Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Holden Block at 1027 West Madison

Steven Vaughan Shipmans 1872 C. C. P. Holden Building (JWB, 2012)

Walking east in the 1000 block of West Madison Street last Sunday, on my way to the Dominick’s deli after finding the doors of the Washington Boulevard Subsway shop closed as tight as Mayor Emmanuel’s jaws, I came upon a building that stopped me in my tracks. 

It’s not listed in the AIA Guide to Chicago, and I’m sure that thousands of folks walk past it every day without giving it a second glance.  But this is a really special building, so special that the Commission on Chicago Landmarks has given the Holden Block at 1027 West Madison Street landmark status.

With good reason . . . because it’s a great old Chicago building that combines history, larger-than-life individuals, and a happy ending into a particularly attractive package.

The resorted facade of 1027 West Madison
(JWB, 2012)
Designed in the Italianate style and finished just a year after the Chicago Fire, the commission’s landmark designation report calls the Holden Block “arguably the finest surviving example [of the standard building block of Chicago’s commercial streets in the 19th and early 20th centuries] on the Near West Side and one of the best citywide in its overall architectural design and detailing.”   

The builder and owner of the Holden Block, Charles C. P. Holden (1827-1905) was one of Chicago’s original settlers.  Born in Groton, New Hampshire in 1827, he came to Chicago with his family in 1836, just a year before the city was chartered.  At the age of 19 he joined Company F of the Fifth Regiment of the Illinois infantry and fought against the Navajos in what is now New Mexico.

By 1855 he began an 18-year career with the Illinois Central Railroad as a land agent with over 2,000,000 acres of the state’s land grant under his administration.  Mr. Holden served as President of the Chicago City Council from 1870 to 1872 and was in charge when the Chicago Fire leveled the city.

In 1874 Mr. Holden was elected to the Cook County Board of Commissioners and served as its president in 1876.  He laid the cornerstone for the 1877 County Courthouse and oversaw the construction of the first Cook County Hospital on Harrison Street.

The Holden Block on Madison Street was a speculative project, and Mr. Holden sold the property within a year.  His name still stands at the top of the structure, though, and above his name the year that the building was finished -- 1872.

The style of the building in the Italianate style was popular in Chicago and much of the country from 1860 to 1885 or so.  Based to a greater or lesser extent on the Italian country villa, it stood as a more relaxed alternative to the rigid classicism that dominated architecture at the time.

Window Detail of Holden Block (JWB, 2012)
According to the report of the Chicago Commission on Landmarks, “. . . the use of decoration around windows and doors and along rooflines enhanced street-facing facades.  In Italianate-style buildings, paired brackets typically ornament elaborately detailed cornices.  Tall, narrow windows, topped by decorative stone lintels, often with incised floral medallions, can be found in many shapes.”

The emphasis on window treatment and elaborate cornices was perfect for the flat façade of the post-fire business block in Chicago.  And what a treatment the Holden Block was given.  There are 24 windows in the north face of the building . . . treated with eight different window surrounds.  The windows are designed with the greatest complexity on the second floor and get simpler as the building rises.

Window detail & Buena Vista
Sandstone (JWB, 2012)
The front façade of the Holden Block is clad with ”Buena Vista stone,” a sandstone quarried in Ohio.  Because there was virtually no visible difference in its granular structure, it could be cut in any direction.  Its popularity in Chicago was made possible by the growth of the railroads, which made transportation of the highly valued stone possible.  The height of Buena Vista stone’s popularity coincided almost exactly with the date of the Holden Block’s completion.  Bedford limestone from the area around Bloomington, Indiana replaced Buena Vista as the stone of choice in Chicago as it had the same uniform quality as the Ohio stone, while being far more resistant to weathering.

The architect of the Holden Block was Stephen Vaughan Shipman.  Born in Montrose, Pennsylvania, he learned the building trade from his father.  He established an office in Madison, Wisconsin in 1855 and designed the first dome and rotunda of the second Wisconsin state capital.

