Monthly Archives: October 2021

Historic Architecture: Row Houses (c. 1873), 802-812 N. Dearborn Street, Chicago, Illinois.

Row Houses, c. 1873, 802-812 N. Dearborn Street, Chicago, IL 6/2014

These early row houses were developed in Chicago’s Gold Coast/River North neighborhood in the early 1870s immediately following the Great Chicago Fire.

That conflagration began south of the city’s downtown area at 137 DeKoven Street (around 1100 South) and blew its destruction north through Downtown and upwards into today’s Gold Coast area. The fire petered out two days later to the north of Fullerton Avenue (2400 North) on October 10, 1871. The area of devastation was over a swath of ⁠four miles (see map below).

The fire’s aftermath sparked an intense period of rebuilding, especially in Downtown Chicago, less than one mile to the south of these row houses. This flurry of building activity, particularly of needed housing, may be partly why the architect is unknown for these three- and four-story Italianate buildings, all of which are well preserved.

The three-story row houses to the south have neo-Grec ornament which was in vogue by 1872. It included incised carved detail on window ledges and door frames.

The four-story row houses to the north (partially pictured) have more lavish Second Empire exterior decoration.

Like the Italianate style, the Neo-Grec–style row houses have a smooth brownstone front with a pronounced deep cornice, heavy entryway and window details. The contrast was in their ornamentation: Neo-Grec’s simple, precise lines and geometric Greek influence varied from Italianate ornamentation of curved and organic lines and forms.

Italianate curved window and door frames are replaced by Neo-Grec’s right-angles. Lintels are replaced by rectangular blocks. Entryway steps had baluster cast-iron railings that ended in squared-off linear and geometric incised ornament.

Vintage map of Chicago Great Fire (detail).

CHICAGO POPULATION GROWTH 1860-1980

Chicago was growing exponentially by 1870. In 1860 the city had a little over 112,000 residents and ranked 9th on the list of largest U.S. cities. By the time of the Great Fire in 1871, Chicago had grown to nearly 300,000 and ranked 5th on the largest U.S. cities list. Equally significant is that the city’s size also doubled in those same ten years from 17,492 square miles in 1860 to 35,172 square miles in 1870. Busy with rebuilding, the city did not expand again in square miles until the 1880’s, though its population continued to soar. When these Italianate row houses were built, Chicago was growing towards becoming the 4th largest U.S. city with a population of over 500,000. In the early 1870’s with rebuilding and augmenting population density the demand for housing was high. Chicago’s population would continue to grow with each decade until 1980.

OCCUPANTS TODAY INCLUDE A CONTEMPORARY ART GALLERY AND THE ALLIANCE FRANÇAISE DE CHICAGO FOUNDED IN 1897

Today, at 806 N. Dearborn is Alan Koppel Gallery which has, for over two decades, introduced contemporary international artists to Chicago audiences.

At 810 N. Dearborn is the main entrance to the Alliance Française de Chicago. Founded in Paris in 1883. the Alliance Française de Chicago is part of an international network of over 1,100 Alliances around the world which promotes French language and francophone culture. Chicago’s Alliance Française was founded in 1897. Offering French language classes and a full range of cultural events, the Alliance Française de Chicago is the second oldest Alliance in the U.S. and the second largest in the U.S. after the French Institute Alliance Française in New York City. The Alliance Française de Chicago is headquartered in two renovated architecturally historic buildings, including the 1870’s row house on Dearborn Street and, connected by an interior garden, a building on Chicago Avenue.

SOURCES:

Alice Sinkevitch, AIA Guide to Chicago, 2nd Edition, Harcourt, Inc., Orlando, 2004, p. 134.

Frank A. Randall, History of the Development of Building Construction in Chicago, Second Edition, Chicago and Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1999, p. 5.

Jay Pridmore and George A. Larson, Chicago Architecture and Design, Abrams, New York, 2018, p. 42.

https://www.biggestuscities.com/city/chicago-illinois – retrieved October 30, 2021.

https://www.brownstoner.com/guides/%25guides%25/neo-grec/ – retrieved October 30, 2021.

https://www.af-chicago.org/ – retrieved October 30, 2021.

https://www.alankoppel.com – retrieved October 30, 2021.

https://thevintagemapshop.com/products/1871-mcdonalds-map-of-chicago-great-fire – retrieved October 30, 2021.

Historic Architecture: The Cobden (1892), Charles S. Frost, 418-424 W. Belden Avenue, Chicago, Illinois.

The Cobden, 1892, 418-424 W. Belden Ave., Chicago, IL. 6/2014

The Cobden, a Richardsonian-Romanesque flats-above-storefront building that has anchored the northwest corner of busy Clark Street and residential Belden Avenue since 1892 was designed by architect Charles Sumner Frost (1856 –1931) of the firm of Henry Ives Cobb (1859-1931) and Frost.

Born in Maine and trained as an architect in Boston, Frost moved to Chicago in 1882. When The Cobden was built, Frost was 36 years old and at the beginning of a new stage in his early mid-career. Cobb and Frost designed and began construction of the Potter Palmer mansion (1882-1885) at 1350 N. Lake Shore Drive (demolished in 1951). The Cobden, two miles to the north in Lincoln Park along the Lake Michigan shore, was built in a burgeoning residential area at 418-424 Belden Avenue.

The Cobden is greatly influenced by the Richardsonian-Romanesque style which was prevalent among young architects in the 1880’s and 1890’s before the onset of the Beaux-Arts revival. Adapted to a residential-commercial street in a neighborhood outside Downtown Chicago, The Cobden shows the characteristics associated with the Richardsonian Romanesque style such as clear, strong picturesque massing, round-headed arches, clusters of short squat columns, recessed entrances, richly varied rustication, blank stretches of walling contrasting with bands of windows, and cylindrical towers with conical caps embedded in the walling.

The Cobden, in its bays and a prominent central gable that breaks above the roofline, presented an attractive architectural variety on Belden Avenue.

In 1897 Charles S. Frost married Mary Hughitt, the daughter of New York railroad tycoon Marvin Hughitt (1837-1928), the president of the Chicago and North Western Railroad. When the partnership of Cobb and Frost ended in 1898, Frost partnered with Mary’s sister’s husband, Alfred Hoyt Granger (1867-1939). Granger came to Chicago also from Boston (he was born in Ohio) and designed The Art Institute Building on Michigan Avenue in 1893. Frost and Granger were known for their designs of train stations and terminals such as the LaSalle Street Station in 1903. In the first decade of the 20th century, Frost and Granger designed over 100 buildings for the Chicago and North Western Railroad, including the massive Renaissance-Revival style Chicago and North Western Terminal which opened in 1912 (and demolished in 1984 to make way for the Ogilvie Transportation Center in Downtown Chicago).

When the Frost and Granger partnership ended by 1912, Frost began to work independently and designed in 1916 the Navy Pier Auditorium. Following his father-in-law’s death in 1928, Frost retired from his architectural practice at the end of the same year. After designing hundreds of public, commercial, and residential buildings, mainly in Chicago, Charles S. Frost died in 1931 at 75 years old.

Charles S. Frost in 1920.

SOURCES:

Alice Sinkevitch, AIA Guide to Chicago, 2nd Edition, Harcourt, Inc., Orlando, 2004, p. 196.

The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Volume XVII, 1920, pp. 336–337.