Thursday, December 30, 2010

PORTRAITS. Who's Minding the Store?

D.H. BURNHAM and Company

While Daniel Burnham had "moved south" to oversee construction of the Chicago World's Fair, Dwight Heald Perkins ran D.H.Burnham and Company's Loop Architectural Office

During this time, Perkins oversaw the construction of John  Root's Monadnock Building.  Brick by brick. Other buildings under construction at this time (according to Thomas Hines) include the Masonic Temple, the Women's Temple, the Ashland Block and some half dozen houses. Mr. Perkins must have been one busy man.

In 1895 Perkins left D.H. Burnham & Co (with the Steinway commission in hand) and a future with the Chicago Public Schools.  His contributions to the Cook County Forest Preserve system, alone, would have (and did)  put him on the map.


Wednesday, December 29, 2010


By the early 1900's Massachusetts Institute of Technology had gone "toe to toe" with the Ecole in Paris to produce classically trained architects in the US. Below are two Beaux Arts projects from the 1916/1917 MIT Technology Architecutural Record.  Above is A.G. Blackwell's "Municipal Pumping Station," a theoretical combination of Art and Science.  Below is second year student E..A. Grunsfeld's Ornithological Museum.



E. A. Grunsfeld later designed Chicago's beloved Art Deco Adler Planetarium -- sited near Burnham's neo-classical Field Museum and GAPW's Shedd.  The "kids," carefully trained in the Beaux Arts tradition, "betrayed" classicism for Deco -- just as the Beaux Arts Architects had "betrayed" the Chicago School and Francis I for "Rome by the Lake".    Just as........

Despite stylistic preferences  and the issues of morality in architecture, I gotta say Blackwell drew onehelluva pumping station! Yes. He did.

Credit due "digitized by Google.  Link here to the entire publication.

PORTRAITS. D. H. Burnham and Co.

Relationships begun at the World's Columbian Exposition affected Chicago business and architecture for decades to come.  Ed Shankland, Daniel Burnham's structural engineer through 1898, designed the revolutionary moment connections (and those remarkable span dimensions) for Charles Atwood's Reliance Building.  The kid, below, is Ernest Graham.  (Credit Charles Moore's "Burnham, Planner of Cities.")


Just another kid with a mustache and peacoat.  Right?


WRONG.  Graham (never shy of the photographer) (and btw,I've heard him referred to as a "steamroller") essentially took over the day to day operations of D.H Burmham & Co. in 1908 and led  Burnham's successor firm, Graham, Anderson, Probst and White until his death in 1936.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


The man in the very fancy chair is Charles Atwood.  This is one of the few photos I've found of the enigmatic Atwood, who served as Daniel Burnham's lead designer and partner from John Root's death in 1891 until his own demise in 1895.  (Credit Charles Moore's "Burnham, Planner of Cities.") The man sitting to Atwood's right is the widely respected American classicist,Francis Davis Millett, responsible for color selection and decoration at the 1893 World's Fair. 

Charles Atwood

Francis Davis Millet

(Millet is a story in his own right.  After years of a "Bohemian lifestyle," Millet settled down, chosing Mark Twain to be best man at his wedding.  He was last seen on the night of April 14, 1912  assisting women and children into the lifeboats of the Titanic).

Monday, December 27, 2010

D. H. BURNHAM and Company . Illinois Trust and Savings Bank

Daniel Burnham's Illinois Trust and Savings Bank (northeast corner of LaSalle and Jackson)(now demolished)  dates to 1896/1897 (depending on who's counting).  Sequentially that's after Charles Atwood (died in 1895) and before Peirce Anderson (joined the firm in 1899).  Possibly Frederick Dinkelberg (Atwood's one time assistant)  designed this one -- from sketches begun by Atwood .  More "neo" architecture followed, as Burnham filled the firm with Ecole Diplomes.  This (and of course the Fair) were the first.  Credit due Charles Moore's "Burnham, Planner of Cities."


