Thursday, May 19, 2016

East Side of Clark, Between Touhy and Estes

L. Shure, 2016
Going north this block is really the last one where there's a distinct streetwall.  Beyond this Clark Street becomes much more auto-oriented, with strip malls, gas stations and parking lots starting to take over.  Sometimes it feels like Touhy is the dividing line between two very different versions of Clark.

The building at the corner was built in 1924, and is part of a 3 building complex, including the two-story mixed-use building and one-story commercial building in this image.  A bit further east on Touhy there's an attached 4-story apartment building.  All three utilizes brick and terra cotta and craftman-style ornamentation.

Further south is a mix of 1 and 2 story buildings, including a greystone with a storefront.  This always strikes me as an unlikely combination....

Monday, April 11, 2016

Frame Homes at Ashland and Greenleaf, c. 1906

There are many examples in Rogers Park of nearly identical homes clustered together on the same block.  These small scale developments define the character of Chicago's neighborhoods, but, due to their modest appearance, they are often overlooked by passers-by and architectural historians.  Developments like these were financed by local banks or investors and constructed by small builders.  Rather than depending on the services of an architect, these designs originated in popular pattern books or utilized vernacular styles of construction. Although they haven't attracted the same scholarly attention as more pedigreed styles, they continue to have a big impact on the architectural character of our community. And, once you start to pay attention to these small scale developments, you will see them everywhere.
Looking Northeast from Greenleaf.
Showing varying configurations.
These particular frame homes are on the Northeast corner of Greenleaf and Ashland.  According to the Cook County Assessor, all of them were constructed in 1906.  When a builder constructs a group of homes they have a few options.  The easiest (and cheapest) is to build a series of identical homes.  They can also choose to vary the roofline and massing using a regular pattern (hip, gable, hip, gable, etc.).  This provides a bit more variety to the street and may support a higher asking price.  Builders can also establish a vocabulary of structural details, a design toolbox, if you will, and choose specific structural elements based on the size and configuration of the lot.  This seems to be how these four homes on Ashland were designed.

Frame construction has an advantage over masonry when it comes to affordable modifications.  Need to bump out some space?  Add a bay.  Need another bedroom in the attic? Drop in a dormer.  Another window?  Knock open a hole and put it in. Want to use the big house on the corner as your impressive "model home?" Give it the works! Even though the basic structures are nearly identical, this customization gives each home its own style.

The design toolbox as an exploded diagram.
In this case the four lots have have some size variation.  The two central parcels have 42' in frontage while the north lot has 50' frontage.  But the corner lot has 50' of frontage on Ashland and 100' of frontage on Greenleaf.  It was common for corner lots to be larger than standard lots.  While these properties lack the same rear yard privacy found mid-block, the additional size allows more square footage and a more expansive exterior treatment.  All the homes have front porches, dormers and bays, but the corner home also has an engaged octagonal turret and a wrap-around porch.

The years between 1897 and 1907 were a period of economic growth between two downturns. (Does anyone remember the Panic of 1893 and the Knickerbocker Crisis of 1907?)  Rogers Park was an attractive area for middle-class families who wanted easy access to downtown as well as affordability. The 10 minute walk to the lake didn't hurt either.  Developers may have anticipated that the extension of the elevated train, which ran all the way from the Loop to Evanston Central Street by 1908, would spur even greater development.

Next time you're walking around the neighborhood, ruminating about the Panic of 1893, see if you can spot similar developments.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Garage Pass-Throughs in 1920s Apartment Buildings

I've written previously about the large courtyard apartment buildings that were built in Rogers Park throughout the 1920s. During that same decade there were also smaller buildings constructed, similar in style but closer to single family homes in terms of their size and amenities. Many of these buildings accommodated a family on each floor, including a live-in housekeeper.   But an increasingly important perk for middle-class urban dwellers was parking for the family car. 
A. 1518 W. Greenleaf (1930),  B.7058-60 N. Greenview (1927),  C. 1535 W. Estes (1927)
Rear garages with alley access have always been important in Chicago, but when an alley wasn't available a driveway pass-through would allow residents to park their cars behind the building. These tunnels were especially common in dense areas where side yards had been eliminated in an attempt to maximize value.  With tunnels going through the building, all floors could continue to benefit from windows facing the street to bring light into the units. In the case of the three examples here, all were constructed on a block which lacked an alley.

