Edgar Miller, the Designer

Eric Allix Rogers Leave a comment

Glasner Studio [Eric Allix Rogers/Chicago Patterns]

Imagine a neighborhood near downtown Chicago. The buildings are solid, high quality, “Old World” craftsmanship – but they’re also getting shabby and worn.

Now imagine that you’re the young scion of a wealthy family with a successful business. You dropped out of art school and went to Paris to find yourself for a couple of years – and came back with a vision to make money by renovating cheap old buildings into spaces for artists.

This isn’t a story about Wicker Park in the 1990s, or Pilsen or Logan Square today. It’s Old Town, circa 1927 – and the person with that initial vision was Sol Kogen. Call it arts-based community development or call it gentrification, his business model was not all that different from what many developers do today. What set that vision apart – what gave it an unmistakable style – was the artistry and craftsmanship of Edgar Miller.

Continue reading »

The Bamboo Lounge

Eric Allix Rogers 20 comments

Schlitz stained glass at 9401 S. Ewing [Eric Allix Rogers/Chicago Patterns]

How much should be read into the disappearance of a single stained glass window? For the forlorn Bamboo Lounge at 9401 S. Ewing, could it be a warning of worse to come? A distinctive time capsule of a neighborhood tied house tavern, the building clings – for now – to the ragged frontier between the industrial past and the uncertain future of Chicago’s far southeast side. But for how much longer?

Continue reading »

Wins and Losses for Chicago Buildings in 2016

Chicago Patterns Staff 4 comments

Every year brings new buildings and the demolition of others–it’s the continuous cycle that transforms inanimate structures into the growing and evolving organism of a city. In times of wealth and prosperity the number of construction and demolition permits grow, and in times of recession they dwindle.

Last year this cycle repeated largely as it has in years past. But there were a few themes in the destruction of Chicago’s architectural heritage: late 19th century Worker’s Cottages, grand South Side homes, Italianate row houses, and a few sparkling Victorians on the North Side.

It wasn’t all losses in 2016–there were a few wins, particularly neglected or damaged churches that will live on through adaptive reuse.


Continue reading »

Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright, and the Charnley House, Part 1

Rachel Freundt 9 comments


[Rachel Freundt/Chicago Patterns]

The James Charnley House, constructed between 1891-92, in Chicago’s Gold Coast is an important design in the development of modern architecture. Charnley was the first house anywhere in the world to embrace modernism in its complete elimination of historical detail and emphasis on abstract forms and geometric simplicity, anticipating the architecture of the 1920s and 30s. Yet 125 years later there is still controversy surrounding Charnley’s authorship. Adler & Sullivan are the architects of record. 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. The design actually received more publicity than some of the firm’s larger commercial works. However, Frank Lloyd Wright’s name is forever attached to the Charnley House. Although chief draftsman at the time of the construction, Wright’s name was not officially linked to Charnley until 1932 when he claimed in An Autobiography that he solely designed it. Sullivan could not refute this bold statement by his former assistant as he had been dead for eight years. For the next fifty years, historians accepted Wright’s words without question and Sullivan’s contributions were minimized at best. Of course a single person does not design a building. Architecture is a collaborative process. There are many hands in the pie, so to speak. But that doesn’t take away from the facts.

Continue reading »