Auditorium Theatre, Chicago

[Auditorium Theatre, Chicago (1889) Adler & Sullivan, architects; (1967) restoration, Harry Weese & Associates, architects; (2002) restoration, Daniel P. Coffey & Associates, architects  /Image & Artwork: designslinger]

"If you can't build one as good as the one you're tearing down," said Chicago architect Harry Weese in an oral history he gave to the Art Institute of Chicago in 1988, then why would you do it. The good one he was referring to was Adler & Sullivan's magnificent Auditorium Theatre. Built inside a massive, multi-purpose building which also contained a hotel and commercial office space, the theater's debut on December 9, 1889 was attended by none other than the President and Vice President of the United States.

[Auditorium Theatre, Chicago, 50 E. Congress Parkway, Chicago /Image & Artwork: designslinger]

Architect Dankmar Adler had made a name for himself in Chicago as the go-to guy if you
were interested in building a theater with pitch-perfect acoustics. When he drew-up plans for the Central Music Hall in 1878, he wanted to create an auditorium with the best sightlines in the city and by putting John Russell's isacoustic curve theory into actual practice, Adler's hall became the city's most requested performance venue. If you dropped a pin on the center of the stage floor a person seated in the farthest corner of the uppermost balcony could hear it clear as a bell. When some of the Music Hall's investors decided in the mid-1880s that the time had come for Chicago to have a grand opera house, Ferdinand Peck, the engine that drove the project, decided Adler was the man to design an auditorium for the city that would rival the best opera houses in Europe. Other members of the investment group were worried that Adler and his new partner Louis Sullivan were too inexperienced and wanted the better connected and proven team of Burnham & Root, but Peck stood his ground. On September 26, 1886 the local press announced that the firm of Adler & Sullivan had been selected as the lead architects of the Auditorium Building, which would rise along the north side of Congress Street and span the block from Michigan to Wabash Avenue.

[Auditorium Theatre, Chicago, National Historic Landmark /Image & Artwork: designslinger]

When the theater was revealed to the public on that cold December night, the audience was awestruck by the breathtaking interior. Adler had engineered another miracle of acoustical perfection while Sullivan filled the auditorium with an explosion of phantasmal flourish. The firm's young apprentice architect Frank Lloyd Wright later called the theater, "The greatest room for opera and music in the world, bar none." But the theory devised by the investors that the hotel and office portions of the building would generate enough revenue to sustain the square footage given over to the theater proved to be faulty. In January 1910, Ferdinand Peck, on behalf of the Auditorium Association, approached Sullivan about replacing the theater with more hotel rooms. It was the first in a series of discussions that would ensue over the intervening years about removing the theater and replacing it with income producing square footage, along with conversations about demolishing the entire building and just starting over again.

[Auditorium Theatre, Chicago, City of Chicago Landmark /Image & Artwork: designslinger]

In 1929 the first construction bonds came due which the Association couldn't pay. Then the Great Depression devastated the nation's economy, the building association owed over $100,000 in back taxes. The city worked out a deal with the county tax assessor, and by 1941 the structure was used to house military personnel while the theater hosted performances by the USO. Once the war was over, the newly formed Roosevelt College worked out a deal with local government agencies to take over the entire building and house their nascent organization in the deteriorating structure. Over the next decade the theater sat idle while the school found its footing. As the 1950s were drawing to a close, Roosevelt University president Edward Sparling decided to create a committee of board trustees to explore uses for the sagging theater space. When the idea of converting the vast room into a parking lot or gymnasium were vetoed, the committee decided to explore the option of restoring the theater, and returning it back to its former glory. In the mid-50s one of the more dynamic personalities on the Board of Trustees had spearheaded a drive to raise money and renovate the hotel's old banquet room into a recital hall, and if restoration of the theater was on the agenda, then Sparling knew that Beatrice Spachner was the one board member who would be up to the challenge of finding the money needed to restore the 4,000 seat auditorium.

[Auditorium Theatre, Chicago /Image & Artwork: designslinger]

Often described as "indefatigable" and "tenacious," Bea Spachner hit the ground    running and didn't slow down for the next 20 years. When a young, Chicago-based architect named Harry Weese first heard about the gymnasium plan, he addressed a letter "To Whom It May Concern" and mailed it off to the university. He wrote an impassioned note about saving the theater, and as a result was invited to meet with the committee in 1960. He toured the theater, told them it could be saved for a fraction of the cost that Chicago's prestigious architectural firm of Skidmore, Ownings & Merrill had estimated, and got appointed architect in charge of the restoration. He waived his fee as a gift to the city, the indomitable Mrs. Spachner got to work, $2 million was raised, and on the evening of October 31, 1967 the newly restored Auditorium Theatre had its second debut. In 2000 the State of Illinois awarded a $13 million grant for on going restoration and physical plant improvements overseen by architects Daniel P. Coffey & Associates, but there is still more work to be done. In her April 30, 1960 My Day nationally syndicated newspaper column, Eleanor Roosevelt, upon hearing about the Auditorium restoration wrote, "When completed, this will be something that Chicago should be proud to show its visitors as an indication of the appreciation which that city has for the cultural life of its people."

Many thanks to Nick Harkin for finding us and inviting us to tour the theater. And to Bart
Swindall, the theater's historian, for a delightfully wonderful and memorable tour.

See more of the building at: Ganz Hall - Roosevelt University; Auditorium Building Tower; Auditorium Building Dining Room; Supreme Reprieve; and Arcaded Away. And more of Harry Weese at: Metropolitan Correctional Center, Chicago; Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist; and Time & Life.

