The End of McGaw Hall2 comments
Known as the “Cheese Grater Building,” McGaw was originally built for the McCormick Theological Seminary in 1963 by Holabird & Root, an architecture firm known for designing educational and institutional structures. DePaul acquired the building in 1977 and used it for classrooms and music practice rooms. For well over a decade DePaul has transformed itself from a sleepy commuter school into a residential college, the largest Catholic university in the country. In order to create a bigger and more cohesive campus, DePaul has gotten rid of its past little by little. DePaul has torn down a number of older buildings, like the brutalist Stuart Center, and constructed many new structures, like the loft-style apartments at 1237 West. It’s unfortunate that McGaw is another victim of this expansion. Maybe the building was not to everyone’s liking, but in a world of increasingly bland architecture, at least McGaw was unique and stood out.
I’m not sure I understand what made this building worthy of preservation. And I’m the kind of person who is willing to be convinced! How does it relate to other buildings of similar style in same time period? Does it illustrate the construction and design trends of the time? Did its design embody the philosophy and needs of the seminary? I don’t really get a good description of the building, so I’m not sure what I’m looking at. Should I be outraged about this?
It’s difficult to tell if your criticism is of the building or of the article. I don’t speak for Rachel or her intentions in presenting this lost chapter of Chicago architecture, but think the photos tell the story more than words can.
Stepping outside of downtown, it’s easy to forget the legacy of Modernist architecture that Chicago forged. Most of the icons of the International Style and Second Chicago School are concentrated there and IIT, and much of the rest scattered about the suburbs. McGaw Hall was one of the very few in the neighborhood and unique for DePaul, and as such, an important piece of the city’s architectural legacy. But more important than associated legacies and history was its visual distinction. It was a building that didn’t copy and paste from earlier precedents and made passersby ponder its design and appearance.
If her photos don’t convince you of that, words certainly won’t.