Wednesday, January 21, 2015

900 W. Randolph, 1908

Back to the Fulton Market.  This 1908 building was a Commission House designed by architect Ivar Zarbell and primarily accommodated wholesale produce. Architects who designed small-scale industrial and commercial structures seldom achieved the name recognition of those working in the Loop or designing luxury apartments, but their buildings define enormous areas of the city.  And although these buildings were primarily intended to be functional, they're not without architectural interest.  For a fantastic analysis of the history and architecture of the Fulton/Randolph Market area see the designation report written by my colleague Matt Crawford.

I've added some grey tones, and I'll probably add color at some point.  But I think this image gives a good sense of the historic character of the area.  This building is already being modified to accommodate an upscale restaurant, which has been typical for the rapid development of the area.

 OK, finally finished the colorized version!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Stone Academy Fundraiser!

Colorized Detail
It's pretty impossible to buy an Ultra Local Geography drawing.  Partly it's because I draw what I want, and that isn't particularly marketable.  The other reason is that it's exhausting to sell things.  You have to find a frame, cut a mat, etc.  And then you have to find someone to buy it.  But sometimes I'll donate drawings for a good cause and let someone else work out the details.

Below is a drawing which will be available for bid to benefit my son's elementary school, Stone Academy in West Ridge.  Opening bid is $45, a steal!  Proceeds will go towards funding enrichment programs within the school.  I haven't found a frame yet, but I'm hoping it will look something like this:

This is a stretch of buildings around 3300 N. Pulaski.  It's basically a group of 1920s commercial/residential buildings overlapping some cottages built around 1905. The online auction begins on January 15th.  The actual fundraiser will be a the Raven Theater on February 8th, and additional items will be on display. 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Washtenaw-Sherwin Homes, 1946-1953

When the veterans of WWII returned home they came back to a severe housing shortage.  One governmental remedy was to re-purpose housing that had been developed for war workers into inexpensive rentals for the returning soldiers and their families.

During WWII the demand for housing to support the war effort jump-started the prefabrication industry, which had always held out the promise of mass produced inexpensive homes.  In some cases the government created their own instant cities, with homes, schools, shopping centers and recreational facilities appearing practically overnight.  A famous example of this is Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where 75,000 people were housed and employed to process the uranium needed for the Manhattan Project.  To design Oak Ridge the Federal government contracted with the firm of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM), which later went on to postwar success in both modernist city planning and skyscraper design.  At the end of the war some of these homes designed by SOM were loaded onto trucks and sent to Chicago, where they were reconstructed along land next to the Sanitary Canal.
Rogers Park in West Ridge, Showing Temporary Housing Sites in Red.
In the West Ridge neighborhood a 10-acre plot was leased (free of charge) to the Chicago Housing Authority from the Chicago Board of Education, which owned the nearby Rogers School.  The CHA received a loan from the city to prepare the sites and install utilities.  Twenty buildings of panelized construction were located on the block south of Rogers  School, each accommodating 6 families (120 units total).  A Chicago Tribune article at the time notes that these homes were relocated from Seneca, Illinois and Evansville, Indiana. Although I was unable to find any photos of these buildings, the housing at Oak Ridge (now digitized by the Department of Energy and available on Flickr) might give some hints as to its design. In the 1950 Sanborn Map of the area the housing basically looks like 1-story barracks.

The surrounding neighbors were not pleased, claiming that this development would lower the value of their property.  They petitioned CHA to choose another site.  CHA reassured these neighbors that all temporary housing for veterans  would be demolished  in two or three years.  In actuality the Sherwin-Washtenaw homes weren't removed until 1953.  By that time the housing industry had finally started to catch up to the demand.

Memory of the temporary homes seemed to quickly fade.   In 1957 the Chicago Park District awarded a contract to develop the area and the adjacent land to the east into what would become Rogers Park.  A Tribune article notes that the property had been used as a golf driving range, truck gardens, and a site for greenhouses.  But not a word about the 20 buildings that housed 120 veterans and their families for seven years.

Of the 23 sites which were utilized for temporary housing in Chicago very little evidence remains.  But when I was putting together the map for this post I realized that the largest remaining trees in the park are located in the area which was between the north and south halves of the development.  So there's a small nod to history for those who know to look for it.

If any readers have photos of these homes I would love to see them.  You can leave a comment below or message me directly.