Trump International Hotel & Tower, Chicago

[Trump International Hotel & Tower, Chicago (2009) SOM, architects /Image & Artwork: designslinger]

If you were transported back in time 160 years and found yourself standing on the south
bank of the Chicago River where the Michigan Avenue bridge now spans the waterway, rather than casting your eyes upward at the glistening surface of Chicago's 1,300-foot-tall Trump Tower you'd be looking at 100 feet of a 95-foot-high red brick wall holding 700,000 bushels of grain behind its soiled clay surface. The Galena Elevators would be the first of nearly two dozen grain elevators that would crop-up along the river's edge over the next 15 years, with a capacity to store over 11,000,000 bushels of corn, wheat and other food grains grown across the central United States.

[Trump International Hotel & Tower, Chicago; 401 N. Wabash Avenue, Chicago /Image & Artwork: designslinger]

The grain storage elevator constructed by the Galena & Chicago Union Railroad in 1855 was not the first to be built in the city. In 1839 Newberry & Dole's 3-story elevator was built along the river's edge taking advantage of an emerging transportation network that would put Chicago on the path to becoming the nation's transportation hub.
The Galena was however Chicago's first railroad line. Chartered in 1836 the road ran its first train 12 years later, and by 1853 had finally made its way to Galena, Illinois and the mighty Mississippi River. It gave the Galena the first rail access to the millions of acres of grain spreading across the Great Plains, and the elevator provided the storage required before kernels of corn or hulls of wheat were sent on their merry way to points across the globe. The dried seeds were also a great source of fuel for the fire that engulfed the city in 1871.

[Trump International Hotel & Tower, Chicago, River North, Chicago /Image & Artwork: designslinger]

After the fire, the Galena & Chicago, which had merged with the Chicago & North
Western, rebuilt on the same site adjacent to the newly christened State Street Train Yard. The north bank of the main branch of the river was lined with a wide swath of steel rails and creosote-soaked wood ties that stretched all the way from today's Navy Pier to the Merchandise Mart. Warehouses were built along the river's edge alongside the train tracks which provided the hundreds of thousands of square feet of storage space required to hold all the goods that moved through the city, before being sent out on their way to market. In 1873, adding to the warehouse parade, the Central Warehouse was built where the, now demolished, Rush Street bridge once met the north bank of the river at Kinzie Street, directly in front of the Central's east front.

[Trump International Hotel & Tower, Chicago /Image & Artwork: designslinger]

In the first quarter of the 1920's the city began a transformation of the river that is still underway today. The old market district along the south bank was demolished and replaced by Wacker Drive. The Michigan Avenue Bridge opened in 1920, further altering the relationship of the river warehouse district to the surrounding area. The Wrigley Building was completed the following year. Elevated above the old train lines, the towering structure cast a long shadow over the old Central Warehouse, and the buried intersection of Rush and Kinzie. Then in 1930 Marshall Field & Company constructed the massive Merchandise Mart on air rights suspended over the still functioning rail lines. By the time the 1950s had rolled around, the warehouse district along the north branch had outlived its purpose. The city came-up with the Fort Dearborn Plan meant to transform the now unsightly north bank into a sparkling new district of commercial and residential high-rises. Marshall Field III proposed building the new home of his Chicago Sun-Times newspaper on the site of the aging Central Warehouse building and the old Galena Elevator property, and architects Naess and Murphy designed a sleek, modern office and printing plant for the wedge-shaped plot of land.

[Trump International Hotel & Tower, Chicago /Image & Artwork: designslinger]

Over the next 50 years the main branch of the river continued its transformation, and by
the middle of the first decade of the 21st century the owners of the Sun-Times, Conrad Black's Hollinger, Inc., were sitting on a prime piece of real estate. Hollinger entered into a deal with New York-based developer Donald Trump to build Chicago's tallest building, trumping long time title holder Sears Tower. But in the aftermath of 9/11, Trump's tower in Chicago would come in second place in the height fight, but the architectural firm of SOM (Skidmore, Owings & Merrill) gave Chicago a gleaming, eye-popping, glass sheathed structure, that, like it or not, became an instantly recognizable landmark on the city's majestic skyline. With more towering structures currently under construction on former railroad land along the river's main branch, and the with the extension of the pedestrian friendly Riverwalk, the former commercial waterway will become even more of a distant visual memory.

See some of the former warehouses transformed at: How Many Bays Does A Building Have? and 325 N. Wells Street, Chicago; and the north bank's building transformation at: Wrigley Building; Merchandise Mart, Chicago; Marina City; 330 N. Wabash - IBM Building; and 300 North LaSalle.

In the Studio: Robie Yellow Red

[Robie Yellow Red (2014) /Image & Artwork: designslinger studio]

If you are a fan of Frank Lloyd Wright, design, architecture, or all three, you've       probably heard of the Robie House. Wright's 1909 design for a young Chicago family has become one of his most recognized and iconic projects. It has been extensively written about, talked about, studied, and is one of the American Institute of Architect's top ten buildings of the 20th century. As Frank Lloyd Wright aficionados, the time had come to add our interpretation of the epochal edifice to the designslinger studio portfolio.

[Frederick C. Robie House (1910) Frank Lloyd Wright, architect /Image & Artwork: designslinger studio]

Frederick Robie was interested in the modern. Technology and innovation fascinated     him, and when he decided to build a house in 1908 for his family, he eventually came to the offices of one of the Chicago areas more innovative designers, Frank Lloyd Wright. The architect had gained notice as a designer of non-traditional houses, and could provide Robie with just the kind of home the young techie wanted to live in. It was a very symbiotic relationship. The house Wright designed seemed to encompass some of the best components of 20 years of experimentation as he developed his own unique architectural language. Our experimental experience led to a number of drawings from different angles and perspectives. After hanging on the studio wall for a couple of weeks, it became clear which one told the best visual story from our point of view.

