Monday, February 23, 2015

Lake Point Tower
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Lake Point Tower (1968) Schipporeit Heinrich, Inc., architects; Graham Anderson Probst & White, associate architects /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

To create an iconic building, two essential ingredients have to come together: a design that pushes the envelope, and a developer/owner who thinks outside the box. Throw in an extraordinary location, and you will most likely find an instant landmark at your doorstep - a combination of factors that gave Chicago the iconic Lake Point Tower.

  [Lake Point Tower, 505 N. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The ball got rolling in the mid-1950s when the Chicago Dock & Canal Company Trust   decided it was time to recapitalize their 45 acres of industrial property located along the north edge of the main branch of the Chicago River at Lake Michigan. The Trust was the brainchild of William Ogden, an early Chicago pioneer and city booster, who made a fortune investing in the young city. In the 1850s, Odgen acquired a strip of sand that jutted-out into the lake at the mouth of the river, filled-in the surrounding area of water with trash and dirt, and created a his own personal harbor. In the intervening years the Canal Company expanded and erected a series of interconnected warehouses served by a trunk line of the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad, of which Ogden was a founder and majority owner. In the late 1950s, as the area to the east around Michigan Avenue continued its evolution from a warehouse/industrial district and into an upscale residential and shopping district, the Trust trustees saw an opportunity, and jumped on it. Times had changed, and there was more money to be made in shifting from housing goods to housing people.

  [Lake Point Tower, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The Chicago Dock & Canal Terminal Warehouse structure, which stretched 4 city blocks,   had its top 3 floors whacked-off when the Outer Drive Bridge was constructed in the 1930s. The slice left about 100 feet of warehouse along Illinois Street, where the structure's eastern end terminated at the approach to Navy Pier. Across Illinois stood a 4-acre, vacant piece of land that was being used as a temporary parking lot with two railroad spur lines running still through it. The trustees decided to start with their plan for the 21st century by building high-rise apartment buildings along Illinois, east of the bridge, and began looking for a developer willing to take on the project. The search wasn't easy even though this was a prime piece of real estate. The Trust didn't want to sell the land, they were looking for a long term - as in 99 years or more - ground lease, but no one was biting. Finally, developers William Hartnett and Charles Shaw saw an opportunity, made a deal on the parking lot acreage, and hired two young architects to come up with a plan.

  [Lake Point Tower /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

George Schipporeit and John Heinrich were in their late 20s and recent graduates of the Illinois Institute of Technology, where they had been students of Mies van der Rohe. Both had worked in Mies's office for a short time, and to have a project of this magnitude come their way at such a young age seemed like a billion-in-one opportunity. The site was fraught with problems. The building would stand on "ground" that had once been lake water, and was actually composed of layers of landfill. It was cut-off from the nearby Streeterville neighborhood by the eight-lanes of lake Shore Drive, and surrounded by old industrial warehouse buildings. Even Navy Pier was a rusting heap. To make the building profitable, the architects had to squeeze 900 studio, one, two and three bedroom apartments into the tower, along with a 700 car parking garage. To overcome the spongy quality of the man-made surface, the garage was built above ground, which created platform for the building. To hold the structure airborne, the architects built a long concrete shaft, like a tree trunk, which sat secured to bedrock far below street level. The floor plates would radiate out from the central core, and finding inspiration in an old design van der Rohe had come-up with in 1921, the pair drew-up a floor plan that looked like a Y, sitting on the 4-story base. Apartments would have unrivaled views, and because the building would be the only one in the city of its kind to stand east of Lake Shore Drive - instant recognition.
Today, with the revamped Navy Pier drawing millions of visitors, the green-glazed brick base of the Tower has come under a constant stream of criticism. The boxy behemoth is now seen as an example of all that was bad in urban planning in the previous century, when architecture turned its back on the dynamic city streetscape. In the recently revitalized pedestrian friendly area, its hard to believe that 50 years ago this little section of Chicago was a no man's land of aging structures left over from another century - when Lake Point Tower stood alone, out in the urban wilderness.
860-880 Lake Shore Drive
 by: chicago designslinger

 [860-880 Lake Shore Drive (1951) Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, architect; Pace Associates, Holsman Holsman Klekamp & Taylor, associate architects (2009) restoration, Krueck + Sexton; Harboe Architects, PC; architects /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

On April 15, 1951 a group of Chicagoans participated in a momentous event - they moved into an apartment building unlike any other on the planet. For the first time in history, people would be living in a high-rise residential tower surrounded by exterior walls made of glass - instead of brick and plaster. A few of these cutting-edge tenants had second thoughts after moving in, either because there was no place to put the furniture, or because they were afraid to go near the floor to ceiling windows for fear they would fall out. The sleek looking tower would be copied over and over again - sometimes successfully, sometimes not - but life for office workers, and apartment dwellers, would never be the same again.

  [860-880 Lake Shore Drive, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's twin towers broke the mold. Up until these two buildings appeared on Lake Shore Drive, tall architecture was wrapped in a skin of masonry, concealing the great structural innovations pioneered in the late-19th century. Although the groundbreaking use of the steel frame had allowed architects to build tall for two generations, by the mid-20th century most of that slim framework was still hidden behind brick, stone, concrete and plaster. Van der Rohe was ready to build outside the box and create a new architecture for a new modern age. He'd been thinking about constructing towers of glass in his native Germany since the 1920s. But it took the Nazis, a move to the United States, his landing in Chicago, spending over a decade as the chair of the architecture department at I.I.T., and partnering with a brave like-minded developer, before he was able to realize his glass-walled, structurally-revealing concept.

