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Events & Announcements / Urban Remains Chicago News and Events

Events & Announcements

  • "to appreciate the fisher building one has to see it in the late afternoon of a winter day. the fading daylight softens the redundant ornament detail; the lighting within transforms the wall into a glittering and transparent sheath crossed by thin horizontal and vertical lines" -carl condit, architectural historian continuing to highlight historically important ironwork in the bldg. 51 collection, the virtual catalog records a striking gothic style cast iron elevator door panel removed from the fisher building lobby during renovations or upgrades. the complete panel features a well-executed and dynamic motif of intertwining leaves with delicate border-work. the original finish is...
  • in a previous post, i devoted a considerable amount of time to sharing both images and informational notes regarding the careful and systematic extraction of a post-fire chicago italianate row house interior staircase, comprised largely of walnut wood. the inspiration to focus solely on the structure's staircase was drawn from a book i had been studying at the time, entitled "the carpenter and joiner, and elements of hand-railing," written by robert riddell in 1869. in this post, i felt the need to share the other architectural elements extracted from that same home, which will be completely renovated in the coming months...
  • rediscovering a 1920's softbound catalog and/or booklet while rearranging my library the other day proved to be both rewarding and informative. after pouring over the images and descriptions time and again, i finally pinpointed the fabricator of the plaster ornament used to "dress" the palace theater's (1928) stunning interior.   in addition, i was taken aback when i came across "in situ" images of the full-figured cast plaster statue (one of two) that resides in the bldg. 51 museum - salvaged long ago from the southtown theater. i had no idea that the same statue, sculpted in an identical pose, was used in...
  • before it was demolished nearly 10 years ago, the patton and fisher-designed dana hotel (built as the erie apartment building in 1891) was chicago's oldest continuously-running hotel, and one of the oldest extant hotel structures in the city. it was furthermore, a remarkable queen anne style flat constructed in 1891 that had not been significantly altered. the five and a half story structure located at 666 n. state street was one of the few remaining downtown buildings in this style, a vestige of an older neighborhood and the building trends of another century. its three projecting ornamental tin paneled bay window configuration was flanked...
  • it's always rewarding when you are able to readily demystify antiquated architectural building materials - whether on the jobsite, or discovering manufacturer markings at a later point in time when documenting the extracted components. identifying the maker of key elements (e.g., plumbing, electrical, stonecutter) used during construction can strengthen the structure's narrative and/or provide a road map for pinpointing the parts or services when offered during that time period - typically in trade catalogs, etc., which can assist in establishing the exact date or an approximation of the structure's construction (if not already known). this proves incredibly helpful with chicago structures...
  • the northewestern terra cotta company was founded in chicago in 1877 by a group of investors that included john r. true. the company became a major producer of terra cotta trimmings used by the construction industry. by the beginning of the 20th century, architectural terra cotta was firmly established as america's premier material for detailing commercial structures, especially the new, steel-framed skyscrapers then rising in chicago and new york city. [caption id="attachment_31462" align="alignleft" width="1800"] late 1870's ornamental red slip terra cotta salesman sample block - courtesy of the bldg. 51 museum collection and archive.[/caption] after the devastating chicago fire of 1871, the...
  • the bldg. 51 museum recently acquired a group of diminutive first floor exterior column ornament removed (along with the columns) during the 1950's when adler & sullivan's s.a. maxwell building (1882) underwent extensive alterations (interior and exterior) that obliterated most of the street level ornament. thankfully, richard nickel was present to document the changes and/or removal of ornament, including the two columns containing bands of repeating ornament comprised of individual pieces bolted against the opposed entrance columns. one of the more striking images taken by nickel features the columns after they were relegated to the building's basement. the photo shows...
  • around the time i began salvaging a chicago italianate row house constructed shortly after the fire, i was deeply immersed in the book, “the carpenter and joiner, and elements of hand-railing,” written by robert riddell in 1869. the highly technical book discusses the “art” of stair building in great detail pertaining to methodologies with several plates illustrating construction techniques focusing on every conceivable cut necessary to build any number of staircases in a variety of configurations. In light of the book, i paid greater attention to both the materials and methodologies when documenting the deconstruction of the...
  • a photographic study of selected 19th and early 20th century la crosse (wisconsin) commercial building exterior ornaments.  additional information on building history (e.g., architect, build date, material identification, etc.) will be added to each photo as time permits. the extant buildings shown below were chosen for inclusion based upon subjective interests and time commitment required to thoroughly document additional buildings within downtown la crosse. perhaps at a later date i will provide additional images and descriptions if i revisit this impressive amalgamation of buildings constructed beginning in the 1860's (the earliest extant building was built in 1865) through the 1930's. the...