[Robie Yellow Red /Image & Artwork: designslinger studio]

The house became the talk of the neighborhood when it was completed in 1910. It was unyieldingly horizontal, nearly overwhelmed its corner lot, and had dramatic cantilevered roof lines that seemed to defy gravity. Wright not only pushed his roof farther out into thin air than ever before, but he also pushed the envelope by attaching a three car garage directly to the residential structure. In 1910, when the Robies moved in, most people of means still used horses to power their transportation, so to even think about designing a purpose-built facility for storing a gasoline-powered combustion engine driven vehicle was unusual, but attaching a garage directly to a house was unheard of. That year there were 2,185,283 people living in the city of Chicago, and there were just under 13,000 registered automobiles in the city. As a comparison, in 2010, Chicago had 2,695,598 inhabitants and the city registered 1,445,616 automobiles. We knew our color choices for our version of the house weren't going to be as controversial as Wright's design for Frederick Robie, but it still took several weeks to come-up with color combination that we were happy with.

[Robie Yellow Red /Image & Artwork: designslinger studio]

In October 1909 while the house was still under construction, Frank Lloyd Wright left for
Europe and wasn't around to see the house through to its completion. The Robie's tenure in the house didn't last long. After a series of financial setbacks Frederick Robie sold his namesake dwelling after having only lived there for 18 months. The next family didn't last much longer before the Wilber family took-up occupancy in 1912. They left in 1926 when the house was sold to the University of Chicago's Chicago Theological Seminary and the house was never used as a single family home again. Our relationship with the house now moved on to the carving phase. Because two of the colors were on opposite ends of one color block they could be carved into a single piece of linoleum while the two remaining colors would have blocks of their own.

[Robie Yellow Red /Image & Artwork: designslinger studio]

In 1940 the University started talking about tearing down the old house and building    new but the Second World War intervened. Then in 1957 the issue of demolishing the building to make way for a new dormitory building began anew, and at age ninety, Frank Lloyd Wright came back to the house he had designed 46 years earlier to protest its destruction. Then in 1997 the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust worked out an agreement with the University and took over the management, maintenance, and restoration of the iconic structure. Our Wright-inspired series of prints began with the exceptional forms of Unity Temple, next up will be the Guggenheim Museum, but for now, we are now happy to share with you our interpretation of this Wright classic in Robie Yellow Red.

See our other Wrightian influenced prints at:
Unity Yellow Grey, Unity Grey, and Unity Yellow Blue.

Walt Disney Magnet School

[Walt Disney Magnet School (1973) Perkins + Will, architects /Image & Artwork: designslinger]

When newly appointed Chicago schools superintendent James Redmond arrived in the 
city in 1966 he told reporters that he was coming "to prove that the big-city school system is not doomed to failure." The school board, with Mayor Richard J. Daley's approval, had offered Redmond the job after a nationwide search, and came with a mandate from the mayor to deal with an educational system facing institutional challenges as the nation's urban centers were undergoing major economic and demographic changes.

[Walt Disney Magnet School, 4140 N. Marine Drive, Chicago /Image & Artwork: designslinger]

An idea had been brewing in education circles about creating schools with a targeted area of study that would serve as a magnet for the entire system and draw from a citywide student body, rather than from just a traditional neighborhood-based district. By featuring a specific area of study open to all students, the school had the potential to reflect more of the overall population of the entire city. It was a way to desegregate local school districts, and offer an educational program outside the boundaries of the traditional curriculum. Redmond was ready to put Chicago on the magnet map, and with the approval of the school board and the mayor, he put a plan in motion. The next decision was where.

[Walt Disney Magnet School, Uptown, Chicago /Image & Artwork: designslinger]

Long before Chicago had a Millennium Park, the only land area that existed between
State Street and the shoreline of Lake Michigan was a stretch of sand along the eastern border of the future State Street, and the eastern edge of today's Michigan Avenue. East of there it was all water. That sandy land mass was the "United States' Reservation" which extended all the way from the Chicago River south to today's Roosevelt Road, and included Fort Dearborn. In 1846 former Chicago mayor, Congressman John Wentworth got his colleagues in Washington to authorize the establishment of a marine and naval department at the fort. Then in 1852 Congress authorized the construction of a hospital just outside the fort on Reservation land, directly below today's elevated southeast corner of Michigan Avenue and Wacker Drive. The facility would serve all men who were serving, or had served, in the nation's merchant marine.

[Walt Disney Magnet School, Buena Park, Chicago /Image & Artwork: designslinger]

By the end of the 1860s the fort had been decommissioned, was falling apart, and the
feds decided to look for a new location for the marine hospital. In 1869 they found an 8-acre piece of property far outside the city's northern boundary in Buena Park, near Rees and Hundley's Lake View House hotel. A handsome, 3-story, mansard-roofed building was ready for its first patients in 1872, and operated as a medical service facility for nearly 100 years. When the U.S Department of Health Education & Welfare decided to close the former hospital building's doors in 1967, several local government agencies wanted to get their hands on the property. The Chicago Board of Education came-out as the winner, and Redmond decided that this is where Chicago's first magnet experiment would begin. Now the name.

