Category Archives: My Photography Architecture Design

Architecture & Design Photography: HELMUT JAHN (1940-2021) in Chicago, Illinois – 55 W. Monroe (1980), 1 S. Wacker Drive (1982), Thompson Center (1985), IIT’s Rowe Village (2005).

Helmut Jahn was famous in Chicago and around the world for his prolific postmodern architecture particularly his work in steel and glass.

Born in Germany near Nuremberg, in 1940, Jahn graduated from Technische Hochschule in Munich and moved to Chicago in 1966. Jahn arrived in Chicago just as “downtown development” during the administration of Mayor Richard J. Daley (1902-1976) was finding its greatest momentum. Jahn began to study under Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1886-1969) at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) and, in 1967, joined Charles (C.F.) Murphy Associates which later became Murphy/Jahn. The younger man would carry on the powerful influence and energy of these Chicago personalities for building big, creatively, and prolifically for the next fifty years into the first quarter of the 21st century. Jahn would add his own significant contribution and footprint in Chicago and around the nation and world in those same long years of his activity.

One of Jahn’s early projects in his first years in Chicago was McCormick Place. The original concrete and steel permanent exposition hall on the lakefront that opened in 1960 was destroyed in a fire in January 1967, just as Jahn was starting to work as a professional architect. Named for Col. McCormick of the Chicago Tribune, the newspaper owner and publisher had boosted the idea of a permanent exposition hall on Chicago’s lakefront for years prior to his death in 1955.

Jahn had come to Chicago at an exciting time to be building there — during Jahn’s first years in Chicago the John Hancock Building was completed in 1969 and the Sears Tower, the tallest building in the world for the next 24 years, was completed in 1974. In 1971, C.F. Murphy completed the new and massive McCormick Place, a powerful steel and glass structure with enormous cantilever eaves, on the same lakefront site as the old exposition hall. Out of that single successful building project, Helmut Jahn and the rest of the world saw the significant development in Chicago that would blossom around this important and functional modern architecture over ensuing decades — including the North building constructed across Lake Shore Drive in 1986; the South building built in 1996; a hotel built in 1998; the massive West building built in 2007; and, in 2017, the Wintrust Arena.

In the mid 1980’s one of Jahn’s most significant creations was the James R. Thompson Center in Chicago. Aesthetically grandiose and controversial, the “State of Illinois Building” was put up for sale in 2021 by the administration of Governor J.B. Pritzker, citing its historically high operating and maintenance costs.

Helmut Jahn, State of Illinois (Thompson) Center, 100 W. Randolph, Chicago, Illinois, 1979-1985. 5/2014 4.75 mb

There were mixed reviews for Helmut Jahn’s massive semi-circular Thompson Center at 100 W. Randolph completed in 1985. The criticism begins at its entrance where Jahn saw placed “Outsider” French artist Jean Dubuffet’s fiberglass Monument with Standing Beast. During the building’s planning and construction some of the architect’s dazzling concepts met with resistance from contractors. For example, the contractors prevailed over Jahn’s idea for a completely locked-down outer skin using silicone glazing. In the final construction the appearance of red, white, and blue locked-down skin belies the several places throughout the design where windows are made to be opened. Inside, though its soaring 17-story atrium is airy and impressive exposing floors that hold various state bureaucracy—and signaling the idea of state government’s day-to-day practice towards transparency the practicalities of the new building’s heating and cooling design proved seriously problematic during Chicago’s summer heat and winter cold though that major issue appeared to be eventually resolved. In 2021 Jahn’s mega-structure has been put up for sale by Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker from Chicago citing that the building costs hundreds of millions of dollars to operate and maintain. The photograph was taken by the author on May 25, 2014.

In Chicago Jahn designed the exposed steel frame United Airlines Terminal 1 at O’Hare International Airport between 1985 and 1988. Air travelers for decades have enjoyably traversed its entertaining walkway connecting concourses that include moving sidewalks, colorful lighting and futuristic sounds.

