Monday, April 6, 2015

1441-1515 W. Morse (1917-1972)

Looking Southeast at Morse and Greenview
Here are three buildings on the south side of Morse at Greenview that represent a range of common  buildings types found in neighborhood commercial districts.

On the far left is a courtyard apartment building constructed in 1917.  The courtyard isn't visible here, but opens on to Greenview. Commercial storefronts are on the first floor along Morse.  Courtyard apartments were common in Rogers Park, with a spike in construction in the mid 1920s. When located on a corner lot they often took the form of an S, with one inner access court hidden from the street.

The center building is a concrete-framed brick and terracotta apartment building designed by prolific architect Maurice L. Bein and constructed in 1928-1929.  This received an "orange" rating is the Chicago Historic Resources Survey, indicating architectural significance at the local level.  Bein was a Russian-born architect who received his education at Hull House, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Armour Institute of Technology.  The Art Institute has a solid collection of his work from 1920 to 1936, including many digitized photos.  Bein is another unsung architect whose work was so in-tune with its time that it's become nearly invisible.  The Spanish Baroque style utilized for this building is unusually elaborate, including a polychromed terracotta entrance, terracotta spandrels and projecting balconettes at the top of the building.  And the massive green tile mansard roofs can't be overlooked.

In the foreground is a Four-plus-One, which describes four floors of apartments above one floor of below-grade parking.  These were primarily built in the 1960s, although the assessor pins this one at 1972.  Hundreds of these were constructed throughout Chicago, and established neighborhoods were not impressed.  These buildings often replaced single family homes with dozens of 1 bedroom and efficiency apartments. My biggest issue with these is that they tend to interrupt the pedestrian experience with blank walls and dark parking lots.  They also rarely incorporate commercial spaces, since that would have chipped away at their required parking.  Eventually the zoning code was modified to make these less attractive to builders.  It's worth looking into the lobby of this building.  The interior can perhaps be described as a modernist offshoot of the Tudor Revival style.


  1. 4+1s tend to be functional but just plain ugly. Occasionally they have interesting lobbies.

  2. Sometimes you have to look at them as graphic design rather than architecture. In this case there was a strong design concept with reference to a number of trends popular at the time. It make take another 10 years before most people don't see them as ugly.