documenting chicago terra cotta ornament is a necessary distraction

i was in desperate need of a "break" from staring at a computer screen for hours on end while editing a seemingly unending folder of images from a rapp & rapp's central park theater (1917) photographic study for an upcoming post. i decided to just get in my car and drive - making my way towards the nellie a. black hospital building (1932) demolition site, where i still feel tremendous guilt for not documenting its death the way i do with so many other structures. i haven't seen anything surface thus far, so i doubt a thorough visual record was made, and that's really too bad.

i'm often distracted - in a good way - trying to rapidly absorb the rich and diverse architectural ornament (from both the 19th and early 20th century) adorning so many chicago buildings i quickly pass by when driving from one location to the next. i'm a complete nightmare to drive behind since i make so many "frequent stops" when my mind's eye connects with exterior ornament and/or beautifully undisturbed surface patinas i feel compelled to capture.

in other instances, i get out of the car with additional equipment to spend time thoroughly photographing a structure i feel an obligation to make a visual record of. if i run across some architectural feature i cannot immediately identify, i make note of it to revisit when i'm back on the computer, which in many cases, leads to the formation of a new blog post focusing on demystifying the fabricator of some unusually designed ornamental stamped metal i haven't seen in any of my period catalogs or trade magazines.


i was impressed by a small enclave of stately 19th century chicago homes featuring exceptional red slip terra cotta ornament fabricated by the northwestern terra cotta company, chicago, ills. the well-maintained homes are located on diversey parkway - named after beer baron michael diversey, owner of the diversey beer company or more commonly referred to as the chicago brewery, which was destroyed in the great chicago fire of 1871. i spent a good 40 minutes wandering from one house to another photographing the fluidity of the mid-1880's architectural ornament, replete with plant forms and/or leafage masterfully executed in great detail and relief. i had found my bliss and readily embraced it until the day was drained of light.

From the blog