Thursday, October 31, 2013

West Ridge Architecture #2 - Asymmetrical Georgians

These boxy Georgian-styled homes are found in West Ridge, but also throughout the city and  The ones from the 1940s are solid brick, while later versions are concrete block with a face brick veneer. Most have stone trim or details.  Unlike the original Georgians, they are asymmetrical, with the front entrance to one side and the projecting bay with standing seam metal roof on the other. You can sometimes find identical versions on the same block with left- or right-handed orientations.

Typically they have a raised entrance with an ornamental surround, a decorative bay on the first floor, colonial windows with shutters, and a hipped or pyramidal roof with minimal eaves.  The examples to the right are not drawn from an exhaustive survey of the type, but represent many of the typical characteristics. They're collected here to show some of the variations found throughout the neighborhood. 

The Georgian Revival style, which can be categorized as a subset of the Colonial Revival, had long been advertised in home catalogs and pattern books as the perfect combination of hominess and sophistication.  It could also be simplified easily while maintaining its basic characteristics. It lent itself to a variety of materials and expressions, from wood to stone and brick.  And it clearly appealed to the families who began to move to West Ridge following WWII.

Versions sometimes appear which bend the mold, like the example at 6813 N. Ridge.  The main entrance is at-grade, and casement windows replace the typical double-hung colonial windows. A portion of the building has been extruded forward, resulting in a more vertical orientation and a more complex roof configuration.

It's common to find these homes with entrances canopies resembling the roof over the projecting bay.  The more efficient version of these extends the roof bay over the entrance, hitting two birds with one stone.  This is especially common on the examples built later in the 1950s, when they begin to take on a more modern cast.

I can't emphasize enough how important the shutters are for this style. In some cases my illustrations restore those which have been removed.  Sure, they're non-functional and kind of silly, but the homes just don't look right without them.

When I started to look at these I was hoping there would be a clear progression from more historically-styled versions of the 1940s to modern types with minimal ornamentation from the 1950s.  Some of that can be seen, but not as much as I expected.  But as I pile up some more examples from the neighborhood perhaps some  new models for facade evolution will be suggested.

What I did begin to notice was how much the multifamily buildings from the 1950s and 60s borrowed from the architectural expressions of these single family homes.  But that will wait for a future post.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

West Ridge Architecture, #1

This series is vaguely labeled, but will focus on the architecture of the West Ridge neighborhood that developed during the 1940s, 50s, and 60s.  And not all of it.  As usual, I'll be guided by my own interests and curiosity.  That's the great thing about being self-directed-- nobody is pointing out your gaps in methodology.  The drawback is that nobody is helping you to shape your analysis either.  If you screw up it's entirely on you.

There have been a few posts on West Ridge already, and here they are:

Farwell and Oakley, 1928
Some Chicago Bungalows in West Ridge
Veteran's Housing in West Ridge, 1946-1947
Howard and Washtenaw, c. 1958
Townhouses at Greenleaf and Oakley, 1968

The new series will take a more extensive look at some issues touched upon in previous posts.  These will include:
  1. Subdivisions
  2. Developers
  3. Mid-century site planning 
  4. MId-century styles
  5. Single and multi-family buildings
  6. Commercial development
  7. Whatever else I decide is worth writing about.
There has been some writing on the remarkable commercial buildings on Lincoln, but there are other neighborhood buildings in commercial areas which also deserve some attention.
Howard and Washtenaw, 1958
While early development in West Ridge clustered in the center and east side of the neighborhood, significant undeveloped portions were available to accommodate the post-war building boom, especially to the northwest.  In 1956 and 1957 West Ridge surpassed all other Chicago communities in home construction (according to "Chicago's Far North Side", p.126).
West Ridge Boundaries and Building Footprint Data (Available free online!)

The map above is adapted from City of Chicago GIS data, showing older buildings in yellow and more recent buildings in maroon.  I don't have much confidence in the accuracy for the individual buildings (and there are huge gaps in this data), but it does provide a qualitative illustration of the sequence of development, with mid-century buildings primarily west of California. Which seems like a good place to start.