Friday, June 18, 2010


Charles McKim??

It would be an easy leap to guess that Charles McKim (partner in the architectural firm of McKim, Mead and White), designer of the Bryan Lathrop Residence on east Bellevue Place worked with Daniel Burnham, at Lathrop's request, on the design of Orchestra Hall. Lathrop, president of the Symphony, and an important, respected supporter of the Arts in Chicago, would have had the "clout" to select the structure's design. And Burnham had worked well with McKim Mead and White at the Columbian Exposition. The cache of a respectably "Georgian" Orchestra Hall created by the foremost architects of Chicago and New York would have been very attractive.

But it is my guess (and here I will admit to all speculation) that McKim was not the designer. I don't think the two structures came from the same "hand." The Lathrop Residence IS Georgian. Standing on the veranda (or sitting on the balustrade with your back to Bellevue Place) you are quite transported to London. Elegant, delicately scaled ornament touches the arches. The home rests horizontally on its veranda/plinth. Decorative stone bands define each story and further empasize the horizontal weight of the mass. But most importantly, it took a very confident hand to locate the front entrance off center and to further ornament that opening with assymetrical patterns. And let's not forget those little corbelled chimneys.

Orchestra Hall, on the other hand, is an application of Georgian Style to an eight story building. (With an elevator.) It is solidly symmetrical. The Georgian is good. Very good. Right down to the brick's flemish bond. But the proportions hint of the vertical. The plinth is indicated by the entire first floor, and is surmounted by a piano nobile. And details are scaled to the larger mass of Orchestra Hall. (And I think I see a Burnham "bottom-middle-top" lurking in the facade.)

And one more thing would lead me to believe that McKim would not have contributed to our little Chicago project.

In those first years of the 1900's he was kinda busy.

With New York's Penn Station.

So whodunnit? Beaux Arts Anderson is headed for  Manila, Chicago School Dinkelberg and Weber seem not to have the experience. McKim is tied up in New York........


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