Partners Progress

September 8, 2007 Chicago Buildings Comments (0) 1034

Well, we are two days into the Partners in Preservation voting (see post above and vote at and time for a quick crit of the results so far – with over a month to go.

On Leong/Pui Tak in Chinatown has the early lead thanks to an aggressive mareting campaign among members and friends – and hey, it is worthy – some of the best terra cotta in town. They started off with 16% and still lead at 12%.

Lisa Stone and all my friends at SAIC are doing a good job keeping Roger Brown in the Top 10 (currently 8th), and Frank Heitzman and Laura Thompson have managed to get Pleasant Home in the top 10 as well. Continue Reading

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Partners in Preservation

September 6, 2007 Chicago Buildings Comments (0) 1067

No picture today because I can’t post all 25.

American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, where I serve as a Trustee, just announced Partners in Preservation, a project that will give away $1 million to historic landmarks in the Chicago area. The project allows YOU to participate by voting for your favorite site from some 25 eligible sites in the Greater Chicago area, simply by logging on to In true Chicago tradtion, you can vote often – every day from now until October 10. The top vote-getter is guaranteed of funding, but a blue-ribbon committee (where I also serve) will decide if other sites get funding and how much. Continue Reading

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The Rosenwald

March 30, 2007 Chicago Buildings, Diversity, Inclusion and Racial Justice Comments Off on The Rosenwald 1157

I was at a Financing workshop this morning at the Bronzeville Visitors Bureau for what is affectionately called simply “The Rosenwald.” Organized by National Trust Advisor Paula Robinson and Harold Lucas, who have been involved in South Side community preservation for a generation, the effort was the latest in an ongoing series of attempts to save a truly important building. As Harold pointed out at the outset, the building – which covers most of the block between 46th and 47th Streets, Michigan to Wabash, was significant in both the history of Bronzeville as the home of famous individuals like Quincy Jones and Joe Louis, and in the history of Chicago’s greatest philanthropist, Sears, Roebuck Chairman Julius Rosenwald. Rosenwald is known nationwide for his early 20th century empowerment efforts, building schools for African-Americans across the south. The Rosenwald was one of two predecessors to public housing in Chicago, the other being the Marshall Field Garden Apartments on the north side. Officially called Michigan Terrace Garden Apartments, Rosenwald had his nephew Ernest Grunsfeld, Jr. design the 5-story Art Deco complex for Bronzeville in 1929. It was listed on the National Register in 1981. Continue Reading

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Fallingwater and the Case of the House Museum

November 14, 2006 Economics, Interpretation Comments (0) 1513

Fallingwater – the iconic, death-and-decay-defying leap of Frank Lloyd Wright from one end of the 20th century to the other. A building that cannot be left out of architectural history. A building that almost too nakedly tries to say everything about the role of nature and artifice that everyone from Vitruvius and Alberti to Perrault and LeCorbusier tried to say.

Maybe I want to focus on Fallingwater because it has a built-in fire suppression system and Chicago is beset by idiots with blowtorches.

Beyond its iconic status, Fallingwater is also a house museum, which is a challenging thing to be. Continue Reading

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Publicity for Landmarks

October 22, 2006 Chicago Buildings Comments (0) 1235

Last week, Landmarks Illinois announced its Chicagoland Watch List, a collection of endangered buildings including the Chicago Defender Building (Illinois Automobile Club) at 24th and Michigan in the Motor Row district, which has been stripped and is sitting dangerously empty.

The list, like Landmarks’ 10 Most Endangered List, Preservation Chicago’s “Chicago Seven” and the National Trust’s Eleven Most Endangered list, is a way to publicize important historic and architectural landmarks that are threatened in one way or another.

For those who think landmark status prevents demolition or alteration of buildings, these lists can be sobering – many of the Chicagoland Watch List buildings ARE landmarks – and are still threatened. Landmark status provides a review process that presumes preservation, but it does not prevent demolition or alteration in many cases, depending on the nature of the threat, the building, or even the commission reviewing it. Continue Reading

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Building Time

November 3, 2005 Chicago Buildings, House Museums, Interpretation Comments Off on Building Time 1425

I had a morning meeting of the Steering Committee for the Farnsworth House, the stunning glass house built in Plano, Illinois by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe in 1951. (You can see it on the LPCI website link at right) The house was famously sold at a Sotheby’s auction in December 2003. LPCI and the National Trust hooked up and bought it for over $7 million, saving it from a potential move out of state.

The house is a marvel. Yes, its style is modernist, its materials glass and steel, its entire perimeter floor-to-ceiling glass, but the emotional effect on the visitor is a Greek temple. It is mathematical perfection sitting in the natural perfection of the Fox River floodplain, a perfect little symphony of white I-beams, travertine and spartan, sculptural furnishings. Neither too many notes nor too few. No wonder it was auctioned off like a work of art- that is what it is. Continue Reading

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