  [860 Lake Shore Drive, National Register of Historic Places, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Van der Rohe was lucky to have a partner who believed in the architect and was not afraid of trying something new. Developer Herbert Greenwald was only 29-years-old when he asked the 61-year-old department chair to design an apartment complex that Greenwald was developing in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood. The Promontory Apartments were moving toward Mies's desire to express the true essence of a modern building, but the designer still relied on the plastic quality of concrete to bring the project to fruition. In 1949 - the same year that the Hyde Park buildings were completed - a scion of one of Chicago's storied families, Robert Hall McCormick, announced that Herb Greenwald would be developing a cooperative apartment complex on McCormick-owned land on Lake Shore Drive between Delaware and Chestnut Streets. And that Mies van der Rohe would be the architect.

  [860 Lake Shore Drive, City of Chicago Landmark /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

At the time of the Promontory construction, Mies had already been experimenting with a design scheme that better expressed a building's true, steel, structural nature. He'd worked-out a concept with one of his students Earl Bluestein prior to the completion of the Promontory drawings, but he wasn't ready to commit to this new construction method just yet. But, by the time the McCormick/Greenwald project was underway, Mies was ready to launch his revolutionary new idea. Although the main structural steel frame had to be covered in concrete because of fire codes, the masonry cover extended only as far as the code required. On the other hand, Mies was able to attach unfettered steel I-beams to the vertical edges of the window frames - which helped hold the 9-foot tall, single-paned pieces of glass in place - but also increased the visual upward thrust of the building and gave the exterior surface much more visual interest. Although criticized for decorating his "pure" steel structure with the seemingly needless beams, the man who became forever attached to the statement "Less is More," also fundamentally believed that aesthetic choices, over an absolute strict practicality, always triumphed.
Sullivan Center - Carson Pirie Scott & Co. Building
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Sullivan Center - Carson Pirie Scott & Co. Building (1898-1960) Louis Sullivan, D.H. Burnham & Co., Holabird & Root, architects (2001 - 2011) exterior restoration, Harboe Architects PC, architects /Image &Artwork: chicago designslinger]

In an era of big-box, super-sized retail outlets dominating the retail landscape, it might be hard to believe that there was once a time when a single department store contained more floor space than several big-box stores combined. In the first half of the 20th century, eight giant department stores occupied a six block stretch of State Street in downtown Chicago, offering-up just over 8,000,000 square feet of sales space. An amount that is equal to about 43 Super WalMarts, or 46 Super Targets, or an even more astonishing 200 Best Buys.

  [Sullivan Center  - Carson Pirie Scott & Co. Building, 1 & 33 S. State Street, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Today's Sullivan Center/City Target building was once one of those retail behemoths - a single store containing miles of sales counters, more clothes than you could possibly try-on in a week, acres of books and home appliances, plus fine dining - all packed into 600,000 square feet. It all began over 130 years ago when Leopold Schlesinger and David Mayer joined the march from Chicago's established retail center on Lake Street, to its emerging center on State Street. They picked one of the best trafficked corners in the city - the intersection of State and Madison - where every major streetcar line in Chicago intersected. They took over half of the ground floor space in architect William W. Boyington's 1873 Bowen Building, where the dry good merchants hit pay dirt on the busy corner, and began an expansion program that kept them busy for the next 13 years.

  [Sullivan Center  - Carson Pirie Scott & Co. Building, National Historic Landmark, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The Bowen Building sat on a piece of ground owned by Marshall Field - proprietor of the department store up the street. The corner lot was leased by Field to one of the city's major real estate players, Otto Young - who owned the actual building. Young in turn leased the building to Schlesinger & Mayer, who wanted to demolish the older Bowen structure and build a new, modern department store. Architects David Adler and Louis Sullivan had already begun working with the dry goods vendors in a revamp of the Bowen in 1891, but by the time Schlesinger and Mayer were ready to build from scratch, Adler & Sullivan had dissolved their partnership and Sullivan took on the new project solo. So in 1898, work got under way on a project that grew section by section over the next 72 years.

  [Sullivan Center  - Carson Pirie Scott & Co. Building, National Register of Historic Places, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Although Sullivan's signature foliage began sprouting on the store's Madison Street    facade in 1898, the signature corner building didn't appear on the scene until 1903. The round bend followed the profile of the old Bowen structure, but after that, it was Sullivan all the way. From the lacy cast-iron base, to the ornately molded terra-cotta, to the finely crafted plaster and wood trim found inside, the building exploded in Sullivan's exuberant design. Then in 1904, just as the finishing touches were being added to the store, David Mayer announced he was ready to retire while talks were already underway to build a southern extension on property controlled by Otto Young. The existing building and all its contents were sold to Henry Selfridge, a key player in the success of Marshall Field & Co. Selfridge then turned around and sold the store and all its contents to Carson, Pirie, Scott & Co. - an established Chicago retailer who had recently lost their lease on a building they rented across the street from Field & Co. Carson's agreed to grow into the space Young had planned on building to the south, but Sullivan was not invited back to design the addition. Daniel Burnham was brought in - an architect with a temperament much more to Young's liking - and Burnham & Co. designed a building which duplicated many of Sullivan's decorative flourishes, with a few trims here and there.