Site Map
These buildings use a Georgian Revival vocabulary, including quoins, cornices, ornamented pediments, balustrades, urns, and a strongly emphasized main entrance. A primary characteristic of the Georgian Revival is symmetry. But it's hard to maintain symmetry when you have one big opening for cars and a much smaller opening for people. The building on Greenview solves this problem by doubling the design and having two tunnels.  This wasn't possible for the smaller buildings. Instead, they use sidelights, windows, and door surrounds to try and balance out the size difference. It doesn't work entirely, but I can appreciate the effort.

I also like these buildings because they physically memorialize the size of cars in the 1920s, which were somewhat narrower than today's cars. I don't envy the drivers who have to squeeze through these garage pass-throughs today...on their way to vintage 1920's garages.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

6657-6707 N. Clark, c.1925

Still making my way through some Clark streetscapes.  Back in 2008 and 2009 I put together some information about corner buildings on Clark, between Howard and Devon.  The intent was to compile a booklet of drawings, site plans, and history.  That project never made it to publication, although I posted most of the drawings and maps that came out of it.  So it's satisfying to be able to cannibalize some of the research I did back then.

View looking Southeast

The two story red brick building doesn't have a construction date from the assessor, but based on its ornament I would say c. 1925.  The second floor windows have been changed to sliders, but the first floor retains a large open storefront, in contrast to many in the area which have been infilled or reduced in size.  Currently this is a tattoo parlor.

Site Map
The yellow brick  and stone building was designed by the firm of Loewenberg and Loewenberg, and built at a cost of $75,000 in 1926.  This is a bit grander than most of the mixed-use buildings on Clark, and has a nicely detailed broken pediment entry to the apartments above.  The facade is flanked by slender stone pilasters, and the rounded corner is emphasized with classical ornament. Loewenberg and Loewenburg designed many neighborhood buildings throughout Chicago, including several synagogues and Hebrew theological colleges in North Lawndale.  They also designed the Broadmoor Hotel in Rogers Park, at 1532 W. Howard.  Their successor firm is still active in the area.  This building is currently a liquor store, although when I moved to the neighborhood it was one of the last video arcades.

The red brick building on the opposite corner was designed by Benjamin Leo Steif and constructed in 1922 at a cost of $45,000.  It also keys to the classical style, but its primary ornament is a stone pediment and brick pilasters at the corner. Steif also designed neighborhood buildings throughout Chicago and the suburbs, but his practice shifted towards large apartment buildings.  The digital collection of the Art Institute of Chicago contains a large amount of his firm's work. There's a taqueria in this storefront at the moment.

Northeast and Southeast Corners of Clark and Northshore, 2009

Thursday, February 25, 2016

6963-6969 N. Clark (1904-1908)

These buildings represent a burst of development along Clark Street between 1904 and 1908.  They're similar to those directly across the street, which were included in a previous illustration. All come right up to the sidewalk with retail space on the first floor and residential space above.  Two of them have projecting bays to draw in more light and provide views up and down the street.

L. Shure, 2016
The building on the left has the most elaborate facade, with brick arches defining the entrances and storefront. Stepped gables add some pizzazz to the side parapets.  The projecting bay has lost its pointed roof, which makes it look a bit unfinished.  And for some reason the brick on the second floor has been painted white. This might have happened when the bay was reclad with aluminum panels.

1958 Image from the UIC Images of Change
The middle building has a restrained classical ornamentation, with a decorative stone cornice, a pitched front parapet, and stone lintels above the windows and storefront. Brick piers with stone capitals and bases frame the first floor.

