Monday, October 31, 2011

S & C Gatehouse, Pratt and Ravenswood

S&C Electric Gatehouse at Pratt and Ravenswood

Here's something you don't see every day in Rogers Park-- a high-style modernist structure in the Miesian tradition.  Sure, it's a tiny gatehouse for S&C Electric, but it hits almost every note, from 360 degree visibility, to the use of a module to define proportions, to the deeply cantilevered roof that appears to float above the building. It makes use of traditional materials (brick) mainly to emphasize planar qualities.

But there's one nod to reality that I really like.  See those two shapes on the front edge of the roof?  Those are water spouts.  A truly doctrinaire modernist would have come up with a way to move the water down from the flat roof without allowing it to interrupt the design.  Maybe by concealing a water a spout in a corner column?   But in this case the architect decided that this is a roof, and it needs to shed water.  Of course they could have shifted them to the rear of the structure, but let's assume there are spouts on that side as well.

S & C Electric located in this area in 1947.  By 1971 they owned 50 acres east of Ridge.  I wish I could say that this gatehouse dates from 1947, but it's more likely to be a later addition as the company expanded into the area.  Historic aerial photos make me want to date it between 1974 and 1988.  But note the interesting profile of the stainless steel edge of the roof.  This detail is used on many of the buildings (old and new) and provides a cohesive element for an industrial campus with a variety of structures.  

Thursday, October 20, 2011

More Cullerton Cottages!

Here are some more of these great 1-story homes in K-Town.  And I haven't yet touched the ones built in the Craftsman style on 21st Street.
According to the assessor, all of these were built in 1911 and range from 896 sq.ft. to 1,048 sq.ft.  The one on the left has a limestone facade, while the two to the right are brick with stone details.  The central house has the original canopy roof, but the columns have been replaced with a single steel support. 

So I finally tracked down the K-Town National Register Nomination, and was suprised to find an advertisement for the homes in the area created circa 1910.  And in Czech, of course.  I can't quite figure out the source of the ad, but that doesn't stop me from posting it here.

And take a look at the home third from the left.  It's a tiny greystone! And at $3,200 the price is right... Unfortunately my Czech is non-existent, otherwise it would be interesting to see how these were presented to potential buyers.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Rogers Park Courtyard Views in Perspective

These are a few additional images I developed for the courtyard apartments project. The intent is to better represent the courtyard in space, since so many of the other illustrations appear quite flat.   I thought I would post them here before they get lost in a directory somewhere.  I still have more to say about courtyard buildings, but I think I can let is rest for a while.
7414-7425 N. Damen, 1929

This is one of the largest courtyards I found in Rogers Park.  The image doesn't quite do it justice.   Unfortunately there wasn't much in there except for grass and a few scrubby bushes.  It has huge wall with two entrances which somehow wasn't included in the courtyard entrances post.  
1700-1706 W. Albion, 1925

This building has a combination of classical and craftsman detailing.  I always like it when an architect uses brick to replicate  stone detailing (in this case, rustication of the ground floor). Note the dish antennas to the right. On some of these buildings the antennas and cables could be a design element in their own right.
1029-1049 W. North Shore, 1927

This is a good example of a brick and terra cotta design.  And it retains the original fountain at the back of the court, although it's been converted into a planter.  The entrances to the building have a blue-glazed coat of arms representing productivity (beehive, plow, sheaf of wheat, etc).   That will have to wait for a color treatment at some point.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Cullerton Cottages

A portion of North Lawndale came to be known as K-Town, based on the number of streets that start with the letter "K."  This resulted from a 1913 street naming proposal (later abandoned) in which letters of the alphabet indicate the distance from the Indiana border. Streets that start with a K are within the eleventh mile.  I suppose there have been weirder naming conventions.

To my surprise K-Town has the best examples of 1-story masonry cottages that I've found. There are blocks of them on Cullerton and 21st Street. Many use Indiana limestone veneers with romanesque details and look like tiny truncated greystones.  Others use face brick and classical or craftsman ornamentation.  Most have projecting bays on the front facade, which adds variety and captures additional light and air.

All three of the buildings above were constructed in 1909 and have just over 900 square feet of living space.  Only the building at 4147 W. Cullerton has retained the original porch, with wood columns and a triangular pediment. 

I'm impressed at what a enjoyable streetscape these small homes create, especially when they line up on both sides of Cullerton.  At first glance they might seem toy-like, but their attention to detail and careful proportions really create a unique character for the area.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Lawndale Cottages

3149 S. Komensky, 1922, 841 sq.ft.
While looking up a few images in Google I found an unusual building type.  Well, it was unusual to me. Blocks of 1-story masonry cottages with flat roofs, mostly built in the 1910s and early 1920s.  They look like 2-flats with the top floor cut off.  These are single family homes complete with yards and garages, ranging in size from 800 to 1000 sq.ft.  This is about the size of a modest two-bedroom apartment, although these also have full basements.

They tend to group together, alternating designs in an A-B-A-B pattern. Just another reminder of how much of Chicago was created by builders trying to minimize design fees and maximize profit.  And provide solid neighborhood buildings, of course.
3147 S. Komensky, 1922, 841 sq.ft.
 So the other weekend we found ourselves driving through a light rain with a couple of snoozing kids in back, and Angela suggested that we take a drive to check out these cottages.  So we did.  It's a good thing my wife is game for this sort of thing.  In addition to getting some decent photos through the drizzle we discovered the original Home Run Pizzeria on 31st street.  Good reason for a return visit.

Not all of these houses are cut from a few basic designs.  There are some that have more elaborate parapets and details, and were probably individually designed for a particular client. The building below has a carefully proportioned
3145 S. Keeler, 1919, 847 sq.ft.
parapet (Mission-style? Craftsman?) and brick columns with chamfered corners to create a more elegant appearance.  And you can't overlook the generous full-width front porch.

I'm struck by how unlikely it would be for anyone to build something comparable today.  It's really a function of the economy more than anything else.  First, you would have to buy the land.  Second, you would have to excavate the foundation and use all new materials. Third, you would end up with something that utilizes a fraction of the possible floor area but with triple the costs.  This alone gives a good snapshot of this neighborhood when it first developed- inexpensive land and affordable materials and labor.

Angela's theory is that this neighborhood developed because of its proximity to the Crawford Power Plant, which began generating in 1924.  But even before then it was a very industrial area, and there would have been a steady demand for single family houses.

So I think I'll start a collection of these types of cottages, and maybe a typology will start to emerge.  There are some really interesting single-story greystones a bit further north, in the area known as K-Town.