bldg. 51 museum secures historically important terra cotta from demolished francisco apartments

three sections of nearly identical ornamental terra cotta roofline or coping panels featuring repeating hand-applied balls or spheres joined the bldg. 51 museum building artifact collection. ornament from the early wright-designed apartment complex was salvaged and distributed during demolition in 1973. the pieces acquired by bldg. 51 were originally given/donated to the chicago architecture foundation at the time of demolition. 
the use of spheres along the building's roofline was an extension of his training with former mentor louis h. sullivan, who frequently used this design element in many of his own commissions while working with partner dankmar adler. much of wright's early ornament as an independent architect is transitional - a  reflection of his struggle to escape the orbit of sullivan's richly organic. by the turn of the century however, wright's style matured into more abstract geometric designs that effectively replaced any lingering signs of sullivan's organic.
 
francisco terrace was one of several frank lloyd wright designs commissioned by edward c. waller - a wealthy real estate speculator and close friend of william winslow (founder of the winslow brothers foundry), another of wright’s early clients. located on chicago’s near west side, the two-story structure served as an experiment in low-income housing.
 
the apartment complex, consisting of tan brick, bedford limestone, and buff-colored ornamental terra cotta was compact, but contained a spacious interior courtyard. the stair towers at each corner of the building provided access to its second story containing a wooden balcony offering views into the building’s centrally located courtyard.
 
the apartments were largely comprised of two-bedroom units with a sitting room, kitchen, and bathroom. the most distinctive feature of the building’s exterior consisted of a heavily ornamented arch (designed by wright and executed by kristian schneider of the northwestern  terra cotta company) surrounding the entrance to the building’s courtyard.
 
when the building was demolished in 1973, the arch and other terra cotta ornament were salvaged. the ornamental arch was later reinstalled in an apartment complex in oak park.
wright's use of spheres - at least in this configuration - was used in the non-extant francisco apartments (1895) and waller apartments (1896), which is still standing on chicago's west side. the blog entry below offers additional information on the waller apartments, including several images of nearly identical beaded terra cotta panels found "in situ."
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