He entered the Civil War in the First Wisconsin Cavalry Regiment as a first Lieutenant and was ultimately promoted to Colonel as the war progressed.  Upon returning to Madison in 1865 he was elected City Treasurer.  He was drawn to Chicago after the Great Fire because of the opportunities for men of his experience in the re-building of the city. 

The Original Presbyterian Hospital
One of his designs was for the first Presbyterian Hospital on Chicago’s west side.  He also designed the block at 10 West Hubbard, where Architect Harry Weese established his practice.  It is now the location of Carol Ross Barney’s firm. Three of Stephen Shipman’s buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Holden Block before the renovation by S/C/C
(Google image)
You’re always looking for good news when you stop to admire these older buildings.  And in the case of the Holden Block there is good news.  Schafer/Condon/Carter, a highly respected Chicago advertising firm, purchased the Holden Block and, after an extensive renovation, moved its operations to the 34,500 square-foot building in the fall of last year.

The care taken in the renovation is obvious, and this hidden gem on the near west side now looks deserving of its newly gained landmark status.
The Holden Block after the renovation by Schafer/Condon/Carter (JWB, 2012)

Friday, June 15, 2012

Chicago: A Look Back at June 15, 1982

Found on the pages of The Chicago Tribune on June 15 of 1982 . . .

On this date one of the nation’s “foremost urban planners,” Edmund N. Bacon, warned that downtown Chicago was “splitting into two separate zones for the rich and poor”.

Speaking as one of three panelists discussing the revitalization of American cities at NEOCON (National Exposition of Contract Furnishings), held at the Merchandise Mart, Mr. Bacon went on to share his disappointment at the six-block North Loop Redevelopment Plan.  “First one building goes up, then another.  That’s not the way to create a magnet that will draw people downtown.” 

Arthur Rubloff (Google Image)
The North Loop Redevelopment Plan was a $570.8 million vision that Chicago developer Arthur Rubloff proposed in 1978.  It was an ambitious project that would have replaced nearly every building in a seven-block area of the North Loop with new commercial high-rises, hotels, upscale housing, theaters, parking facilities, a new state office building, and a library.

All of the big players were involved.  Mayor Jane Byrne and the city brought Charles Shaw, an experienced developer who had pieced together the air rights expansion package for the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, on board to replace Mr. Rubloff.  Mr. Shaw opined, “I would like to see a major performing arts center in this town, and I think the North Loop is the place to do it.  The entertainment and arts potential for downtown is tremendous.” [Chicago Tribune, November 9, 1980]

Lewis Manilow, one of the founders of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, as well as the developer of University Park and the Nathan Manilow Sculpture Park at Governors’ State University, envisioned a performing arts center that would be created from the Michael Todd and Cinestage theaters on Dearborn Street, north of Randolph.

Harry Weese & Mies van der Rohe (Google image)
Even Harry Weese, perhaps Chicago’s most versatile architect, had drawn proposals for a theater row of shops, restaurants, and theaters as part of the Michael Tood-Cinestage project.  Mr. Weese also proposed a high-rise building at Clark and Randolph Streets, where the Greyhound Bus Station once stood, that would provide an atrium to access the Dearborn Street entertainment complex.

(Part of Mr. Weese’s plan was used -- the Goodman Theatre now occupies the block where the Michael Todd and Cinestage once stood.  The façade of the original theaters that had begun life as the Harris and Selwyn, still stands on Dearborn.  The high rise office building eventually was built – Chicago Title and Trust at 161 North Clark, a Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates design, finished in 1992.)

The big vision dried up for lack of financing.  The death knell occurred in March of 1982, just three months before Mr. Bacon spoke at NEOCON, when Hilton Hotel Corp. axed the plan to construct a $250 million, 1800-room hotel and convention center that would have filled the two blocks bounded by State, Lake, and Clark Streets and Wacker Drive.