  [Sullivan Center  - Carson Pirie Scott & Co. Building, City of Chicago Landmark /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Carson's occupied the corner of State & Madison for the next 103 years, with more expansions into adjoining buildings, including a final State Street extension in 1960 designed by Holabird & Root. The retailers bought-out their last long-term property leasehold in 1955, and for the first time, actually owned all the land under their massive store. When the jig was up for Carson Pirie Scott on State in 2007, developer Joseph Freed & Associates purchased the whole magilla and undertook an extensive restoration of Sullivan's landmark. The exterior now looks almost like it did the day the architect released his drawings for construction, and retail has returned to the first two floors with the introduction of Target Corporation's newest branding idea for dense urban blocks - CityTarget.
Macy's on State - Marshall Field & Co. Building
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Macy's on State - Marshall Field & Co. Building (1893-1914) D.H. Burnham & Co.; Graham, Burnham & Co.; architects /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The mammoth building at State & Washington Streets in downtown Chicago has a large bronze plaque attached to its corner that reads MARSHALL FIELD AND COMPANY. However the awings lining the ground floor of the enormous structure are trimmed with the words Macy's on State - which may be a bit confusing. Although the Cincinnati-based Macy's corporation now owns the 3,225,000 square foot department store building, the structure's 2005 historic designation commemorates the building and Field - a name that has been associated with this corner location since 1868, and represented Chicago to the world in much the same way Pullman, Palmer, Swift, Armour, Sears and Ward's once branded the nation's second largest city.

  [Macy's on State - Marshall Field & Co. Building, 111 N. State Street, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Marshall Field had been working as a dry goods clerk in the city's bustling Lake Street retail district for over a decade when in 1865 a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity presented itself. Dry goods merchant Potter Palmer was looking to get out of the business and focus on real estate development, and Field, along with co-worker Levi Leiter, heard that Palmer was looking for partners to take over the active management of his dry goods emporium. Two years later the active partners bought-out their silent partner and Field & Leiter announced they were open for business. Palmer meanwhile had bought several city blocks of State Street property near the Lake Street commercial area, and in 1868 he built a large six-story, mansard-roofed, marble-clad building on the northeast corner of Washington and State. Chicago had never seen anything like it, and dubbed the eye-popping structure the Marble Palace. Palmer convinced Field & Leiter to leave Lake Street and move into the building, whose gleaming-white, Second Empire-era architecture drew as many customers to the store as the luxury goods offered inside.

  [Macy's on State - Marshall Field & Co. Building, National Historic Landmark, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Three years after their spectacular grand opening Field & Leiter's Marble palace burned to the ground in the Great Fire of 1871. Sensing that the flames were headed their way, Leiter gathered a group of men, hitched the store's wagons to their horses, packed-up as much merchandise as possible, and headed toward the lake. Days after everything cooled-down Field & Leiter were back in business in a temporary location. Potter Palmer soon sold the rubble-strewn corner to the New York-based Singer sewing machine company, who were looking to get in on the booming post-fire Chicago real estate market. Field & Leiter returned to the corner in 1872, and occupied the brand new Singer Building until 1877 when a fire destroyed the luxury department store once again. This time however, the merchants weren't so quick to return.

  [Macy's on State - Marshall Field & Co. Building, City of Chicago Landmark /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

When Singer began construction on their second building, the company assumed that Field & Leiter would return as tenants. The store's partners however didn't want to lease any longer - they wanted to buy - but Singer wasn't interested in a purchase. Instead the sewing machine concern offered the department store merchants a 5-year lease at $50,000-a-year, with the two parties splitting the real estate taxes 50/50. Plus a second 5-year term at $50,000-a-year, this time with Field & Leiter picking up the entire tax tab. The partners countered with a flat $500,000 purchase price for the land and the building, but Singer again said no. After months of negotiations that were quickly going nowhere, Singer started talking to another State Street dry goods partnership, Carson Pirie Scott & Co. As contracts were being drawn-up between Singer and Carson's, Field & Leiter re-entered the picture with a cash offer of $650,000 for the Singer building and land, and $100,000 in cash for Carson's to prevent the lease from going forward. In April 1879, Field & Leiter moved back to the corner of State & Washington and never left.

  [Macy's on State - Marshall Field & Co. Building, Loop Retail National Historic District, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

In 1881 Field bought-out Leiter, and the store was eventually renamed Marshall Field and Company. Field began buying up the buildings around him, and if he could, the ground underneath them. Purchasing the buildings proved to be easier than buying the land, so he leased the ground leasehold rights for terms of up to 99 years or more, and in 1891 hired architects Daniel Burnham and John Root to build the first of what became a series of six inter-connected buildings. By the time Burnham and Field began the exisiting State Street frontage in 1902 Root was dead, and D.H. Burnham & Co., and the successor firm Graham, Burnham & Co. expanded the building over the next 22 years into one of the largest department store structures in the world. And with its Classically inspired architecture and Tiffany glass mosaics, Marshall Field and Company offered-up luxury goods in a supremely stylish setting for generations to come.
Saint Hedwig Catholic Church, Chicago
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Saint Hedwig Catholic Church (1901) Adolphus Druiding, architect /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Today, London holds the title as the city with the largest Polish population outside of Warsaw. But for a little over 130 years Chicago reigned at the top of that statistical heap, and a large number of those West Slavic-speaking immigrants settled on the city's Near Northwest Side. Their story survives in a cluster of churches constructed within a short span of time and located within just a mile of one another along the Milwaukee Avenue Corridor, once known as Chicago's Polish downtown.

