salvage work at the john kent russell house drawing to a close: wrecking ball to follow

demolition of the historically important pre-fire chicago john kent russell house is now on the horizon. after a very long life, i was very fortunate to document its last days before it is reduced to splintered wood and rubble. we were told it was to be demolished this thursday; however, on our last spirited push to tie up loose ends on our "to do" list there, we noticed the electric was still on and the asbestos siding had yet to be removed. so there is still time, but i don't know how much at this point.

during the course of the salvage, we managed to remove the fireplaces, doors, trimwork, staircase and some of the intact exterior brackets. in a more unusual move, i personally took a great deal of time to carefully extract building materials for further study and research of the home's construction methodologies and materials used well beofore the great chicago fire. when the russell house was completed, the land west of halsted was sparsely populated with modest wood frame dwellings.

 

that collection of representative materials, which will be displayed in a future post, includes square nails, original floor boards, sash windows (an original from 1855 was discovered in the attic), nicely worn stair treads, studs, joists, lath and plaster, hardware and a sampling of artifacts discovered behind mantles and door casings (e.g., wallpaper coverings, business cards, buttons, bones, coal, etc.).

 

furthermore, i've spent a great deal of time seeking out additional pre-fire dwellings within the vicinity of the russell house, and photographically recording any and all characteristics representing that time period (i.e., 1850'-1860's). i was rather surprised at the number of structures that are still extant, although heavily altered or "remuddled" to the extent that you would barely notice any visible architectural features.

to be honest, i'm rather surprised and equally pleased that the salvage of the russell house has morphed into something much greater then i ever imagined in the beginning. it seems my fascination with 1850's chicago continues to grow each and everyday, which i suspect will remain long after the russell house becomes landfill.

i truly hope that the artifacts (at least some) that i've salvaged/collected thus far will make their way into the chicago historical society's collection (or some other organization), where researchers will have the opportunity to closely examine the recovered materials in order to gain further insight to draw their own observations and conclusions pertaining to the evolution of chicago's construction methods (e.g., the "invention" of the balloon frame" beginning as early as the 1830's onward.

 

From the blog