Today the wishful thinking of the late 1970’s and early 1980’s seems a bit amusing since things have sorted themselves out fairly well.  Sure, Hilton didn’t build the big flagship in the North Loop.  Instead, it took a hundred million bucks and renovated its South Loop hotel, a catalyst for change in that section of the city.

The State Street pedestrian mall, a beast of an idea from 1979, is gone, too, thanks to Adrian Smith’s re-design of the late 1990’s.  Gone as well are Marshall Field’s, Montgomery Wards, Goldblatt’s, Carson, Pirie Scott, and Sears.  In their place are colleges and schools and universities and all of their attendant dormitory residences.

The Wit Hotel (JWB, 2009)
The Thompson Center got built in a love-it-or-hate-it Helmut Jahn design.  The Chicago Theater has been restored to its former glory with the Joffrey Ballet right next door.  The Wit Hotel with its spectacular ROOF stands on the corner of Lake and State.  Even the missing tooth at Block 37 has been capped, perhaps not with stunning architecture . . . but with something more appealing than summertime dirt and a winter ice rink.

Back in 1982 Mr. Bacon observed at the NEOCON conference, "Originally, the Loop was the focal core of the entire region.  But now you have thousands of people living in the suburbs who actually boast that they haven't been downtown in six months."

A fairly dire look at the future three decades ago.

Things worked out --  as they often do in the City that Works.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Chicago: A Look Back at June 12, 1962

Found on the pages of The Chicago Tribune on June 12 of 1962. . .

(Google image)
This is kind of a sad, nostalgic piece of news for me because back in the early 1960’s, when my father was stationed at Fort Sheridan on Chicago’s North Shore, I could, at the age of ten or eleven, see and hear the trains of the Chicago, Milwaukee and North Shore Line scurrying up and down the tracks just to the west of the Army base.  I never rode one.

I’ve often wished that I had.

Anyway, on this date in 1962 The Tribune reported that the Illinois Commerce Commission and the North Shore Commuters Association had joined together in a suit in Federal District Court to stop abandonment of the North Shore line, scheduled for June 22.

As the line rapidly approached the end of its days, it still carried 12,000 riders each week between Chicago and Milwaukee.  But it was losing a thousand dollars a day, and the Interstate Commerce Commission had authorized the discontinuation of service unless a buyer with $6,235,000, the cost of the property and salvageable material on the line, could be found.

The Attorney General of Illinois, William G. Clark, filed the suit contesting the abandonment of the line, arguing that the North Shore Line was an interurban railway that did not come under the abandonment powers of the Interstate Commerce Commission.

North Shore Line's Roosevelt Road Shops, 1930's (Google image)
The railway’s history is one that is intimately entwined with Chicago.  It began as the Bluff City Electric Street Railway Company when its charter was approved by the Waukegan City Council.  In the charter it was made clear, as the name of the line clearly states, that the line was to be propelled by electricity.  The language of the agreement with Waukegan was quite specific, even specifying that the poles carrying the electric wires “shall not in any way interfere with any shade tree upon any street, or lot, in said city, and no shade tree shall be cut or injured in the erection of said poles or wires . . .”

By 1897 trackage ran between Waukegan and Lake Bluff and on May 12, 1898 the line was renamed The Chiago and Milwaukee Electric Line.  In that same year the line was extended another 13 miles and reached Highland Park.  Although the railway only had four cars, there was good money behind its operation . . . one of the owners was George Ball, the guy who lent 200 bucks to his nephews, Frank C. and Edmund B., who used the dough to start the Ball Glass Works, producer of the Ball Jar.

North Shore Line Station at Adams & Wabash (Heindlen)
By 1899 ten the line ran all the way to Evanston, and as the new century began the line had 43 miles of track, 54 cars and carried two million passenger a year.  Five years later a branch of the line was extended all the way to what is the town of Mundelein today.  That same year the railway crossed the Wisconsin state line with service to Kenosha.  Travel between Evanston and Kenosha took about five hours and cost the rider $1.25.

