Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Devonshire Apartments, 1926

Write for more information!  OK, not really.
Every now and then I'll find something interesting in an unexpected place.  That was the case for the Devonshire Apartments at the southwest corner of Devon and Hermitage.  I was at a used bookstore in downtown Ashtabula, Ohio when my wife spotted a 1926 copy of "American Builder". Amazingly, one of the advertisements illustrated a building in our neighborhood (about 400 miles away at that point).  This was next to an article about the miracles of asbestos, but I'll leave that alone for now.

But is it really historically significant that the developer of this property used Roper Gas Ranges in the new rental units?  Not really, although it is nice to learn the name of the building and the architect (Anthony H. Quitsow, who designed a number of apartments in the area, some of which are referenced in this blog entry from 2011).  So let's take a closer look at the photos below.

You can see that the 1926 angle is more oblique than my photograph.  This wasn't my preference, since I always try to match the angle when I can.   In 1926 the portion of the block along Devon was mostly vacant, and allowed for a better angle of view. The entire block didn't develop until the 1960s, when the large 1-story building currently in that location was constructed. Sometimes I'm jealous of historic photographs which capture buildings from flattering vantage points which are no longer accessible.

In 1926 there was a tree along the Devon Avenue side, but now the entire Devon parkway is gone.  This was typical of streets which became major thoroughfares, As a major east-west route Devon's parkway was trimmed to allow for more traffic (and more parking).

From the 1928 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map

The building itself has come through pretty much intact and to have been well-maintained  Even the window configurations are similar, although it looks like the casement windows behind the Juliet balconies have been changed to double-hung.  But I strongly doubt there are any Roper Gas Ranges remaining...

Friday, December 27, 2013

Stone Academy, 6239 N. Leavitt (c. 1928)

So this is my donation for this year's silent auction fundraiser for Stone Academy in West Ridge, which my son attends. Built around 1928 and named in honor of Leander Stone, this was likely designed by John C. Christensen, who was the architect for the Chicago Board of Education at the time.  It's a popular design for small neighborhood schools of that era, with an auditorium on one end and the gymnasium on the other.  Separate entrances allow those portions of the school to operate independently if needed.  This is a brick and terracotta school in fairly good shape, although it could benefit from new windows and central air conditioning.
Stone Academy, 6239 N. Leavitt

Like many public schools in Chicago Stone struggles with underfunding, overcrowding, and high levels of poverty.  To the credit of its teachers and administrators it manages to provide first rate programs for the students.  But this is also supported by active parents who are willing to raise funds to maintain the school's emphasis on the arts and technology.  In an urban school district it's really not enough to drop off your kids and hope for the best.  There has to be an involvement of both time and money on behalf of the parents and the community. So for that reason I hope this drawing will do its part to bring in a little bit for the school.  I think I need to put it in a frame...

If anyone out there wants to attend this fundraiser it will be at the Raven Theater on Sunday, March 2nd, and includes a play and food!  Here's a link to the event.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

West Ridge Architecture #4, Double Georgians

Rough comparison between Georgians
While working my way through some typical styles of the neighborhood I couldn't ignore a prominent variation of the
asymmetrical Georgian Revivals posted about previously.  The Double Georgians are nearly identical in style and ornament, but they've been enlarged to create a center entrance and a symmetrical facade.  This is actually much closer to the standard Georgian Revival styles popular in the 1920s.  This variation has projecting bays on either side of an ornamental entrance and may have either a hipped or side-gabled roof.   Often there's a small decorative window or dormer  treatment in the center of the second floor.

I did a very unscientific comparison of the size of lots where these can be found (mainly in the northwest quadrant of the neighborhood) and the general differences in interior space.  Of course many of these have been added to over the years, so a direct comparison is difficult.

As you can see from the addresses, I found a cluster of these homes on Coyle, where the subdivision allowed for lots with greater frontage than typical.  Perhaps this was intended by the developers to be a more prominent block, attracting more affluent buyers.  Because of the additional width I didn't find any of these with attached side garages, but I suspect there are a few of them out there.

Facades use the same materials and treatments as the smaller Georgians, including corner quoins, three-sided projecting bays on the first floor with standing seam metal roofs, and double-hung windows with colonial-style divisions.  And of course, decorative shutters. The homes always have shutters.  If not you can often see outlines where the shutters were once located.

