Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Quigley in all its Glory

Quite a shot here of Quigley Preparatory Seminary in 1925. UPDATE Zachary Taylor Davis (not Joseph McCarthy's) St. James Chapel just finished, as the highest steeple in the neighborhood, 4 inches above Fourth Presbyterian (so legend goes).

Tonight Cardinal Francis George honors the Friends of the Windows, a group I am proud to be a long time member of, for its restoration of the Stained Glass Windows in St. James Chapel, with a reception at the Cardinal's Mansion, where, not coincidentally, the Cartoon (sample) windows for St. James Chapel are now installed in the Cardinal's Private Chapel.

Neil Ball, the great Presbyterian devotee of the Built Liturgy has lead this effort for over 10 years now, with amazing fortitude and perserverance, culminating in its completion this year. There is no greater supporter of the St. James Chapel than Neil Ball. All signs look good for continued public access to St. James Chapel and the Crown Jewel in Chicago Architecture.

As Cardinal Egan recently said on a visit to his alma mater (Quigley, that is), St. James Chapel has never looked better.

More on Quigley to come.

Friday, April 20, 2007

House for Sale, not Confiscation

While perusing real esate ads in Winnetka, I came upon this interesting listing on 900 Private Road (some name for a road). This 1911 house, by my old neighbor Dwight Perkins (albeit 90 years removed) is a real American Arts and Craft masterpiece, described variously as Prairie Style, Tudor, and a Manor House, this place is nothing less than an Perkins finest work.

Well, just when I was about to post a pleasant reference, I read through the full description, and found an interesting name in the owner logs...FDR Secretary of the Interior, Harold Ickes. If I have an archenemy, it is Harold Ickes. I have always found him a convenient nemesis, as he is about 90 years older than I am, hardly ever in town, and has many more worthy and aggressive enemies than I, even if we were contemperaries.

Why Ickes? Lets see, I live right by the L at the point where it becomes a street car system (for about 1 mile). It is a shambolic mess of missed schedules, filth, and Soviet style efficiency. But it wasn't always that way...The L, a conglomeration of passenger rail lines, was put together by one of my heroes, Samuel Insull. Insull delivered consistently low prices for service, and was actually able to lower fares (as well as electric rates) on a year to year basis. Clean, efficient, low prices, what better candidate for confiscation by the Roosevelt Administration?

You see, Harold Ickes was supposed to work for Sam Insull in WW1, on War Production in Illinois, utilizing the Prairie State's considerabale economic output for the war effort. Ickes was not pleased by his 2nd level position, and was subsecquently sidelined by Insull, resulting in the War being won, but Ickes having a bruised ego. Ickes struck back.

Starting in Winnetka by smacking Insull consolidation of Com Ed in the 1920's, Ickes finally got his painfully misguided vengance as Interior Secretary, leading huge public works projects during the Roosevelt Administration. Via some extra-constitutional authoritarianism, Ickes claimed vengance for his lack of promotion 20 years past, by confiscating the L from the Insull companies, and making it the public nuisance it is today. Higher fares ever year, reduced service, poor maintenance, and slower travle now than 70 years ago, as brought to you by the man that owned this fine house.

I will not begrudge Mr. Ickes his choice in architects. Dwight Perkins was one of the greats (Bill Hassabrock is writing his biography btw). However, the next time you are repulsed by the L service in Chicago, be sure to think of the Winnetka tyrant with the $10 Million house that made it that way, all in the name of Progressive Government.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Amazing Interior of St. Boniface

Neglected BEAUTY
Originally uploaded by primeau.
OK, I have concluded that
1) There ares some good photographs on Flick
2) Henry Schlacks' St. Boniface is one of his typical masterpieces
3) It may be a bit dangerous to crawl around in old Churches and theaters
4) Most anyone is a better photographer than I am
5) But I am willing to admit 4 and thus will hire guys like James Morris to do photo projects
UPDATED 6) Photos such as these are better when they do not have a story to tell. The story is usually melodramatic, but the visual information may stand alone better than the commentary.
7) Perhaps documentary information is better than commentary, name-date-lighting type-weather etc
8) The commentaries usually go something like this "What a tragic site...why? wHY? WHY?" It is not helpful
9) My commentaries are mostly speculative fiction and propoganda, but in general as good a piece of history as available anywhere else, and peppered with facts. Here is a short fact, SLR Cameras distort large format shots of buildings. Look at the upper right and left hand corners of this shot. They are bent. To the best of my knowledge, there is not a compact large format camera that can be packed away while sneaking into empty churches.
10) The whole campus settings of Churches such as St. Boniface are interesting artifacts in themselves. Anyone still building urban church campusses?

Monday, April 16, 2007

Temple of Cinema: Uptown Chicago

Originally uploaded by primeau.
There are some decent photographs on Flickr of Rapp and Rapp's Uptown Theater. One has to wonder, what on earth can you do with a building so obsolete as the Uptown, but one look at the lobby (in photo), and you can see why people are still interested. This is the largest theater in the United States (excluding converted stadiums).

