Thursday, January 6, 2022

Mid-Century Buildings on Peterson Avenue


Lately there's been interest in the extraordinary mid-century architecture on Peterson Avenue, from the Edgewater neighborhood west through West Ridge, North Park and Forest Glen.  This is a good time to take a closer look Peterson, since many of the most interesting buildings have been vacant for an uncomfortably long time...

Peterson is not an attractive street.  It basically functions as an urban speedway, with four lanes and enormous intersections.   If you're on Peterson you're probably in a car.  These buildings are designed to catch the eye of someone moving by quickly.  The office buildings (top two and bottom right) use a combination of textured materials, patterns and colors to catch the eye, while the fa├žades are designed to create a sense of enclosure and protection from the nearby speedway.  They're still following an earlier pattern of commercial design, close to the street with parking in the back.

In contrast the building on the bottom left (a former furniture showroom) uses its enormous windows to create an immediate visual connection between the interior and exterior.  It adds interest through the use of a undulating concrete canopy above the second floor.

All of these were constructed in the 1960s, and the one on the upper right has been recently demolished.

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Horizontal strips of Chicago

 Back in 2014 I was obsessed with creating horizontally oriented drawings of Chicago, especially industrial areas.  I wanted to see if I could use simple high-contrast drawings to record what I was seeing from the train and in the neighborhoods. Recently I revisited them and added color to a few. I still like them, but wide skinny images don't really lend themselves to the online format.  I combined them into a larger image, but it loses the panoramic feeling of what I was trying to capture.
  

Friday, September 3, 2021


Some shoebox houses in the K-Town Historic District of Chicago on the west side.  Documenting and illustrating these buildings was one way I stayed sane during quarantine.  Dates of construction range from the 1900s through the 1920s.  

I can't help but be impressed at the level of detail lavished on homes which are  comparable in size to a 2-bedroom apartment!  It was only possible due to inexpensive land and astounding levels of readily available craftsmanship, primarily from immigrants.

Friday, August 27, 2021

ADM Silos (1947-2021)

 This was developed from a sketch I did of this about 11 years ago. I intended to do a study of industrial structures, but ended up just drawing a few and not really going in-depth on the history and technology of what I was seeing.  Anyway, these have recently been demolished for redevelopment, along with a pretty nice attached loft building.  I definitely never imagined the real estate boom in Fulton Market.  My strongest memory of the area was the smell of bleach used to wash down the sidewalks in front of the meat packers every morning.  


Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Cottage Chicago

Few buildings convey the historic character of the city as recognizably as the Chicago cottage. They
can be found throughout Chicago in working and middle-class neighborhoods.  Many were built in the 19th and early 20th century, but in reality the cottage never went out of style, it just transformed itself again and again.
2322 N. Cleveland, 1895

In general terms a cottage is one or one and one-half stories in height and built of wood or brick.  After the great fire of 1871 the city rushed to rebuild itself- in wood.  It took a few more years (and another fire in 1874) to impose strict regulations requiring fireproof construction within city boundaries. 

2044 W. Iowa, c. 1880

Most cottages are rectangular in plan, and fit on a typical Chicago lot (25' x 125').  They have front facing gable roofs and offset front entrances.  Architectural styles were often expressed through the window and door surrounds, as well as the cornice.  Most have a basement, although many early cottages just have a crawlspace.
1334 S. Karlov, 1890s

Cottage were constructed by individuals, but were often part of larger real estate developments.  Early Chicago had block after block of cottages, often taking advantage of mass produced ornamentation and informed by popular pattern books of the time.  Most common are those in the Italianate style, which decorative hood moldings and paired brackets under the eaves.  The one above is an example of the Queen Anne style, which used elaborate surface treatments and varied textures.

3703 W. Wrightwood, c.1890

Here's another Queen Anne cottage with a tripartite window configuration on the second floor with a sunburst pattern.  The porch is covered with fish-scale shingles.  

2020 W. Augusta, 1899
Above is an unusual example of a greystone cottage with a projecting bay.  "Greystone" is an Indiana limestone  commonly used for multi-family homes in Chicago in the 1900s and 1910s. 

1530 N. Greenview, 1910.
This cottage uses a simplified gothic vocabulary, with paired arched windows and elaboration of the gable parapet.  
2042 W. Iowa, c.1900

I'm not sure exactly what happened, here, but I suspect this cottage was rebuilt with stepped parapet. Work this extensive usually resulted from a major damage, such as a fire. But behind it  you can still see the classic massing of the cottage.

2404 N. Bernard, 1906

This is an amazing classical revival treatment of a cottage.  It uses a gambrel and triangular roof, and incorporates all sorts of pressed metal details, including a lantern motif to ornament the spring-points of the roof.  There's an unusual palladian window configuration on the second floor, with stepped limestone lintels.


2731 W. Haddon, 1894

And just to illustrate the breadth of the classical revival style, here's another one with elaborate ornamentation.  The centerpiece  the segmental arched window with a sunburst motif.  I can't even adequately describe the cornice...  

6413 N. Troy, 1958

The post WWII building boom of the 1950s built many neighborhoods in Chicago.  These used a new palette of materials and construction methods, many of which were developed during the war and quickly adapted to private development.  But its hard to improve on the overall massing and utility of the cottage.  

