Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright, and the Charnley House, Part 2

Rachel Freundt Leave a comment

Architectural Drawing of the James Charnley House [Historic Architecture and Landscape Image Collection]

In this three-part series, I will be examining the relationship between the architect Frank Lloyd Wright and his mentor Louis Sullivan, specifically in the controversy surrounding one of the most important designs in early modern architecture: the James Charnley House, constructed between 1891-92, in Chicago’s Gold Coast. Although Adler & Sullivan were the architects of record at the time of construction, since the 1930s Frank Lloyd Wright has been routinely listed alongside them (or sometimes alone) since he wrote in An Autobiography in 1932 that he solely designed the home. No one challenged this assertion, especially Adler & Sullivan, as both were long dead by the time Wright’s memoir was published. Although the commission was widely published in architectural journals of the time, like the August 1891 issue of Inland Architect and the January 1892 issue of Architectural Record as one of Sullivan’s most important works, Sullivan’s name was mostly omitted from discussions of the Charnley House for the next half century. Even Hugh Sullivan’s 1935 monograph on Louis Sullivan, the first detailed assessment of the architect’s work, validated Wright’s claims first made in An Autobiography. No sketches, no plans, no furnished interior photos survive of the home. Because of this lack of concrete contemporary evidence and the fact that scholars never conducted a detailed investigation over the years, one can see how easy it was for Wright to claim this ground-breaking design as his own.

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Beautiful 19th Century Homes on Borrowed Time

John Morris Leave a comment

Gingerbread Gothic home at 1944 N Sedgwick will likely be destroyed [John Morris/Chicago Patterns]

In Chicago, as it is nationwide, demand for housing is outstripping supply. Speculators and wealthy individuals are eagerly rushing in to meet the top-end demand, leaving a trail of destroyed historic housing stock in their wake. Meanwhile, the supply of low and mid-range housing stock remains largely unaddressed.

This is often evident in real estate listing descriptions that say “the value is in the land,” for properties that exceed a million dollars with the implicit understanding that the home will be razed and replaced. This is playing out heavily in North Side neighborhoods like Lake View and Lincoln Park, where blocks of mostly new construction mega-mansions dot the landscape.

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Marion Mahony Griffin and Armstrong School

Rachel Freundt 6 comments

A woman admires the “Fairies and Woodland Scenes” mural at George B. Armstrong School for International Studies in Chicago’s West Rogers Park. [Rachel Freundt/Chicago Patterns]

“Behind every great man there is a great woman” might just be the perfect expression to use for someone like Marion Mahony Griffin. Although the second female graduate of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.) in 1894 and one of the first female licensed architects in the United States, Mahony Griffin was completely overshadowed by the men in her life. As Frank Lloyd Wright’s first employee in 1895, she worked as senior designer and lead draftsman until Wright closed down his Oak Park architectural studio in 1909.

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Help Crowdfund Gary Preservation Tours

Eric Allix Rogers Leave a comment

City Methodist Church [Eric Allix Rogers/Chicago Patterns]

City Methodist Church [Eric Allix Rogers/Chicago Patterns]

Like so many Chicagoans, I’m guilty of being a disaster tourist in Gary. The allure of its picturesque ruins beckons to many a photographer.

US Steel [Eric Allix Rogers/Chicago Patterns]

US Steel [Eric Allix Rogers/Chicago Patterns]

The “City of the Century” is a shadow of the industrial powerhouse that it once was, with a fraction of its peak population. The mighty steel works around which it was built soldier on, but the era of mass industrial employment has long since passed. What becomes of a company town when the company no longer needs it?

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