By Carter B. Horsley
This excellent book on Chicago
apartment buildings has superb black-and-white photographs of
almost 100 distinctive buildings, many with pictures of some of
their spectacular interiors.
It is written by Neil Harris,
the Preston and Sterling Morton Professor of History and Professor
of Art History at the University of Chicago.
Mr. Harris remarks in his book
that "these two 26-story towers, the Glass Houses as they
have long been known, are among Chicago's most photographed buildings
and probably constitute the most celebrated apartment houses of
the 20th Century."
"Almost at once,"
he continued, "860-880 North Lake Shore Drive received international
recognition and won an impressive set of awards. Mies van der
Rohe's design, brought to fruition because of developer Herbert
Greenward's energy and confidence, helped move Chicago and much
of America down the road toward modern steel and glass buildings
as the basic prototype for high-rise office and residential structures
alike. Few if any of these later buildings matched the formal
elegance of the $6 million Glass Houses, whose refinement rested
not simply on the functionalist ethos Mies proclaimed, but on
a formalist aesthetic which required use of some of the structural
materials as ornament. The floor plans went through a series of
changes; developer Greenwalk persuaded Mies to make them tighter
and less open, thus more appealing to American tastes. The two
buildings contain more than 200 units; 860 was planed for 90 three-bedroom
apartments, and 880 for 158 one-bedroom apartments. Many owners
have created their own spaces by combining units. Modest in scale
and simple in layout, the apartments enjoyed views enhanced by
the glass walls."
The buildings were erected
the same year as Lever House in New York, which was designed by
Gordon Bunshaft of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, and several
years before the Seagram Building one block away on Park Avenue,
which was designed by Mies and Philip Johnson. Along with the
earlier United Nations Building in Manhattan, these projects set
the standard for glass curtain-wall buildings for decades and
remain as some of the most famous architectural masterpieces of
the 20th Century.
The most beautiful skyscraper
in the United States, Lake Point Tower was designed by Schiporeit-Heinrich
for Crane Construction in 1968. George Schiporeit and John Heinrich
had worked for Mies van der Rohe and this design was influenced
by one of his unrealized designs from almost half a century earlier.
"The 69-story, Y-shaped, curtain-walled structure sits atop
a podium, which contains the garage and various support facilties.
A small garden with pools and playground gives the building its
own landscaped setting....Originally a rental with a string of
one-bedroom and efficiency apartments complementing larger units,
Lake Point Tower is now a condominium with quite a few units that
have been combined," according to the book."
The book notes that the "complex
construction challenges" of 175 East Delaware Place "clouded
the fortunes of its original developer, Jerry Wolman, who had
to sell it before its completion to the John Hancock Life Insurance
Company." "The joint product of architect Bruce Graham
and engineer Fazlur Kahn, who devised his ingenious braces and
tubular contruction for the building, the Hancock Center,"
the entry continued, "contains the world's highest residences.
The 44th floor lobby and swimming pool begin a set of apartments
that continue through the 92nd floor. It originally housed 711
apartments, but some have been combined. The building also contains
29 floors of offices, an observatory, restaurants, stores - including
its own grocery store - and other facilities." The rental
apartments were converted to condominiums in 1973.
The building's elegant slanting
lines and bold but almost delicate bracing combined with its dark
color make this stunning monolith the best formally dressed mixed-use
tower in the country.
Marina City is one of Chicago's
most famous 20th Century architectural icons. The lower quarter
or so of its twin, "corncob" towers are devoted to parking
and are separated visually by an indentation below the baclonied
apartments in the mixed-use complex.
Mr. Harris provides the following
"These two 60-story reinforced
concrete tower mark a key moment in Chicago's rebuilding after
World War II. Built at a time of anxiety about the future of American
cities, this urban enclave's mingling of offices, apartments,
restaurants, shopes, recreational spaces, marina, and parking
was meant to counter the growing appeal of the suburbs. The Building
Services Employees International Union, led by William McFetridge,
purchased the land from the Chicago and North Western Railway
and turned to Bertrand Goldberg for a plan. After some initial
proposals, Goldberg offered the tallest cylindrical buildings
yet constructed, containing almost 900 apartments and space for
as many automobiles. Its choice riverfront location and distinctive
appearance helped propel the project to success, and gave Chicago
another widely recognized architectural icon. Room sizes were
relatively modest, accepting the dominant post-war standards;
kitchens were small, there were no formal dining rooms, and heating
and cooling elements were visible below the windows. Yet the balconies
and superb views helped compensate for the spatial constraints
brought on by the unusual design, and the whole made for, in Carl
Condit's words 'a staggering exhibition of structural virtuosity'
on a site that seemed extradinarily appropriate for it."
"An art deco landmark
inside and out, the limestone-faced Powhatan bears the influence
of Eliel Saarinen's second place entry in the Chicago Tribune
Tower Competition just a few years earlier, as well as the design
ideals of Charles L. Morgan, the associate architect. Morgan was
an active graphic artist, avowed modernist, and associate of Frank
Lloyd wright. He was responsible for the colorful mosaics and
specially designed tiles lining the inner and outer lobbies as
well as the elegant ballroom and the terra-cotta details ont he
exterior. A couple of mosaic panels in the swmming pool suggest
the mural abstractions at Wright's Midway Gardens, where Morgan
had worked; that complex was being demolished just as the Powhatan
was nearing completion....The well preserved ballroom sits atop
the building, with terraces north and south. 'All the luxuries
of an ocean liner,' marveled a contemporary Chicago journalist.
American Indian references can be found throughout, from the entrance
doors and light fixtures to the extraordinary spandrels, whos
colorul abstractions were intended to evoke native themes and
the waters of Lake Michicagn."