[Walt Disney Magnet School, Marine Drive, Chicago /Image & Artwork: designslinger]   

Walter Elias Disney was born on December 5, 1901 in a 2-story frame house his father
had built at 2156 N. Tripp Avenue in Chicago's Hermosa neighborhood. Since the magnet school program was going to have an emphasis on the communication arts, why not pay tribute to Chicago-born, uber-arts communicator for "children of all ages," Walt Disney. The first students attended classes in renovated portions of the old hospital building in September, 1969 while the city's public works commission worked with architects Perkins + Will on the design of a modern building that would compliment the new school's program. Disney Magnet would not give traditional grades, class times would be flexible, and the future 2,000 students would come from a city-wide pool of applicants whose attendance at Disney would be determined by a computer. The new building was ready for occupancy at the start of the school year in 1973. It had been constructed at the eastern edge of the now 11-acre property so that the old hospital building could be used until the very end, when it was finally torn down. Walt Disney had died in 1966, but his daughter Diane Disney Miller maintained a relationship with the school named for her father. By the time of her death in 2013, Miller had donated over $1 million to the school and its programs, including $250,000 to establish an animation lab. Remond's initial experiment with the magnet program has resulted in the establishment of fifty-two magnet schools in the city; forty-six for pre-school and elementary grades, six at the high school level. Disney is still focused on the communication arts, draws students for the north and northwest sides of Chicago, with student applicants still selected through a lottery system by a computer.

See another early magnet school, also designed by Perkins + Will at: Whitney M. Young Magnet High School.

Belden-Stratford Apartment Hotel

[Belden-Stratford Apartment Hotel (1923) Fridstein & Co., architects /Image & Artwork: designslinger]

When Charles Henry Lott opened his Belden Apartment Hotel on October 1, 1923 he
offered tenants "every convenience" including "maid, bellboy and general hotel service" while at the same time retaining "all of the pleasures and conveniences of your own home." He had given architect Meyer Fridstein the job of making the Belden the most elegant appearing property along Chicago's north side stretch of Lincoln Park West - the jewel in Lott's apartment/hotel crown. The ornate classical coating of terra cotta details, along with Lott's appealing offer of hotel conveniences and a homey lifestyle, attracted enough attention that by the time the $4 million property was ready for occupancy that fall, 95% of the bachelor, one and two bedroom apartments - some with kitchenettes - had been leased.

[Belden -Stratford Apartment Hotel, 2300 Lincoln Park West, Chicago /Image & Artwork: designslinger]

Lott's building, along with most apartment/hotels of the era, gave consumers the
   choice of staying for the short or long term, offering daily, weekly, monthly or yearly rates, furnished or unfurnished. And to set itself apart from the rest of the apartment/hotels around town, the Belden provided you with a furniture suite expressly "designed and manufactured by Marshall Field & Company." You could have breakfast, lunch, a light dinner, or even an ice cream soda in the Belden Tea Room. A more formal meal in the Belden Dining Room, or pick up some groceries in the Belden Food Shop. The kitchenette units came equipped with an "automatic electric cooking stove" and "a Frigidaire system refrigerator."

[Belden-Stratford Apartment Hotel, National Historic Landmark /Image & Artwork: designslinger]

The Belden was the third and northern most location of Lott's three hotel empire that     ran along Lincoln Park West. The southern most was The Parkway built in 1916 at 2100 Lincoln Park West and the corner of Garfield (today's Dickens Street); then The Webster, constructed in 1919 at 2150 Lincoln Park West and Webster Street; and finally the Belden at 2300 Lincoln Park West and Belden Avenue. The Belden was the largest, and as Lott had intended, the most prominent building along Lincoln Park West's unobstructed view of Lincoln Park and Lake Michigan.

[Belden-Startford Apartment Hotel, Lincoln Park West, Chicago /Image & Artwork: designslinger]

The building's architect Meyer Fridstein had come to Chicago in the early 1900s after studying engineering at the University of Wisconsin. He worked for a time in the offices of architect Richard Schmidt as well as at the firm of Marshall & Fox. Fridstein then met Chicago real estate developer G.H. Gottschalk, whose expanding property portfolio contained many an apartment/hotel project. Fridstein became Gottschalk's in-house architect while at the same time continuing to operate a separate office outside of his partnership with the developer. Their collaboration in 1926 for the Shoreland Apartment Hotel in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood was the culmination of their design/build relationship, and their last project together.

[Belden-Stratford Hotel, Chicago /Image & Artwork: designslinger]

The Belden, which was soon renamed the Belden-Stratford, possibly in recognition of the statue of Shakespeare in Lincoln Park that stood directly across the street from Lott's building, ended-up being the apartment/hotelier's last project as well. On June 4, 1925 Lott divorced his wife Cora, who it just so happened was the Vice-President of Lott Hotels, Inc., and she received $1 million dollars of Lott stock in lieu of alimony. He remarried on October 7th, and two years later left Chicago - without telling his second wife or his business partners - and after not hearing from him for several weeks, his financial backers removed him from the presidency of his company. He was eventually found to be living in Detroit, and his wife filed for divorce due to desertion. In 1930 the Lott Hotel properties were put into receivership, and a case was filed in Circuit Court with Judge Philip Sullivan presiding. In 1952, after 16 years under his supervision, U.S. District Court Judge Philip Sullivan was under investigation by a Congressional committee in Washington, D.C. for appointing his brothers and their friends as trustees of the Lott properties having collected thousands of dollars in trustee fees over the years. When the Webster and Belden-Stratford were finally put-up for auction in 1954, Lott's $4 million jewel was sold for $1.6 million. The Belden-Stratford offered apartment/hotel living up until 2011 when the last 68 hotel units were taken off the market and joined the remaining 229 apartment units offered for rent.

