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.