The red brick building on the right is the tallest on that block.  Amazingly it's managed to keep the pressed metal paneling on the projecting bay, although it's not a particularly decorative treatment.  An exposed steel lintel is above the first floor with cast iron rosettes and sunbursts. This is also the bakery where where stop for donuts on Saturday mornings.  If you arrive after 10:00 don't expect to find any churros.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Elyria Ave. and E. 28th St., Lorain, OH

L. Shure, 2016
Every now and then I need to post a drawing from my hometown, Lorain, Ohio.  This is an old diner that must have been established back when Czechs and Slovaks were streaming into the area to work at the nearby steel plant and ship yards.

Because Lorain was such an industrial powerhouse it drew workers from around the world, but especially eastern Europe.  I still remember occasionally visiting the Polish American Club for their Friday Fish Fry.

With the closing of the mills and ship yards most of the businesses that catered to these folks are long gone. But this remnant always catches my eye, with it's hopeful 1930s storefront looking a little more dilapidated each year.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

7022-7036 N. Clark

Here's a diverse group of buildings on the west side of Clark Street south of Greenleaf.  As random as these look they document the variety of forms that contribute to a traditional neighborhood commercial strip.

L. Shure, 2015

Clark and Greenleaf intersection
The wood-frame building in the center represents a type of commercial construction which has nearly disappeared in Chicago. Let's just say fire and wood is not a great match.  The first floor has been oddly clad with a red brick veneer.  Originally this would have had cast iron columns framing large glass and wood storefronts.  I'm really not sure how this got on the block.  Fire codes would have prevented this type of construction and I doubt this building pre-dates the 1893 annexation of Rogers Park.  As you can see from the 1958 photo below it originally had a projecting bay on the second floor and a false front. 

1958 Photo from the Images of Change collection at UIC

The red brick building on the right was built around 1913 with white terra cotta cornice and window surrounds.  It still retains a good amount of character, although the huge red awning (fiberglass?) makes it look dated.  This is a traditional mixed-use building with storefronts below and apartments above. The south storefront has been infilled and covered with a red and white pebble finish. This was a bar when I first moved to the neighborhood.

The yellow and blue 1-story building dates from at least 1958...  The storefront angles back slightly from the sidewalk  to create a shallow entrance.  I'm guessing there are roughly a thousand coats of paint on this one. The sign dominates the building, which became common as new buildings focused only on retail or commercial use.

The gray building to the left is constructed of split-face concrete block (CMU).  This may be the most unattractive masonry material ever produced.  I can date this building to around 1986, but I'm a little surprised by the huge sign above the roofline.  Current sign codes prohibit new signs taller than the building.  This could be older building that kept its signage.  Or maybe they just never bothered to get a sign permit...

Despite their varying vintages and forms all of these buildings come right up to the sidewalk and observe a similar scale and relationship to the street.  And even with their mix of materials they somehow seem to harmonize with each other.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Beachton Court Apartments, 1929

Image above from the Tribune Article, 11/11/28
The Beachton Court Apartments are another example of how Rogers Park rapidly gained density at the end of the 1920s.  This complex replaced the Raymond Beach residence at the southwest corner of Pratt and Ashland and was named in honor of the former occupant. Not sure if he appreciated that or not...  Raymond Beach must have been a holdout in that area as many single family homes gave way to 3-story apartment buildings.

The steel-reinforced cement frame building has an exterior of buff brick and stone cladding.  It had a large community room on the first floor (maybe it still does?) including a waxed dance floor. The 76 units had built-in ironing boards, vestibule phones, electric door releases and electric refrigeration.  The architectural style is described as Tudor Gothic, modified to 1928 sensibilities.  I take 1928 sensibilities to mean tall and massive.

The rendering shows parapets with ornament that projects above the building, giving it a slightly more vertical orientation.  I'm not sure of these elements were removed or perhaps not built as drawn.  It was constructed at a cost of $580,000.

Site Map
Leon F. Urbain was the architect for the building as well as an investor.  I find this to be common for large apartment buildings. Successful practices often incorporated design and development, which must have solved many problems.  And possibly created some as well.

Images from Google Streetscape
Urbain designed at least two large apartment buildings at various stages of completion by 1929.  With the stock market crash these were put on hold until new financing could be secured.  The Poinsettia Apartments in Hyde Park and the Kenmore Manor Apartments in Edgewater were similar in scale to the Beachton.

