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Urban Remains Chicago News and Events

Urban Remains Chicago News and Events

Antique American Architectural Artifacts

  • i was taken aback when i discovered a seemingly endless field of debris (several decades worth) covering the floor of a gargantuan plenum duct running under the congress theater's auditorium floor. i spent a good deal of time combing through piles of candy wrappers, matchbooks, ticket stubs, and popcorn boxes, but when the pain from crouching for nearly an hour left me fixated on my herniated discs, i grabbed what i could and worked my way back to the lobby. [caption id="attachment_28875" align="alignleft" width="1000"] i've run across several cigarette packs in the attic - no doubt left there by the tradesmen...
  • towards the end of the 19th century the building industry began experimenting with aluminum as a decorative ornament, which had only become available through large scale production at beginning in the early 1890's. the first building to incorporate aluminum as a decorative building material in chicago was the monadnock building (1891), followed by the venetian building (1891-1892), and the isabella building (1894), where this largely unornamented late 19th century gothic style elevator grille in rectangular form was salvaged from, and will likely be one of the most important acquisitions the bldg. 51 museum obtains this year, representing the early use of early...
  • a recently discovered cache of 1890's refuse, in the form of everyday household bottles, jars, shoes, stoneware (i.e. impermeable and partly vitrified pottery), flint glass, ink wells, etc., was unearthed the other day during excavation of a residential lot where a house built around 1890 was demolished months earlier. the dense layer of trash, found nearly 5 feet below grade, was either used as a "makeshift" dumping site by city night scavengers (i.e., residential privy vault cleaners) or possibly as "fill" for the non-extant house (without basement and/or crawlspace) constructed at the time the street it faced was being raised to...
  • the relentless search to aquire, identify, and document historically important remnants from chicago building demolished or altered has greatly assisted in driving the bldg. 51 museum collection and archive's sustained momentum and/or growth in the new year. while the museum's core mission remains sharply focused on chicago-related architectural artifacts bearing historical significance, the sizable collection of historic building materials (e.g., studs, sill plates, tree nails, sheathing, spikes, etc.), for use with the "deconstructing chicago project," along with the vast assemblage of 19th and early 20th century artifacts excavated across the city for the "unearthing chicago" book, remain equally important in telling the story...
  • the bldg. 51 museum recently acquired an exceptional, copper-plated ornamental figural cast iron elevator panel and full-bodied eagle rescued from henry ives cobb's downtown chicago chicago federal building (1898), prior to its demolition in 1965. the single-sided eagle panel was originally apart of an elevator door bedecked with neoclassical design motifs. the three-dimensional figural finial is comprised of two sections (i.e., rectangular-shaped post supporting full-winged solid cast iron eagle) fastened together with oversized flat head machine screws. both the elevator door and finial were painted (black and green respectively) at the time of their extraction from the building shortly before demolition. like many...
  • a vast collection of 19th century exterior dearborn foundry newel posts, tuttle & bailey floor registers, and miscellaneous ornamental ironwork hand-crafted by f.p. smith was recently acquired by urban remains earlier this week. the american victorian-era interior and exterior residential ironwork was salvaged from demolished cottages, italianates, and greystones across chicago over the past twenty years. the following group of images offer a preview of the rescued ironwork making its way on the urban remains's online catalog.
  • [caption id="attachment_28725" align="alignleft" width="2481"] theater ticket stubs found on the plenum floor. note the earlier one locate in the top left corner. very little pertaining to the theater itself has been found - unlike the lawndale theater for example, where i found several programs and coat check cards dating back to 1927 when that theater opened.[/caption] for months now, the developer has been incredibly generous by allowing me to repeatedly access and photograph congress theater (1926). any and all images taken during the course of the theater's transformation will be copied and handed over to him to use as he sees...
  • a few hundred bottles, pottery fragments, and so on, were discovered during excavation in a chicago residential neighborhood. the machine operator was gracious enough to grant me highly coveted time to extract as much as i possibly could before loads were sent to the landfill. [caption id="attachment_28681" align="alignleft" width="1500"] note the children's toy doll arm, comprised of glazed porcelain.[/caption] based on preliminary research, this forgotten "landfill"​ was likely a dumping ground and/or burn pit for neighborhood "night scavengers,"​ who were licensed (issued by the city of chicago) individuals making their living cleaning or "dipping"​ privy pits across the city during the evening...
  • it's become impossible to resist my maniacal desire to photograph chicago's cityscape, and that's a good thing. i'm a terribly anxious person in the present, so i counter that by living in the past. in some unexplainable way, i feel i belong there. it's no surprise that my mind'e eye naturally gravitates towards chicago's past, especially when viewed through the city's richly historic architecture. since my camera is a simple and amazingly effective tool for self-guided cognitive therapy, it makes complete sense why i've been more eager than ever to drive around the city aimlessly, capturing everything and anything representing...
  • the bldg. 51 museum recently acquired yet another, well-executed full-scale alfonso iannelli-designed midway gardens figural head - cast from a plaster mold taken directly off the only known surviving fragment rescued from the massive "cube" fountain housed within frank lloyd wrights 1914 midway garden's indoor entertainment complex (demolished in 1929). the fountain head fragment is a welcomed addition to the bldg. 51 museums's collection of both original and recreated concrete fragments from midway gardens. the abstract figural sculpture is comprised of cast concrete with material and finish identical to the original. the architectural fragment has been mounted on a custom-built welded joint stand, comprised...

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