Chicago Architecture Blog for Curious People

Residential Architecture in Chicago’s Lincoln Park

July 16, 2014 by

From greystones and H.H. Richardson to bungalows and Frank Lloyd Wright, residential architecture in Chicago really runs the gamut. One Chicago neighborhood with a great variety of kinds of homes is Lincoln Park.

A long Georgian-revival style building stretches down the little neighborhood street of Arlington Place. It was originally designed as an “Eleanor Club,” which were female-only boarding houses in Chicago. A progressive philanthropist named Ina Robertson founded the Eleanor Women’s Foundation to aid working women in the city, and part of their program was to provide housing for Chicago women. This historic organization had residences in Chicago all the way until 2001 when the last Eleanor residence quietly closed its doors. Edwin H. Clark designed the boarding house and he is also known for other buildings in the Lincoln Park neighborhood such as the Lincoln Park Zoo’s Reptile House and the Lincoln Park Cultural Center. Today the building houses the Chicago Getaway Hostel, which gives a great chance to stay in a historic building in a happening neighborhood.

chicago getaway hostel

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Chicago Getaway Hostel

The hostel building is today part of the Arlington-Deming Historic District. Another interesting building in the neighborhood is at 546 W. Deming Place. It is another style of apartment building but from a more modern era. This piece of residential architecture is known as the infamous “four-plus-one.” Jerome Soltan invented this economic style of apartment building in the 1960s and 70s. It consists of a five-story building with the bottom floor as a parking lot and lobby and the other four floors above as apartments. While the four-plus-one sounds basic and familiar in many American cities, this style is uniquely Chicago as it is designed around the unique city zoning codes and lot regulations to essentially be the most bang for your buck. The parking lot and lobby level is designed to sit below grade and is only 7′ in height. This makes the level classifiable as a basement and allows the five-story building to be considered four-stories, useful for sneaking around city zoning areas. These buildings exist primarily along the lakeshore, a.k.a. prime sections of real estate. This particular four-plus-one in Lincoln Park has 24 apartments upon the site of what used to be just one single-family home.

Another unique piece of residential architecture and part of this Lincoln Park historic district are the Newman Brothers Houses at 2424, 2430 and 2434 N. Orchard St. Designed by the nephew of Chicago’s first architect, John Van Osdel II, these Châteauesque homes are an interpretation of a style popularized in the 1890s with S.S. Beman’s Kimball House on Chicago’s historic Prairie Avenue. The Newman Brothers Houses were completed in 1895 and include one of my favorite architectural features, a curved glass pane window, something which simply isn’t manufactured these days. The three homes are almost identical with the same exterior design and details. You will see, however, nuances with the different-colored stone of the facade.

From chateau-inspired mansions to efficient profit-making design, the Lincoln Park neighborhood has more than a handful of interesting examples of Chicago’s distinct residential buildings worth a jaunt down the pretty, tree-covered side streets.

–Jenn Harrman, Tour Guide

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July Chicago Events In Architecture And History

July 15, 2014 by

Architecture and history of Chicago are the focus of our weekly events listings, and this week we share with you July Chicago events including a special event on forgotten movie theaters, an architectural bike ride, and a special tour of Prairie Avenue.

portage park chicago movie theater

Photo Credit: Jenn Harrman

1. Movie Theater History Event – SPECIAL LECTURE

Portage Theater, 4050 N. Milwaukee Ave. – Tuesday, July 15th, 7:00pm

$5 suggested donation at door

The recently reopened historic Portage Theater hosts this Forgotten Chicago one-night-only event on the history and legacy of more than a century of movie theaters in Chicago. The 1920 movie theater originally sat 2,000 eager film goers and is now the perfect spot for a night of reminiscing in Chicago’s cinema house history. Ward Miller, Executive Director of Preservation Chicago, hosts the evening which includes photographs and images from the Forgotten Chicago database not seen in decades while Bill Savage, acclaimed author, editor, and Northwestern University’s Distinguished Senior Lecturer, offers insight.

2. Guided Bicycle Tour of Oak Park – BIKE TOUR

105 S. Marion St., Oak Park – Friday, July 18th; Saturday, July 19th; Sunday, July 20th, 9:30am-11:30am 

$30 members, $35 non-members – reservations recommended

This is an architecture tour for the more active enthusiast. During the summer months this year the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust is offering this two-hour bike tour around the picturesque Oak Park every Friday, Saturday and Sunday where you’ll explore over 22 Wright-designed buildings. Sites featured include the Home and Studio, Unity Temple, Frank Thomas House, Heurtley House, Cheney House, Furbeck House and more. The Trust has partnered with Greenline Wheels, where the tour begins and ends, so you can either bring your own bike or use one of theirs at no extra charge.