Each of these photo studies is a (heavily photoshopped)  detail taken from the same "base" photograph. The Rookery literally towers to the north.  Horse drawn carriages and automobiles share the streets.  Cobb's dome at the Federal Center (partially oabscured by filthy air) dates the scene sometime after 1905.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The First National Bank of Chicago

As we lose Daniel Burnham's Architecture piece by piece (whether by demolition or renovation) we fall ever more to the mercy of our architectural "historians" who tell us "this" and "that." There a very few of us left to remember the original column ornament at the Conway. The dual concourses at the Continental and Commercial. Or the Banking Room at the First.

And so, for the most part, we must believe what we are told.

For the most part. Below is photograph of the Banking Room at the First National Bank of Chicago. (Taken from Architectural Record, Volume 38, July 1915 and Digitized by Google) (Thank-you Google). Following the Credit Photograph are Photoshopped enlargements of the original.

It would be a scholarly treat to compare the architecture at the First with its D.H. Burnham contemporary, The Railway Exchange.  To compare column capitals.  Horizontal and vertical emphases.    Dinkelberg vs...Anderson, Bennett, Polk and Robard.  Form and function.  The slow mingle of Chicago School and  Beaux Arts --  and the moment of change.

Wouldn't I like to be photographer for THAT book....

Friday, December 24, 2010

Best to All for the Holidays

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Digitized by Google.

I recently re-read Hines "Burnham of Chicago."  (Days are cold and short and nights are very, very long....)    T'is a good thing I have a sense of humor.  Listen at this  --

"...we still cannot avoid assessing their weaknesses, significant weaknesses that affected our times.  For the lapse into derivative historicism was, then as always, a reflection, in part, of a sipiritual and intellectual indolence, a lack of creative vision and courage. It involved, in some ways, a failure of nerve just as in other ways it suggested the opposite:  for in its frequently swollen grandeur and magnitude, in the meglomania of its vast proportions, it represented, indeeed, an excresence of nerve, a compensating thrust of bravado......

Swollen magnitude?  Thrust of Bravado?  My guess is that the author wears a greasy bow tie and horned rim glasses in want of cleaning.  And truly, we play the fools for allowing this book to be our definitive "Burnham." In Chicago of all places.  Hog Butcher of the World.

But,  thanks to Google and Architectural Record, it is no longer necessary.  Volume 38, the July 1915 Issue of Architectural Record is now online.  As is Charles Moore's "Burnham, Planner of Cities". 

                     Architectural Record.  Digitized by Google.

Primary source materials ... in the Christmas cloud ... along with  green flannel and butter cookies proves that some things, at least,  remain right with the world.  Even on the darkest, shortest days of the year.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


Following up on our previous post.  These names should not be forgotten, or underestimated.  You will be hearing more about them in posts to come.

THEODORE LESCHER ( ?-1910) worked with Edward Bennett on the Plan of Chicago and with Anderson on the Plan of Washington DC . He also assisted Anderson with work on the Field Museum, where it was intended that he would supervise construction. He died of appendicitis in 1910.

GEORGE ROBARD (?-?) drew plans of Orchestra Hall, donated by Daniel Burnham.

LOUIS BOURGEOIS (1856-1930) attended the Ecole des Beaux Art briefly (?), but left to travel to the Middle East and on to Iran. He designed the Bahai Temple in Wilmette, Illinois

CHARLES BEERSMAN (1888-1946 ) joined GAPW in 1919. He worked on the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago and designed the Wrigley Building and the Straus Bank.

ALFRED SHAW (1895-1970) The Merchandise Mart, the Pittsfield Building, the Civic Opera Block, and the State Line Generating Station in Hammond, Indiana, all for GAPW.  Fired by Edward Probst in 1937.

MARIO SCHIAVONI (1883-1939?) Designed the Shedd Aquarium and the Chicago Historical Society.

There is conflicting information online about these men -- anyone with personal knowledge??  -- please contact me.  Thanks.


Saturday, December 4, 2010



I posted this photograph of the Merchandise Mart on Facebook, and a friend posted the comment "is this still the largest building in the world?"  I didn't know.

Alfred Shaw, working for Graham Anderson Probst and White designed this building for Marshall Field & Company in 1930. At 4.1 million square feet is was the largest commercial building in the world. (The Beijing and Dubai Airport terminals now hold first and second place based on size alone.)

