Wednesday, March 10, 2010

DANIEL BURNHAM. The Railway Exchange. 1903. 1904. or 1905.

The American Institute of Architect's Guide to Chicago dates the Railway Exchange to 1904. The Railway Exchange dates itself to 1903, which if true, means that it predates the Heyworth Building. A significant fact in Chicago's transition from "School" to "Beaux Arts." Checking the AIA Guide for dates on the Heyworth, I find that, for the AIA, it does not exist.  (Nor does Burnham's Board of Ed) 
Thomas Hines dates both the Heyworth and the Exchange to 1903 in appendix A of his "Burnham of Chicago." However, on page 277 he dates the Exchange to 1905, followed quickly by his witty quote "...the formal, neoclassical, interior detailing was disturbingly cacophonous and stylistically inappropriate. You gotta wonder about a guy who writes a book about shit he hates. Or who can't spell Peirce Anderson. Or who doesn't think Fred Dinkelberg is worth a spot in the index.

And you also need wonder about paying dues to organizations who seem hellbent on denigrating (or ignoring) some of Chicago's most important architectural history in the name of stylistic appropriateness.

Which brings me to the subject of this, my 100th post.

Our dirty little secret. Chicago's Architectural history, its real legacy seems to be a source of embarrassment to many of those who make decisions about such things. Daniel Burnham was a helluva planner but his architecture was........ GAPW couldn't hold a candle to........ Boyington, not really a ...
etc, etc.

With each additional post, with every hour of research , with the hours of photography and waiting for the light, I find that Chicago is increasingly just out of reach. That facts are garbled. That the official "story" is just a story. That we are far more nuanced, far richer than the story tells. And that as we move through this very sensitive period when the out-dated becomes historic (and in a recession at that), we are in great danger of losing much that is most dear.

1 comment:

    And here's for many more to come! Cheers!

    Do I sense a researcher's agony and exasperation? On the surface everything seems fine, but the deeper you investigate, there are contradictions, confusions, dead-ends.. And then you want to spend time resolving the puzzles but then there are other priorities.. and so it goes..
    But then isn't that the fun!