Friday, June 14, 2019

Rowhouse Chicago - Circling the Wagons

In the 1960s and 70s many rowhouse designs in Chicago began to incorporate solid walls and barriers in front of the home.  Traditionally rowhouses had addressed the street with small setbacks and a generous stoop, allowing residents the opportunity to participate in neighborhood street life.

515-529 W. Dickens, 1964.  Tigerman and Koglin.

But now many turned away from the street, setting the structure further back on the lot and privatizing the front yard. The designs themselves also become more defensive--  in some cases almost bunker-like, as if they were intended to occupy the neighborhood by force.   These designs were most common in areas undergoing urban renewal, and convey some of the racial and economic anxiety that must have been felt at the time.  My examples here are from the Mid-North and Old Town neighborhoods, where they often replaced older building types.
515 W. Belden, 1967.  Anderson and Battles.
At the same time this was a very creative time for rowhouse design, with an emphasis on geometry and massing that utilized traditional as well as new ornamental materials. There was also some notable strides in site planning, often using several lots to create rowhouse arrangements with shared common spaces. 

1415-1425 N. Sandburg Terrace, 1972.  Component of Sandburg Village.
In the case of Sandburg Village the rowhouse components were part of a larger plan incorporating a variety of building types and sizes.  Rowhouses were one way to connect the new development with existing buildings at the periphery utilizing a similar scale.

1515 W. Belden, 1970.  Booth and Nagle.
This generation of rowhouses also addressed the needs of cars, often through clustered parking or even below-grade parking structures.  In some cases the occupant could step from their car right into their townhouse, without having to experience any of the intervening space.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Rowhouse Chicago - Facade Rhythm

This blog entry looks at some typical façade organizations of the Chicago rowhouse and theorizes a bit about the intent of various approaches.  But mostly it's a visual essay.

3710-3722 W. Cermak, 1870s.
This Second Empire style rowhouse basically reads as a single structure. Sure the entrances allow you to visually separate the individual units, but the unifying treatment of the third floor ties it all together.  The constituent parts step forward and backward slightly to create an interlocking but symmetrical mass, with a varied roofline.  The ornamentation is limited to the carved stone lintels, pressed metal cornice and roof coping. I've never seen another building like this in Chicago, and it basically kicked off my interest in rowhouses.
2300-2310 W. Monroe, 1871.
These Joliet limestone rowhouses (Neo-Grec/Italianate Style) are comprised of six identical units.   Combined they create an undulating façade which can fill a few lots or an entire block, depending on the budget and available land.  The homes have individual as well as collective character.  But mostly collective. This is the type of rowhouse that most clearly says "Chicago" to me.  They once filled entire blocks on the near south and west sides, but only pockets remain.
1106-1114 E. 62nd, 1888.
This Classical Revival limestone rowhouse utilizes two alternating designs.  The "B" design is more elaborate, with a 5-sided bay, elaborate parapet, and stained-glass oval windows.  Even rowhouses in the same building with identical square footage allow for a bit of individuality and variety.  The A-B-A-B pattern seems to be the most common choice for historic Chicago rowhouses.
2814-2826 W. Warren Boulevard, 1896
This unusual design combines two façade treatments in a A-B-B-A pattern.  Combining modules in different ways allows rowhouses to approach a variety of architectural styles.  In this case a combination of Queen Ann and Classical detailing.

2415-2457 W. Jackson, 1890.
And finally, some buildings are so complex that no two units are designed in the same manner, even when the interior plans are nearly identical.  This is a combination of Classical and Romanesque styles.  A fifth row house was demolished here prior to the 1970s, and I have no clue what it might have looked like.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Rowhouse Chicago - Introduction

229-241 N. Sacramento, 1895
Recently I've been looking at the rowhouse in Chicago.  This is a building type that appears again and again, from elaborate versions of the 1890s to low income housing of the 1940s. Because there are thousands of these in Chicago I developed some selection criteria to maintain my sanity. These are a bit arbitrary, but I had to start somewhere:

-Constructed between 1870 and 1970
-A minimum of 3 units
-Shared common walls
-Separate entrances
-At least two stories
-Linear arrangement
-Not a designated Chicago Landmark

2454 E. 106th, 1938
These are presented with minimal elaboration.  In many cases windows, porches and rooflines have been restored with ink based on whatever evidence or expertise I could muster.  There are bound to be some mistakes.

I very much wanted to provide floor plans with these drawings.  That wasn't always possible.  But I can provide site plans when necessary.

To preserve an accurate sense of proportion I've drawn the buildings in elevation.  The line drawings are then scanned and tone added digitally.  I tried to avoid perspective, although I've had to break that rule on occasion...

2901-2909 W. Granville, 1958
I won't be going into too much detail about source material, but when I use ideas that aren't my own I'll provide a reference.

For previous series I would write and draw as I went.  In this case I need to make sense of a few dozen images chosen mostly by my subconscious.  New entries will be added irregularly.  If it turns out OK I'll look into putting it on paper.

If you have comments or suggestions feel free to post below or email (larryshure at gmail dot com).  I know I don't need to say this, but all images are protected and cannot be reposted without permission.