Finally, on October 31, 1908 service all the way to Milwaukee was instituted.  The 73-mile route handled hourly trains, travelling one way between Evanston and Milwaukee in two hours and 45 minutes. 

Inevitably, when you’re thinking about electricity in the early days, Samuel Insull comes aboard.  In a complicated business transaction Mr. Insull combined a Milwaukee interurban with the North Shore line and created the Chicago North Shore and Milwaukee Railroad.  The deal wa completed in May  of 1916 at a cost to Mr. Insull of $4,550,000.

In the next year Mr. Insull spent over a million dollars on improvements to the road.  All of the road crossings from Evanston to Waukegan were equipped with some type of protection.  The money was well spent . . . within a year business doubled with 1.7 million riders using the line in 1917 with a gross revenue of 2.9 million dollars in 1918.

North Shore Line Electroliner at the Illinois Railroad Museum (Google image)
In 1919 the North Shore Line entered into an agreement with the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway as well as the Northwestern elevated line to run trains over the Milwaukee line from Wilmette to Irving Park Boulevard in Chicago.  On August 6, 1919 the North Shore became a true interurban, running trains as far south in Chicago as Roosevelt Road.

By the mid-1920’s the line was operating 160 daily trains, including 44 daily limited trains between Chicago and Milwaukee.  By 1923 ridership had reached almost seven million passengers per year, and the line generated 16 million dollars per year.  In 1925 dining cars on the line served 79,000 meals.

That same year the new Skokie Valley cut-off was begun.  Fifteen hundred workers labored on the new right of way, which ran 23 miles from Dempster Street to Libertyville.  Although it was over two miles longer than the eastern main line, faster speeds made it the quicker route.  In a year’s time 18 miles of double-tracked railway were built at a cost of $6,400,000.  As a result, the line carried 19.5 million passengers.

With the 1930’s the troubles began.  In 1931 the line lost $750,000 despite the fact that the American Electric Railway Association named in the fastest electric interurban in the country.  In September of 1931 8020 trains on the line arrived on schedule, a 99.26% on-time average.

North Shore Line on Loop trackage, 1958 (Google image)
In 1932 losses approached $1.7 million for the year and Samuel Insull, himself under tremendous financial strain, resigned his board membership.  The line went into receivership as things went from bad to worse.  A strike idled the line for 51 days in 1938.  As a direct result of the work stoppage many workers transferred their membership from the Amalgamated Association of Street, Electric Railway, and Motor Coach Employees’ Union to other railroad unions with dire consequences.

On the first of February of 1942, because of the different union affiliations of employees on the North Shore,  members of the Amalgamated announced that they would no longer permit North Shore Line trains to run over Chicago’s elevated tracks.  Trains headed south on the eastern route were stopped at Lincoln Avenue in Wilmette, and Skokie Valley route trains were stopped at Howard Street in Evanston.  It wasn’t until 1953 that trains on the line were allowed to enter Chicago, but, of course, the damage had been done.

Also in 1953 the North Shore Line was acquired by the Susquehanna Corporation, a holding company incorporated in Delaware.  Almost immediately a petition to abandon the line was filed with the Illinois Commerce Commission.   In June of 1958, February of 1961 and January of 1962 the North Shore asked the Interstate Commerce Commission, the Illinois Commerce Commission and local Wisconsin authorities for total abandonment, citing the fact that the line had lost over four million dollars during the previous decade.

On May 18, 1962 the Interstate Commerce Commission granted the request.  The Chicago Transit Authority purchased five miles of track, from Dempster to Howard.  And that was it.  At 2:50 a.m. on January 21, 1963 the last southbound train pulled into Chicago’s Roosevelt Road station.  Five minutes later the last North Shore train pulled into the Milwaukee terminal.

North Shore Line Highwood Administration Offices (J. J. Sendlemaier)
Sometime in 1967 as a high school sophomore I watched from my bedroom window in my family’s home on the far north end of Highland Park as the night sky was lit up with the flames of part of the Highwood property of the old North Shore burning to the ground.  Five years later my new bride and I had our wedding reception in the brand new hotel that was built on part of that property.  And time moved on.