Consolidating all of Marshall Field and Company's City warehouses into one location seemed to be just the ticket to James Simpson, president of Marshall Field & Company AND Chairman of the Chicago Plan Commission. Especially when that location was sited at the confluence of the country's railroad and steam shipping systems. And (btw) was a major component of the Chicago River improvement recommended in Daniel Burnham's 1909 Plan of Chicago

The only logical selection for a project of this scope, site and importance was the architectural firm of Graham Anderson Probst and White. Alfred Shaw was ready. Designer of the Straus Bank, the Pittsfield Building (tallest in the City at its time of construction) and the Civic Opera Block, Beaux-Arts educated Shaw had joined GAPW at the specific request of design Partner Peirce Anderson.

Talk about credentials!

But for me, the real story here is not the building. (Although the Merchandise Mart remains one of my favorite buildings in the City). The story is Alfred Shaw. Born in 1895, he worked his way into the direct architectural line of succession begun with Daniel Burnham. He was colleague and assistant to William Peirce Anderson. He designed four beloved Chicago Landmarks, still recognized, even today. And then went on to survive the Depression and War that crippled Chicago's architectural community for 25 years......reinvented himself and came out swinging. At the age of 60.

The United of America Building, the first McCormick Place, Mid-Continental Plaza and that elegant, poured in place concrete spiral staircase that leads straight to the Rodin at the Art Institute of Chicago.  Not a bad second act, I'd say.

Not a bad first act, either.


Anderson brought on other notables at GAPW, including Theodore Lescher, George Robard, Charles Beersman, Louis Bourgeois, Frederick Dinkelberg and Mario Schiavoni. (Credit to Sally A. Kitt Chappell's "Architecture and Planning of Graham Anderson Probst and White.)  Thank, Anderson, too, for extending Daniel Burnham's direct influence far beyond his lifetime  ... almost, even, to our own. 

Monday, November 22, 2010

TRUMP TOWER. Skidmore, Owings and Merrill

I will admit to being concerned about the rapid changes of size that have redefined Chicago. A Twenty-First Century Scale imposed on a Nineteenth Century Plan. The Michigan Avenue Wall is out-sized and redefined by development on Wabash Avenue. Wacker Drive and the River are lined with development inconceivable in Daniel Burnham's consciousness of public space. Historic Landmarks have within a backdrop of progress.

Still, when sunlight reflects from Trump Tower, or the Legacy, on certain evenings and mornings, and I allow myself to simply and emotionally accept a sense of beauty undefined by what I think should be right..... I find a photograph. Like this. And guess that there are no, never have been -- easy answers to the aesthetics of right and wrong.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010


South Michigan Avenue is an humbling experience for an Architect. Not so much for the presence of so much fine architecture, but more for Architecture's singular lack of individual effect when placed into the consistency of plane and height of the universally loved South Michigan Avenue "Wall." Peirce Anderson's decadent Roman Columns of People's Gas, Frederick Dinkelberg's brilliant terra cotta facade at the Railway Exchange, and Charles Beersman's Buffalo and Beehive on the peak of the Straus Bank all play "second fiddle" to the Wall that defines the West edge of Grant Park. Even Sullivan's Auditorium (like Krueck and Sexton's Spertus) becomes a part of the whole.

Not to say that architecture, style, diversity and ornament don't contribute to the richness of the urban composition as a whole. They do. But it is the coherence of place and plan that that forever identifies South Michigan Avenue's Architecture with Chicago. And marks the City with a clear hierarchical relationship of solid and void, a defining line of public and private, and a city-scaled geometry that is inherently a Chicago Landmark.

"Make no little plans......" Who doesn't know?

But we seem to have forgotten. Or to have become incapable. No contemporary urban space in Chicago approaches, in quality or scale or impact, the Grant Park/Michigan Avenue composition. And though I'd like to see some "Big Plans" on the drawing boards, we are, today, defined by the foresight and accomplishments of a hundred years past



But for now, that's a good thing .  A really good thing.   What would Chicago be,  after all, ......without the Park, the Lions, the Wall and the defining legacy of the last century's Beaux Arts Planners, Architects and Sculptors?



Wednesday, October 20, 2010


CHARLES BOWLER ATWOOD, Daniel Burnham’s Senior Designer from 1891 until 1895 was born in Charlestown, Massachusets in 1849. He was educated at the Lawrence Scientific School of Harvard University and in the Offices of Ware and Van Brundt. He practiced architecture in Boston and later in New York, where he was credited, while associated with the Herter Brothers, much of detail work of the Vanderbilt Mansion.