Only one of these broke the mold of the three sided bays, and that's the home shown below at 2813 W. Coyle with the rounded bays and casement windows.   I also only found one curved bay roof on the smaller asymmetrical Georgians.  I imagine it's a harder detail to fabricate, but it does provide some variety in an otherwise extremely consistent building type.

To date all of these homes have been fairly traditional.  They're basically boxes with some ornamental elaborations.  But the 1950s was also a time when space was being divided and organized in new ways.  Future West Ridge posts will focus on some of these more explicitly "modern" types of buildings, including ranch and split level homes.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Chicago Fresh Air Hospital, 2451 W. Howard

The Chicago Fresh Air Hospital was a tuberculosis sanatorium in West Ridge at the southwest corner of Western and Howard, in the middle of what had been 20 acres of the Peter Gouden farm.  Although mostly forgotten today, tuberculosis was a leading cause of death in Chicago at the turn of the twentieth century.  With increased urbanization, over-crowding, and insufficient sanitation, it became a devastating epidemic.  
Original Sanatorium Footprint Outlined in Red

A system of sanatoriums were developed to treat those who suffered from the disease, despite the fact that there was no effective treatment at the time.  Instead, sanatoriums focused on rest, nutrition and exercise.  Patients would sometimes remain for years in these facilities before recovery or death.  In actuality, the real public health benefit of the sanatoriums may have been to remove the sick from the general population, where they could no longer transmit the illness.

The Chicago Fresh Air Hospital was chartered in 1909, the same year the Glackin Tuberculosis Law gave the city of Chicago the ability to raise funds for the treatment and control of tuberculosis through a special property tax. The total cost of the building was estimated to be $150,000 for 95 beds, and the non-profit hospital was up and running by December 1911. 

The Chicago Fresh Air Hospital catered to middle-class patients who could afford the $15 to $25 weekly fees. Wealthier tubercular patients might go to more luxurious sanatoriums, which often  resembled resorts.  The tubercular poor were relegated to municipal sanatoriums, at the low end of the spectrum. Typically sanatoriums would be located in remote areas, since visitors were discouraged and "fresh air" was plentiful.

Top photo printed in "Chicago's Far North Shore" (CHS Collection)
In 1943 streptomycin was developed and the need for tuberculosis sanatoriums faded. It also meant that sanatoriums needed a new reason to exist. By 1947 the Chicago Fresh Air Hospital had expanded its mission to treat all types of lung disease and was fundraising to add more beds and diagnostic equipment.  Eight years later, the hospital merged with Augustana Hospital, and became Augustana's division for the chronically ill.

In 1957, Augustana sold off most of the 20 acres around the hospital, which was promptly subdivided.  The area to the east became the Howard-Western Shopping Center, and the area to the west was developed as multifamily residential buildings.  Having raided the property for its land value, Augustana soon sold it to the Steward's Foundation, which spent about $500,000 to convert it into the Bethesda General Hospital on the remaining 1.8 acres. That was in 1958.

In 1965, the grand classical revival facade designed by architect M.J. Stevens was removed to accommodate a large front addition angling towards Howard Street.  An additional floor was added to the historic structure.  These additions more than doubled the size of the building, which functioned as Bethesda Hospital until 1988, when it became Mount Sinai Hospital North.  But due to its proximity to other hospitals it was felt that it could no longer be competitive.

Original building footprint emphasized in red.

At this point the record goes a bit cold.  But I do know that a developer proceeded to convert the building into condos in the late 1990s.  This succeeded, more or less, but the condo market had collapsed.  Now the building is operated as apartment rentals.   But, if you take a close look from the side, you can still see the outline of West Ridge's sanatorium peeking out from the cast concrete and artificial stucco accretions.

Most of the information in this post is taken from old Chicago Tribune articles accessed digitally through the Chicago Public Library. Some information was also used from Sheila Rothman's book, "Living in the Shadow of Death: Tuberculosis and the Social Experience of Illness in American History."  The name of the architect was found in in a database developed by the Chicago History Museum with permit information from "American Contractor."  The name of the farm where the hospital was located is taken from the Rogers Park/West Ridge Historical Society's HistoryWiki.