The history of the North Shore Line used herein is taken from the beautifully researched history of the interurban railroad in Laura Hedien’s comprehensive website,

Monday, June 11, 2012

Chicago: A Look Back at June 11, 1952

The Chicago Harbor Lock as it appears today (U. S. Army Corps of Engineers Photo)

Found on the pages of The Chicago Tribune on June 11 of 1952. . .

Word came from Washington, D. C. on this date that the House Public Works Committee had approved legislation to increase the flow of diverted Lake Michigan water into the Chicago River to 3,500 feet per second.  Representatives Sheehan and Kluczynski said they would now concentrate their efforts on getting the Rules Committee to approve the measure for early consideration by the House of Representatives.

Anthony A. Olis, the President of the Chicago Sanitary District, said of the victory, “For years it was assumed that because of the Supreme Court ruling there was no further hope of increasing the diversion rate.  We set our sights at a rate of 3,500 cubic feet a second, and sought action by congress.  Even tho the increase voted is not as great as we asked it shows what can be done.”

It was hoped that the greater diversion rate would help to clean up waterways of the Mississippi watershed while having marginal effect on lake levels.  Mr. Olis hoped that the move would help the Chicago River to “become the sportsman’s paradise that it was many years ago.”

Construction of the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal (Google Image)
Plans were afoot for an even more ambitious plan.  Albert J. Meserow, the counsel for the Protection of Great Lakes Property, Inc. said that his organization would be asking the senate to boost the diversion rate to 10,000 cubic feet per second, which was what the Sanitary and Ship Canal was designed to handle when the digging started back in 1892.

After the Chicago River was reversed in 1900 through the 1920’s water diversion from Lake Michigan increased steadily to a maximum of 8,500 cubic feet per second (285 cubic meters per second).  This raised the alarm in Canada and states that bordered the Great Lakes, and, not surprisingly, they protested.

In 1924 Wisconsin, Michigan, and New York, later joined by every other state bordering the Great Lakes, brought suit against Illinois in the Supreme Court.  The complaining parties alleged that the diversion of lake water in Chicago had lowered the levels in Lake Michigan, as well as Lake Huron, Erie and Ontario by more than six inches, “harming navigation and causing serious injury to the complainant states’ citizens and property.” [Great Lakes Environmental Law Center, Wayne State University]

Charles Evan Hughes (Google Image)
Secretary of State Charles Evan Hughes, a former Supreme Court Justice, led a special investigation of the problem and found that Chicago’s diversion of the river had lowered the level of Lakes Erie and Ontario by five inches and Lakes Michigan and Huron by six inches, causing damage “to navigation and commercial interests, to structures, to the convenience of summer resorts, to fishing and hunting grounds, to public parks and other enterprises, and to riparian property generally.”

The Supreme Court found in favor of the complainant states, and referred the case back to Mr. Hughes for his recommendation, which was to implement a phased reduction in Chicago diversion, allowing the city time to build adequate sewage treatment facilities to compensate for the reduced flow of the waterway system. 

The only practical way of reducing the flow of Lake Michigan water into the Chicago River was to build a lock, and on September 7, 1938 the lock was finished, and the diversion of lake water was severely limited.  The lock was begun in 1935 and, financed with the aid of a Public Works Administration loan, cost $2,500,000 to build.  It measured 600 feet long, 80 feet wide and 24 feet deep.

The hoped-for diversion bill that was looked upon with such optimism in 1952 was not approved.  It wasn’t until June, 1967 that the states bordering the Great Lakes signed a pact that allowed 3.200 cubic feet per second of lake water to be diverted into the Chicago River.  The Chicago Sanitary District was to use nearly half of that amount for sewage treatment.