3. Prairie Avenue Walking Tour - SPECIAL TOUR

1800 S. Prairie Ave. – Sunday, July 20th, 2:00pm-4:00pm

$12 members, $15 non-members – reservations recommended, call 312.326.1480

Executive Director of the Glessner House Museum and author of Chicago’s Historic Prairie Avenue, William Tyre, leads guests around none other than Chicago’s historic Prairie Avenue on this special tour. As the end all be all of the street’s history, Tyre is the ideal guide to share everything from Fort Dearborn to the neighborhood’s resurgence as a residential hot spot in Chicago. During the tour you’ll also see images of grand homes that have been lost, walk by the eleven remaining mansions, and step inside both the Wheeler Mansion and the 2nd Presbyterian Church.

 

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Oriental Institute Museum at U of C: Foto Friday

July 11, 2014 by

One of my favorite museums of Chicago is the Oriental Institute Museum on the University of Chicago campus in Hyde Park. This great free thing to do in Chicago holds treasures of antiquity from the Ancient Near East, which is roughly what we call today the “Middle East.” Though the Oriental Institute is a small museum in Chicago terms, its power to impress is quite big.

Visit the Oriental Institute Museum and you will marvel at incredibly intricate and precious ancient artifacts from Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Israel. You’ll see colossal stone sculptures, games made of wood and gold, iridescent glass bottles, and Egyptian mummies. I’ve also noticed that when people come to the museum, it’s probably easy to overlook the very cool art deco architecture of it. However, it is not to be missed.

oriental-institute-museum-university-of-chicago-architecture

– Amanda Scotese, Executive Director of Chicago Detours

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Swimming in Chicago Part One: Chicago Beach History

July 10, 2014 by

Summer is here, and with it comes the excitement of outdoor fun and swimming in Chicago. Often on our walking tours, I am asked, “What is your favorite thing about Chicago?”

“THE BEACH,” I respond without hesitation. Any free afternoon I get this summer, you’ll find me at a Chicago beach, swimming in the water and picnicking with a book. Today, Lake Michigan and its beaches provide obvious beauty as well as recreation, exercise, and nature to locals and tourists alike. Historically, Chicago’s lakefront was not always a desirable site, nor was it so accessible. I decided to dig deeper into the history of Chicago’s beaches.

I had always heard that Chicago beaches are built on the debris created by the Great Chicago Fire in 1871. Dumping debris in the lake seemed like an easy answer to the volume of destruction. With a little research, I found that land-filling in Lake Michigan solved an erosion problem as well as generating more city land, so it became quite popular quite quickly.

1905

1905

Thess first public beaches came out of work done by progressive women like Dr. Sarah Hackett Stevenson through the Municipal Order League, a women’s reform organization. She urged Chicago to make use of “nature’s tub” as relief of sanitary conditions within congested, workingman neighborhoods. Glamorous, right?

The very first public bathing beach of Chicago dates to 1895 at the shore between Fullerton Avenue and Diversey Parkway as a part of Lincoln Park. Until this point, it isn’t that there weren’t any beaches in Chicago; it was that beaches were private affairs belonging to clubs and hotels, which meant they cost money. Only the highest class of Chicagoans traveled north of the city or across the lake for bathing beaches.

The Lincoln Park beach was free if you wore your own suit or a nickel to rent one, if you can imagine, and it established that working class people could be bathers, too. A Chicago Tribune article of the same year about the perfect lakefront trail bike ride describes this Chicago beach, where you could have witnessed “the antics of the hundreds of little newsboys in swimming” for endless amusement. At this Chicago beach, bathers were separated by gender not only when they changed their clothes but also when entering the water.  The Tribune article describes a rope that divided the swimming area to keep things proper and modest between the sexes.

There were also tough restrictions on what was considered proper attire to swim in Chicago, and breaking these dress codes was an arrestable offense. Consider the costumes necessary to swim in public shown here; bare knees would not be admissible for several years to come.

Bathing Costumes, 1895

Remember the Chicago River at this point still flowed into Lake Michigan, bringing sewage into it. In 1900 the Sanitary and Ship Canal was completed to aid in the reversing of the flow of the river.  The positive effects of this reversal on the cleanliness of the lake water took a few years to become evident. Desire to swim in Lake Michigan grew as the quality of its water improved. In 1909 the Chicago Council established a Committee on Bathing Beaches to better meet the growing demand for more public beaches. The same year, Daniel Burnham’s Plan of Chicago was released, which called for the lakefront to be reserved as park space as well as several Chicago beaches as part of the urban design for the city.

