Tuesday, July 21, 2015

E. 21 St., Lorain, OH

E. 21st and Access Rd.
Whenever I return to my hometown I find an infinite number of things that I would like to draw.  I left Lorain before I really became aware of its architecture and history, so everything looks both familiar and strange.

I'm especially draw to the edges of the city, which give way to dirt roads and industrial decay.  Did I ever see these things when I was growing up?  I guess not.

The Classical-styled building in the foreground is a facility management office for the local school district.  In the background is a recycling plant.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

1412 W. Morse, c.1915

The assessor estimates the date of this building to be 1910, but according to the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps it didn't appear on the block until some time after 1914.  This is a perfect example of some of the design trends that impact small commercial buildings.

The original portion of the facade is the terracotta band above the storefronts.  Back when it was popular terracotta was considered a perfect building material.  It could be molded in any style and could take a variety of finishes, from gloss or matte to speckled or marbled.  Maintenance and cleaning was anticipated to be simple.  Experience soon showed terracotta needed repairs just like any other material.  And the construction detailing was often too complex to be justified for small structures. It's prime period of use was really in the 1910s, when stock storefronts could be ordered right from a catalog.

Below the terracotta is a sign band of artificial stucco.  Typically this is a foam panel covered with a thin layer of cement.  It's cheap, looks OK when new, and is easy to pierce for signage and awnings.  Although this isn't a terrible material, it's often detailed incorrectly, allowing water to penetrate and destroy it from the inside.
Image I found online, which I have no right to use. 1950s?

Below the stucco are brick storefronts, probably from the 1980s.  I don't really understand why
commercial renovations close up storefronts or decrease the size of their windows.  If I can't see inside I'm not likely to go inside.  And many businesses then block those smaller windows with signage.  But I have to admit, pasting big rocks on storefronts has almost become a classic treatment.

A portion of this building was cut off to allow the new condo to the east to develop. That's why the coping on the east doesn't curve up, like the one on the west.  I also remember strange green shrubs at the parapet...  Were they real, or some kind of weird ornament?

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Temple Mizpah, 1923

1615 W. Morse,  Former Temple Mizpah
The former Temple Mizpah is a remnant from the neighborhood when it was home to a number of Jewish congregations.  In fact, Reform Judaism originated in Rogers Park, and this building was one of its first permanent expressions. Most of the temples have been converted into churches, and this one is no exception.  It's designed in the Byzantine style, with arched leaded glass windows which resemble tablets.  The brickwork is remarkable, but has seen better days.  And it doesn't look like the leaded glass windows are doing too well.

The building was designed by the firm of
Spitzer and Popkin, and constructed at a cost of $150,000, according to the Chicago Historic Resources Survey.

To the east of the building is  a large parking lot which had been intended to accommodate the main portion of the synagogue. For some reason only the community house was constructed.  Perhaps they intended to build it in phases but ran out of funding.  An illustration from 1922 shows how splendid it could have been.  The structure on the far right is the only one which was built. This does explain the odd termination on the east end of the facade.

Accessed through Google Books

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

1425 W. Morse, 1963

This is one of the worst buildings that can happen to a dense neighborhood commercial district.  It's one-story tall and and the parcel is equally split between the building and parking.  I would say it's a good thing that one side of the building aligns with the sidewalk, but it basically presented a huge blank wall until some storefronts were cut into it a few years back. And it's mid-block, so you can only enter from Morse.   Cars can park right up to the fence along the sidewalk, which is massive and unfriendly.
1425 W. Morse

I expect this was built as a large grocery store and was then superseded by even larger stores with more parking at at the edge of the neighborhood.  Which is really where they belong.  It looks as though this building is struggling for tenants, despite its half-hearted renovation.

This is located on what was basically four separate parcels which originally contained two single family homes and connected two-flats. Lots which don't redevelop to match the predominant density of a commercial area typically redevelop later at a higher intensity.

