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Urban Remains Chicago News and Events

Urban Remains Chicago News and Events

Antique American Architectural Artifacts

  • the chicago balloon frame: beyond "boards and nails." over the past three years, i've collected a considerable amount of photographic images and historic building materials housed in storage facility in preparation for my "deconstructing chicago" project, which aims to address an increasing number anomalies in construction methods and materials seen in wood-frame cottages erected across chicago neighborhoods during the nineteenth century. fleshing out a complete and accurate picture on this topic is complicated by deciphering variables like the availability of various raw building materials over a century ago, and accounting for the hybridization of construction methods in an "old meets new" scenario...
  • looking over the work i've managed to post, coupled with a seemingly endless list of unpublished "drafts" for 2017 alone, i'm increasingly convinced i'm a good candidate for karoshi. it looks like a sabbatical is on the horizon...  ...
  • a pair of leaded glass windows original to the henry babson house (salvaged before its demolition in 1960) were purchased for the bldg. 51 museum this month. since i only aimed to acquire a single window for the museum, the counterpart made its way to cultural historian and friend tim samuelson. aside from gifting the window to tim, i got in contact with him immediately after they were secured, to gain insight into who designed them (was it elmslie with sullivan looking over his shoulder?) and what history they held pertaining to the time the house was demolished. as it...
  • until the time comes when i'm slammed documenting the death of buildings, i've thoroughly enjoyed looking at the city's 19th and early 20th century architecture through my camera's zoom lens. i've taken several thousand images that i hope to make into an exhaustive photographic study of the city's architectural ornament up close and personal - where the naked eye cannot appreciate the details that evoke a long lost time when craftsmanship was paramount. [caption id="attachment_29635" align="alignleft" width="1500"] art deco style merchandise mart (1930) exterior polychromed terra cotta monogrammed plaque. graham, anderson, probst and white, architects.[/caption] all images from the collection of eric j. norfdstrom and...
  • discovering the remnants of bygone tradesmen in a building seems akin to finding the proverbial “needle in the haystack.” it takes patience and sufficient lighting as much as luck to pinpoint objects left undisturbed for many decades. it is all the more gratifying to uncover these rare treasures, largely hidden by an accumulation of dust. as exploration of the congress theater continues, I keep finding workers' possessions along the wooden catwalks, artifacts that have been untouched for the past 91 years. [caption id="attachment_29629" align="alignleft" width="1500"] this 1926 chicago street guide was found approximately two feet away the catwalk surrounding the bottommost...
  • the isidore h. heller house was designed by architect frank lloyd wright and its design is credited as one of the turning points in wright's shift to geometric, prairie school architecture, which is defined by horizontal lines, flat or hipped roofs with broad overhanging eaves, windows grouped in horizontal bands, and an integration with the landscape, which is meant to evoke native prairie surroundings. the house’s design demonstrates wright's shift away from emulating the style of his mentor, louis sullivan. richard bock, a wright collaborator and sculptor, provided the exterior plaster frieze panels and capitals located under the...
  • research continues on a marvelous brick mansion that is in the process of being converted into a pre-school. the structure envelops two city lots, and appears to have been built around 1887.     to accommodate the needs of the developers and satisfy building codes, the interior has been subject to alteration. unfortunately this means the original hand-carved oak staircase was removed. still, the building retains many significant, intact elements – including glass windows, vestibule and entrance doors, and marble fireplaces.   during the two-day salvage of the bissell street mansion it became apparent that the 19th century residence had actually...
  • a rare artifact deserving highlight in the urban remains warehouse is a turn of the century cast bronze plaque designed by edward kemeys and executed by the winslow brothers. the single-sided metalwork depicts the cheyenne diplomat and warrior "chief left hand," remembered for his attempts to negotiate his people's survival during the onslaught of gold rush settlers to colorado. left hand was never photographed and the cast piece was modeled in clay based on sketches or portraits from the western frontier. the winslow brothers fabricated a number of these plaques in a series called "the american west in bronze." edward kemeys...
  • a wide array of american architectural, medical, and industrial artifacts and/or objects have been steadily added to the massive urban remains virtual catalog for a few weeks now. with the completion of a gold coast mansion salvage earlier this week, we have been working long hours to document, clean and photograph several exceptional interior elements that will be highlighted in a future post. the gallery below provides a small sample of artifacts added or waiting to be added to the catalog. ...
  • the destruction last year of the osborne & adams building (erected in 1872) remains a deeply upsetting affair, and one i remember each time i walk past the three gargantuan keystones housed in the bldg. 51 museum collection. the exterior architectural elements were rescued from the loft building's "cast stone" facade as it was pulled apart behind the cloak of an extensive web of scaffolding.  confirming john mills van osdel as the building's architect (widely considered chicago's first architect) a few weeks after the building's disappearance only added insult to injury. additionally, through demolition, it was revealed that the four-story loft building's...

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