the largest reinforced concrete building ever constructed. At 1.2 million square feet, and covering a floor area of over 25 acres providing the 3,000 Ward employees with a state of the art facility that boats could dock adjacent to, and train cars could pull right into for loading. Schmidt, Garden & Martin were Prairie School practitioners and although the building looks pretty utilitarian, the long bands of window and brick definitely give the building the School's signature horizontal feeling, while the ornament over the doors pay tribute to the great Louis Sullivan. Ward's business kept growing and so did the building. In 1917 under the supervision of their in-house engineering department, the plant was increased by another 400,000 square feet at its north end.
After 128 years in business, Montgomery Ward & Co. closed their doors for good in  2000. The Chicago Avenue building was converted into a residential condominium and high-tech commercial complex in 2002, and in 2012, the internet giant Groupon became the building's largest tenant with over 350,000 square feet of space.