The project on Kenmore sat for 7 years until it could finally be completed.

Just a quick note.  Leon Urbain should not be confused with the firm of Olsen and Urbain, which was also active in the area.  I'm mostly talking to myself here.

Complete Tribune Article 11/11/28

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Metra's 1965 Ravenswood Corridor (Repost from 6/5/14)

Metra Overpass at Greenleaf, looking North

I take the UP-N Metra train to work every morning and home every evening.  It may possibly be the best and easiest commute in the universe.  While I'm waiting for the train sometimes I notice things from the platform, like these standard 1960s apartment buildings flanking the west side of the embankment.

Ravenswood is split by the train line, so there's a Ravenwood Avenue on either side south of Lunt.  But at Lunt the west side of Ravenswood ends abruptly.  At that point a series of condo buildings occur between Lunt and Touhy, located in the same strip where Ravenswood would have continued through.

These brick buildings (shown in red above) are nearly identical, with low pitched roofs and simple geometric ornament. Some of them are bigger than others, which basically means that a few more units have been tacked on.   A quick check of the Cook County Assessor's website shows that all of them are dated to 1965. 

I'm guessing it's not a coincidence.  That strip of land had been owned by the railroad (at that time the Illinois Parallel Railroad Company) since its incorporation by the Illinois Legislature in 1851.  Passenger service to Waukegan began in 1854, with service to the North Shore beginning in 1856.  By 1869 there were seven trains each way daily.  In 1896 work began to elevate the tracks above grade in an effort to eliminate crossing accidents.

Sanborn Map above and Chicago Zoning Map below
Public rights-of-way have enormous value, even just from a standpoint of square footage.  Railroad rights-of-way were granted to private industry because they had the capital to develop them for public (and private) benefit.  But what happens when the railroad doesn't have a need for as much land as it was given? Does it return that land to the government?  In this case it appears to have been sold off for residential development.

To the right is a Sanborn Fire Insurance map from 1937, showing the previous ownership structure for the area.  The train platform on the west side of the tracks is clearly outlined.  At first I thought that perhaps the railroad bought this land, but if that were the case the alley would extend through.  Instead, I believe this area was part of the granted right-of-way, and was used to provide access to the Rogers Park station.  It also provided a buffer between the trains and the nearby single family homes.

But sometime after 1937 it was determined that this land no longer served the interests of the railroad.  Perhaps the train platform was reconstructed to take up less space. Or perhaps the railroad needed to raise funds.  Regardless, the areas adjacent to the tracks were developed into multi-unit buildings.  North of Touhy the railroad has retained ownership, possibly because the slightly westward angle of the route made the lots less viable for development. 

To me the front facades look a bit like drunken robots.  The developments also created an uncomfortable relationship between the train embankment and the new buildings.  The area in between is a dark, overgrown strip which frequently fills up with trash.  Perhaps not the best land planning, but a good example of how developers maximum the value of undesirable lots.   As if we needed more of those examples...

Metra posts some history about their train lines here, which provided some of the detail and dates above.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

6970-6972 N. Clark (c.1988)

Above is a standard strip mall in Rogers Park.  These are scattered throughout the neighborhood and are the primary design for auto-oriented businesses along Clark Street.   They are often located on corner lots, which provides frontage on two streets and greater visibility. This one is located mid-block, which is unusual.

The photo is dated 1958 from the UIC Collection "Images of Change."  The Sanborn Map is from 1951.
This particular strip mall replaced a 6-story hospital and a 3-story mixed-use building.  Both came right up to the sidewalk. As far as I can tell both were demolished some time in the 1970s.

Parking and Circulation

The most important thing about strip malls is the parking lot. Without a parking lot the advantage of the design is lost.  In this case almost every square foot has been given over to parking and circulation. 

Primary Sign

The second most valuable feature of the strip mall is signage.  A large sign provides identification for each business on the strip.  These signs are generally as big as can be permitted by current sign codes.  Signs are designed for cars driving past rather than pedestrians.