[Saint Hedwig Church, 2226 N. Hoyne Avenue, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

In 1869 the newly arriving Polish Catholics established a parish called St. Stanislaus Kostka, run by priests of the Resurrectionist order. The Resurrectionists had been formed in France in the mid-19th century by a group of Polish ex-pat clergymen who joined the great migration from Europe to America, and established Polish-speaking Catholic parishes in their new homeland. With the huge numbers of Poles flooding into Chicago, St. Stan's Resurrectionists saw an opportunity to set-up satellite parishes as the Polish community expanded further north, following Milwaukee Avenue's diagonal trail. In 1887, Father Vincent Barzynski - head honcho of the ever expanding St. Stanislaus power base - purchased a vacant city block at Hoyne Avenue and Webster Street. Two years later he built a church hall/school building at the northwest corner of the property, made his brother Joseph pastor, and Saint Hedwig parish was born.

    [Saint Hedwig Catholic Parish, Bucktown, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

From all outward appearances the burgeoning Polish community in Chicago looked like a tight cohesive unit, but as we all know, appearances can be deceiving. Although life was centered around the Church, Polish nationalism, and the rights of the ruled vs. the rulers spilled over from the old country and into the new. Emboldened by the freedoms that America seemed to offer, many Poles didn't take to being lorded over by their fellow countrymen who acted like the old nobility and revolted. Saint Hedwig became one of the parishes caught-up in the struggle over who owned what, who controlled what, and the perception that Chicago's Irish-dominated Catholic hierarchy did not respect the Polish Catholic community. St. Stanislaus' leaders sided with the establishment while the majority of the parishioners of St. Hedwig sided with the dissenters, led by Hedwig's associate pastor Father Anthony Kozlowski. In 1895 Kozlowski took a very bold step and broke away from the oversight of the city's powerful Catholic Archbishop Patrick Feehan. The renegade priest founded All Saints parish just down the street from St. Hedwig - and over two-thirds of St. Hedwig's church goers followed him.

  [Saint Hedwig Catholic Church, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Things eventually settled down, but not before some nasty business pitting neighbor against neighbor, excommunications, and the establishment of the Polish National Catholic Church. Out of this mess, St. Hedwig was able to reclaim enough momentum, parishioners, and cash, to finally construct a freestanding church structure separate from the school building. Architect Adolphus Druiding, designer of over 30 churches stretching from Alabama to Ohio and Illinois to Missouri, came-up with a design for St. Hedwig's in the " Baroque Polish-style." Consecrated in 1901, the parish not only recovered form the troubles of 1895, but flourished. In 1938 over 3,000 families worshipped in Druiding's Baroque-inspired concoction, and 2,600 children attended school. Changes even greater than the divisiveness of the previous generation befell the close-knit community in the 1950s. Greater access to the dream of a suburban life and the devastation of a large segment of the neighborhood housing stock to make way for  the Northwest (Kennedy) Expressway, resulted in the school's eventual closure and the reduction of parishioners to around 1,000 families. But enough of them still speak Polish in the re-energized, revitalized, Bucktown neighborhood that a mass is offered every Sunday in the West Slavic language, along with one in Spanish, and two in English.
St. James Cathedral, Chicago
 by: chicago designslinger

 [St. James Cathedral (1875) Faulkner & Clarke, architects; (1889) Edward J. Neville Stent, stencil muralist; (1985) restoration, Walker Johnson, Holabird & Root, architects /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

As August 1871 nudged its way into September, the people of Chicago were hoping that the new calendar page might bring some relief from an incredibly hot and dry summer. On the city's north side, the parishioners of St. James Episcopal parish were looking forward to the dedication service of their recently completed bell tower - scheduled for early September. The tower marked the end of a 14-year, incrementally expanding construction project that had managed to turn a small stone church holding 260 people, into a house of worship capable of holding 1,200. On October 10, 1871, in the aftermath of the the Great Fire fire and just one month after the elaborate and well-attended dedication, all that was left standing of the north side's most prominent church building was a section of stone wall - and its virtually intact 140-foot tower.

  [St. James Cathedral, 671 N. Wabash Avenue, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

St. James was organized in 1834, one year after the incorporation of the town of Chicago. The young parish held their first services in the Presbyterian church, and at founding member John H. Kinzie's Tippecanoe Hall, located at the southeast corner of Kinzie and Wolcott (now State) Streets. In 1837, Kinzie gave the St. James Society a piece of land he owned at the corner of Cass (now Wabash) Avenue and Illinois Street to build a church. Kinzie's wife Juliette became the patron saint of St. James, and was known around town as "Kinzie's church."

  [St. James Cathedral  /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

By 1855, the parish had outgrown its original home and they purchased an empty plot of land at the corner of Cass and Huron Streets, where they intended to build a church in a newly developing north side neighborhood. The new building - consecrated in December 1857 - sat at the back of the large corner lot and over the next decade-and-a-half, in bits and pieces, grew out to the far edges of the property line. The soaring bell tower was the final piece of architect Edward Burling's ever-expanding design, and was dedicated to the memory of parishioners who had lost their lives in the Civil War. Although the tower somehow miraculously survived the fire, the bells were found in the base, a pile of completely melted iron ore. Work on a new building began almost immediately, and while architects Faulkner & Clarke virtually replicated Burling's Gothic Revival exterior around the surviving tower, they increased the size of the sanctuary to include enough room for over 500 more worshipers, and the rebuilt church was consecrated on October 10, 1875 - exactly 4 years after it had burned to the ground. Then in 1888, artist Edward J. Neville Stent went to work on the interior and began a stenciling job which included 24 different colors in 25 different patterns that took him over a year to complete.