I have been involved with the Uptown for nearly 10 years now, and given up on it many times. Re-use of the facility is not a matter of economics, since the neighborhood has genetrified, leaving only the bruised beauty of the Uptown to scar the neighborhood. Fixing the property could actually make money now. The issue, as usual in Chicago, is the wicked group of crooks preventing gentrification, as part of some time honored testament to graft, incompetence, and petty tyranny of the local Aldermen.

While it is still standing, enjoy it. It is open every now and then to the public. The owners, or whoever has the key will rent it out for a reasonable price.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Viillage Government vs. the Wilmette Canopy

One of the knottiest problems in the Midwest is the destruction of the Ash Tree Canopy by the Emerald Ash Borer. Around 20 Million Ash Trees are dead and dying in Michigan, Ontario, Indiana, and now Illinois. The Village where I live, Wilmette, has come up with the arboricidal policy of removing the Ash Trees from the public boulevards, before the trees are infested with the Ash Borer. Yes, that is right, the Village is killing the trees, to....save the canopy?

In January, (This from the Tribune) Wilmette revealed its $2.5 million plan to remove and replace all 2,855 of its public ash trees by 2012. This only would apply to Ash Trees on Public Property. Yes, the Village will spend $875 to remove the Canopy from Wilmette. The trees on private property would still get infected, as the Ash Borer is not particular about public or private property, but residents would not get tree cover from the boulevard trees.

One of the reason the North Shore of Chicago is appealing to residents is the tree cover of the area. Given this area has been a suburb since about 1900, many of the trees planted over the farmland are 100 yrs + in age, giving a genuinely leafy ambiance to the leafy suburbs.

Of course the leafiness appeals to spendthrifts, who have a native home in Village government, which has never been bogged down by arithmetic calculations. Fortunately, a Glenview Tree Service made a mass mailing to North Shore Residents, slamming the arborcide, and offering to innoculate trees for around $150. So there is an offer outstanding to innoculate trees for 1/5 of the costs of removing trees, maintaining the canopy, and keeping one of the leafiest suburbs in the US-leafy.

Please correct me if I am wrong, but isn't the village destroying a huge natural resource without cause?

The photoshot from Microsoft Terra Server of the Wilmette Canopy.
Update: Here is some more info gathered via a conversation with a few altogether helpful Village employees.
1) The Village Arborists are only cutting down diseased trees
2) The budget is there to cut down all Ash trees
3) The only thing stopping the arborists from cutting down all the ash trees (healthy or diseased) is the common sense of the arborists. The directive is to eliminate all the trees in 6 years, regardless of the health of the tree.
4) There are treatments out there for preventive innoculation, and treatement of diseased trees. The Village, in general is not using these treatments.
5) The Village Government (not the foresters) would rather cut down trees than innoculate.
How about a test plot for innoculation of say...all of Gilson Park?
More Wilmette Ash Boer here

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Temple of Commerce

Here is a decent set of architectural photos on Flickr. There is some artistic nonsense, but many good documentary shots, showing details in the City of Chicago. The Tiffany Mosaic at Daniel Burnham's Marshal Fields/Macy's shown here, struck me as a good shot, balanced and detailed.

There was a comment on a similar shot in that this type of decoration seems more suitable for a Church, which got me thinking. Is it? Burnham was a fascinatingly spiritual character, somewhat maligned in his Swedenborgianism, but also driven to make inspired archtiecture, in much the same way that his fellow Swendenborgian Johnny Appleseed was driven towards his highly energetic tree planting.

I am not sure Burnham specified or designed this mosaic, but it sure does look one of the highest church temples of Commercialism.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Barat Chapel Video

Here is a pleasant video profile of the Barat Chapel in Lake Forest. Yes, the saga sagas, Lake Forest is again considering a proposal to wreck the Chapel in the name of progress.

Take a look and tell me if you think this is beyond rescue.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

John Murphy Auditorium setting for Driehaus Prize (2)

You might ask: We can see the exterior walking over from St. James Cathedral. What about interior?

Do not fret! Mr. Driehaus has worked a miracle. He has turned his hard earned money into public art that really asks nothing in return except your enjoyment. This Graham Anderson Probst (Readers, please check that, GAPW did the restoration, but were they the original architects?) structure is truly awesome and noble setting for the Prize.

Update: Per Lynn Becker's fine blog, the Murphy Auditorium was designed by theater architects Marshall and Fox.

John Murphy Auditorium setting for Driehaus Prize (1)

The biggest award in the traditional architecture world was presented yesterday afternooon, right here in Chicago at 50 E Erie in the Gold Coast. I was fortunate enough to attend the presentation, and speak to Patron, Richard Driehaus; the legendary Thomas Gordon Smith and fine practicing architect Bill Haier in the short time that I was at the awards.

Jaquelin T. Robertson was awarded Driehaus Prize and Edward Perry Bass the Harry Hope Reid Award. Congrat and I will post a follow up on the awards later but worth the trip alone