Helmut Jahn, One South Wacker Drive, Chicago, Illinois, 1979-1982. 5/2014 4.45 mb

To the left is UBS Tower (1 N. Wacker) built in 2001 and to the right is Hyatt Center ( 71 S. Wacker) built in 2005. At 42 years old, Jahn spoke of his building at 1 S. Wacker as a synthesis of two major Chicago architectural stylesthat of Louis Sullivan (1856-1924) and, Jahn’s mentor and fellow German, Mies van der Rohe (1886-1969). The building is a concrete stepped-back 50-story building with a curtain wall of dark glass defining the vertical bands of windows. Its vision remains fresh and stunning as it sits majestically between two postmodern buildings built in Chicago a generation later. The photograph was taken by the author on May 25, 2014.

Jahn designed the 23-story addition to the Chicago Board of Trade in 1980 and Accenture Tower at 500 W. Madison in the West Loop which opened in 1987. Across the nation and world Helmut Jahn’s fresh, grand, and innovative designs have made their way into the annals of postmodern architecture. Any complete list of Helmut Jahn’s active and completed projects extends necessarily into the many scores. A list of notable buildings could include the 1999 K St. NW, a 12-story structure, in Washington D.C. completed in 2009; the twin 37-story Veers Towers in Las Vegas, Nevada opened in 2010; and, in his native Germany, the 63-story Messeturm in Frankfurt opened in 1990 and the Sony Center, a complex of eight buildings, in Potsdamer Platz in Berlin completed in 2000. The hard-driving list goes on…and on.

Helmut Jahn, Jeanne and John Rowe Village at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT), Chicago, Illinois, 2003. 8/2015 3.67 mb

Originally called the State Street Village Dormitories, Jahn’s postmodern structure that anchors the campus to the east, consists of three five-story buildings. Jahn’s design was the first major architectural addition to the IIT campus since the early 1960’s. U.S. News & World Report called it one of the “coolest dorms in the nation.” Stretching one city block along busy State Street from 33rd to 34th Streets, Rowe Village is next to the El tracks whose Green Line zips back and forth to Chicago’s Loop. Each dorm building consists of two wings that flank an interior courtyard. The building is finished at the rear on 34th street by an insulated five-story glass wall. Entry is through the courtyard which leads into a corridor that connects the two wings. It is built of reinforced concrete with the front elevations and roof dressed in custom corrugated stainless steel panels and tinted glass framed in aluminum. The building’s sleek curvature, three compartments and chained block-long length, reflects and evokes the image of a streamlined train making for a building as Art Moderne object in the Miesian tradition. From its rooftop the Rowe Village looks north for views of Chicago’s downtown skyline while the dorm offers suite-style living in a modern setting surrounded by the mind, serious and playful, of Helmut Jahn. The photograph was taken by the author on August 21, 2015.

At the time of his death at 81 years old on May 8, 2021 in a bike road accident in the far western suburbs of Chicago, Helmut Jahn was working on a 74-story residential building in Chicago at 1000 S. Michigan. It was scheduled to be opened in 2022 but its construction was already delayed because of the Covid-19 pandemic that postponed construction. Helmut Jahn taught at IIT, the University of Illinois-Chicago, Harvard University, and Yale University. In 2012 Murphy/Jahn became JAHN and, according to a recent report from Dun & Bradstreet, the firm had a total of 55 employees and generated a little over $6 million in annual sales.

SOURCES for above:

https://web.iit.edu/housing/jeanne-john-rowe-village – retrieved May 9, 2021.

AIA Guide To Chicago, 2nd edition, edited by Alice Sinkevitch, 2004, pp.73 and 91.

Illinois Institute of Technology: the campus guide: an architectural tour, Franz Schulze, 2005, pp.83-4.

Chicago’s Lakefront McCormick Place, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z4Vs5VZprFE – retrieved May 9, 2021.

https://www.architecture.org/learn/resources/architecture-dictionary/entry/helmut-jahn/

https://www.dnb.com/business-directory/company-profiles.murphy-jahn_inc.5e1fc35946048f1332755d271c944303.html – retrieved May 10, 2021

https://www.jahn-us.com/ – retrieved May 10, 2021.

http://www.greatbuildings.com/buildings/UA_Terminal-O_Hare.html– retrieved May 10, 2021.

https://www.aviationpros.com/airports/consultants/architecture/news/21222012/helmut-jahn-chicagos-starchitect-to-the-world-was-the-visionary-behind-uniteds-ohare-terminal – retrieved May 10, 2021.

https://www.architectmagazine.com/technology/lighting/1999-k-st-nw_o – retrieved May 10, 2021.

