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Salvages / Urban Remains Chicago News and Events

Salvages

  • 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...
  • 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...
  • 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...
  • 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 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...
  • 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...
  • 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...
  • i was already mentally and physically exhausted prior to beginning the lengthy salvage conducted at the post-fire italianate style charles c. p. holden block (1872). a developer had acquired the property with the intention of stripping it down to "four brick walls" to convert into mixed-residential and commercial use; the restoration of the facade didn't seem to be of major interest. (i would find out a year or so later that their firm imploded and their west town offices were heavily vandalized (e.g., windows smashed in, etc.), likely by angry, unpaid contractors). i spent a great deal of time on...
  • the gradual process of uncovering the multitude of undisturbed objects left behind by the congress theater tradesmen, prior to the theater's grand opening in september of 1926, has inspired me to put together a book detailing my experiences witnessing the resurrection of these long-forgotten tradesmen. by uncovering discarded items, i was provided with an insight into the goods they consumed and the materials they worked with while constructing the plaster dome high above the theater's auditorium ceiling. in addition to publishing a book accompanied by a traveling exhibition, i felt the need to recreate my initial experiences by visiting other theaters of...
  • by the time i arrived in the summer of 2007, the nortown theater was already dead. stripped of its utilities, burnt by fire, and extensively damaged by prolonged neglect. note: salvaging/documenting the nortown theater's facade and its ornamental terra cotta was addressed in a previous blog entry, so the majority of the images in this entry are devoted to the theater's interior and the ornament salvaged from it shortly before and during the demolition.  there were “pockets” that were unscathed by the elements, salvages, and stupid decision-making. i carefully navigated through these dark and cavernous spaces, guided by simple headlamp and eventually...
  • i've finally made time to revisit a salvage i was involved in nearly 8 years ago- a move sparked in part by rediscovering several buried terra cotta fragments that were packed away. it all began after receiving a phone call from daniel "danny" lampa, owner of midwest wrecking, over the demolition of "an old hospital" located at 135 s. sangamon street. shortly after getting notice i made my way over to what turned out to be the eye and ear infirmary that had been endangered for some time. i was aware that preservation chicago fought to save this historically significant building...
  • 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.
  • i approached my exploration of the patio much as i had the congress, spending most of my time in the theater’s attic, looking for any and all objects left behind by the tradesman who worked there in the winter of 1926 (this timeframe is based on the opening date of january 29, 1927, and on several fragmented newspapers found sporadically strewn about in forgotten spaces). i was overjoyed to find (with great frequency) the usual detritus, artifacts commonly uncovered in the dark nooks and crannies of depression-era theater attics – cigarette packs, union labels, abandoned trade tools, and matchboxes. the...
  • i was either 10 or 11 years of age when an old friend of mine would invite me to the small town of bangor, wisc., to explore what remained of the dilapidated buildings consisting of the joseph hussa brewery. brewmaster hussa constructed the primary limestone brewhouse during the mid-19th century, but shortly thereafter, he sold the brewery to frederick raasch in 1866 and for many years after, the brewery changed ownership and configurations numerous times, with newly added outbuildings, a tragic fire and later, conversion to a purina packaging plant. note: in the picture above, the arch top opening that led...
  • in a happy chain of events, my documentation of the congress theater led to unabridged access of another historic chicago theater, once owned by the same developer. the patio theater opened in january of 1927 in the portage park neighborhood, and it remains today a moderately-sized and largely unaltered atmospheric style movie palace at the intersection of austin and irving park. unlike most theaters at the time, which were opened and operated by major chains, the patio was the vision of three greek brothers- john, george and william michelopoulos (who later changed their surname to mitchell), and was designed by...
  • a rare example of a largely intact and well-maintained gothic style victorian wood-framed cottage built shortly after the chicago fire of 1871 will be reduced to rubble this week. the two story wood-framed cottage likely was built on the site of a structure that succumbed to the fire as it was located well within the "burnt district," where the path of destruction was detailed in photographic images and maps. preliminary research suggests the house was built by materials provided through the relief fund and/or relief aid society.   ---salvage in progress as demolition gets underway, beginning with the garage...
  • unfortunately, i didn't have the time to systemically document a post-fire chicago wood-framed cottage located on ohio street (west town neighborhood of chicago) until it was nearly demolished. when i arrived, the facade was left partially intact and the interlocking sills and girts where exposed. sheathing and stud cavities that survived the first wave of wrecking offered a glimpse at both the materials and methods used to build this cottage - likely between 1877-1879. during the final years of the 1870's the neighborhood contained sporadic wood-framed cottages and stables surrounded by empty lots (this would change during the building boom of the 1880's...
  • in addition to the week's acquisition of plaster frieze work from frank lloyd wright's dana-thomas house, the bldg. 51 museum has obtained numerous historically important fragments of plasterwork from adler & sullivan's garrick theater auditorium. originally named the schiller theater, the building was designed by louis sullivan and dankmar adler in 1891 at 64 west randolph street. it was intended to serve german americans, and was funded by the german opera company. at the time of construction, the schiller was one of the tallest buildings in chicago and is still widely considered one of the greatest collaborations between the two architects...
  • even as greater attention has been directed toward endangered 19th century wood-framed chicago cottages, there has been a dearth of conversation around the looming threat toward wood-framed commercial structures. a steady stream of demolition permits continues to painfully destroy the integrity of enough neighborhoods across the city to garner attention, but there are actually few commercial structures from that period still standing and those are routinely overlooked. in fact, these commercial structures often link back to the period after the great fire in 1871, and their material makeup reflects city codes put in place to enforce the use of “fireproof”...

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