See more apartment/hotel life at: Pine Grove Apartments; and a 21st century helping at: Waldorf Astoria Chicago.

Mrs. Arthur Ryerson, Abram Poole, Henry C. Dangler & Ambrose C. Cramer Houses

[Mrs. Arthur Ryerson, Abram Poole, Henry C. Dangler & Ambrose C. Cramer Houses (1916) Henry C. Dangler & David Adler, architects, Ambrose C. Cramer, associate /Image & Artwork: designslinger]

While Milwaukee, Wisconsin native David Adler was attending Princeton University in    
the early 1900s he became friends with fellow classmate artist Abram Poole, who had come east to the New Jersey campus from Chicago. The midwesterners hit-it-off, and when Adler's uncle told his nephew that he would pay for David to attend the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris to study architecture, who did David reconnect with, none other than Abram Poole. Poole, the son of wealthy Chicago commodities trader Abram Poole, then introduced Adler to a fellow Chicagoan who was also studying architecture at the Ecole, Henry Dangler. By the time all three of them ended-up back in Chicago, budding architect Ambrose Cramer joined the gang, and Dangler, Poole and Cramer, along with society matron Emily Ryerson, built a row of houses designed by Adler. The young architect seemed to have been born with an innate sense of scale and proportion, which served him well over the next 30 years in a career interpreting 17th and 18th French and English domestic architecture into 20th century perfection. The row of houses he designed for his friends and Mrs. Ryerson, at first glance, looked like they could have been transported from 18th century London directly to Chicago's Lakeview Avenue.

[Mrs. Arthur Ryerson, Abram Poole, Henry C. Dangler & Ambrose C. Cramer Houses, 2700-10 N. Lakeview Avenue, Chicago /Image & Artwork: designslinger]

While Adler was credited as the designer, Henry Dangler's name appeared on all the drawings that came out of the office he and Adler had set-up in 1912 because he was licensed to practice as an architect in Illinois while Adler was not. Adler had taken the architectural licensing exam and failed, and wouldn't receive his Illinois license until the end of the 1920s. When the houses were ready for occupancy in the Fall of 1916, Henry and Katherine Dangler and their infant daughter moved into number 2708, tucked snugly into the middle of the row. Adler had introduced Henry to Katherine Keith, daughter of another prominent Chicago businessman Edson Keith, and David served as Henry's best man at the Keith/Dangler nuptials in 1915. But the Dangler's residency was cut short when Henry died of tuberculosis only four months after the young family had moved in. Alder lost his best friend and business partner.

[Mrs. Arthur Ryerson, Abram Poole, Henry C. Dangler & Ambrose C. Cramer Houses, Lake View, Chicago /Image & Artwork: designslinger]

Abram Poole took the house on one side of the Danglers, while Ambrose Cramer took
the house on the other side. Poole and Dangler knew Cramer because the young men circulated in the same social circles. Cramer's father was another wealthy Chicago-based businessman who lived in the city of Lake Forest, one of Chicago's posh north shore suburbs, where the Cramers, Pooles and Henry's father David all resided. When Adler got married in 1916 he moved to Lake Forest where Henry and Katherine Dangler were already living, while everyone waited for the row of houses to be completed. Keeping things within the echelons of Chicago's upper-crust, Ambrose married Grace Meeker, daughter of the vice president of the mammoth meat-packing enterprise Armour & Co. Cramer who had an interest in architecture, and who had worked with his friends Adler and Dangler on the Lakeview row, decided to go to Paris to study architecture in 1922, leaving his family behind in their Adamesque-inspired house. Grace and the two children went over a couple of times for a visit, but when it looked like Ambrose wasn't planning on returning anytime soon, she filed for a divorce in 1927 citing desertion. However Ambrose wasn't done with the Meeker's. In 1929 Grace's mother and father sent a telegram to the society columns in Chicago announcing the marriage of their youngest daughter Mary to her former brother-in-law. The news was greeted with surprise and shock by many in their social circle, but the marriage lasted until Ambrose's death in 1970.

[Mrs. Arthur Ryerson, Abram Poole, Henry C. Dangler & Ambrose C. Cramer Houses, Chicago /Image & Artwork: designslinger]

Mrs. Arthur Ryerson was the fourth occupant of the row, and as a Ryerson occupied the largest dwelling of the group. Emily Ryerson was a Borie of Philadelphia and in marrying Arthur Ryerson, joined-in on one of Chicago's larger family fortunes. While his brother Edward took charge of their grandfather's steel-making company, Arthur traded in stocks and commodities and eventually settled near Cooperstown, New York. In 1912, while he, Emily, and three of their children were touring in France, they received word that their 19-year-old son Arthur, Jr. had been killed in an automobile accident. They made arrangements to immediately sail back to the States and boarded the steamship Titanic in Cherbourg. Emily, the children, her friend, and her maid survived, Arthur did not. She buried her son in New York, had a memorial service for her husband - whose body was never found - and began to rebuild her life.

