Wednesday, October 5, 2011

C is for Cordwell


I believe it was the early eighties. Late seventies, maybe.  The day, though, I remember clearly.  Brilliant sunshine and hours passed in Harbor Country waiting for the party.
The annual Solomon Cordwell Buenz office get-together was an event.  SCB was up and coming and  a job there was coveted.  I attended that year - in an old but still elegant Lakeside beach resort,  as the guest of their specifications consultant. I was nervous, reticent and would have been glad to pass the evening quietly, seated, on a far corner of the terrace.  Barbara M, though, would have none of that.  She took me by the arm and headed straight for "the boss."  "John."

 John Cordwell was in rare form. THE John Cordwell.  Director of the Chicago Plan Commission in the fifties.  Urban renewal philosopher. Architect of Carl Sandburg Village. RAF fighter pilot. A small crowd had gathered around him.  The English accent was unmistakable.  He wore an ascot.

 " My Grandmother had the perfect remedy for crabs."  He sipped from his wineglass, glanced at his admirers, and then turned away, as though he had crossed a line,  said enough.  But he turned and began again....(the smile was still imperceptible).

 "She was a remarkable woman.  Lived to be 108."  More small talk about her etiquette and fine character and then.... " of course I've never HAD crabs.  No, never.   And why SHE'D need to know a remedy for them is beyond me..."  Everyone's eyes rolled.....  He paused again.  This time at length.  Until someone asked, "well, what is this remedy?"  John shot back "IS THIS SOMETHING YOU NEED TO KNOW?".  Roars of laughter.  And then another carefully manufactured awkward silence followed by, "you simply rub sour cream on your private parts."

By this time, finally, everyone realized that we had been "taken."  And almost simultaneously, as a group, asked how sour cream could possibly work --  John was waiting.  "The little crabs eat the sour cream.  All of it.  And get so FAT that they simply fall off."  He chuckled, exited (stage left) and left us...  laughing and shaking our heads.

 I had forgotten all that. Until I found John's picture while researching SCB for a future post.  And I am reminded that Architecture is a story of buildings AND people  -- 


and that we are losing both.  Far too quickly.


Monday, October 3, 2011


Researching Chicago Architects for upcoming CAITL posts, two online resources recently caught my attention. 

First, AMERICAN BUILDER MAGAZINE, 1921 has an extensive collection of the works of Walter W. Ahlschlager.  (Don't miss Dutch Boy's advertisement for their very best White Lead Paint!)   Among Ahlschlager's credits are the Medinah Athletic Club (now the InterContinental on North Michigan Avenue) and Carew Tower in Cincinnati.  I was pretty proud of this "find" ... until Google told me that it was featured in ARCHITECTURECHICAGO PLUS .... back in 2006.  Still, it is worth the re-post.  

And next, THE WESTERN ARCHITECT, Volume 30, published in May 1921 contains (among other interesting articles) an obituary for the 95 year old Frederick S. Baumann. Bauman (according to JSTOR) is the City's first German immigrant architect.  His office opened in 1850.  With his brother, Edward, Frederick is responsible for the McComick House at 660 North Rush and the Washington Block at Washington and Wells.  Both are CHICAGO LANDMARKS.  He also did the recently restored facade of the Rae Building, with its very nice, but uncredited scultpure.  Baumann's published engineering work, well respected in his lifetime, is largely forgotten. A copy of his Foundations and Foundation Walls is available from GOOGLE EBOOKS - for the hardcore historians.

A is for Ahlschlager, B is for Baumann ...  My photo website is beginning to take shape.  For a look at the work in progress link here:  THE CHICAGO LOOP


Now, if I could just find a picture of Frederick Baumann.....