Helmut Jahn (C.F. Murphy Associates)/Murphy Jahn. Xerox Center, 55 West Monroe, Chicago, 1977-1980. 12/2014 5.60 mb 99%

In what was one of Helmut Jahn’s first great urban achievements, the 40-story office tower on an important corner in downtown Chicago was built on speculation and soon took the name of its major tenant (Xerox). The sleek and simple curtain wall of enameled off-white fluoropolymer aluminum panels and reflective glass slide over a reinforced concrete structure and around its soft postmodern corners in contrast to the modernist box.

The tower is fitted to its site where the building’s corner is exaggerated at street level with varying glaze percentages, and the white-black-silver palette of the lobby follows a diagonal pattern (also on the roof) in contrast to the exterior curvilinear design.

Silver double-glazed reflective glass pays homage to 1950’s and 1960’s Chicago modernism and the Xerox building’s closest neighbors: the kitty-corner Inland Steel Building (1954-1958, Skidmore, Owings and Merrill) and, directly across to the north, the First National (today, Chase) Bank building (1964-1969, C.F. Murphy Associates with Perkins and Will) .

Some have observed that Jahn’s curving tower may have been inspired by Louis Sullivan’s 1899 Schlesinger and Mayer department store building on State Street (what became in 1904 Carson, Pirie, Scott and Company Building and today is The Sullivan Center). The 1980 project’s original conception was for two curvilinear towers though obviously only one was constructed obfuscating and negating the original design’s uniquely bold impacts.

The glass and aluminum are arranged to alternate in horizontal bands which have modernist predecessors in Chicago and Europe. Hidden from the street view are more diagonals that cut a pattern across the roof. The building is a major transition for Jahn who, steeped in mid-20th century Modernism, harkened back to earlier 1920s modernist sources for the 55 W. Monroe (Xerox) building.  

SOURCES for 55 W. Monroe:
Building Chicago: The Architectural Masterworks, John Zukowsky, New York: Rizzoli with Chicago History Museum, 2016, p. 237.

AIA Guide to Chicago, 2nd Edition, Alice Sinkevitch, Harcourt, Inc., Orlando, 2004, p. 67.

The Sky’s The Limit: A Century of Chicago Skyscrapers, Jane H. Clarke, Pauline A. Saliga, John Zukowsky, New York: Rizzoli, 1990, p. 233.

Chicago Architecture and Design, 3rd Edition, Jay Pridmore and George A. Larson. New York: Abrams, 2018, pp. 210-211.

Helmut Jahn, Nory Miller, New York: Rizzoli, 1986, pp. 76-81.

Architecture & Design Photography: HOWARD VAN DOREN SHAW (1869-1926). The Mentor Building (1906) in Chicago and 1005 Michigan Avenue House (1913) in Evanston, Illinois. (2 Photos).

Howard Van Doren Shaw (1869-1926), 1906, THE MENTOR BUILDING, 39 S. State Street (6 E. Monroe Street), Chicago, from the southwest. Author’s photograph, July 2015.

A Mentor building has stood on this northeast corner of State and Monroe since 1873 when there had been a 7-story building erected here.1

Howard Van Doren Shaw’s only skyscraper presents an unusual mixture of styles.

There are windows grouped in horizontal bands between a four-level base of large showroom windows. The top is classically inspired with details that are strong and idiosyncratic. The building retains the character of its classical sources though they are used as large-scale motifs.2

Shaw’s 1906 building is 17 stories high with two basements on rock caissons.3

The photograph was taken on July 5, 2015.

1 Frank A. Randall, History of Development of Building Construction in Chicago, Second Edition, Revised and Expanded by John D. Randall, University of Illinois Press, Urbana and Chicago, 1999, p, 196.

2 Alice Sinkevitch, AIA Guide to Chicago, 2nd Edition, Harcourt, Inc., Orlando, 2004, p. 59.

3 Randall, p.265.

Howard Van Doren Shaw (1869-1926), 1913, 1005 MICHIGAN AVENUE, Evanston, Illinois. Author’s photograph, June 2022. 14.96 mb 25%

Seven years after Howard Van Doren Shaw’s sole skyscraper, Chicago Downtown’s Mentor Building (above), was built in 1906, the architect raised this highly sophisticated “great house” design in Evanston, Illinois.

