Thursday, January 13, 2011

Monumental Lighting #2, 311 W. Washington

311-27 W. Washington
This is the outline of the Franklin Exchange, built in 1915 and designed by the legendary Chicago firm of Holabird & Roche.  Their involvement in designing telephone exchanges is examined in Robert Bruegmann's excellent book, "The Architects and the City."  Holabird & Roche were responsible for dozens of these moderately-scaled exchanges, many of which can still be found in various neighborhoods, now retrofit for automated operations.  They're notable for their quality as well as their tendency to resemble public buildings, which must have been a branding choice made by the Chicago Telephone Company.  But in this case the design pretty much resembles a typical speculative office building in the Loop, built in a Venetian Gothic historicist mode.
Main entrance on Washington

To the right is the main entry on Washington, with its pointed arch and trefoil cornice.  The first floor  is clad with Bedford stone (granite), and the upper stories are mainly red brick.  The blocked windows suggest huge banks of computers at work.  Not much resemblance to the switchboards of 1915, but probably more delicate.  And of course, the entrance is flanked by a couple of huge copper lanterns.
Lantern flanking entrance

These lanterns are mounted below the spring point of the arch, and appear to be oxidized copper (maybe brass?) ornamented with cast leaves, rosettes and finials.  Many of these elements are cast in shapes to suggest wrought ornament. I must associate Gothic with church architecture, because these looks vaguely ecclesiastical to me.  The temple of the telephone?  Interestingly, the glass panes are prism glass, which was commonly used in storefront transoms to redirect and intensify light for retail spaces. Once again, these lanterns are in scale with the 2-story entry rather than the pedestrians.  I'm guessing they're about 5 feet high, from top to bottom. 

Just like 35 E. Wacker, I've never seen these lit.  I'm sure they were never intended to shed much useful light, but it would be nice to see them glowing in the evening.  Especially at this time of year, when it's dark at 4:30. 

No comments:

Post a Comment