Sign Band

The sign band is for individual business signs and is designed to easily accommodate mechanical and electrical connections.  If the sign band is damaged it can be repaired by replacing the cladding.
Secondary Signage

Because the strip mall design creates a break in the street wall it exposes the unfinished walls of the neighboring buildings.  Often these are used for signage as well.

Despite the large amount of space dedicated to signage individual tenants still manage to place additional signs and advertising on the site.  Here flags have been attached to the sign band, bunting has been strung from the primary sign to the building, and a feather sign has been placed in the planting strip.

Planting Strip

Because the strip mall brings the cars in close to the storefronts additional devices are needed to prevent them from accidentally crashing through.  In this case concrete parking stops and metal bollards are used.  

More recent strip malls include areas for landscaping.  Here a long narrow concrete planter has been located at the front of the lot.  Given the size of the strip and its proximity to car exhaust and melting salt nothing can actually grow here.  It some point it was paved over.  In the winter this is where snow is piled.

Over the years there has been a realization that strip malls are not the most appropriate development for established commercial districts which rely on foot traffic from the adjacent neighborhood.  Special zoning overlays can prohibit this type of development, but the community needs to be sophisticated enough to ask for these additional controls.  And in many places the damage has already been done.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

2324 W. Devon, 1926

L. Shure, 2015
Every time I pass this building on Devon I'm amazed by its ornamental quality and originality.  Where else can you find a 1-story building draped with owls, lions, shields, and weird geometric insignias?  And why would so much detail be lavished on such a small building?

According to the Chicago Historic Resources Survey (CHRS) this was designed by architect Edward Perry Steinberg.  Steinberg designed several of these medieval-inspired commercial buildings, complete with half-timber details and herringbone brick infill.  Or at least those were some of his buildings picked up by the survey. (See below.)

Edward Steinberg was one of many unsung Chicago architects who had a long and productive career but never really came into the public eye.   Even so, his work continues to contribute to neighborhood character throughout the city.   According to his 1975 Tribune obituary he designed movie theaters for the Lubliner & Trinz chain (including the former Belpark Theater), as well as the W.F. Hall Printing Corporation at 4600 W. Diversey (now demolished).  He was also a founding member and architect for the former B'Nai Zion Synagogue at 1445 W. Pratt.

2324 W. Devon
The illustration is a bit dishonest in that it restores some of the integrity of the building.  It hasn't been maintained very carefully and is starting to deteriorate.  Some of the slate tiles have been replaced by asphalt, and signage attachments have taken a toll on the ornamental features.  When I see buildings like this they're often on their way out.  Any extensive restoration would far exceed the market value of the property, so the common solution is to keep things going as long as possible with as little cost as possible. But you can only depend on the underlying quality of the materials and workmanship for so long.  When the maintenance issues catch up I expect to see a wholesale removal of the ornament.

Photo on the left by the author, and the two on the right from the CHRS.

Monday, November 9, 2015

NE Corner of Clark and Morse, 1958 and 2015

 An uncomfortable renovation of a bank.  I wonder if any of the previous facade is hiding behind that thing.  It's odd that the unattractive octagonal windows survived.  The rest of the buildings don't appear to have changed very much.

The 1958 photo is from UIC's Images of Change collection. 

In the historic photo you can just glimpse of the bank at the NE corner of Lunt and Clark.  This was demolished in the 1990s and is now a strip center.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

F.W. Itte and Philip Itte Residences (1225-1229 W. Morse)

I don't often focus on buildings which have been demolished.  First off, it's depressing.  Second, it's hard to say much about a building when you only have a single photograph and a few fuzzy scans.  But, for the Fritz and Philip Itte residences, I'll make an exception. These two Rogers Park homes were designed by architect Walter Burley Griffin, and they only existed for 15 years before they were replaced by a commercial garage. Luckily their photo was included in an article about Griffin in the 1910 issue of Architectural Record.