From the Great Fire to the Burnham Plan, Chicago beaches are a hodge-podge of public and private efforts.  The idea of a consolidated Chicago Park District doesn’t happen until 1934, as the city responds to the difficulties of the Great Depression and attempts to access New Deal assistance. This puts both the vast sands of the south and the street-end beaches of the far north under one administration and continues construction projects that had been on hold since the crash. The Chicago Park District continued to acquire private beach property into the 1950s.  Today, Chicago has more than 26 miles of public beach, which afford endless opportunities of free swimming in Chicago’s Lake Michigan.

If Chicago beaches aren’t your scene, stay tuned for Part Two of Swimming in Chicago, where we’ll explore the history of Chicago’s public pools.

– Elizabeth Tieri, Chicago Detours Tour Guide

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Free Events This Week: Chicago Architecture And History

July 8, 2014 by

We love Chicago architecture and history so each week we pick some of our favorite Chicago architecture and history events to share. We feature three free events this week with a jazz concert in Grant Park, a culinary street festival, and a local artists art and craft fair.

1. Ella, Louis and All That Jazz – MUSIC PERFORMANCE

Pritzker Pavilion, 201 E Randolph St. – Wednesday, July 9th, 8:00pm

FREE

Enjoy one of Chicago’s best summertime venues with music that defined an era. The history of jazz in Chicago reaches from the north side in Uptown to the south side in Bronzeville and this Wednesday you can pay tribute to greats who played at both and everywhere in between. Jeff Tyzik and the Grant Park Orchestra honor Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong with a free concert at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion. To be included is the sultry voice of Marva Hicks and the brass stylings of Byron Stripling.

2. Taste of Chicago – STREET FESTIVAL

Grant Park, Jackson Blvd. and Columbus Dr. – Wednesday, July 9th-Sunday, July 13th

FREE Admission

Summer is in full swing in Chicago noted by the ever so popular annual tradition that is Taste of Chicago. This is a five-day food festival that showcases Chicago’s diverse culinary delights with selections from regular restaurants to Pop-Up restaurants to food trucks. As always, the festival includes concerts each night at the Petrillo Music Shell in Grant Park and will feature some of my personal favorites, Emmylou Harris and Jeff Tweedy, among other artists.

chicago dusable museum arts and crafts festival

Photo Credit: Courtesy of www.dusablemuseum.org

3. 40th Annual DuSable Museum Arts and Crafts Festival – LOCAL ARTS FESTIVAL

740 E 56th Pl. – Saturday, July 12th-Sunday, July 13th

FREE

Nearly 200 local artists will be in attendance this year for the DuSable Museum of African American History’s 40th Annual Arts and Crafts Festival. In furthering the museum’s mission to preserve the history and culture of the African-American experience, the festival will showcase work inspired by African-American themes of identity, history and culture. To accompany the visual arts and crafts, performance troupes will perform throughout the festival which celebrates this year the life of the museum’s founder, Dr. Margaret Burroughs.

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July 4th Events In Chicago History

July 1, 2014 by

Celebrate Independence Day this year with July 4th events in Chicago history. Each week we bring you our favorite architecture and history events and this week’s events honor Chicago’s place in American history with a Chicago History Fair exhibition, a Chicago music festival, and a tour of Chicago’s beginnings.

chicago history fair newberry library

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Chicago Metro History Education Center

1. The Newberry Colloquium – HISTORY FAIR STUDENT EXHIBITION TALK

Ruggles Hall, 60 W. Walton St. – Wednesday, July 2nd, 4:00pm

FREE

This is the fourth consecutive year that Chicago’s Newberry Library has hosted the Chicago History Fair’s Blue Ribbon Student Exhibition. Three dozen high-acheiving projects from the fair are on display for a couple of weeks, this year from June 27th through July 11th. This Wednesday stop by Ruggles hall to learn more about the fair and the exhibition. Some of the student exhibitors as well as two gold medalists from this year’s National History Day competition will be in attendance to take questions and discuss their projects.