But even in 1963 why did this seem like a good idea?  I wouldn't be surprised to see this replaced at some point.  It's perfect for a large transit-oriented development.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Morse and Paulina (1905-1914)

1700-1712 W. Morse
The Morse Avenue project is to take a quick look at the the variety of buildings on the street and use illustrations to make some points about its architecture and development.  So I won't going into depth about this block, and how St. Jerome's Catholic Church eventually expanded to fill it entirely.  I won't be discussing the establishment of the Catholic parishes in Rogers Park, and how they managed to break the grid of the city to allow for development better suited to their needs.  Or their importance to early Rogers Park as major social institutions.

The convent building on the right is in the same location as the original (wood) St. Jerome's Church, which was built in the 1890s.  In 1914 the congregants hired architect Charles Prindeville to design the Italian Renaissance Revival Church to the north, which was completed in 1916.  It's likely that the convent was added around that same time, since the congregation still owned that parcel. The church was substantially lengthened in the 1930s, requiring an abandonment of the alley right-of-way and opening up the property for additional development.  A rectory with distinct Art Deco touches was built along Lunt in 1939, replacing the wooden St. Paul's by the Lake, which had been on the NW corner of the site since the 1890s.

Aerial Photo from Google
Even with good fire insurance maps it's still difficult to tell exactly what was built when, and how the buildings changed as they grew together.  The center of the block filled up with additional school buildings in the 1940s and 50s, although it seems portions of older buildings remained to anchor the new development.  The school buildings along Morse were the temporary home of the Chicago Math and Sciences Charter School, but I don't know if they currently function as a school.

This block really deserves an in-depth treatment of its own, but that will have to wait for a future post.  Or series of posts. If any old-time Roger Parkers want to clarify what was built when please feel free to comment below.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

1523-1529 W. Morse, c. 1910

These brick two-flats were constructed between1905 and 1914. Previous development along this section of Morse had been largely single family homes, but the extension of the elevated train to Howard Street in 1908 touched off a steady increase in density that would continue through the 1920s. In the 1910s and 1920s many of the single family homes were demolished in favor of larger apartment buildings and commercial spaces.  These two-flats survived in the slot between these two trends.

1523-1529 W. Morse
Sanborn Fire Ins. Map with updates
When an area shifted from residential to commercial owners sometimes realized that they could add commercial space while avoiding the cost of a complete rebuild.  Both of these 1-story commercial portions were constructed after 1951 in the postwar boom. 

The drawback of this type of alteration is that it makes the original building less appealing as a residence. Views to the street are obstructed, and good luck getting light into the house. Although the second floor can enjoy an enormous roof deck....

Friday, May 8, 2015

1818-1826 W. Morse Avenue

I always enjoy seeing these frame houses on Morse, especially in the winter when their colors stand out against the snow.  I suppose that's why I kept the snow in this illustration, even though it overtaxed my modest coloring skills.

1818-1826 W. Morse (north side)

These frame homes were built after Rogers Park was annexed to Chicago in 1893.  Their construction dates range from 1894 through 1901.  These strike me as custom built homes rather than standard builder models.  They're located on very generous lots, with 50' frontages and 170' in depth.  Not a bad size for a city home.

The stucco house in the middle is particularly interesting.  The assessor dates it as 1896, but it has a distict English cottage appearance, which was popular in the 20s.  A narrow side porch leads to the main entrance, where the overhang is supported by slender round columns.  The same columns are installed in the front yard, each (for some reason) with a chicken statue on top. Sanborn Maps show that this home originally had a wrap-around porch, and those columns might represent the remnants of that porch. This would have made the home more of a Queen Anne style, which would be consistent with other nearby homes of the same period.  So I'm guessing there was a major renovation in the 1920s.

Monday, April 27, 2015

1326-1342 W. Morse

North side of Morse, looking Northwest.
Morse Avenue east of the el tracks has experienced something of a renaissance in the past few years.  The 4 plus 1 on the far left was built in 1971 and has been heavily renovated.  It's unusual for these buildings to get more than a cursory renovation (carpet, windows, fixtures), so that indicates a fairly strong market.  And a unit with a parking space can't be dismissed in a dense area like this.  It's also a signal to other owners of 4 plus 1s that the time may be right for major improvements. 