The light-colored brick house is Colonial Revival with modifications. The façade’s symmetry is prominently displayed in its 5 equal openings for its two main floors and topped by a shortened pitched roof with three flat-roofed dormers. A chimney protrudes at the roof line to the north.

For the main mass there are aligned windows with a middle opening for both the first and second floor symmetrically displaying diverse residential functionality: a broad-arched porchway and genteel fanlight above a double door entry on the first floor and, at the second level. a wrought iron balcony providing a small, mainly decorative step landing.

The great house is situated on the northeast corner lot of a leafy yet trafficked suburban residential intersection, with the main building’s symmetry broken to the south by the then-popular sun porch extension. It is a low, two-story flat-roofed projection with an enclosed porch on the first floor and an open porch originally on the upper level.

SOURCE:

A Guide to Chicago’s Historic Suburbs On Wheels & On Foot, Ira J. Bach, Chicago, Athens, Ohio, London: Ohio University Press (Swallow Press), 1981, p. 518.

Architecture & Design Photography: ANONYMOUS/UNKNOWN. Chicago Harbor Lighthouse (1893). Active lighthouse on Lake Michigan played a vital role in Chicago’s economic development and the U.S. Midwest.

FEATURE image: Chicago Harbor Lighthouse (1893), Chicago, Illinois, 2017. Author’s photograph.

Known as the “Chicago Light,” the Chicago Harbor Lighthouse is an active automated lighthouse dating from 1893.

About one-half mile beyond Navy Pier, the lighthouse stands at the north of the main entrance of the Chicago Harbor in Lake Michigan. The lighthouse has had a significant role in the development of Chicago and the American Midwest and remains an active aid to nautical navigation today.

For more than a century, the U.S. Coast Guard has staffed this lighthouse at the breakwater outside the Chicago Harbor Lock. The lock separates Lake Michigan from the mouth of the Chicago River.

The lock was built in the mid-1930’s and is operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The lock is one of the entrances into the Illinois Waterway system at the Great Lakes. The waterway system is a commercial and recreational shipping connection to the Gulf of Mexico by way of the Illinois and Mississippi rivers.

The “Chicago Light” is at that waterway system’s headwaters as it stands in the outer harbor constructed in 1880. The Chicago Light’s conical tower dates from 1893. Twenty-five years later, in 1918, the tower was reconstructed and the base building which contains a fog-signal room and boathouse was added. The architects are not identified.

Through its breakwaters, the main entrance into Chicago Harbor is 580 feet wide. The Chicago Harbor Lighthouse was designated a Chicago Landmark on April 9, 2003. It is the only surviving lighthouse in Chicago and one of two remaining examples in the state of Illinois.

Looking east from Chicago towards Lake Michigan, the mouth of the Chicago River.

About one mile ahead from this photograph’s location is the Chicago Harbor Lock. Built in the 1930’s, it provides the entrance/exit to the Illinois Waterway system at the Great Lakes. The waterway system is a commercial and recreational shipping connection from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico by way of the Illinois and Mississippi rivers.

PHOTO Credits:

Chicago Light–by John P. Walsh.

Chicago River —“chicago river.” by alyssaBLACK. is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

SOURCES:

The Chicago River: an illustrated history and guide to the river and its waterways, David M. Solzman, Wild Onion Books, Chicago, 1998, pp.126-128.
Chicago Landmarks Map [brochure], City of Chicago, 2006.
https://web.archive.org/web/20070410173708/http://www.ci.chi.il.us/Landmarks/C/ChicagoHarborLighthouse.html – retrieved December 2, 2017.

Architecture & Design Photography: NAPERVILLE, Illinois. (2 Photos).

FEATURE image: 15 S. Sleight Street, 1883, Naperville, Illinois. See its description below.

21 S. Sleight Street, 1884, Naperville, Illinois. 6/2014 Author’s photograph

Frame house, tower, clapboard and shingle patterns. The tower is cut on a bias (on an angle), approaching 45 degrees. This has the tower with less surface area than if cutting it square. The cut also can serve an aesthetic or other construction function such as cost or footprint. The porch has turned posts that gives the late-19th-century house added curb appeal and makes it stand out. A variety of carpentry work further gives interest to the structure and displays the house’s solid craftsmanship.