2. The Chosen Few Old School Reunion Picnic – MUSIC FESTIVAL

Jackson Park, 63rd St. and Hayes Dr. – Saturday, July 5th, 6:00am-8:00pm

FREE

Get your dance on, because this weekend marks the 23rd annual Chosen Few Old School Reunion Picnic, a grand get-together for “house heads” around the world. What once began as about 40 friends from the early days of house music having a picnic is now one of the largest house music festivals in the world. This is not surprising as Chicago is the home of house music thanks to the late Frankie Knuckles, who died earlier this year, but who had performed in years past during the festival. This year’s event will feature the legendary Chosen Few DJs as well as guest DJs.

3. Chicago Portage National Historic Site Tour – WALKING TOUR

4800 S. Harlem Ave. – Saturday, July 5th, 10:00am

FREE

Stand on ground traversed by the early explorers, settlers and creators of Chicago while you learn how the city was born on a free tour of the Chicago Portage National Historic site. Hosted by the Friends of the Chicago Portage, this tour will explore the Portage from its geological beginnings to how it is still functioning in Chicago today. Be sure to bring comfortable walking shoes or boots and wear long pants as the 1/2 mile walk will last two hours on a gravel path through the woods in rain or shine. You can pick up the tour at the monumental statue of Marquette and Jolliet and their Native American guide.

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A Perspective of Willis Tower Architecture: Foto Friday

June 27, 2014 by

We all recognize the giant black skyscraper with big lightning rods as the Sears Tower, or Willis Tower, or whatever you want to call it. I believe that all things change, so I have no problem calling this the Willis Tower. I ended up walking on the west end of the Loop the other day. Just as I was about to cross the street I looked up and discovered this symmetrical perspective of the architecture.

willis tower perspective architecture

From this perspective, the Willis Tower looks especially omnipotent and imposing. For me, the architecture of the Willis Tower is such a symbol of the “City of Broad Shoulders” because of its massive, larger-than-life size as well as its connection to the history of department stores, which is such a key component to understanding Chicago history.

Structural engineer Fazlur Khan is the man behind the grandiose Sears Tower construction in the early 1970s. At this point in architecture, buildings had become more expressive of their structural engineering with steel or concrete compared to the emphasis on ornamentation of the past.

– Amanda Scotese, Executive Director of Chicago Detours

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Things To Do In Chicago This Week

June 24, 2014 by

Not sure what to do in your free time this week? As always we have our top picks of things to do in Chicago in architecture and history. This week we feature a craft beer launch at the Field Museum, a weekend of gospel music, and a bus tour in Oak Park.

1. Hop To It – BEER LAUNCH

The Field Bistro, 1400 S. Lake Shore Dr. – Thursday, June 26th, 6:00pm-11:00pm

$40 members/$45 non-members – reservations required 

The Field Museum has partnered with Two Brothers Brewing Company and Chicago chef, Cleetus Friedman, to create their very own craft beer called Cabinet of Curiosities. During the launch of the Field Museum’s own hopped wonder, meet the collaborators as well as explore the history of beer. Ancient drinking and storage beer vessels from around the world will be on display while Curator of Anthropology, Jim Phillips, discusses why so many different cups, tankards, bowls, pots, and flagons were used throughout history. Plus you get to try Cabinet of Curiosities in your very own, to take home, Cabinet of Curiosity pint glass. The Field Bistro will also provide food pairings during the event.

chicago gospel music festival

Photo credit: City of Chicago

2. Chicago Gospel Music Festival – MUSIC FESTIVAL

Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington St. – Friday, June 27th 11:00am-4:00pm

Ellis Park, 37th & Cottage Grove – Saturday, June 28th-Sunday, June 29th, 11:00am-8:00pm

FREE

This weekend marks the 29th year of the Chicago Gospel Music Festival. The festival is presented by the Black McDonald’s Operators Association with free entertainment at the Chicago Cultural Center and in Ellis Park. Ellis Park is in the heart of Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood where gospel music was first commercially recorded and is therefore sometimes considered the birthplace of gospel music. Headliners include Tye Tribbett, Karen Clark Sheard, VaShawn Mitchell, Tasha Cobbs and a special tribute to Dr. Charles G. Hayes. The complete line up can be seen here.

3. Wright Kind of Architecture – BUS TOUR

Chicago History Museum, 1601 N Clark St. – Saturday, June 28th, 1:00pm-5:00pm

$45 members/$55 non-members – reservations required

Historian Al Walavich takes you on a tour of Oak Park this weekend to view beautiful Frank Lloyd Wright architecture built between 1889 and 1913. This engaging tour brings guests into a conversation about the part these buildings played in Wright’s long and storied life.