  [St. James Cathedral /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Big changes came to St. James in 1955 when the former parish church became the seat of the Episcopal diocese's bishop and was designated a cathedral. By that time the residential character of the old neighborhood had changed - and so had the cathedral's interior. Stent's stencils had been painted over in a single monochromatic color whose neutral tones kept the the artist's stunning artwork under cover until an extensive restoration was undertaken in 1985. Overseen by architect Walker Johnson of Holabird & Root, the interior was restored back to its glistening former self and now holds the title as the largest example of Victorian-era, Arts & Crafts stencil work in the United States.
Chicago Athletic Association
 by: chicago designslinger

[Chicago Athletic Association (1893) Henry Ives Cobb /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Today many young people, and a few not-so-young people, often go out clubbing from midnight and into the wee hours of the morning. Clubs run the gamut - from former warehouse spaces packed with hundreds of partiers swilling bottles of water - to sleek, expensively tricked-out, Vegas-style venues piled-high with bottles of Veuve Clicquot. A hundred years ago, and for a  hundred years or two before that, clubbing usually happened in buildings sealed-off from the general public. This version of club life was peopled by a select group of well-connected businessmen and social elites who used these very private gathering spaces to do business, relax, or work-out, in a much more rarified, and definitely more sedate atmosphere.

  [Chicago Athletic Association, 12 S. Michigan Avenue, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

In 1890, the high-collared businessman's version of club life was at its peak. At the very top of this social networking ladder in the great Midwestern capitol stood the Chicago Club, and from that group, in May of that year, sprang the Chicago Athletic Association. A few Chicago Club members with some very recognizable names of the times - McCormick, Armour, Hutchinson, Fairbank, Spaulding - decided it was time to construct a club building that would provide members with a place to work those arms, abs and heart muscles as a component of the Chicago's elite membership roster. The facility had to include space for swimming, boxing, weight-lifting, tennis, racquet ball, saunas, dining rooms, as well as overnight accommodations, and the organizers selected one of their own, Henry Ives Cobb, a founding member of the Association, as their architect.

  [Chicago Athletic Association, Historic Michigan Boulevard District, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Cobb had come to Chicago from Boston in 1882 to design the Union Club, where his brother Albert just happened to be the treasurer. The 22-year-old had studied architecture and engineering at MIT and Harvard and was working for Boston architects Peabody & Stearns when he headed west, and he was able to convince an office cohort Charles Sumner Frost to join him in setting-up an architectural practice in the Windy City - a partnership that lasted until 1888. Cobb married into a prominent New York family and used his family's pedigreed New England roots, and his knack for understanding his clients needs and desires, to maneuver his way into the upper echelons of Chicago society and a steady stream of work. On January 11, 1891 when the Chicago Tribune announced that the recently formed Chicago Athletic Association would be building "A New Gymnasium" on Michigan Avenue, it came as no surprise then that the "Venetian-style-inspired" structure would be designed by architect Henry Ives Cobb.

  [Chicago Athletic Association Building, Michigan Avenue, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

As the lacy Venetian screen rose up and over Michigan Avenue, passersby were mesmerized by the intricate stonework. There was nothing like it on the street, or for that matter in the city. Then on a cold day in early November 1892, just as the finish work was being completed inside, a pile of lumber caught fire which caused extensive damage to the interiors of the upper two floors. Since the inferno did not destroy the entire structure, the building garnered a lot of nationwide, headline-grabbing press coverage, heralding the project as a testament to Chicago's strict fireproof construction standards and the use of terra-cotta tiles as an effective flame retardant. The members decided to pretty much gut the interior and start over. Cobb's reworked interior rooms were ready for occupancy by December of the following year - worthy of any Venetian prince, and certainly fitting for Chicago's Doges.
The Athletic Association held on into the early part of the 21st century, but like many of  its Chicago contemporaries, changing times and tastes resulted in the club's closure in 2007. After 5 years of big plans and a foreclosure or two, a new group of investors recently announced their intention to convert Cobb's Venetian fantasy into a boutique hotel.
The Chicago Club
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Chicago Club (1929) Granger & Bollenbacher, architects /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

In 1839 Chicago was a relatively small town of about 4,000 people located in what was then considered the far reaches of the northwestern portion of the United States. By 1869 when the Pacific Railroad connected Chicago and all points east to the Pacific Ocean, the city was considered one of the country's major, up-and-coming municipalities with a population approaching 300,000, and growing faster than any other region in the nation. It seemed like the perfect time for the former prairie town's lowly businessman turned tycoon to organize a private club where these captains of industry could meet, eat and make deals in the confines of a refined atmosphere befitting a city of such growing stature. And to make sure that everyone knew that this wasn't going to be just any club, membership was limited to just 75 of the city's top-tier of business elites, and an even more limited 25 from outside Chicago and Illinois.

  [Chicago Club, 81 E. Van Buren Street, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The name said it all - the Chicago Club - with an emphasis on the The. Surprisingly, for such a select group, the club struggled in its first years. But in the aftermath of the Chicago Fire, the city, and its impact on the nation's economy, grew beyond anyones wildest dreams. As the hub of the country's transportation system, Chicago became an economic force unimaginable a decade before, and the Chicago Club became a meeting place for some of the most powerful businessmen from New York to San Francisco. By 1890, the now 400 elite members of the Chicago were ready to move out of their 15-year-old rat-infested Monroe Street building - where a frequent buffet-nibbling rodent was nicknamed "Charlie" - to a much larger, and most definitely, much grander location. They set their sights on a building occupied by the Art Institute which was being vacated because the museum and school were moving down the street and into a new building of their own. A deal was made, and in October, 1891 the Club purchased architects Burnham & Root's heavily rusticated 1885 structure for a whopping $425,000.

