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Featured Posts / Urban Remains Chicago News and Events

Featured Posts

  • unfortunately, i didn't have the time to systemically document a post-fire chicago wood-framed cottage located on ohio street (west town neighborhood of chicago) until it was nearly demolished. when i arrived, the facade was left partially intact and the interlocking sills and girts where exposed. sheathing and stud cavities that survived the first wave of wrecking offered a glimpse at both the materials and methods used to build this cottage - likely between 1877-1879. during the final years of the 1870's the neighborhood contained sporadic wood-framed cottages and stables surrounded by empty lots (this would change during the building boom of the 1880's...
  • the bldg. 51 museum is collaborating with the chicago-based decorators supply company to make a very limited edition of faithfully recreated, full scale cast plaster proscenium vault ventilation domes, original to the interior adler & sulivan-designed auditorium theater (1889), designed by louis h. sullivan and sculpted by james legge. interestingly, christian schneider (who would go on to become one of the most highly regarded terra cotta modelers, working for louis sullivan well into the 20th century) and nine others assisted legge in modeling the auditorium building's plaster ornament.   adler & sullivan's auditorium was one of the earliest theaters to be both...
  • aside from the usual collecting of historically important objects, i have been adding substantially to my collection of ephemera, in an effort to find primary sources that may bolster or enhance the narratives i've gathered around historically-significant architectural building elements or artifacts in the bldg. 51 museum. for example, i recently purchased several profusely illustrated letterheads, business cards, and receipts tied to the northwestern terra cotta works, who fabricated a great deal of exterior terra cotta ornament displayed within the museum. many of these feature lithographed renderings of the northwestern terra cotta works' ever-expanding factory complex have since been demolished. in my...
  • i like to think of myself as a “watchdog” of sorts, especially when it comes to changes and transitions performed on downtown chicago’s historic buildings. while deeply engaged in surveying late 19th and early 20th century facade ornamentation, a comprehensive and ongoing photographic project, i noticed an odd change in a notable structure. the gage building (completed in 1899 with a louis sullivan-designed facade) contained a gargantuan void, where a terra cotta cartouche had once been. the block measured approximately 18’ by 7’ x 8”, and its absence appeared as an eye gouged from its socket. the exposed brick and steel...
  •   historically important building artifacts and winslow catalog images courtesy of the bldg. 51 museum collection and archive.  chicago stock exchange building, adler & sullivan, architects.   isabella building, william le baron jenney, architect schlesinger and meyer building, louis h. sullivan, architect fisher building, daniel burnham, architect guaranty building, adler & sullivan, architects winslow  
  • the bldg. 51 museum recently secured an original and largely intact louis sullivan-designed cast plaster proscenium vault "star-pod" panel salvaged from adler & sullivan's garrick theater auditorium during its demolition in early 1961. originally named the schiller theater, the building was designed by louis sullivan and dankmar adler in 1891 at 64 west randolph street. it was intended to serve german americans, and was funded by the german opera company. at the time of construction, the schiller was one of the tallest buildings in chicago and is still widely considered one of the greatest collaborations between the two architects. the I-shaped building...
  • in addition to the week's acquisition of plaster frieze work from frank lloyd wright's dana-thomas house, the bldg. 51 museum has obtained numerous historically important fragments of plasterwork from adler & sullivan's garrick theater auditorium. originally named the schiller theater, the building was designed by louis sullivan and dankmar adler in 1891 at 64 west randolph street. it was intended to serve german americans, and was funded by the german opera company. at the time of construction, the schiller was one of the tallest buildings in chicago and is still widely considered one of the greatest collaborations between the two architects...
  •   [caption id="attachment_26379" align="alignleft" width="2481"] starkweather building ornament (shown here) was fabricated by the chicago terra company. an original 1874 chicago terra cotta company catalog. courtesy of the bldg. 51 museum archive. [/caption]       terra-cotta, the most enduring of all building materials, has been used to a greater or less extent from a high antiquity in continental europe, and in england terra-cotta trimmings were used in building as early as the fifteenth century. in the united states this material does not seem to have been introduced until after 1850. experiments were made in this direction in 1853 by mr. james renwick, a prominent new...
  • on an exceptionally gloomy day late last week i was feeling the dismal ambiance of both my mind and the weather, when seemingly out of the blue i was gifted a louis h. sullivan-designed staircase newel post from the chicago stock exchange building. the artifact hearkens to a time 45 years ago, when the magnificent building was gasping through a slow demolition, fraught with mishaps. the heavy copper-plated cast iron newel post (fabricated by the winslow brothers, chicago, ills.), was salvaged by richard nickel, who carried it out of the building roped to his back (this, according to...
  • even as greater attention has been directed toward endangered 19th century wood-framed chicago cottages, there has been a dearth of conversation around the looming threat toward wood-framed commercial structures. a steady stream of demolition permits continues to painfully destroy the integrity of enough neighborhoods across the city to garner attention, but there are actually few commercial structures from that period still standing and those are routinely overlooked. in fact, these commercial structures often link back to the period after the great fire in 1871, and their material makeup reflects city codes put in place to enforce the use of “fireproof”...

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