 

 

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A Climb Inside a Skyscraper Tower: Foto Friday

June 20, 2014 by

methodist temple building skyscraper architectureUrban exploration right in the heart of downtown Chicago filled my afternoon yesterday. I had the very special opportunity to do something that no one does every day - I climbed the inside the skyscraper tower on the very top of the Chicago Temple Building.

I’ve been fascinated by this 1920s skyscraper since I started researching its architecture for our Loop Interior Architecture Walking Tour a few years ago. It has a sanctuary for the First United Methodist Church on the ground level. When Senior Pastor Phil Blackwell told me that the spire above the “Chapel in the Sky” on the 26th floor was just hollow and full of steps all the way up, I said, “Let’s climb it!”

After years of reminding him of our plan, we finally climbed this spire, a landmark of the Loop. You can see the tower pictured here, with the First National Plaza building to the left, and the Burnham Building below on the right. This style is pretty common among 1920s skyscrapers in Chicago, but this is likely the only one that we could really call a spire, which is an architectural term specifically for pointy towers usually on churches. In this case, its a skyscraper with both a church sanctuary and a chapel.

So yesterday Phil and the church Music Director Erik and I ventured vertically. We put a ladder into a trapdoor on the ceiling of the Chapel in the Sky, and then from there it was several levels of very steep stairs, eventually becoming fixed metal ladders up at the very top.

urban exploration chicago tower architecture

It’s not very often that anyone gets the chance to climb inside a skyscraper tower, so I of course took several photos. I thought this would be full of dead animals and bird droppings, but it was just generally dirty. Where you see the grating at the top of this picture is the level of tiny windows about a third from the top. I had hoped that there would be a way out at the very top, where a cross caps the spire. However, the trap door was too heavy to open more than a couple inches, and we were worried that if we opened it, we weren’t sure that we’d be able to close it again.

Just being in this unusual space was a religious experience enough for me. Doesn’t it look sort of like a steampunk vision of a rocket ship?

– Amanda Scotese, Executive Director

 

 

 

 

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Architectural and Historic Chicago Events In June

June 17, 2014 by

Each week we put together a list of our top three picks for events in Chicago architecture and history. Chicago events in June we feature this week include a lecture on the restoration of a historic recital hall, a tour of Howard Van Doren Shaw architecture, and tours of the Chicago ‘L.’

ganz hall louis sullivan chicago architecture

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Booth Hansen

1. Trailing Louis Sullivan: The Restoration of Ganz Hall – LECTURE

430 S. Michigan Ave., Ganz Hall – Thursday, June 19th, 12:15pm-1:00pm

FREE

During this lunch time lecture from Landmarks Illinois learn about the restoration of the grand 4,000 foot Ganz Recital Hall. Architect Laurence Booth of Booth Hansen architects discusses the project for the Louis Sullivan designed hall located in the historic Auditorium Building. Ganz Hall was constructed in 1890 and includes intricate plaster and carved wood ornament, lavish stained glass windows and cast iron electric chandeliers and is one of Chicago’s most stunning interior spaces.

2. Howard Van Doren Shaw in Hyde Park – SPECIAL WALKING TOUR

Meeting point tbd – Saturday, June 21st, 10:00am-12:00pm

$30 – reservations required via historic2ndchurch@yahoo.com or 1.800.657.0687

The Friends of Historic Second Church are offering a unique tour of surviving buildings designed by prolific architect Howard Van Doren Shaw in the Hyde Park neighborhood. The tour will be led by architect Nate Lielasus and Executive Director of the Glessner House William Tyre and will discuss the architecture as well as the history and families for whom the buildings were built. Included will be a tour of the interior of Shaw’s 1923 University Church and will end with refreshments and a tour at the Quadrangle Club on the University of Chicago campus.

3. ‘L’ Tours: The Loop L Tour and Green Line L Tour - WALKING TOURS

17 E. Monroe, Palmer House concierge desk – Sunday, June 22nd, 1:00pm-3:30pm

$25/$20 members (includes CTA fare)- reservations required

The Chicago History Museum offers occasional tours of the Chicago ‘L’ and this Sunday you can choose from either a tour of the ‘L’ in the downtown Loop or along the historic Green Line. The Loop L is led by Greg Borzo, author of The Chicago “L” and includes commentary about stations and buildings with prime opportunities for photographs. The Green Line South retraces the development of the city as you take a trip on Chicago’s oldest ‘L’ line and includes a stop at the Illinois Institute of Technology for a look at the architecture and some history of the Chicago Bronzeville neighborhood.

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