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

In 1927, with membership levels approaching the 800 mark, the Club decided to expand onto a piece of property behind their Michigan Avenue building and hired architects Granger & Bollenbacher to design an annex. Alfred Granger had first come to Chicago in 1894 after graduating from MIT, left, and returned to the city in 1898 to join Charles Sumner Frost in opening-up an architectural practice. Frost & Granger were also married to two sisters, daughters of Marvin Hughitt president of the mighty Chicago & North Western Railroad. Hughitt kept his sons-in-law busy, hiring them to design the C&NW's main railroad terminal on Madison Street along with over one hundred C&NW buildings around the country. With their railroad connections, the pair also designed another 100 plus structures for a variety of other Chicago-based railroad lines. In 1911, just as the C&NW terminal was nearing completion, Granger moved to Pennsylvania. But Chicago came calling again, and upon his return in 1924 he teamed-up with architects John Bollenbacher and Elmo Lowe. In 1925 Lowe left the firm, and the name on the door was changed to Granger & Bollenbacher.

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

Granger & Bollenbacher's annex was sensitive to the russet-colored exterior stone work   of John Root's building even though it was taller and a little boxier looking. Unfortunately, just as construction was nearing completion on the addition, disaster struck and a portion of the older building gave way and collapsed. Luckily it happened during the late night hours so no one was injured. But after examining the damage, a decision was made to tear down the 43-year-old building and build new. The architects designed a building that was sensitive to the bulky old structure with its dark-red, heavily rusticated stonework, and maintained a very prominent fortress-like presence on the corner of Michigan Avenue and Van Buren Street.
Old-line private clubs have lost some of their allure in the social media-ized world of twenty-something, 21st-century entrepreneurship, but the Chicago Club still maintains a roster of the city's, and the country's, top business leaders, and very few decisions impacting Chicagoan's daily lives haven't been first hashed-out within these heavy stone walls.
Chicago Cultural Center
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Chicago Cultural Center (1897) Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge, architects; mosaics: Robert C. Spencer, Jr. designer, J.A. Holzer mosaicist, Tiffany Studios; art glass: Healy & Millet, Tiffany Studios; metal work: Winslow Brothers (2009) Tiffany dome restoration, Boffi Studio /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

When surveyor James Thompson drew-up a map and laid a grid over a river and a grassy plot of prairie land near the shore of Lake Michigan in 1830, the new town of Chicago's eastern boundary ended at the "Due North Line" - the western edge of the future State Street. The area from the North Line to the lake belonged to the federal government, and their Fort Dearborn Reservation didn't even get a mention on Thompson's plat. Nine years later, the feds decided they no longer needed the military outpost and deeded the property - which extended from the main branch of the Chicago River to today's Madison Street - to the city, who in turn, spread the grid out across the sandy land.

[Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington Street, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

One small piece of land wasn't divided into salable lots, and a half-block section measuring 165 feet facing the lake, and 80 feet along Randolph and Washington Streets. The parcel became the only dedicated public space in the city - other than the grassy lawn around the Courthouse - and contained the notation, "Public Ground forever to remain vacant of Buildings." The map also marked-out a new street called Michigan Avenue, with its northern segment running from the main branch of the river south to Randolph Street. Michigan then ended as the shoreline of the lake inched-in toward what is today's curbline at the eastern edge of Michigan Avenue. The area around the park, with its refreshing lake breezes, became one of the city's poshest neighborhoods, located within easy walking distance of the nearby business district. Swept away by the fire in 1871, the former residential community was cut-off from the lakefront as fire debris was pushed into the water, extending the land area and pushing the lake shore further east. By 1883, commercial office buildings had completely overtaken the old settlers residential area and the City Council set their sights on the now forlorn looking piece of grass between Randolph and Washington.

    [Chicago Cultural Center, National Register of Historic Places, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Chicago was no longer a podunk little cowpatch on the prairie, and a great city needed a great library. Chicago had a public library, but the books had never found a permanent home, and it was time to change that situation. The alderman passed an ordinance reinterpreting the vacant use of public ground to use for the public good, and proceeded with plans to build their library on the former Dearborn Park. Then Illinois' representative in the U.S. Senate, Civil War General John A. "Black Jack" Logan pushed a bill through Congress deeding the northern third of the park to the Soldiers Home of Chicago. The gossip on the street was that Logan, a staunch Republican, was trying to pull a fast one on Chicago's very popular mayor Carter H. Harrison, a devoted Democrat.

[Chicago Cultural Center, City of Chicago Landmark /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

In 1892 an agreement was reached between the city and the Soldier's Home - who acted on behalf of Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R) a Civil War veteran's group - to include a memorial hall and museum in the new building. The G.A.R. was given a 50 year lease on the space at a nominal fee (which was renewed in 1942 for another 50 years), and the Library Board invited 13 architectural firms to submit plans for a monumental building in the "Classical order of architecture." Boston architects Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge - who had just designed the new Art Institute building located two blocks south - won the prize. An entrance on Randolph Street led to the G.A.R. Hall, while the grand, Carrara marble-lined, mosaic glittering Washington Street staircase led into the glistening, Tiffany-domed, book Delivery Room. No one had seen such extensive mosaic work, and on such a scale, since the 12th century Cosmati glass tiling found at the Cathedral in Monreale, Italy - until Tiffany's mosaicist J.A. Holzer went to work in Chicago.