Daniel Burnham brought Atwood to Chicago in 1891, to replace John Root as Design Constultant to the Columbian Exposition of 1893.

Atwood’s years in Chicago were productive and remarkable. In addition to the Columbian Exposition, where he designed the Fine Arts Building (now the Museum of Science and Industry), the Peristyle, and the railroad terminal, he contributed to the chicago skyline with marshall field & company, the reliance building and the fisher building.

His Obituary in the New York Times said “...those who knew Atwood merely as a loveable companion, who had the failings of a somewhat artistic and erratic temperment hardly realized that he devoted much time to the serious study of his profession.....”

Facile designer, classicist, sure-handed contributor to the Chicago School of Architecture, and still, a personal enigma, Charles Bowler Atwood’s presence in Chicago tells a shadowed story that begs photography


CHARLES ATWOOD. Architecture and Ornament


Tuesday, October 12, 2010


Design Partner for D.H. Burnham and Company.

I find myself, once in a while, (not often, mind you) rarely, (actually), at a loss.  Unable to cope, momentarily, (of course),  with rapid changes in technology, economy, taste, and scale. It would be nice if things would just...stay the same.....for a bit.   So, it is inexplicable that I find some kind of  solace in turn-of-the-century Chicago Architecture. 

Charles Atwood was design partner for D.H. Burnham and Company, one the largest and most influential Architectural firms in the country, from 1891 to 1895 -- when upheavals in technology, economy, taste and scale rival our own.  Electricity. Radio. Elevators. Steel columns bolted to steel beams.  Automobiles. ...all new. A Magic City. Economic Bust.  Immigrants. Unimaginable wealth. Unimaginable Filth. Classicism vs. Regionalism.   Atwood, for 4 years anyway, was able to "deal."   At the Fair, he detailed a Classic fantasy.  For Marshall Field,  a palace, for the ladies.  At the Reliance Buillding, a delicate, un-ornamented structural frame that laid lightly on its foundations.  And at the Fisher Building --Gothic ornament (for the locals) and a scheme to rival the Chicago Schoolers.  Atwood was from New York.

I've enjoyed photographing Atwood in Chicago.  Appreciated his flexibility.  His expertise in detail.  And wonder,  -- if he was simply flawed when opium overtook his life, or if it was "the times".  Daniel Burnham went on, undeterred, to even greater successes -- first with Frederick Dinkelberg and then with Peirce Anderson and Edward Bennett.

But Atwood quietly died. With just a few buildings remaining, each remarkable in its own right -- divergent in style and reason -- to tell us a story.  One that is just out of reach.

CHARLES ATWOOD.  Architecture and Ornament


Friday, October 1, 2010

ATWOOD. Museum of Science and Industry

From Swamp to Fine Art in 18 Months

Charles Atwood began sketches for the Fine Arts Building at the Columbian Exposition in April of 1891.  18 months later this dome capped the rotunda.  Daniel Burnham took a tremendous leap of faith in hiring Atwood to replace John Root as the Fair's design consultant.  With no time for a personnel mistake.  Daniel Burnham's reputation (not to mention the City of Chicago's) relied heavily on the right decision. 

Burnham's capacity for "right decisions" stuck with him throughout his career.  Root.  Atwood.  Dinkelberg. Anderson. Bennett.   Burnham always, somehow, chose the right designer for the right time.



Friday, September 24, 2010

CHARLES ATWOOD. The Fine Arts Building

I would be hard put to identify which of  Charles Atwood's projects for Daniel Burnham and Company made the greatest contribution to Chicago Architecture.  Marshall Field & Company transitioned Burnham and Root's 19th Century designs (The Rookery and the Masonic Temple) to the 20th Century "Commercial" style.  The delicacy of  The Reliance Building ( see E. C. Shankland's contribution HERE) clearly expressed its steel frame construction.  And the Fisher Building continued the early Chicago School's predilection to the Gothic.  But,  the greatest public impact, both then and now,  is undoubtedly made by the Columbian Exposition's Fine Arts Building (now the Museum of Science and Industry).
Some 120 years after its conception, the Fine Arts Building still "holds its own, "  thanks in large part to extensive care given the building by the Museum.  Ongoing restorations allow us the luxury to "imagine".....  Wooded Isle is behind us.  And Henry Ives Cobb's Fisheries.  The World's Fair remains very "close" in Jackson  Park. And Atwood's presence is clear.