[Mrs. Arthur Ryerson, Abram Poole, Henry C. Dangler & Ambrose C. Cramer Houses /Image & Artwork: designslinger]

Although the Ryerson's had made their home base in the east, they made frequent      trips back to Chicago and in 1916 Emily rented the William Vincent house on Astor Street. As soon as her 17-room mansion at the south end of the row was completed, Emily set about throwing some of Chicago's liveliest parties -whenever she was in town. While off on her annual pilgrimages to New York and Europe for months at a time, she turned the house over to Children's Memorial Hospital for use as a convalescent home. After she remarried in 1927 at the age of 64, Emily was photographed in the doorway of her Lakeview house for one last time before heading off to France to live with her new husband Forsythe Sherfesse. Adler's elegantly detailed home was sold and eventually became the site of the Harris School for Girls. Then in 1975 the house-turned-school was sold to Thresholds, who operate the Dincin Center in the former Ryerson manse. The Poole, Dangler and Cramer residences still serve their original purpose. The former Dangler dwelling having sold recently for $2.6 million.

See David Adler's work for Arthur's nephew at: Joseph T. Ryerson House.

William H. Lake House

[William H. Lake House (1904) George W. Maher, architect /Image & Artwork: designslinger]

"The Imperial Suburb of Chicago." That's what the North Shore Suburban newspaper had to say about Buena Park in 1896. The suburb was in reality a mostly undeveloped section of land in what had been the City of Lake View until the city of Chicago annexed the massive township in 1889. When the newspaper dubbed the area bounded by Irving Park, Montrose, Lake Michigan, and the eastern boundary of Graceland Cemetery as "imperial," Buena Park was on the cusp of becoming a fully developed, upper-middle-class, suburb-in-the-city enclave.

[William H. Lake House, 826 W. Hutchinson Street, Chicago /Image & Artwork: designslinger]

The name Buena had come from one of the first settlers in the area James Waller. In the late 1850s Waller purchased 53 acres of land far from the city of Chicago, west of the lake's shore, where he built a large, Greek Revival dwelling that he dubbed "Buena House." Waller slowly developed his acreage, and by the mid-1890s other investors began to take an interest in Waller's Buena Park neighborhood. John Scales, a wealthy commission merchant who traded in grain futures, purchased a subdivided parcel of land in the sand east of Buena House. He had high hopes for his investment. More and more businessmen like himself were looking to live within easy commuting distance of the city's bustling downtown commercial district, while having the benefit of living in a less congested arcadian setting.

[William H. Lake House, National Historic District /Image & Artwork: designslinger]

Scales got right to work. He had a street cut through the middle of his property that ran east to west from Halsted (today's Clarendon) to Kenmore (Hazel Street). And in tribute to a battle he had fought in during the Civil War in the Kenesaw Mountains, he called the street Kenesaw Terrace. In 1894 he hired architect George W. Maher to design a house for the Scales family on the northwest corner of Kenesaw and Kenmore, where it sat, all alone, for nearly 10 more years.

[William H. Lake House, Hutchinson Street Historic District /Image & Artwork: designslinger]

By the time fellow commission merchant and agent William H. Lake purchased his 150-foot-long by 177-foot-deep lot from Scales in 1904, the area around Kenesaw Terrace had been slowly building up. George Maher had designed another home a block east of the Scales project, and Lake decided to hire the architect for his family's residence. Maher's style had evolved. The house he had designed for John Scales was much more in keeping with the Queen Anne traditions that were popular at the time, but by 1904 the architect had become a practitioner of what would become known as the Prairie Style. Maher had started his career as an apprentice draftsman in the offices of Joseph Lyman Silsbee who had designed several suburban Shingle-style homes in the nearby community of Edgewater. Another apprentice who got his start in the Silsbee atelier at the same time was a young man from Wisconsin named Frank Wright - before he added the Lloyd.

[William H. Lake House, City of Chicago Landmark /Image & Artwork: designslinger]

The Lake house had Prairie hallmarks like broad eaves, a large cantilevered roof over the porch, art glass windows, and an open interior. The large entry hall looked directly into a very spacious living room which connected directly into well proportioned dining room. But the Lake's didn't stay long. After just 8 years they left their Buena Park neighborhood and Mr. & Mrs. Daniel F. Sullivan moved into 826 Kenesaw Terrace. The Sullivans had no children so Louise Sullivan began taking-in youngsters who were homeless and living in shelters. Daniel Sullivan on the other hand spent a majority of his time - like months at a time - away from home. In 1920 Louise had had enough and filed for divorce. She received alimony in the neighborhood of $15,500 a year, and the house. She told the Chicago Tribune that her future mother-in-law had warned of her sons penchant for wanderlust. "Louise you know my son is just like his father." Then in 1936 Kenesaw Terrace was no more. The street was renamed in honor of Charles L. Hutchinson, banker, philanthropist, and president of Chicago's Art Institute from 1884 until his death in 1926. 

See more of Maher on Hutchinson Street at: John C. Scales House and Claude Seymour House; and Maher in Oak Park at: A Pleasant Home.

Majestic Theatre Building - Bank Of America Theatre

[Majestic Theatre Building - Bank of America Theatre (1906) Edmund R. Krause, architect; C.W. & George L. Rapp, associates /Image & Artwork: designlinger]

"Chicago has a new vaudeville theater and it is a beauty," gushed the Chicago Tribune on January 2, 1906. Not only was the theater a beaut, but at 20-stories, architect Edmund Krause's ornately decorated Majestic Building was Chicago's tallest structure. It was also the first public auditorium built in the city following the horrific Iroquois Theatre fire that claimed the lives of over 700 matinee attendees in 1903. As a result of that disastrous event Chicago had the strictest fire regulations in the country, and the Majestic Theatre was the first to be built under those new stringent standards.