East of the alley is a brand new condo building built by the development arm of the Pritzker family.  This 5-story building replaced a much smaller one and probably maxed out the zoning envelope for the site.  This was built after the renovation of the adjacent Mayne Stage and reflects some of the design characteristics of that older building.

The most notable change on this portion of Morse is the elaborate restoration and reconstruction of the 1913 brick and terracotta Morse Theater into the Mayne Stage music venue.  Originally this building functioned as a 750 seat nickelodeon, but it's had a long and varied history, including a stint as a synagogue and an indoor mall.  In 2009 the building was gutted and rebuilt, with a new, sunken performance space in back and a bar in the front. It's brought back some of the earlier charm of the street.

And of course, on the far right you can see J.B. Alberto's, which has served pizza on the North Side for over 45 years.  Not sure if they've been using this building for that long, but it's been unpleasantly mansardized from its original 1930 appearance.

Monday, April 6, 2015

1441-1515 W. Morse (1917-1972)

Looking Southeast at Morse and Greenview
Here are three buildings on the south side of Morse at Greenview that represent a range of common  buildings types found in neighborhood commercial districts.

On the far left is a courtyard apartment building constructed in 1917.  The courtyard isn't visible here, but opens on to Greenview. Commercial storefronts are on the first floor along Morse.  Courtyard apartments were common in Rogers Park, with a spike in construction in the mid 1920s. When located on a corner lot they often took the form of an S, with one inner access court hidden from the street.

The center building is a concrete-framed brick and terracotta apartment building designed by prolific architect Maurice L. Bein and constructed in 1928-1929.  This received an "orange" rating is the Chicago Historic Resources Survey, indicating architectural significance at the local level.  Bein was a Russian-born architect who received his education at Hull House, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Armour Institute of Technology.  The Art Institute has a solid collection of his work from 1920 to 1936, including many digitized photos.  Bein is another unsung architect whose work was so in-tune with its time that it's become nearly invisible.  The Spanish Baroque style utilized for this building is unusually elaborate, including a polychromed terracotta entrance, terracotta spandrels and projecting balconettes at the top of the building.  And the massive green tile mansard roofs can't be overlooked.

In the foreground is a Four-plus-One, which describes four floors of apartments above one floor of below-grade parking.  These were primarily built in the 1960s, although the assessor pins this one at 1972.  Hundreds of these were constructed throughout Chicago, and established neighborhoods were not impressed.  These buildings often replaced single family homes with dozens of 1 bedroom and efficiency apartments. My biggest issue with these is that they tend to interrupt the pedestrian experience with blank walls and dark parking lots.  They also rarely incorporate commercial spaces, since that would have chipped away at their required parking.  Eventually the zoning code was modified to make these less attractive to builders.  It's worth looking into the lobby of this building.  The interior can perhaps be described as a modernist offshoot of the Tudor Revival style.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Seville Apartments, 1263 W. Pratt, 1919

Every now and then I'll come across a historic photo of a building in Rogers Park.  If it still exists I try to get a recent image at a similar angle for comparison.  For some reason apartment buildings in Rogers Park have been very well documented, usually through real estate publications.  The 9-story Seville at Pratt and Lakewood was included in "A Portfolio of Fine Apartment Homes," compiled by Baird & Warner and printed in 1928.  The building itself was built in 1919 according to the assessor.  I believe there's a cornerstone with the exact date, if anyone is nearby...

This building looks pretty much the same, although it lost the decorative stone urns along the parapet.  It was designed in a restrained version of Italian Renaissance Revival, with rusticated limestone on the first floor, decorative balconies at the 9th floor, and a modest cornice. Apartment rentals included "ice-less" refrigeration, gas and electricity.  And maid service was optional.  A large light court on the east provided light and ventilation to the units set back from the street.

In the 1920s neighborhoods along the lakefront saw a rapid increase in density.  This was bolstered by the 1923 Zoning Code, which allowed a maximum height of 198' (this building is only 98').  Large apartment buildings were becoming more common in Rogers Park before the stock market crashed in 1929.  Had development continued Rogers Park might have come to resemble some of the built-up areas in Uptown and Lakeview to the south.  Instead this building still shares the block with single family homes.