15 S. Sleight Street, 1883, Naperville, Illinois. 6/2014 Author’s photograph.

Similar to 21 S. Sleight Street (photograph above) which is next door, the frame house at 15 S. Sleight Street is the slightly older of the pair. There is clapboard on the first floor and shingle patterns on the second floor. The house has a hip roof and front-facing gable with eave returns. At the top of the gable there is a full sunburst motif and to either side below it two half sunburst motifs. The porch has square posts with lathed inlets. Like its neighbor, the house originally had a tower that was removed.

SOURCE SLEIGHT STREET HOUSES: A Guide to Chicago’s Historic Suburbs on Wheels and on Foot, Ira J. Bach, Swallow Press/Ohio University Press, 1981, p. 404.

Architecture & Design Photography: SOLOMON, CORDWELL, BUENZ (SBD). Park Tower Condominium (1973), 5414 N. Sheridan Road; Chicago, Illinois. (2 Photos).

Chicago. Modern. Park Tower Condominium (1973). SCB. 8/2015. 3.15 mb

Park Tower Condominium is on the lakefront next to north Lake Shore Drive and across from Foster Beach in Lincoln Park. Its address is 5414 N. Sheridan Road, Chicago

Constructed in 1973 by Solomon, Cordwell, Buenz (SCB), a Chicago architectural firm founded in 1931, the tower was planned as the first of three towers in a triangular formation but the others did not materialize.

Tallest building outside Downtown Chicago for 8 miles north to Foster Beach

At 55 stories tall (513 feet high), Park Tower Condominium is the tallest structure between downtown and Foster Beach and one of the tallest structures in Chicago outside the downtown area.

Park Tower Condominiumis one of the largest all-residential buildings in the city.It was originally built as luxury rental apartments, though the building became condos in 1979.

In the Edgewater neighborhood, Park Tower Condominium is one of three residential towers in Chicago with black Miesian windows and three rounded lobes. The others are Lake Point Tower (505 North Lake Shore Drive) and Harbor Point (155 North Harbor Drive).

Chicago. Modern. Park Tower Condominium (1973). SCB. 8/2015. 3.04 mb

View from northeast looking southwest. The curtain wall of the Park Tower Condominium is beautifully detailed and proportioned.

Photographs were taken by the author on August 7, 2015.

SOURCES:

https://www.architectmagazine.com/firms/solomon-cordwell-buenz

https://www.emporis.com/buildings/117420/park-tower-condominiums-chicago-il-usa

AIA Guide to Chicago, 2nd Edition, Alice Sinkevitch, Harcourt, Inc., Orlando, 2004, p. 241.

Photographs & text:

Architecture & Design Photography: KETLER-ELLIOT. The Chicago Avenue Bridge (1914), Chicago, Illinois. Demolished in 2018.

FEATURE image: Portion of the open-grate pony-truss bascule Chicago Avenue Bridge and concrete house, erected in 1914, as it was in its last years of operation. Pointing to increased high traffic volume and load-bearing capacity issues, the 104-year-old bridge was demolished and replaced in 2018. Author’s photograph taken in May 2016.

The expanse of the Chicago Avenue Bridge over the North Branch of the Chicago River near Goose Island. The bridge with its steel beam pony truss was built in 1914 and demolished in 2018. The bridge was replaced by a temporary crossing in 2019. “Chicago Avenue Bridge” by swanksalot is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
“File:Architecture Tour 25 Chicago Avenue Bridge (185544768).jpg” by discosour is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Built in 1914 by Ketler-Elliot Erection Company of Chicago, the Chicago Avenue Bridge was one of the oldest pony truss bascule bridges in Chicago. Connecting River North and River West, the steel bridge was, after 104 years, demolished in 2018 and replaced, in 2019, by a temporary bridge. Since this portion of the river is now used mostly for recreational purposes, a new, permanent immovable concrete bridge is expected to open over the Chicago River in this location in 2021.

Looking west from the old Chicago Avenue Bridge. A pony truss bridge is a steel truss bridge that allows traffic over and through the truss, but with no cross brace across the top connecting its two sides. “Looking west on Chicago Avenue bridge” by Steven Vance is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

A pony truss bridge is a steel truss bridge that allows traffic over and through the truss, but with no cross brace across the top connecting its two sides. The truss bridge assembly of the Chicago Avenue Bridge was made of riveted steel beams—and a witness to Chicago’s early 20th century industrial manufacturing might.