[Majestic Theatre Building - Bank of America Theatre, 22 W. Monroe Street, Chicago /Image & Artwork: designslinger]

The building sat on a piece of land owned by the Chicago School Board. When the
    federal government had a survey map of the future city drawn-up in the early 1830s, Block 142 - between Madison Street, Monroe, Dearborn, and the western line of the U.S. Reservation (today's State Street) - was designated the School Reservation block. The commissioners who were overseeing the construction of the Illinois & Michigan Canal set aside sections of land to be sold by the government to raise money for the public works project, and "reserved" a few parcels for a non-existent school district as a way to finance future public education.

[Majestic Theatre Building - Bank of America Theatre, Chicago /Image & Artwork: designslinger]

Eventually the school block was divided into individual lots fronting Dearborn and State,
and tucked in between, three narrow 27-foot-wide lots fronting Madison and Monroe. In 1857 McVicker's Theatre opened on the three Madison Street facing lots - where a McVicker's named theater building stood until 1985 -whose back lot-line butted-up against the three narrow lots facing Monroe Street. Augusta Lehmann, who with her husband Ernest J. had founded one of the city's largest department stores The Fair, had taken a 99-year leasehold on the property in 1901 for which the Lehmann estate would pay the Board of Education $27,000 per annum. The property already had three 4-story, post-1871-fire, buildings standing on it which Augusta purchased, and in 1904 she had then demolished and hired Krause to design a modern, $1.3 million, income-producing office tower and theater.

[Majestic Theatre Building - Bank of America Theatre, Chicago Downtown Theatre District /Image & Artwork: designslinger]

Vaudeville was the nation's most popular form of entertainment at the turn of the 20th
century, and the new Majestic would be the city's premiere vaudeville house. The office space directly above the ground floor became of the home office of the Western Vaudeville Managers Association. The theater's opening bill included performances by the "8 Allsions" an acrobatic act, magician "Hermann the Great," and jugglers "Redford & Winchester." By the late 1920s as vaudeville's popular appeal was overtaken by motion pictures the theater fell on hard times, while the office portion of the building continued to generate revenue for the Lehmann estate.

[Majestic Theatre Building - Bank of America Theatre /Image & Artwork: designslinger]

Augusta's heirs had an even harder time finding anyone interested in leasing the
    theater once the Great Depression took hold, and the beautiful auditorium sat vacant and unused for eleven years. Then in 1945 New York's Shubert organization stepped, and for $350,000 purchased the building and leasehold from the Lehmann's, and for the next 44 years the east coast producers brought Broadway productions to Chicago in the renamed the Shubert Theatre. By the early 1990's the organization, which once operated 7 theaters in the city, sold the property to their New York rivals the Nederlander's for $750,000. By that time the office portion of the aging structure was mostly vacant, and in 2005 the Nederlander group closed the building, renovated the theater, and converted the office space into a hotel managed by the Hampton Inn franchise. The naming rights to the theater were sold to a bank.

See more of downtown Chicago's magnificent historic theater spaces at: Ford Oriental Theatre Building and Ardis Krainik Theatre - Civic Opera House.

Dexter Graves Monument - "Eternal Silence"

[Dexter Graves Monument - "Eternal Silence" (1909) Lorado Z. Taft, sculptor /Image & Artwork: designslinger]

When Chicago businessman, hotel owner, and early resident Dexter Graves died in 1844 his earthly remains could no longer be deposited in the city cemetery at Chicago Avenue, but had to be transported up to the new cemetery located at North Avenue. The Chicago Common Council had passed a law in 1843 denying any further burials in the city-run graveyard that extended from Chicago Avenue to what would eventually become Oak Street; and from the Green Bay Road, which would become Rush Street, to the lake shore. The built-up portion of the city was on a march northward in 1843, and North Avenue seemed far enough away to establish a new cemetery far from town.

[Dexter Graves Monument - "Eternal Silence," Graceland Cemetery, 4001 N. Clark Street, Chicago /Image & Artwork: designslinger]

Dexter Graves saw a future in Chicago, and in 1831 and was able to convince thirteen of his Ashtabula, Ohio neighbors to gather-up their families and join Dexter, his wife, and their four young children on their journey west. When they arrived on the schooner "Telegraph" they found a cluster of log cabins built on sandy, marshy ground lined-up along the south branch of the Chicago River, west of the tall stockade fence of the old Fort Dearborn. Graves, a tavern owner in Ashtabula, built the hamlet's first frame house and opened a hotel called the Mansion House on Lake Street near what would soon become Dearborn Street. Dexter prospered, however 1844 was not a good year for the Graves family. In January daughter Lucy died at age 25, followed by her sister Emeline in February. When Dexter Graves died in April of that year at his State Street home, he bequeathed a comfortable financial legacy to his widow and daughter Louisa, to be overseen by his two sons Lorin and Henry.

[Dexter Graves Monument - "Eternal Silence," National Historic Landmark /Image & Artwork: designslinger]

The year after his father and sisters' deaths, Henry moved far out-of-town to his brother's cottage in a cottonwood grove south of the city, where a street would eventually be platted and graded called Cottage Grove Avenue. Henry immediately set to work building a 2-story frame house near his brother, and after Lorin's death in 1852 took over the management of their father's estate. Henry loved horses, especially trotters, so in 1854 he built the Garden City Racecourse at 55th Street and Cottage Grove. He acquired 400 acres of farmland near Kankakee, Illinois and raised a line a thoroughbred racers.

