Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Frame Houses at 1926-1938 W. Touhy, 1907

A few months ago I wrote about some nearly identical frame homes on Chase.  In that entry I remarked that once you noticed these "runs" of homes you would start to see them everywhere.  At the time I didn't know how true that was.  Within a week, I'd spotted five groupings within three blocks of each other.

These small-scale developments represent a point in Rogers Park history after the 1893 annexation to Chicago but prior to the multifamily development of the 1920s.  This was a period when architects often took a back seat to local builders when it came to developing affordable single family homes.  Since architects were more focused on commercial projects and more prestigious commissions, an entire industry developed that offered pre-designed homes with no architect required.  Some, like Sears, sold kits including all wood, hardware, and fixtures.  Others sold permit-ready architectural plans, like this Radford American Homes catalog from 1903.

These five frame homes were permitted in 1907. They all have double-pitched hipped roofs, two-story projecting bays, and (originally) a full-width front porch on the first floor  Over the years they've been modified in all the ways you might expect- artificial siding, rear additions, and porch alterations.  I chose the middle image at 1938 W. Touhy as the most unaltered example.  These five homes were each built on 30' x 160' lots, which are somewhat larger than a standard 25'x 100' Chicago lot.  At the time Rogers Park had more of a suburban character.  But in 1907 "suburban character" still meant narrow side yards and a detached garage with alley access.

According to a rule of thumb proposed by Stewart Brand in "How Buildings Learn" you can expect homes to go through major renovations about every 20 years and to update their interiors and mechanical systems every 7 to 15 years.  If the construction of the home makes it difficult to update these mechanical systems, it's likely that the home will be demolished.  By 1907 the struggle between gas and electricity in Chicago was largely over.  Electricity had become the standard for lighting and appliances while gas remained in place for cooking and heating.  So these five frame homes already had an advantage over others that were constructed just a few years earlier.  I would estimate that 80 percent of the remaining single family homes in this area (between Touhy, Clark, Pratt and Ridge) were constructed between 1900 and 1910.

To be continued with some nearby homes on Estes...

Friday, May 10, 2013

6801 N. Sheridan- Rogers Park Hotel, 1922

  I've always been interested in the apartment hotel phenomenon in Chicago.  Two years ago I wrote about the Stanleigh Apartment Hotel built in 1917 at the northwest corner of Pratt and Sheridan.  But a much more ambitious version, the Rogers Park Hotel, can be found at the northeast corner of the same intersection. 

Apartment hotels came with furnishings and maid service, so all you really needed was a suitcase.  Often there were shared dining or entertainment facilities.  Some may have lived in them year-round, but they were designed to appeal to short-term renters, such as vacationers.

It's hard to imagine Rogers Park as a vacation destination, but Sheridan Road had a different character at that time.  It was less developed, with more green space and primarily single family homes. But it already had good transit connections to downtown, popular beaches, and some bustling commercial areas.   In 1922 this building would have signalled a shift in the scale of development.  This change was acknolwledged in the Chicago Zoning Code of 1923, which earmarked the areas adjacent to Lake Michigan for greater density. And luckily, it was featured in the July 10, 1922 edition of Buildings and Buildings Management, which is available through GoogleBooks.
To the left is the ground floor, showing the retail spaces, and a typical floor of apartments.  There were 21 apartments per floor on eight floors, totaling 168.  The four sizes of apartments ranged from 600 to 280 square feet.  These had bed closets, which would have contained a Murphy-style bed.

The article makes special  mention of the wall-to-wall carpeting in the corridors and in the units, which would have been imporant for a concrete frame building built on a budget.  Although air conditioning wasn't provided, there was a "cooling coil" for water and food, which I take to be an early form of refrigerator.

The architects for this project were B. Leo Steif & Co. in association with Walter W. Ahlschlager, Inc.  The article proudly notes the absence of useless decoration, which is offset by the use of high quality materials, such as the light buff brick and Bedford stone.  The building nods to classical design, with stone string courses, balconies and architraves at the eighth and ninth floors.  If you look on the Sheridan side at the center of the building there's a larger classical surround with a decorative medallion above which prominently features "RP". 

And with that I'll leave you with some interior photos, showing the original character of the building, although with fairly poor resolution.