Albert W. Swayne planned a
huge cooperative apartment project to house more than 2,000 people
with a central tower rising 420 feet high designed by Holabird
& Root. The Depression intervened, however, and only a small
component with 85 apartments was erected.
An elegant, 12-story, C-shaped building that
faces Jackson Park and the Museum of Science Building, the Windemere
was erected just to the esat of the famous old Windemere that
had been built in 1893 for the World's Fair and the two buildings
were connected by tunnels, according to Mr. Harris. The old Windemere
had been wired for a telephone in every room and the new one was
wired for radio. The building was foreclosed in the Depression
and in the 1970s it was acquired by the University of Chicago
only to be resold about a decade later and renovated as a rental
1260 and 1301 North Astor Street
are two very strongly designed towers that are very similar and
which appear to have been cut off at the tops. They were designed
by Philip B. Majer in 1931. "Completed at a time when many
Chicago cooperatives were starting to go to bankrupt, 1260 Astor
was saved by the wealth of its organizing syndicate which included
stockbroker Barrett Wendell, George Ranney, president of International
Harvester, and Sterling Morton, of Morton Salt and Teletype Corporation.
These last two occupied customized duplex apartments on the building's
four top floors, which were designed by Paul Schweikher, who worked
in the Maher hoffice. Philip Maher designed at least two other
apartments as well. Other early residents included Potter Palmer
Mr. Harris provides the following
commentary for 1500 North Lake Shore Drive:
"1500 North Lake Shore
Drive occupies the site where the great Chicago newspaper publisher
Victor Lawson had built his million dollar, built-to-last mansion.
Portions of the house were, in fact, inserted into some apartments
of the new building. At 25 stories high, of limestone and brick
in French Rensaissance style, 1500 presented itself a s a different
kind of cooperative from the start. 'Olympus is more beautiful,'
Ruth Bergman wrote in the Chicagoan, 'but the gods have
never chilled their nectar in such magnificent ice boxes.' For
one thing, there was its expense, estimates running at $5 million
for land and building. For another, there was the New York participation
of architect Rosario Candela, real estate advisor Douglas Elliman
& Co., and Turner Construction. 'Manhattan seems to figure
excessively in this project,' Al Chase reflected in the Chicago
Tribune. Finally, the 57 apartments, most of which were sold
before the building had been completed, offered purchasers the
opportunity of being individually designed. Their only common
features, noted one journalist, were silver vaults and wood-burning
fireplaces. a series of architect created interior spaces for
individual clients, although Turner Constuction completely finished
the building's interiors to the architects' specifications."
The 17-story apartment building
at 1540 North Lake Shore Drive was designed by Huszagh & Hill
and built by Avery Brundage, who would later get involved in the
Olympics, in 1926. It is particularly striking not only for its
steep slate, French chateau-style roof and three-story rusticated
limestone base in the Adam style, but also for its three very
narrow but bold light-colored piers on its front, red-brick facade
culminating in three large stone columns that demark some double-height
windows. The buildig had two eight-room apartments on most floors
and went into receivership during the Depression but the entry
notes that in 1947 ninety "percent of its 30 resident families
combined to return the building to cooperative status."
A classic modern version of
an Italian Renaissance palazzo, the six-story apartment building
at 200 East Pearson was designed by Robert S. Golyer for Nelson
Bedgbo in 1917 and with its pronounced stringcourses, quoins and
cornice and rusticated entrance surround it is an imposing structure
that appears more monumental than its actual size. "The brown
brick building, with cast concrete and metal trim, is locally
celebrated as the home of Mies van der Rohe, who continued living
there after completing and apparently briefly contemplating moving
to to his Lake Shore Drive Glass Houses a few blocks away. Whatever
the reasons for his decision, the obvious ironies have served
critics of modernism as a metaphorical label for its shortcomings,"
Mr. Harris wrote.
The quite stately, 17-story
apartment building at 3300 North Lake Shore Drive is distinguished
by its stone urns on a balustrade at the top of the building and
the 12-by-10-foot sun parlors at the building's curved corner
at the intersection of Aldine Avenue and Sheridan Road.
The book's entry notes that
the Italian Renaissance-inspired structure "was part of the
real estate empire of the Edith Rockefeller McCormick Trust, which
purchased the land in 1925." "Mrs. McCormick, daughter
of John D. Rockefeller, lived for a time in the building,"
it continued, adding that "The principal architects, Maurice
B. Rissman and Leo S. Hirschfeld, devised a series of significant
Chicago apartment buildings, several of them quite large by contemporary
Mr. Harris describes the tower
at 919 North Michigan Avenue as having been "Chicago's most
distinctive art deco monument," adding that "its elegant
setbacks, carved elevator door panels, nickel metal mail boxes,
walnut and marble lobby, etched glass lighting, revolving Lindbergh
Beacon, and sleek profile summed up the spirit of the 1920s moderne."
"After Colgate-Palmolive moved out in 1934, the building
was sold a number of times, and served for some years at the headquarters
for Playboy Enterprises," the entry for this building declared,
adding that in the 1930's Bror Dahlberg, the president of the
Celotex Company, had an apartment on the 32nd floor and the book
includes two interior shots of that apartment.
Olympia Centre is a 63-story,
sloping, mixed-use tower whose retail base is occupied by Neiman-Marcus.
The book entry on 1418 North
Lake Shore Drive, which was designed by Solomon Cordwell Buenz
for Mayfair Construction in 1983 noted that it was the first multi-family
structure with one residence per floor to be constructed in Chicago
since 1929. The 28-story building has 27 apartments and "three
tiers of angled and cantilevered windows permit the residents
to see the wall of apartments to the south and north as well as
the lake itself."