[Chicago Cultural Center, Historic Michigan Boulevard District, Chicago  /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

By 1938 the library had already outgrown its space, and things came to a head in the late 1960s when the city couldn't delay the inevitable and decided that a new library building had to be built. Studies were commissioned on ways to save the old building while building new, but the plan simply wasn't feasible. And not everyone thought the 72-year-old structure was worth saving. 49th Ward Alderman Paul Wigoda believed that the structure was "not a first-class building," while Mayor Richard J. Daley's wife Eleanor was one of a number of people who thought differently. Not one to say much if anything in public, she let it be known that she thought the library was "beautiful and magnificent," and the building was saved from demolition. Today the structure that houses the Chicago Cultural Center no longer serves its original purpose, but it sparkles and is as packed with people as it was when it opened 115 years ago.
Art Institute of Chicago
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Art Institute of Chicago (1893) Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge, architects; Edward Kemeys, sculptor /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

On April 25, 1890 U.S. president Benjamin Harrison signed a piece of Congressional legislation that authorized the city of Chicago to go ahead and make plans to host the 400th anniversary celebration of Columbus' 1492 journey to the New World. It had been a heated battle between New York, Chicago, St. Louis and Washington D.C., all vying for a prize that could bring in tons of free publicity and millions of visitors. In the end it came down to not only which city could raise the most money to cover expenses but also which one could have the massive operation ready for dedication day October 1892. New York and Chicago were the last two left standing. Big guns like J.P. Morgan raised millions of dollars to secure the World's Columbian Exposition for New York, but Chicago businessmen, determined not to be outdone by their east coast rivals, swept in with an offer of several million more raised in just 24 hours by Chicago banker Lyman J. Gage, president of the Chicago World's Columbian Exposition company. The effort by the scrappy Chicagoans convinced Congress that they deserved the prize, which prompted the befuddled, quite put-out, and sore-losing editor of the New York Sun Charles Anderson Dana to claim, that Chicago won because of the blowhards in "that windy city." It was quite a coup.

  [Art Institute of Chicago, 111 S. Michigan Avenue, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Lyman Gage was also the treasurer, a trustee, and one of the founders of the city's Art Institute. The organization had been around in one form or another since the 1860s, but in 1882 Gage and his close friend financier Charles L. Hutchinsion, organized the Art Institute of Chicago and formed a Board of Trustees, on which Hutchinson would serve as President for the next 42 years until his death in 1924. When the city was awarded the fair prize in 1890 the museum and its school were housed in a Richardsonian Romanesque building on Michigan Avenue, and when the Exposition announcement was made that April, Gage and Hutchinson saw an opportunity. Both were directors of the Exposition company, as were several of their fellow Art Institute trustees, and set to work on trying to get a new building for the museum and school included in plans for the World's Fair.

  [Art Institute of Chicago, Michigan Avenue, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

There were two problems to overcome. First, the Fair site was located much farther south than the trustees wanted for their museum. Secondly, the Fair's buildings were to be temporary structures as mandated by the Illinois state legislature charter thereby giving the Exposition company the authority to use eminent domain to secure whatever land was needed for the enormous undertaking. Gage, Hutchinson and friends wanted to remain in the downtown business district area, preferably on Michigan Avenue, and in a permanent building. There was no time to lose. To get things rolling the trustees set their sights on a piece of property located on the east side of Michigan at the foot of Adams Street where the Inter-State Industrial Exhibition building had been standing since 1874. The large exhibition hall had been built as a "temporary" structure used to promote the city's renaissance after the 1871 fire, but it was still standing 15 years later adjacent to two armory buildings that had been constructed by the State of Illinois. All of this in spite of a notation on one of the first city maps dictating that this section of the lakefront was public ground to remain forever free and clear of buildings. In 1888 a lawsuit was filed by Michigan Avenue property owner and hotelier Warren Leland to stop the Inter-State company owners from constructing a power plant. At the time Leland had no idea that an even more permanent proposal was just around the corner.

  [Art Institute of Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Gage and his fellow trustees used their clout, the excitement over the Fair, and the legislative power of eminent domain to secure the recently demolished Inter-State building site for their new structure. In September, 1891 the Institute's governors hired architects Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge to design a building whose exterior would conform to the classical Beaux-Arts traditions established by Fair's lead designer Chicago architect Daniel Burnham. Then the trustees of the got a $200,000 commitment from their fellow Exposition board members to help defray the cost of the new building. How could the Fair put money toward a building that was not only permanent but going to used as an art museum as well? If the Fair were to build a temporary structure as designed, it would cost organizers about 200 grand anyway. And if during the run of the exposition the building were to be used for Fair sanctioned events only, it would be money well spent. With the $200,000 in pocket, the trustees kicked-in an additional $400,000 and construction got underway. This news did not make Mrs. Sarah Daggett very happy. She was another Michigan Avenue property owner and she joined the Leland suit in order to stop the construction of a planned permanent building - a blatant act in defiance of the map's mandate. $30,000 in concrete foundations had already been poured when the court imposed an injunction, and construction came to a screeching halt. On June 28, 1892 the court ruled that although the map said forever free and clear because the "land" the Art Institute building would sit on had once actually been in the lake, and because the building was meant for the public good, construction could continue. The classical revival structure enclosed a large central court area that contained with two temporary lecture halls, which after the Fair was over, were torn down. Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge expanded the museum's exhibition space, designed a grand staircase, added school rooms and a library, projects that kept the firm busy for the next 23 years.
Monroe Building
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Monroe Building (1912) Holabird & Roche, architects (2012) restoration Holabird & Root, architects; Rookwood Tile Co., tile restoration  /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Peter Chardon Brooks III was born in Boston, lived in Boston, and built what would become some of Chicago's most recognized landmark buildings. And never once in all of his 81 years did he visit the city where, over a period of 40 years, he'd end-up investing over a million dollars. Peter was heir to a fortune established by Peter Chardon Brooks I, who was born in Maine in 1767, started a marine insurance company in 1789, and died in 1849 leaving his widow and 7 children an estimated $2 million - around $1 billion in inflated 2012 greenbacks. In the 1850s, when Peter III and his brother Shepherd were in their early 20s, they were the beneficiaries of an estate that had grown even larger, which they in turn increased in value by investing in shipping and real estate. In the early 1880s they saw that emerging, post-fire Chicago was on its way to becoming the next great American city, and wanted to get in on the action.