[Dexter Graves Monument - "Eternal Silence," City of Chicago Landmark /Image & Artwork: designslinger]

By the mid-1860s the Chicago City Council found itself once again having to deal with moving the North Avenue cemetery. The built-up portions of the city were once again encroaching on the formerly remote location of the city cemetery, just as the expanding population had done so 20 years earlier. So it was time to move the deceased from their not-so-final resting place to a new final place of rest, only this time to privately run cemeteries like Graceland and Rosehill. Along with many of their at rest neighbors, the graves of the Graves family were relocated to Graceland. In 1891 Henry's wife Clementine died, and when 86-year-old Henry took his last breath on October 3, 1907 he died at home, in the 2-story frame house he had built 62 years earlier. And it wasn't as though he couldn't afford to move - he left an estate estimated in the $500,000 range which would translate to around $13 million today - he just never saw any reason to leave a perfectly good house simply to show how rich he was.

[Dexter Graves Monument - "Eternal Silence" /Image & Artwork: designslinger]

He saved his showmanship for the afterlife. With no immediate heirs to leave his
    fortune to, Henry instead willed $40,000 for the erection of a memorial fountain in commemoration of his favorite racer "Ike." The idea was to construct a statue of Ike in Washington Park standing astride a mound surrounded by a fountain filled with water to quench the thirst of parched horses. His will also directed that $250,000, about one-half of the entire estate, be used for the erection of a mausoleum at Graceland Cemetery in memory of his father Dexter, "to be opened to the public three times a week." Henry's mausoleum morphed into much less expensive free-standing monument in memory of his father, with a bronze figure designed by Chicago's pre-eminent sculptor Lorado Taft. The hooded, 10-foot-tall statue was named "Eternal Silence" by the artist, and although the city of Chicago eventually gobbled-up the surrounding neighborhood, no Graves had to be removed.

See more of Graceland's monuments at: Potter & Bertha Palmer Mausoleum, Hoyt Family Monument, Marshall Field Family Memorial Monument, Martin Ryerson Mausoleum, Sullivan's Great Poem, and Stanford White's Final Design.

John T. Davis Flats

[John T. Davis Flats (1883) Iver. C. Zarbell, architect /Image & Artwork: designslinger]

In the early 1880s John T. Davis was on the hunt for real estate investments. He had taken over his father's wholesale dry goods company, increased sales volume and his income, and was looking for places to invest some of his cash. He not only found investment opportunities to his liking in his home
city of St. Louis, but saw some potential in New York, Boston and Chicago. Stocks and bonds were all well and good, but a diversified portfolio containing solid real estate investments could offer secure returns for decades to come.

[John T. Davis Flats, 2100 Block, North Bissell Street, Chicago /Image & Artwork: designslinger]

The real estate he purchased in Chicago seemed fraught with opportunity. This area on the north side of town was close to built-up portions of the city, but still had a few large pieces of undeveloped land available on a former truck farm. The 1-square-mile section had been purchased by Connecticut businessman Joseph Sheffield in the 1850s. Sheffield was one of a number of New Englanders who saw Chicago as a place to make money and in 1850 he partnered with New Haven businessman Henry Farnum to finance the construction of a rail line that would stretch from Chicago to Rock Island, Illinois, establishing the first rail connection between the city and the mighty Mississippi. Along the way he also had an agent purchase the large section of land far from the city center located near today's heavily trafficked intersection where Halsted Street crosses Lincoln Avenue. Twenty years earlier it had been the site of a Potawatomi village. The area was flat and perfect for farming, so Sheffield rented the land to tenant farmers who trucked their goods into the city to be sold in the bustling produce market that lined the southern edge of the main branch of the Chicago River. By the 1860's the first streets were plotted and graded at the southern end of the section, and after the fire in 1871, rows of houses began cropping-up on the former farmland.

[John T. Davis Flats, Sheffield National Historic District. Chicago /Image & Artwork: designslinger]

In 1883, one year after Sheffield's death, John Davis purchased 16 vacant lots on either
side of Bissell Street from Garfield (today's Dickens Street) north to Webster Avenue. Davis hired architect Iver C. Zarbell to design a group of row house apartments - or in Chicago verbiage "flats" - on each side of the block, which Davis hoped to rent to middle class businessmen and their families.

[John T. Davis Flats, City of Chicago Landmark /Image & Artwork: designslinger]

Zarbell mixed together a concoction of a variety of architectural styles of the day to enhance the facades of the Davis rows. But rather than run the entire group as a conjoined row of houses, the architect allowed for a narrow breathing gap, or "gangway" between individual buildings. In the center of each block stood the largest of the group with ten flats per mansard-roofed structure, then on to six-flats, before shrinking down to 3-flats, for a total of 14 buildings in all. For added visual pleasure each flat combo contained its own unique compilation of detailing while holding on to a cohesive scheme. Some of the units contained up to 10-rooms which could be had for a rate of $20.00 per month, or approximately $458.13 in 2013.

[John T. Davis Flats, Bissell Street, Chicago /Image & Artwork: designslinger]

The red brick block capped by a handsome mansard roofline, underwent an earth
    rumbling change when the first components of the steel structure supporting the tracks of the Northwest Elevated Railroad were constructed on January 23, 1896 at the intersection of Fullerton and Sheffield Avenues. Fullerton was a mere two blocks north of Webster, and Sheffield ran parallel to Bissell. The "L" would travel down the alley that separated Bissell and Sheffield, and the elevated structure would pass directly behind the row of houses on the west side of Bissell Street. Davis' row of flats not only survived the construction of the "L," the Great Depression, and the changing demographics of an urban neighborhood, but they are now located in an area that has become one of Chicago's choice residential locations, where Mr. Sheffield saw opportunity 160 years ago.

See more of the area's wall-to-wall row of houses at: McCormick Row House District - Phase One; and McCormick Row District - Phase Two.