Saturday, September 11, 2010

CHARLES ATWOOD. Marshall Field & Co.

THE USE OF ORNAMENT.  Light and Texture

"Neo-Renaissance."  "Italian Palazzo."  "A little of this and a lot of that......"  Marshall Field and Company's building at Wabash and Washington, designed in 1891 by Charles Atwood for D.H. Burnham and Company, typifies late 19th Century "Style."  It's easy to be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of ornament. We're just not used to it --
Marshall Field.  South Facade.

Marshal Field.  South Facade Detail

Ornament, here, is used not only for decoration.  It establishes texture and rhythm.  The combination of "rough" and "smooth" seen in the upper photograph relies on the rhythmed application of VERY small  scale ornament (below). D.H. Burnham & Company designers used this technique well into the twentieth century.  Peirce Anderson's work at the PEOPLES' GAS  is a late example.


For Chicago Landmark Photographs

Friday, September 3, 2010

LOUIS SULLIVAN'S IDEA. At the Chicago Cultural Center

Curated by Tim Samuelson.  Designed by Graphic Artist Tim Ware.

Rarely have I been as excited by an exhibit as I was, today, at LOUIS SULLIVAN'S IDEA. (So excited, in fact, that I've delayed the post I'd been planning on Charles Atwood.) Ranging through time, detail, and scale, focusing both on the well known and the obscure, this exhibit combines photographs, artifacts, construction documents and text to show facets of Sullivan that are so easily overlooked. Sullivan comes alive, bringing Adler, Edelman, Schneider, and the late 19th century with him. The photos below cannot do the Exhibit justice -- but hopefully they give a taste of what is in store at the Cultural Center.

Remarkable.  In every way.

Take a look at ArchitectureChicago Plus' take on the Exhibit HERE along with comments by Tim Samuelson.


Thursday, September 2, 2010

D.H. BURNHAM and Company. Charles Atwood


Charles Atwood, Daniel Burnham's "Outsider" from New York, gained his reputation for Beaux Arts design details at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, and for pushing the envelope at the Reliance Building. But also, and maybe even more importantly, Atwood proved himself to be a team player at D.H. Burnham and Company. The Rookery, Marshall Field and Company, and Buffalo's Ellicott Square are clearly of the same heart, if not the same hand -- and show an evenhanded progression of the development of the highrise office building. (Even more so when one learns that Field's was originally designed as retail on the lower floors and offices above -- those three arches are the location of the now-remodeled light court. )


CHARLES ATWOOD.  Marshall Field and Company


CHARLES ATWOOD.  Ellicott Square Interior.  PHOTOCREDIT

JOHN ROOT. Roookery. Interiror

Add Burnham's (Dinkelberg's)  1904 Railway Exchange to the mix and you see, clearly, a strong hand guiding Root, Atwood, Dinkelberg (and later Anderson) within the corporate structure.

FRED DINKELBERG. Railway Exchange. Interior.

CHARLES ATWOOD. Marshall Field and Company.  Detail

Still there was room for variations on a theme.  And creativity best born from the synthesis of Art, Architecture, and Engineering.


I am very pleased to post this blog from my new Studio in the Pittsfield Building.  Overlooking  Alfred Shaw's Atrium.



Saturday, August 21, 2010

DANIEL BURNHAM. Charles Atwood

Disciplined. Versatile. Prolific.

Charles Atwood (1849 - 1896). Daniel Burnham's lead designer from April of 1891 through most of 1896. The guy who "replaced" John Root. The opium addict who said he was a bachelor, but supported a wife in New York; who did a couple of interesting buildings (Fisher and Reliance) after the classical badstuff at the Fair (the Fine Arts Palace was "okay" though) and then smoked himself to death just before Christmas of '96. And, yes, there's a restaurant with his name on State Street (a good one, btw).

That's the story.  Chicago is full of stories.