  [Monroe Building, 104 S. Michigan Avenue, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

By the time Peter Brooks and his Chicago agent Owen Aldis called on architects William Holabird and Martin Roche in 1910 to design the Monroe Building for the investors's real estate consortium, this team of financiers and designers had built and completed several projects together. All of their previous work however had been confined to a 5 block area near the heart of the downtown business district, and this  enterprise would push that boundary out to the eastern edge of the Loop district at Michigan Avenue. Holabird & Roche were very familiar with the site at the southwest corner of Michigan and Monroe Street since they had recently completed a building for the University Club of Chicago, located at the northwest corner. Using the 14-story gable-roofed, club building as a starting point, the Monroe would find inspiration in the profile of the club tower, but would not be a duplicate.

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

The Monroe's terra-cotta-molded Romanesque Revival details and deep window bays, were quite different than the smooth, hard-edged, stone surface of its Gothic Revival neighbor. Plus the buildings served two distinctly different purposes, the Club was a private venture meant to luxuriously house its fee-paying members, while the Monroe was a speculative real estate venture meant to produce an income for its investors. The architects liked the building enough that they moved their offices from the nearby Monadnock Building Addition, another Brooks/Aldis/Holabird & Roche adventure, to the 14th floor of the Monroe. The building became home to a number of artists and architects over the intervening years, many renting the light-filled attic space at the very top with its rows of skylights.

    [Monroe Building, Michigan Avenue, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The Monroe, like so many of the city's great 19th and early 20th century office buildings, once offering the latest in innovative modern technology, had, by the turn of the 21st century, grown old and tired. After the 2004 opening of Millennium Park, many of the 80 to 110-year-old commercial buildings along this stretch of Michigan Avenue were converted into prime residential real estate, and plans were announced to turn the Monroe into 96 luxury condominiums. But before the transformation got underway James Pritzker, a member of one of Chicago's wealthiest family dynasties, purchased the building and soon thereafter undertook an extensive restoration of the aging structure. Calling on Holabird & Root, the successor firm of Holabird & Roche, and the Rookwood Pottery company who had created all the original tile work, the meticulous 5-year renovation came to a close in July, 2012. The second and third floors have been turned into the new home of the Pritzker Military Library, while the remaining stories of the 100-year-old structure now offer clients the latest in innovative, modern, high-tech, 21st century technology.
University Club of Chicago
 by: chicago designslinger

 [University Club of Chicago (1909) Holabird & Roche, architects /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

In 1899 architects Holabird & Roche designed a group of 3 buildings on Michigan Avenue just north of Monroe Street for the Leander McCormick Estate. In 1906, they were asked to design a building at the northwest corner of Monroe and Michigan for another piece of McCormick land but this time for a different client, the members of the University Club of Chicago.

[University Club of Chicago, 76 E. Monroe Street, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

McCormick's International Harvester Building was already sitting on the corner property, but the company needed more space and were looking to relocate. The University Club had grown by leaps and bounds since its founding in 1887, and with over 500 members they needed more space than their Dearborn Street clubhouse could provide. A search committee made-up of well connected members had approached the McCormick Estate as early as 1903, but they couldn't come to terms. In 1906, talks started-up again, and this time a complicated 198-year land lease was negotiated with the Estate garnering the McCormick heirs $30,000 for the first 5 years, $35,000 for the next 5, $40,000 for the next 10, and $45,000 for the remaining 178 with a 5% yearly increase.

    [University Club of Chicago, Historic Michigan Boulevard District, Chicago/Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

It came as no surprise that Holabird & Roche were picked as the architects for the job, William Holabird had been one of the founding club members. But before any building could get underway money had to be raised in order to build the building and rent the land. So subscriptions were offered to purchase stock in an auxiliary company which was set-up as the legal owner of the building and the lessee of the land. William Holabird joined four other members in pledging a hefty $50,000 to the scheme - the top dollar amount subscribed. With cash in hand it was time to get to work and Martin Roche, the right-side-of-the-brain user in the partnership, looked to England and its 16th century university architectural legacy for inspiration. The pièce de résistance according to insiders was the massive 9th floor dining room, which was said to have been influenced by a 15th century creation, Crosby Hall in London.

  [University Club of Chicago, Michigan Avenue, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

With gargoyles, crests, and tracery framed windows filled with leaded art glass, the University Club joined with other male-oriented cliques like the Chicago Athletic Association, the Illinois Athletic Club, and the elite, very hard-to-get-into Chicago Club, in creating an evolving wall of architecturally compelling structures rising along a stretch of Michigan Avenue where the street faced Grant Park. The building got great reviews in the press, and became heralded as one of Roche's consummate creations.