installation of gage building's recreated terra cotta cartouche completed, book to follow

the removal, recreation, and reinstallation of the historically important gage building (1899) terra cotta cartouche is complete. i dedicated a great deal of time and money to ensure that this once-in-a-lifetime project was visually recorded from beginning to end.

the storefront (see below) was complete obliterated in the 1950's. the images were sourced from bldg. 51 museum's copy of a 1905 winslow brothers foundry catalog showcasing their work, including much of louis h. sullivan from prior commissions (e.g., schelsinger & mayer building).

perhaps the highlight of this endeavor was my visit to the boston valley terra cotta company, where the original cartouche - designed by louis h. sullivan, sculpted by kristian schneider, and fabricated by the northwestern terra cotta company - was being replicated by some of the very best modelers in the country. i was transfixed when i handled the original segments of this gargantuan cartouche, so detailed that one could even glimpse the lightly incised impressions of schneider's own fingers. i was equally awestruck witnessing boston valley's modelers translate the language of sullivan's designs by shaping piles of clay with their hands and specialized tools as i stood by and photographed the process.

when the pieces began arriving in chicago months later, i visited the building everyday to document the installation of the cartouche i had watched sculpted from chunks of clay back in buffalo. week after week, the cartouche slowly began to blossom. the masons did a remarkable job plugging the pieces into place, almost like an elaborate jigsaw puzzle. it was remarkable to watch them work from their platform suspended high above me near the facade's roofline; sections of terra cotta weighing hundreds of pounds and dangling over their heads could not distract from their delicate and detailed undertaking. the execution of both fabrication and installation was virtually flawless.

the following images offer a visual narrative of this remarkable operation. i'm greatly relieved that it's been thoroughly recorded for others to see and to appreciate. if it had gone unnoticed, i would have been extremely disappointed; for that reason i took on the role of archivist, dedicating my time and energy to preserving this act that so many passersby failed to even notice was occurring.

 

sidenote: i've been toying around with making a full-color booklet for this project, which i hope to have published by the end of 2017. eric o'malley of the wright society will once again be brought onboard to design the book. 

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