Architectural Record, 1910, Volume 28, Page 307.  Accessed via Google Books 11/3/15.
Walter Burley Griffin (1876-1937) was a member of Chicago's Prairie School of architecture. He was born in the Chicago suburb of Maywood and raised in Oak Park, later studying architecture and landscape design at the University of Illinois.  In 1899 he joined a group of architects in the Steinway Hall office building in Chicago. The group reads as a who's who of the Prairie School, including an already obnoxious Frank Lloyd Wright.  Wright had his main office in Oak Park, but still maintained a presence in downtown Chicago.  After two years Griffin went to work with Wright in Oak Park as the office manager and construction supervisor. On a personal note, that was where Griffin met his future wife, Marion Mahoney.  In 1905 Wright left for a three-month trip to Japan, leaving Griffin in charge of the studio.  When Wright returned, they quarreled--apparently, Wright wanted to pay him entirely in Japanese prints--and Griffin returned to Steinway Hall as an independent architect.  Two years later he opened his own office and began to build his practice.

Frederick Itte Residence
The 1910 article congratulates Griffin on successfully creating buildings similar to those of Wright, but it doesn't focus on what makes them different.  Griffin's houses are generally rustic in appearance, with dark rough-textured wood trim set against stucco walls.  Porches are used to relieve the cube-like form of the homes.  Griffin observed the Prairie School dedication to creating an open plan.  Circulation in the main living spaces was defined by a large central fireplace, with a living and dining space flowing into each other. Griffin has been credited with developing the L-shaped living area years before Wright claimed it as his own invention. Broad projecting eaves provide protection from rain and sun.

Philip Itte Two Flat
Griffin often was contracted to design side-by-side homes unified by a carefully designed landscape.  Good examples of these are nearby, including the 1908 Gauler twin houses in the Edgewater neighborhood, the 1908 Orth Houses in Winnetka, and the 1911 Comstock Houses in Evanston.  The Itte Residences (one was a single family home and one a two-flat) expressed themselves as variations on a theme, pinwheeling against each other with complimentary massing and roof-forms.  They were connected by a substantial stucco wall which also provided privacy from the street.  Had the Itte Residences survived they might have taken their place with some of Griffin's finest work.

Itte Residences shown in red.
The 1923 demolition of both Itte Residences is a bit abrupt, but consistent with the transformation of the area.  Prior to the 1908 extension of the elevated train to Rogers Park, the area was somewhat open, with single family homes comprising most of the development.  As connections to downtown strengthened, local land values rose, making the area more attractive for multi-family buildings. In the 1920s neighborhood density increased with the construction of courtyard apartment complexes.  The area of Morse east of Sheridan began to accommodate the auto repair and storage needs of the neighborhood, which were--and continue to be--substantial.  The Itte Residences were constructed right at the beginning of this trend and their siting made them too valuable to survive.

Griffin's ability to work with contractors and developers lead to a number of commissions for subdivisions and multiple residences, and his skill at land planning was evident. The architect applied the guiding philosophies of the Prairie School to design homes that were both affordable and appealing to the general public.  Just as his career started to take off, his plan for the Australian capital of Canberra was selected as the winner of an international competition. By 1914 Griffin had moved to Australia to administer the design process.  This effectively marked the end of his American career.  After his death in 1937, Marion Mahoney Griffin moved back to Rogers Park where she remained until her death in 1961.  She must have felt the absence of the Itte Residences more than anyone.

Architectural Record, "Some Houses by Walter Burley Griffin," 1910, Volume 28, Pg. 307.
Designation Report for the Gauler Twin Houses 
Designation Report for the Walter Burley Griffin District
Rogers Park Directory, June, 1919
Sanborn Fire Insurance Accessed through ProQuest via Chicago Public Library (Vol J, 1914 and Vol.40, 1937)
"Walter Burley Griffin in America," Photos and Essay by Mati Maldre.  Essay, Catalog and Selected Bibliography by Paul Kruty.  1996.