The Seville was designed by the firm of Rissman and Hirschfeld, which was responsible for many large hotels and apartment buildings in the 1910s and 1920s.  Their work includes the Knickerbocker Hotel at 163-188 E. Walton (next to the Palmolive Building) ,the Surfway Apartment Hotel at 553-555 W. Surf and the massive buildings at 2440 N. Lakeview and 3520-3530 N. Lake Shore Drive.

Information for this post was provided by "A Portfolio of Fine Apartment Houses" (1928), the online Chicago Historic Resources Survey, and the "Surf-Pine Grove Landmark Designation Report" (2006), which can be found on Archive.org. 

Monday, March 30, 2015

Morse and Glenwood, 1921

Strong transit connections are one of the reasons Rogers Park looks the way it does today.  In the center of the neighborhood are the Metra tracks (Union Pacific North), which were instrumental in early suburban development of the area (1870s through the 1890s).  But the urbanization of Rogers Park really began with the extension of the "L."  In 1908 the train was extended from Uptown to Howard, and around 1916 the tracks were elevated on a temporary trestle.

Northwest corner of Morse and Glenwood, 2015
Station Diagram
The Northwestern Elevated Railroad Company built the Morse Station on right-of-way owned by the Milwaukee Road Railway in 1921.  The red brick and limestone station house was designed by Charles Rawson, and was originally identical to those at Jarvis, Argyle, and Thorndale, which were built under the same contract.  Rawson designed the stations to include a number of commercial rental spaces, and these added to the rapid commercial development of the area. The railroad had the benefit of rental income, and tenants benefited from a steady stream of potential customers.

Unfortunately, this hasn't worked out exactly as intended.  The storefront spaces are generally dark and undesirable, with trains rumbling overhead every few minutes.  And I'm not sure the Chicago Transit Authority (which bought the right-of-way in 1953) relishes their role in marketing and maintaining these spaces.  One of the storefronts on Lunt was in such poor condition that it needed to be demolished during the recent renovation of the Morse station.  Another former commercial space on Morse was used to expand the existing station.  But a few businesses remain, perhaps against the odds.

This simplified diagram of the CTA station was adapted from the 1951 Sanborn Fire Insurance map of the area:  1. Main Entrance; 2. Platform; 3. Commercial spaces; and 4. Overpass. Access onto Lunt remains (and it's pretty darn useful) but the one on the south side of Morse has been blocked.

Original Morse CTA Station, 1960 (updated to 1985)

Some of the historic information in this post was taken from  the "Historic Properties Review CTA Rapid Transit System, Part 3," which was published in 1986.  Additional information was provided by Chicago "L".org at http://www.chicago-l.org/history/4line.html#Northwestern, accessed on March 30, 2015.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

1769, 1773, and 1775 W. Morse, c.1909

Looking Southeast from Morse and Ravenswood
I'm a big fan of the gable-front cottages you see throughout Chicago.  These were
inexpensive wood-framed homes with brick foundations constructed by local builders.  Builders would typically buy up a few lots at a time and construct identical homes, taking advantage of the economy of scale .  The wood framing lends itself to additions, dormers, and bays, so these homes have often changed substantially.  The original wood clapboard may be covered with layers of artificial siding and eave brackets or other ornamentation may have rotted away or been removed.  In the image to the right there's a portion of the Union Pacific North railroad viaduct.  This train line would have been recently elevated when these homes were built in 1909.

Originally there were two lots with 50' frontage, but the west lot along Ravenswood was divided to create two 25' lots.  This is odd, since the inside lot has no access to the street or the alley.  The lot on the east still has a 50' frontage, making it very attractive for multiunit redevelopment.  This has already occurred on the two remaining parcels on the block, where there are large brick and CMU condos.

Monday, March 16, 2015

1524 and 1530 W. Morse, 6945 N. Ashland

North side of Morse, East of Ashland
Here are three buildings on Morse which embody some of the mixed commercial character of the street.  The building on the far left is a courtyard apartment building oriented to Ashland with first floor storefronts along Morse.  It has a castellated parapet, with brick and cast stone ornament, including some pediments above the windows on the fourth floor.  According to the Assessor this was built in 1926, which was the high point of courtyard apartment construction in Rogers Park.

