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.