Monday, March 22, 2010

DANIEL BURNHAM. The Railway Exchange. The Lamp of Beauty

The answer to the riddle of the previous post may be surprisingly simple. Found fully explained in John Ruskin's "Seven Lamps of Architecture." Right down to the "tendrils" and the "fleurs de lys" of the photograph, also of the previous post. Fred Dinkelberg, the Railway Exchange's designer, was hired by Daniel Burnham as Charles Atwood's assistant. After Atwood's "termination" Dinkelberg assumed greater responsibilities within the firm. The Heyworth and The Conway are two notable contributions. And of course, the Railway Exchange.

What Architect does not rely on his mentor?

Charles Atwood worked for Ware and Van Brunt in Boston before coming to Chicago. A firm heavily influenced by John Ruskin. A quick look at Atwood's reinterpretation of Richardsonian stonework and its use of organic ornament at Marshall Field and Company prove the depth of Ruskin's influence on Atwood and his young assistant, Fred Dinkelberg. (See image below.) (Remember, too, that Ware went on to be head of MIT and briefly taught Louis Sullivan.  

Fred Dinkelberg's terra cotta reference to his mentor, Charles Atwood, even with tendrils and a fleur de lys should be EXPECTED in 1903. Deference to Chicago School Architect, Louis Sullivan, from Daniel Burnham would also be EXPECTED. Burnham's kindnesses to Sullivan, even when Sullivan was at his worst, are legendary.

What a wonderful little discovery. This whimsical panel with the Fleur de Lys.

Northwestern Terra Cotta occupied the mezzanine of the Railway Exchange during the earliest years of the building, displaying product and art in natural sunlight. The only thing missing now is the modeler's name.

Another name needs to be mentioned in conjunction with the Railway Exchange. The remarkable 1982 renovations, didn't just happen. Lonn Frye of Fry Gillan and Molinaro appears to have been able to channel Daniel Burnham from the first quarter directly to the last quarter of the twentieth century. I have to wonder what Lonn might have done with the Insurance Exchange. Or 208.

Always, it seems. Opportunities lost.

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