Previous posts have referenced some of Atwood's design versatility. They barely scratched the surface. Atwood produced over 30 structures for the Fair alone in a remarkable range of scales and styles. Link HERE for the list. Thomas Hines credits D.H.Burnham and Company with 42 more structures between the years of 1892 and 1896. (Some structures listed have been credited to John Root, some lesser commissions were delegated within the firm.) Still a conservative list would include some 40 or 50 buildings for which Atwood could claim at least partial responsibility in a five year period. This volume of work requires rigid discipline. It is not the product of an impaired mind. And let's look beyond the usual portfolio. Below are images of Terminal Station, The Forestry Building, La Rabida, Ellicott Square Building (Buffalo, NY), the Great Northern Theatre and Office.

CREDIT Link Here

CREDIT Link Here

CREDIT Link Here

CREDIT Link Here

CREDIT Link Here

I particularly like the Ellicott Square Building.  It is a picture perfect transition from Root's Rookery (Atwoods' predecessor at D. H. Burnham) to Dinkelberg's Heyworth Building. (Dinkelberg was Atwood's assistant who followed).   We forget that D.H. Burnham and Company was a firm with clients nationwide.  And to get the whole story, sometimes we need to travel a little. 


Speaking of Buffalo, I highly recommend Architect David Steel's BUFFALO.  Link here for preview and purchase.

THE FIELD MUSEUM LIBRARY  and the BROOKLYN MUSEM  are amazing sources for photo images of the Columbian Exposition -- and worth as much time as you can give them.

Glad to be back online.  My new Studio is shaping up nicely, with some exciting new projects in the works.


Sunday, August 1, 2010

D. H. BURNHAM & CO. Charles Atwood.

The COLUMBIAN EXPOSITION OF 1893. Brown City. White City.
Architect Charles Bowler Atwood was born in Charlestown Massachusetts in 1849. He studied at Harvard and learned "the trade" in the Boston offices of Ware and Van Brundt. He designed the W. H. Vanderbilt mansion (that's the railroad Vanderbilt) for Herter Brothers, and continued working for the Vanderbilts on his own account.

Daniel Burnham brought Atwood to Chicago to replace John Root, whose death in January of 1891 left Daniel (and Chicago's 1893 World's Fair) without a lead designer. By April of 1891 Atwood, under Burnham's direction, had begun sketches of the Fine Arts Building. Additionally, between the spring of '91 and autumn '92 Atwood designed the Exposition's Peristyle, the Terminal Building and all other structures not assigned to other architects. (Also in 1891, Atwood was at work on the new Marshall Field & Company store at Washington and Wabash.) Frederick Dinkelberg (later a Burnham designer in his own right) was hired as Atwood's assistant.

(Nice mustache!) Prior to January of 1891, the World's Columbian Exposition had been conceived as "American" Romanesque, polychromatic, and set in Olmsted's artificially "natural" landscapes. The Fair of 1893 was Classic, White, and Formal. From our viewpoint in the 21st Century the White City, as-built, looks "old fashioned." During the late 19th Century, however, Classicism was viewed as international and very much in fashion -- and Beaux Arts was the Future.

JOHN ROOT. Scheme for the Peristyle at the Chicago World's Fair.

CHARLES ATWOOD.  The Peristyle at the Chicago World's Fair.

JOHN ROOT.  Scheme for the Fine Arts Building at the Chicago World's Fair.
CHARLES ATWOOD.  The Fine Arts Building at the Chicago World's Fair.

I will not discuss here the change in stylistic direction. (Let's decide the War in Afghanistan, first) But it is of equal magnitude, (for example) to Mies' proposal to replace Charles Ives Cobb's Beaux Arts Federal Building with something of the New Chicago School. And has equal ramifications.


My introduction to the 1893 Chicago Exposition was on South Shore Drive (in a Buick Roadmaster -- and probably on my birthday) heading north  to the Museum of Science and Industry. The derelect "Pinta" was still docked in Jackson Harbor. (Link Here) My father said it was "from the Fair." Interesting. But the real highlight of the day was the U-505 propped on blocks, waiting to cross the Drive. To its new home. Alongside Atwood's Fine Arts Building.

Credits Due Donald Hoffman's excellent "John Wellborn Root."


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