Monday, May 24, 2010

Flatirons in Rogers Park #1- 7219-7231 N. Rogers

This entry marks a new series on this blog examining flatiron buildings in Rogers Park.  Many people are familiar with Daniel Burnham's 1902 Flatiron Building in New York, which was famously dramatized by Alfred Steiglitz's photo, as well as its use as The Daily Bugle in the recent Spiderman movies.  But most people don't realize that that the flatiron form is relatively common, and there are notable examples throughout Chicago.
7219-7231 N. Rogers
2038-2048 W. Touhy
Built: 1925
Architect: Schaffner (no first name given, but possibly Daniel J. Schaffner)

Generally flatirons occur when two grids are juxtaposed, or an atypical element cuts through a regular grid.  Both systems create pairs of obtuse and acute angled lots.  The acute angles are difficult to utilize with a standard building type.  Enter the flatiron.  Rogers Park has a number of these buildings, some of which respond to the elevated train viaduct and some to Rogers Avenue, which extends through the neighborhood towards the southwest.  Because these buildings are not tall they're easy to overlook.

This flatiron is particularly dramatic because of the large intersection at Touhy, Ridge and Rogers, which allows for a direct view from the west.  It has some restrained classical details, such as arches and geometric cast stone ornaments, as well as a pedimented parapet wall.  It's a huge building, and it's actually easier to appreciate from an aerial perspective.  The view above is from the west looking east.  To prevent dark apartments sun porches were added towards the rear of the building and a complex courtyard funnels light into the interior.  The architect also utilized this space for the heating plant, which is located in the center of the court.  In the aerial above you can see the smokestack sticking up. It's now covered with cell antennas, but I had to leave those out for clarity.

Rogers Avenue helps create two other flatirons further east, both of which will be included here.  Eventually.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

LSI Industries, Inc. - 5535 N. Wolcott

LSI Industries, Inc. produces wholesale heathcare supplies.  Basically, they manufacturer a whole bunch of products that I pray I'll never need but probably will.  This website is worth viewing just for the creepy image they've posted above the name and qualifications of the founder.  

This is part of a large industrial area directly south of Rosehill Cemetery.  I've driven past many times, but there's no better place than the train to view the site.  I would love to explore this on foot, but sadly I've left my trespassing days behind me.  Nowadays in order to gain access I would have to present myself as a serious scholar of industrial architecture.  Might be worth a try.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Kennedy Expressway, South of Cortland

For a while my train parallels the Kennedy Expressway (90/94).  It has some amazing views of the support structures beneath the highway.  I had to simplify this, but you get the idea. It looks like IDOT uses this area mainly for storage of vehicles and equipment.
Years ago I watched a documentary called Divided Highways (1997), which I recommend for a quick overview of the system.  One of the interviews was a transportation planner whose job was to locate the expressways through and around cities.  Planners were trained to find the least expensive land, so no surprise that they often bisected the poorest, least connected neighborhoods.  In Chicago the highways often ended up reinforcing segregation lines.  Nothing like an 8 lane highway to discourage a casual stroll.

Speaking of planning, I found a study of New Orleans which considered a raised highway along the waterfront, effectively blocking off Jackson Square.  The best part was an analysis of how much scenic New Orleans the drivers would be able to enjoy as they whiz past. 

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

S&C Electric- 6601 N. Ridge

S &C Electric is hard to miss.  Basically, they own nearly all the land from Ridge east to the Metra tracks.  Although they don't use the train anymore (as far as I can tell) there's still a spur line leading down into their loading areas. 

S & C was formed as Schweitzer and Conrad, Inc in 1911, building on their invention of a safety fuse that could prevent overload of electrical utilities.  In 1947 they bought 6 acres along Ridge for new facilties.  By 1971 they had expanded to fill nearly 50 acres.  In 2002 they enlarged their Rogers Park plant along Pratt Avenue.  You can follow their history in more detail on their website

I'm fascinated by how much history these companies include on their sites.  I need to get some good recommendations for books about industrial history and architecture.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Burrito House- 3545-3547 N. Lincoln

How many places can you get a burrito at 4 a.m. on the weekend?  Well, probably quite a few in Chicago. But I remember going here after improv shows in the neighborhood.  They pride themselves on making a burrito too large for any normal person to eat. 

The 2-story section with the stepped gable roof and projecting bay is from 1901, while the 1-story extension is dated by the assessor as 1928. To the left you can just glimpse the Dunkin' Donuts drive-through, which also has frontage on Addison.  To the right is a car repair shop. In the background you can glimpse St. Andrew's Church.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Horween Leather Co. and Chicago Self-Storage- 2001-2027 N. Elston

This is one of my favorite views from the train.  The complex in the center (1886) is the Horween Leather Company.   The building to the right (1899) is now Chicago Self-Storage, although in 1914 it was the Eisendrath Glove Company.  There used to be an adjoining steel foundry on the far left.  The gap between the buildings is a public right-of-way.  Google Maps doesn't give it a name, but it used to be known as McLean Avenue.  Looks to be typical loft construction.  Horween has some decorative brick corbelling and the self-storage building has terra cotta arches above the windows and some simplified cornice details.  I've only seen these from the train, but they still look pretty solid.

Just saw the Horween Leather Co. website.  I'm impressed that Chicago businesses care so much about their history.  This is worth visiting if only for the photos of their complex from the 40s.  It also says that they're the only tannery left on the Chicago River.  Can that be true?