The seven story apartment building in the center has a steel-reinforced concrete frame and was constructed in 1927.  The front facade is clad with face brick and terracotta.   The Classical Revival ornament includes arches and fan lights at the top floor.   Most of the east wall of the building is set back from the property line to allow for light and ventilation to the rear units.  This was (and remains) a code required element for tall residential buildings.

 The 1-story terracotta building on the right was built in 1941. If this date is correct it must have found funding and materials just before wartime restrictions went into effect. Its 1-story height is at odds with the older development on the street, which typically had apartments or offices on the floors above.  This building has retained much of its streamlined art deco ornament, with a combination of cream, black and light turquoise bands of terracotta tile.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

1716-1718 W. Morse and 6947 N. Clark, c.1905

On Morse just east of Clark there are two greystone 2-flats built around 1905.  Greystone refers to the Bedford limestone quarried in Indiana and installed as decorative veneers on the front of these buildings.  Greystone facades became common in many Chicago neighborhoods, but are actually a bit rare in Rogers Park. 

Although they present a solid appearance, the stone is only thick enough to allow the level of ornamentation required.  A greystone building may embody a variety of styles, but the most common treatment is a pared down Classical Revival, which is what you see here.

At the corner is a two-story bank building which has seen some extreme changes. Only when you look at the building from the east can you see some of the original details and brickwork.  The mansard roof and red brick cladding were put on in the 1960s, according to one of the comments below.  I'm fascinated by the mansard treatment.  Why was this popular?  Was it just a cheap way to drastically update a building, or did the mansard roof have some forgotten significance?  Some historians have proposed that it had its roots in the environmental movement of the 1970s (simple geometric shapes, natural wood shingles), but I just can't see it.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

1905 and 1911 W. Morse, c.1890

These large Queen Anne-style homes represent some of the early suburban development of Rogers Park. By the 1890s Rogers Park had a thriving commercial district near the train stop, its own police and fire station, and even a water treatment plant.  The area east of Clark was being developed gradually (it was pretty swampy), but large picturesque homes were being constructed on land between Clark and Ridge.  This stretch is the highest point of the neighborhood, and a good option to avoid a flooded basement.

The Queen Anne style typically has large wrap-around porches.  These would have been important for surviving the sweltering Chicago summers.  The cross-gable design opened up the floor plan to light and air from all directions.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

1762-1766 W. Morse, c. 1905

1762 and 1766 W. Morse
I'm beginning a project to document the current character of Morse Avenue in Rogers Park. For now I'm picking out some areas and buildings that appeal to me and seeing which direction I feel like heading.  The more I focus on specific buildings the more it seems like this is a project that could be done on any street in any neighborhood to reveal some of the same patterns.

After annexation of Rogers Park to Chicago in 1893 there was almost immediately an economic depression connected to the Panic of 1893.  The country didn't begin recover until 1897, at which time a 10 year period of growth occurred. These frame houses were built around 1905, in the middle of this boom period.   This was cut short by the Panic of 1907.  The next building boom wasn't until after WWI, and it lead to greater urbanization and denser development in the neighborhood.

Parking lots now bracket these buildings on the east and west, but originally the block consisted of modest single family homes with an easy downtown commute.  The Dutch Colonial-style building on the west retains many of its features, while the home on the east has enclosed the front porch and looks to be divided into several units.

Monday, February 9, 2015

900 Block of Fulton Market

This block of Fulton Market is primarily meat-packing buildings constructed around 1910.  I wanted to give special emphasis to the protective canopies which are so characteristic of the area.  Note that there isn't actually a sidewalk on this block.  The entire stretch is at-grade, which makes pickups and deliveries simple.  Walking through is a bit tricky.