Plans, elevations and sections of the Itte Residences are held at the Art Institute of Chicago, (donated by Marion Mahoney Griffin) and are available online as low-quality scans.   Just a note to any librarians out there, don't post low-quality scans if it can be avoided. These are archival documents, and should be shared with as much detail as possible.  If I ever write a book I will definitely pay for those images, but right now I just want to see them. The elevations I've included here have been cropped and adjusted for contrast, but are basically unreadable.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

6952-6964 N. Clark (c.1905 - c.1925)

L. Shure, 2015
From the 1870s through the 1930s nearly everyone agreed on the best way to construct a local commercial district.  The buildings should be 2 or three stories in height, they should come right up to the sidewalk, and there should be commercial space on the first floor and residential or office space above. Buildings should be tightly spaced to maximize square footage.  High quality materials and ornamentation were reserved for the street elevations, which were the only portions of the building readily visible.   Above is a fairly intact stretch of buildings in Rogers Park constructed between 1905 and 1925.

Storefronts are basically large panes of fixed glass supported by wood or metal mullions with a center or side entrance.  Storefront technologies have changed dramatically over the years, but if you're selling something it's better to let people see into the store.

The upper floors were accessed through a front door adjacent to the storefronts.  Typically this would be a solid door to convey the more private nature of the space above. Most of these on this stretch are apartments.
Projecting bays were common.  These would allow additional light into the upper floors and offset some of the limitations of the minimal front and side setbacks.  These were typically covered with elaborated pressed metal ornamentation, which was inexpensive and readily available. The bays often utilize the steel beam above the storefront to cantilever over the street.

Cornices were used to emphasize the termination of the building, and were often stone or pressed metal, built up from stock pieces available though a catalog or a local supplier. Corbelled brick cornices often depended on the abundance of inexpensive skilled labor available at the time.

Decorative parapets often add additional interest to the top of the building.  As different styles became popular the parapet offered a good location for their expression.  On the far right the parapet has a castellated profile and is inset with Sullivanesque terracotta ornament. 

Modern signage, even with strict code regulations, doesn't have a consistent methodology. It often blocks storefronts or interferes with the underlying ornamentation of the building. This is nothing new, can be seen even in historic photos.


The other major type of commercial development in Rogers Park is the strip mall.  That might take a broader analysis.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

6924-6928 N. Clark, Then and Now

I've been impressed with the "Images of Change" digital photo archive of UIC.  Many of these photos were developed to document building violations for the City of Chicago in the 1950s, which is a great way to show the guts of the city.  But it also includes a large number of streetscapes.  The 1950s was at the very beginning of a long decline and disinvestment in urban areas.  You can really sense the desperation as signage becomes larger and more strident on buildings that look increasingly shabby.  At least that's my take on it...

The gothic revival building on the right is long gone (replaced with a drive-through bank), and the central building has been mostly rebuilt. With the loss of the corner building that feeling of enclosure has been lost on this block.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

7354-74 N. Clark, c.1925

This 1-story commercial building was designed by architect Maurice L. Bein and constructed some time around 1925.  Bein designed a number of Rogers Park buildings, and I'll be investigating some more as I'm able to get out and take current photos.
SW Corner of Clark and Rogers

I was lucky to find two historic photos, one from the Digital Archives of the Art Institute of Chicago, and the other in a UIC collection called Images of Change.  Both are great sources for overlooked neighborhood buildings.

Originally the storefront at the corner was pulled back to allow a generous entrance flanked by display windows.  By the time the middle photo was taken that area had been enclosed by a homemade wall insert.  In the bottom photo a new storefront has made the transformation permanent.  Porches that become enclosed over time often have the same progression.

People generally tend to idealize signage on historic buildings, but by the 1950s the era of tasteful gold stenciled lettering in the windows was long gone.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Morse Avenue Walking Tour

The graphic below is the culmination of the work I've done on Morse Avenue since last February. Some history and analysis was written for each of the illustrations, and can be found on this blog.  These were intended to be thumbnail images, but some of the subjects required a more detailed treatment.  You'll probably need to click on the image to see it at a decent resolution.

The point of the project was to take a single street and show it as a microcosm of Chicago architecture and history.  Not sure if it succeeded entirely, but I still think the idea is a good one.  I might try it again on another street... 

L. Shure, 2015