  • i moved quickly to document any and all ornament adorning the lobby and auditorium of the 1927 olympic hotel, formerly known as the sokol slavsky building. Most of it had remained original and largely unaltered since time of construction, and i was preparing to commit the remainder of the afternoon to exploring the theater's remaining untouched nooks and crannies. hopefully this would lead to the discovery of more forgotten artifacts and objects left behind by tradesmen in the theater's attic, and by moviegoers in the plenum nestled below the auditorium's seating. with safety gear, lighting, and camera equipment in tow, i...
  • the discovery of several books, photographic prints, drawings, and papers - including two completely intact and well-maintained ledgers from architectural firm of jenney, mundie, & jensen, was nothing short of one of the more remarkable finds i've run across in recent years. hidden away and forgotten for decades, the ledgers (a peak inside provided through images in this blog entry) contains both hand-written and typed information pertaining to any and all commissions executed by this firm between 1909-1935. the firm's architects: major william lebaron jenney founded the firm, first named loring & jenney, in 1868 with sanford e. loring. jenney has been...
  • the wrecking machine is immobile for a moment, but research on this cottage remains active, as i repeatedly visit to explore and document the house's framework -- bedecked with pegged and notched sill plates, rough-sawn white pine "sticks," and so on. both the interior and exterior have been altered so many times over the past 150 years that very little, if any, original elements survive (with the exception of course of the structural framing). i'm completely okay with that, since the house will still provide data on materials and methods. i hope this information will, in due time, be enough to essentially "rewrite" the inaccurate portrayal...
  • the bldg. 51 museum is offering a first-ever, limited edition line of faithfully recreated cast plaster auditorium theater (1889) proscenium vault perforated domes designed by architect louis h. sullivan and executed by chicago-based decorators supply company. the full-scale "beehive" domes were made possible through a collaboration between the bldg. 51 museum and decorators' supply company. earlier this year, after i was given a replica during my visit to their facility (cast from an auditorium theater original to replace several domes that had been damaged over the years), i placed an order to have additional domes cast from the decorators' master model. ...
  • the following gallery offers a glimpse at the most recent american architectural, medical, and industrial artifacts and/or miscellaneous objects added to our ever-expanding urban remains virtual catalog. the newly acquired items have been documented, cleaned/refinished (if need be) and photographed prior to being added to their respective website categories.
  • for over a year now, high noon entertainment has been working closely with eric j. nordstrom of urban remains, filming his ongoing efforts to methodically document and save fragments from chicago's late 19th and early 20th century buildings faced with demolition. the project is currently in development.    
  • a recent excavation presented an unusually eerie opportunity -- to visit and later dig at the site of a former "glass bending factory" that was built there by notorious american serial killer h.h. holmes. i was aware of this history from having taken a "ghost tour" with chicago historian adam selzer, and quickly invited him to join the excursion. the stretch of seeley road (formerly sobieski street) is known to have contained the glass bending factory somewhere, a business which no doubt doubled as a body dump in 1895. though the exact location remains somewhat mysterious (covered up by shady bookkeeping), it's location has...
  • during my business trip to buffalo (new york) earlier this month i managed to spend a good deal of time documenting several buildings that hold great interest to me. i could easily spend days shooting adler & sullivan's guaranty building (both inside and out), but due to time constraints, i had to move quickly from one location to the next, including burnham & atwood's ellicott square. with the interior fully accessible, i immediately gravitated towards the richly ornamented ironwork, executed by the winslow brothers of chicago. the following images represent a very small fraction from the archive of photos taken during...
  • in keeping with the bldg. 51 museum's latest effort to acquire historically important artifacts from notable buildings and/or structures outside of chicago, a remarkable, oversized 19th century gustav lindenthal-designed smithfield bridge portal rosette or medallion has joined the museum collection - along with photographic images and documents pertaining to the bridge it was removed from. the heavy, single-sided ornament features a very distinctive design with raised buttons, beveled edges and a centrally located petalled flower. the weathered and worn enameled finish has not been altered since the rosette was salvaged from the bridge's portal during its demolition in 1915, when the...
  •     the five story s.a. maxwell commercial loft building (1881-1882) contains the earliest surviving ornament (on an extant building)designed by louis h. sullivan, who at the time, worked for adler and company (the following year they formed the widely recognized and respected firm of adler & sullivan, perhaps best known for the auditorium building). the s.a. maxwell loft building was built for martin ryerson as a speculative commercial project. shortly after its completion it as leased to the s.a. maxwell company, known as a stationary, book, and wallpaper retailer. the showroom occupied the first floor while the upper floors held offices...
  • for several decades, a maze of cramped and cluttered rooms and hallways hidden within a west side post-fire chicago (1872) italianate rowhouse have remained largely unaltered. despite being dissected into multiple "apartments" during the 1930's, defining architectural elements such as the marble mantels, solid walnut staircase, and multi-part pine wood moldings are still amazingly intact, offering a rare glimpse of the house as it appeared shortly after being constructed in 1872. over the past few weeks i've taken hundreds of images of the building's interior to ensure a thorough and detailed visual record is made of any and all of the...

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