This will probably be my last illustration of the pending Fulton-Randolph Market Historic District. The outlines and blacks are done in pen, and the shadows and street tone are added digitally. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

900 W. Randolph, 1908

Back to the Fulton Market.  This 1908 building was a Commission House designed by architect Ivar Zarbell and primarily accommodated wholesale produce. Architects who designed small-scale industrial and commercial structures seldom achieved the name recognition of those working in the Loop or designing luxury apartments, but their buildings define enormous areas of the city.  And although these buildings were primarily intended to be functional, they're not without architectural interest.  For a fantastic analysis of the history and architecture of the Fulton/Randolph Market area see the designation report written by my colleague Matt Crawford.

I've added some grey tones, and I'll probably add color at some point.  But I think this image gives a good sense of the historic character of the area.  This building is already being modified to accommodate an upscale restaurant, which has been typical for the rapid development of the area.

 OK, finally finished the colorized version!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Stone Academy Fundraiser!

Colorized Detail
It's pretty impossible to buy an Ultra Local Geography drawing.  Partly it's because I draw what I want, and that isn't particularly marketable.  The other reason is that it's exhausting to sell things.  You have to find a frame, cut a mat, etc.  And then you have to find someone to buy it.  But sometimes I'll donate drawings for a good cause and let someone else work out the details.

Below is a drawing which will be available for bid to benefit my son's elementary school, Stone Academy in West Ridge.  Opening bid is $45, a steal!  Proceeds will go towards funding enrichment programs within the school.  I haven't found a frame yet, but I'm hoping it will look something like this:

This is a stretch of buildings around 3300 N. Pulaski.  It's basically a group of 1920s commercial/residential buildings overlapping some cottages built around 1905. The online auction begins on January 15th.  The actual fundraiser will be a the Raven Theater on February 8th, and additional items will be on display. 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Washtenaw-Sherwin Homes, 1946-1953

When the veterans of WWII returned home they came back to a severe housing shortage.  One governmental remedy was to re-purpose housing that had been developed for war workers into inexpensive rentals for the returning soldiers and their families.

During WWII the demand for housing to support the war effort jump-started the prefabrication industry, which had always held out the promise of mass produced inexpensive homes.  In some cases the government created their own instant cities, with homes, schools, shopping centers and recreational facilities appearing practically overnight.  A famous example of this is Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where 75,000 people were housed and employed to process the uranium needed for the Manhattan Project.  To design Oak Ridge the Federal government contracted with the firm of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM), which later went on to postwar success in both modernist city planning and skyscraper design.  At the end of the war some of these homes designed by SOM were loaded onto trucks and sent to Chicago, where they were reconstructed along land next to the Sanitary Canal.
Rogers Park in West Ridge, Showing Temporary Housing Sites in Red.
In the West Ridge neighborhood a 10-acre plot was leased (free of charge) to the Chicago Housing Authority from the Chicago Board of Education, which owned the nearby Rogers School.  The CHA received a loan from the city to prepare the sites and install utilities.  Twenty buildings of panelized construction were located on the block south of Rogers  School, each accommodating 6 families (120 units total).  A Chicago Tribune article at the time notes that these homes were relocated from Seneca, Illinois and Evansville, Indiana. Although I was unable to find any photos of these buildings, the housing at Oak Ridge (now digitized by the Department of Energy and available on Flickr) might give some hints as to its design. In the 1950 Sanborn Map of the area the housing basically looks like 1-story barracks.

The surrounding neighbors were not pleased, claiming that this development would lower the value of their property.  They petitioned CHA to choose another site.  CHA reassured these neighbors that all temporary housing for veterans  would be demolished  in two or three years.  In actuality the Sherwin-Washtenaw homes weren't removed until 1953.  By that time the housing industry had finally started to catch up to the demand.

Memory of the temporary homes seemed to quickly fade.   In 1957 the Chicago Park District awarded a contract to develop the area and the adjacent land to the east into what would become Rogers Park.  A Tribune article notes that the property had been used as a golf driving range, truck gardens, and a site for greenhouses.  But not a word about the 20 buildings that housed 120 veterans and their families for seven years.

Of the 23 sites which were utilized for temporary housing in Chicago very little evidence remains.  But when I was putting together the map for this post I realized that the largest remaining trees in the park are located in the area which was between the north and south halves of the development.  So there's a small nod to history for those who know to look for it.

If any readers have photos of these homes I would love to see them.  You can leave a comment below or message me directly.