Tuesday, August 28, 2007

New Book on Lutyens Published

Just picked this up at Prairie Avenue books, by the Driehaus winner Allan Greenberg. A bit small format, but important information about one of the most influential architects of the last 150 years. He had some Burnham influences, was a grand designer, made New Delhi look imperial, gave more than a nod to Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Sullivan and made a great deal of stylistic growth (perhaps too much) in his career. Buy it at PA Books.

The unfinished Liverpool Cathedral is one of the missing masterpieces in Architectural History. How would that look in the vacant lot across from Holy Name Cathedral?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

De-Christianizing Wilmette

In an effort to rid Wilmette of any outward signs of Christianity, developers in the Park District sponsored spendall at Mallinckrodt continue to cover any reference to Christ, Mary, or the fact that the Sisters of Christian Charity once had a huge convent and school in Wilmette.
Gone are:

1) The Cross atop the steeple
2) The Chapel, converted to housing units
3) Marian statuary and grottos in the adjoining park
4) Textual reference to Maria Immaculata
5) The beautiful stained glass from the Chapel and porch leading to the chapel
I was involved in trying to maintain the Liturgical Elements from the Chapel; not that I am much good at such things, but this one was outlandish. The building was sold to the developer for a song. The village claimed that they had to remove all Christian symbols from Park District property (Hmm...does LaCrosse Wisconsin need to remove the "Crosse" from its name) An agent of the developer tried to ransom the stained glass to my foundation and a Priest from the west suburbs. The developer claimed he could not make enough money if he did not destroy the chapel (heard that one a few times). The developer then uprooted 20 huge 100 year old trees. The village stepped in to demand "affordable" housing, so that people making 100K+ could get others to pay for their residence.
This is one botched project, and the botch is on the taxpayers of Wilmette and the many generous donors to the Sisters of Charity and Loyola University over the years. (Then the same thing happens in Lake Forest 2 years later).

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

If St. Louis is Rome, is Belleville Florence?

Friend of the Society of St. Barbara blog Mark Scott Abeln has some stunning shots of the Cathedral of St. Peter in Belleville Illinois. If you haven't already, please visit his blog at

which showcases one of my favorite cities, St. Louis, in much the same way as St. Barbara's showcases Chicago. Mark posts a series of photos of the

which really make the St. Peter's look awe inspiring. Yes Mark, St. Louis, the Society of St. Barbara considers St. Louis the Rome of the West, but does the analogy make it that Belleville would then be the La Belle Florentine?

Saturday, August 18, 2007

James Morris launches Website

In my opinion, the best architectural photographer in the world, James Morris, has just launched his subtly named portfolio website.

James Morris, photographer

Morris, the photographer of two of my favorite books Heavenly City, the Architectural History of Catholic Chicago, and Londons Churches and Chapels specializes in large format photography, showing such depth of field as the sequence of arches and columns at St. Marks Coptic Church in Egypt, and a series of rectangular doorways from Villa Sarceno in Vincenza Italy (pictured).

I suggest that you get the largest LCD Monitor you can buy, take a long draw from a Guinness, and spend a few hours perusing and enjoying the portfolio of the master of architectural photography.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Gothic Chicago

Gothic Chicago
Originally uploaded by jlurie
From Flickr

Fine shot of Howells & Hood—John Mead Howells and Raymond Hood, Tribune Tower at 435 N. Michigan.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Brooklyn's Cathedral that Never Was

Brooklyn is the ethnic heart of New York Catholicism, a borough whose inhabitants still remember that coming to America needn't mean converting to the comforting blandness of beige Catholicism. A view across the East River shows a low cityscape still dotted with German steeples and Polish domes. With a few notable exceptions, (A San Rocco statue covered in dollar bills followed by a truck filled with small Chinese girls dressed as angels, for instance), all things weird and wonderful in the world of the popularly pious ultimately go back to the Maronites, Italians and Hispanics of the outer boroughs.

While Manhattan may have St. Pat's and Our Saviour's, you won't find the dancing Giglio with its cast of priests and brass bands, or an advertisement for a visit of the Holy Robe of the Infant of Prague to some crusty, dusty church in Queens.

We often forget the borough of Brooklyn was once a whole separate city, and the last hundred years of rule from downtown Manhattan is somewhat of a novelty in the great scheme of things. Indeed, had Bishop Loughlin had his way, Brooklyn would be the home to a behemoth cathedral that would have easily rivalled St. Pat's in sheer bulk. The illustration above is of its facade--a massive, somewhat unremarkable mid-century Victorian Gothic pile, though not without a certain hefty, muscular charm.

Robert A.M. Stern writes in his equally hefty (1,164 pages) New York 1880:
Far and away, the most ambitious church project undertaken in Brooklyn was the Roman Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, intended for the block bounded by Clermont, Greene, Vanderbilt, and Lafayette Avenues. A Pugin-inspired version of the Cathedral at Rouen, designed by Patrick C. Keely, it was to have been the second-largest cathedral in the country, exceeded only by New York's St. Patrick's [...], then under construction. [...] As described in 1871, the approach taken by Keely abounded in "clustered shafts, moulded bases, varied statuary, pinnacled and gabled canopies." The cathedral was to have built of blue granite. Two 98-foot-wide, 350-foot-high corner towers were to have marked the 160-foot-wide entrance facade facing Lafayette Avenue, beyond which the 354-foot-long church with its 98-foot-high, white granite nave soaring to a roof framed in oak. The project was extremely ambitious given that the archdiocese had only been in existence for eight years when the site was acquired in 1860, but Bishop John Loughlin was deeply committed to the idea of the cathedral as a beacon for Catholicism in Protestant Brooklyn, as were many laypeople, forty thousand of whom showed up for the laying of the cornerstone on June 21, 1868.
Money soon ran low, and the walls had only creeped up a paltry ten feet before construction was halted. Only one of the church's six chapels, St. John, was completed. The walls and chapel remained until 1931, when they were bulldozed to build a high school named in honor of the late bishop.

One of Loughlin's successors, incidentally, approached Westminster Cathedral designer John Francis Bentley (Keely having died) to figure out what to do with the Cathedral's foundations and stubby walls. Bentley himself visited Brooklyn and began drawings, but the British architect died before Bishop McDonnell could visit London to see the architect's work. The project was shelved, and now the only thing that remains on the site is the former Bishop's residence, now the chancery, which that pompous doorstop The AIA Guide to New York City--at least the 1978 edition--describes as "an orphan asylum for a Charlotte Bronte novel."