6401 S. Austin, 1964

The 1960s brought an even greater variety of materials and ornamental approaches.  This is considered a raised ranch, but for me it's a Chicago cottage pointed into the future.


Friday, December 27, 2019

Rowhouse Chicago: 1970s


Row houses in the 1970s continued to be utilized as infill housing in established neighborhoods, often replacing older homes in areas undergoing redevelopment. But they also filled vacant lots in developing neighborhoods where single family homes were no longer viable due to the underlying cost of the land.


Some were strictly modernist in design, utilizing geometric arrangements of glass and masonry.  Others referred back to historic row house designs but simplified and reconfigured for contemporary needs.  Many utilized more advanced site planning, with groups of buildings arranged on single lot and accommodating shared and private spaces as well as car parking and storage.
424 W. Webster, 1970.  Booth & Nagle.

5523-5557 S. Harper, 1970. I.M. Pei and Harry Weese & Assoc.

3030-3036 W. Pratt, 1971.
1901-1909 W. Hood, 1973.

312-318 W. Willow, 1974. Harry Weese & Associates.

1320-1328 E. 48th, 1977. Harry Weese & Associates.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Rowhouse Chicago: 1960s

In the 1960s row houses made their way into many urban renewal projects, both government funded and privately developed.  A new generation of architects were evaluating established building types and coming up with new designs and approaches.
 
1400-1428 E. 54th, 1967. Harry Weese and Associates.

515 W. Belden, 1967. Anderson & Battles.

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

6224-6230 N. Leavitt, 1968.

1210-1216 E. 48th, 1969.  Keck & Keck.

Rowhouse Chicago: 1950s

In the 1950s row houses came roaring back in Chicago.  The cost of land and the demand for moderate density housing again aligned.  New materials and construction technologies, many developed during the war, were now available for private development.  The simplified architectural designs dictated by strict federal requirements and wartime shortages still informed the design of this new generation of row houses, even as those designs were enlivened with new colors and textures.

6151-6159 N. Fairfield, 1957.

2901-2909 W. Granville, 1958.

3001-3007 W. Granville, 1956.

7202-7214 N. Hamilton, 1959.

3016-3024 W. Rosemont, 1957.

Rowhouse Chicago: 1930s and 1940s

In the 1930s and 40s the row house became an important form for government subsidized public housing.  This program was interrupted by WWII and resumed afterwards at a much larger scale. 

Some early examples utilized a simplified Classicism, or a Moderne design aesthetic.  But as the program continued ornamental details were stripped away.

I want to write more about these, but for now I'll settle for getting them on-screen.  If you're familiar with the topic you'll notice that the Lathrop Homes (recently redeveloped) are missing. Those will be included once I get some good reference photos.

Trumbull Homes (2454 E. 106th), 1938.

Frances Cabrini Green Rowhouses (902 N. Hudson), 1942.

Bridgeport Homes (31st and Lituanica), 1943.

Altgeld Gardens (13357 S. Langley), 1945.

Rowhouse Chicago: 1900s through 1920s

After the 1890s it became much harder for me to find row houses.  Since this isn't exactly a scientific study it's possible I'm just missing them, but it seems to be more than that...

My guess is that that urban land became expensive enough to usher in the era of larger apartments.  Also, more affluent buyers were drawn to the expanding first tier suburbs, which had increasingly strong public transit connections and were far from the pollution and political unrest of Chicago.

Anyway, I'm hoping to add more examples from these decades as I find them.

201-217 N. LeClaire, 1900.

I had to restore one demolished unit based on photographs (second from the right).  And I know an emergency demolition permit was issued to demolish another unit, so it really doesn't look this way any more.  This row basically creates an instant village, so it's disappointing to see it deteriorating.

5344-5350 S. Wabash, 1914.

Here's a strong example a classical revival design unified by the decorative parapet.  I had to restore some altered porches and balconies and cornice sections.  I'm impressed by the use of bays to bring in more light, but I don't know if the porches were quite big enough to provide much benefit. 



Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Rowhouse Chicago: 1890s

Hands down the 1890s were the decade of the most elaborate row houses, with the most astounding combination of styles.

2451-2451 W. Jackson, 1890s.

3910-3918 S. Prairie, 1893.

229-241 N. Sacramento, 1895.

2814-2826 W. Warren, 1896.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Rowhouse Chicago: 1880s

Perhaps the golden age of the Chicago row house?                                                                                                           
3920-3924 S. Prairie, 1889
2829-2837 W. Warren, 1880s.
2320-2326 W. Warren, 1884.
2148-2158 W. Bowler, 1882.
615-623 E. 42nd, 1880s.
615-623 E. 42nd, 1880s.
4341-4349 S. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr., 1889.

Rowhouse Chicago: 1870s

Some of the oldest row houses in Chicago, built soon after the Chicago Fire of 1871.  These have been drawn to represent their original appearance, as closely as I could determine. In the real world all have lost some structural or ornamental features. 

2300-2310 W. Monroe, 1871

1254-1262 W. Lexington, c.1875.

3712-3722 W. Cermak, c. 1875.