Chicago Lock, separating Lake Michigan & the Chicago River (Google Image)
Today, the Chicago diversion of lake water consists of three related components.  First, and most obvious, 62 percent of the diversion provides the water supply for 5.7 million thirsty residents of northeast Illinois.  The second component, about 18 percent, consists of a direct diversion of lake water into the Illinois River and Canal system for the purpose of optimizing river navigation and improving water quality in the Chicago metropolitan area.  Finally, the third component, about 20 percent, consists of storm water runoff that would otherwise flow into the Chicago River and on into Lake Michigan, but which now flows westward into the Mississippi watershed.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Lurie Children's Hospital

Yesterday was moving day for the patients and staff of Lincoln Park’s Children’s Hospital.  Over a 14-hour period 126 patients were moved three miles to the brand new Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital in Streeterville. 

The first child, five-month-old Emiliano Ocampo-Vazquez, was moved at just about 6:00 a.m., and the final child to be transferred left the 130-year-old building at 7:50 p.m.  With the closing of the doors of Children’s Hospital at 8:00 p.m., a new era begins at the state-of-the-art 1.25 million square foot Lurie Children’s Hospital.

The 855 million dollar campus was financed in part by a 100 million dollar donation rom Ann and Robert H. Lurie.  The building, designed by Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Architects, a Portland, Oregon firm, will be right next door to Prentice Women’s Hospital and the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.  As one walks through the 23-story hospital, it is obvious that no detail was overlooked . . . and all of those details in the 288-bed facility combine to make the hospital as much a children’s museum as a medical center.

No parent ever wants to face the prospect of taking a sick kid to the hospital or of having to watch a newborn son or daughter clinging to life in a neo-natal nursery.  But at Lurie everything has been done to make that experience as light-filled and reassuring as is possible.  It’s an amazing place.

A few of us were fortunate enough to stroll around the building a little over a week ago, courtesy of a fellow Chicago Architecture Foundation docent, Bruce Komiske, who oversaw the construction of the amazing facility.  Here are a few pictures from the tour.

The above three photos show graphics that are included as part of the floor display at each bank
of elevators.  They are indicative of the mood in the whole facility, lightening the mood
for kids and adults alike.  (JWB, 2012)
Of course, the business for which the hospital was built is taken very seriously.  All private rooms,
even in the neonatal nursery, with much thought given to providing facilities that will allow'
parents to stay with their child.  (JWB, 2012)
You can't walk very far without coming upon some element that makes you smile and
want to become a kid again.  Cultural institutions all over the city took part in designing and
outfitting various floors in the hospital, and the effort shows throughout.  (JWB, 2012)
The 5,000 square foot Crown Sky Garden is one of the most amazing spaces in an incredibly
amazing hospital.  Designed by Mikyoung Kim, a landscape architect and artist who has taught at
the Rhode Island School of Design for the past 14 years, it will provide a tree-filled space with
room for both public and private activities.
Chicago firefighters provided a full-scale mock-up of the cab of a fire truck, complete with
Dalmatian dogs, on one of the floors.  The doors are open, firefighters' helmet are at the ready--
another way in which the hospital combines smiles with healing.  (JWB, 2012)
The Shedd Aquarium provided two blue whales that greet
all visitors entering the main lobby of the new hospital.  An
unsuspecting visitor might think he or she was in a museum and not a
children's hospital.  (JWB, 2012)
In one section of the hospital there is a mock-up of an Airstream trailer, in which children
may sit or play as they await preparation for surgery.  In 2002 Mrs. Ann Lurie, began traveling in a similar trailer throughout the 300,000 acre Mbirikani Group Ranch in Kenya.  With her she had a driver, a medical director, a nurse, and A laboratory technologist.  Trained as a nurse, Mrs. Lurie's journey evolved into a medical compound with a staff of more than 170 Kenyans.  Services are free of charge.  Mrs. Lurie and her husband, Robert, were principals donors in the campaign to build the new Children's Hospital in Chicago, pledging 100 million dollars toward the effort in 2007. (JWB, 2012)