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.

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Historic Houses and Homesteads in Old Norwood Park

Gabriel X. Michael 7 comments

West elevation, John Wingert House at 6231 North Canfield Avenue. [Gabriel X. Michael/Chicago Patterns]

It’s one of the farthest neighborhoods from downtown Chicago, bordering the city limits, O’Hare Airport and suburbs of Harwood Heights and Norridge. But Norwood Park can also be considered one of the city’s oldest areas, where you will find remarkable 150-year-old examples of early American homes in every Victorian-era style. Continue reading »

The Value is in the Land: 1953 N. Hudson

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hudson [John Morris/Chicago Patterns]

hudson [John Morris/Chicago Patterns]

In our new series called The Value is in the Land, we’ll look at historic homes and buildings which face an uncertain future as a result of their high-value location.

The first entry is 1953 N. Hudson Avenue, in Lincoln Park (pictured above). This circa 1893 Italianate home sits on a street filled with garish jumbo houses recently built, with a few original homes remaining.

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A Brief History of Milwaukee Avenue, Part 1: an Indian Trail Becomes Dinner Pail Avenue

John Morris 1 comment


Milwaukee/Kimball/Diversey [John Morris/Chicago Patterns]

Outside of Downtown, Milwaukee Avenue is likely the fastest growing and changing thoroughfare in the city, and it isn’t the first time in history it’s had this position. Since the early beginnings of Chicago, it’s been a busy commuting path and one of the most bustling commercial centers.

The beauty and lore of this avenue was captured over a century ago in a book by a Jefferson Park resident:

What Soho is to London this diagonal avenue is to the Garden City. By turns the Greek, Italian, German, Scandinavian, Russian, Lithuanian and Pole monopolize the street signs, the corner news-stands, the sidewalks and the cars, or proclaim to the passing nose one aspect of their national delicacies.

Every half-section line exhibits in its ganglia, as the crossing of the thoroughfares, a sharp-angled picturesque frontage, akin to Seven Dials or Five Points in their palmy days.

Alfred Bull, amateur historian describing Milwaukee Avenue in 1911

In the first part of this series, we’ll look at the early history of Milwaukee Avenue, and follow it until the boom years of the 1920s. Next we’ll cover the Chicago School of architecture, and later, the transition to the Machine Age and Art Deco.

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