As well as being “Hog Butcher For The World, Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat, Player with Railroads and the Nation’s Freight Handler” as Carl Sandberg wrote in his 1914 poem, Chicago, published in the new (1912) Poetry magazine, Chicago was also at that time a world leader in steel production and bridge design.

Looking east in November 1914 at Chicago Avenue Bridge. Public Domain.

The basic design of any bascule bridge is similar to a medieval castle drawbridge. A leaf or span rises and descends that permits traffic upon it and— for the Chicago Avenue Bridge— also traffic below it on the Chicago River.

Chicago boasts more than 50 movable bridges. Single-leaf (truss) bascule bridges were constructed where the river was not very wide and a single bridge deck goes up and down between abutments. This was often used for train traffic which was convenient since Chicago was and still remains the railroad capital of the United States.

The more common double-leaf (truss) bascule bridge— including the Chicago Avenue Bridge—consists of two leaves or spans which meet in the middle over the river. Counterweights on each side of the bridge beneath it in a river pit (or pits) balances, stabilizes and fortifies the vertical movement of the bridge deck.

If the bridge deck is single leaf, the “Chicago Style” bridge rises in a piece vertically to one side of the river. If the bridge deck is two leaves, each rise to their side of the river and descend to close again by meeting in the middle of the bridge deck.

Structural View of a bascule leaf, Chicago Avenue Bridge. https://tile.loc.gov/storage-services/service/pnp/habshaer/il/il0800/il0823/photos/318219pr.jpg Fair Use.

Bascule bridges are the most commonly found moveable bridges in the world because they operate quickly and efficiently. The Chicago Avenue Bridge was operated from a companion pitched-roof bridge house with rounded corners and rows of windows clad in decorative (today oxidized green) copper.  The foundational portions of the bridge house were constructed of concrete. Upper portions were made of wood with roofing of vitrified tile. So far, the bridge house portion of the structure has not been demolished.

In 1914, the new Chicago Avenue Bridge across a jag of Chicago River abutting the national headquarters of Montgomery Ward whose complex was first built in 1907, made for a sleek, powerful, modern and elegant statement about industry and urban commerce in early 20th century Middle America.

The Chicago Avenue Bridge’s pitched-roof bridge house with its design of rounded corners and rows of windows clad in decorative (and today green oxidized) copper. “Offering a historic bridge for sale is a meaningless and empty gesture. RIP Chicago Avenue bridge.” by reallyboring is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Interior of the concrete bridge house, 1914. Chicago Avenue Bridge. This was one of the first permanent abd decorative bridge houses constructed for Chicago. By 2020 the then-state-of-the-art early 20th century designed house had been left mostly to rot. https://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/il0823.photos.318222p/resource/ Fair use.
When the Chicago Avenue Bridge was first opened in 1914, Chicago was a world leader in steel production and bridge design. Then-Chicago Mayor Carter H. Harrison, Jr. (1860-1953) whose name appears on the dedication plaque was a five-term Democrat incumbant from 1897 to 1905 and from 1911 to 1915. “Carter H Harrison Mayor marker – Chicago Avenue Bridge” by swanksalot is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

There are numerous variations and designs of the bascule bridge which in Chicago includes the trunnion (“pivot point”) bascule (“seesaw”) bridge. The nation’s first such bridge started operation in Chicago in 1902 over the north branch of the Chicago River at Cortland Street which can still be seen in operation today. The bridge design became known as the “Chicago Style” as its leaf or leaves, suspended on axles (trunnions) with massive concrete counterweights located below the bridge in the riverbank pit, opens and lifts a single or dual bridge deck to clear the river for traffic without blocking the waterway with a central pier.

Counterweight trunnion rack and pinion and counterweight, Chicago Avenue Bridge, https://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/il0823.photos.318218p/resource/ Fair use.

Chicago’s bascule bridges—and the Chicago Avenue Bridge was one of them—were designed to its specific location. Each was designed to take on heavy loads and the attendant vibration which included the ice and snow pack of Chicago’s typically harsh winters. The design and construction into bedrock took into account wind resistance, whether the bridge leaves were open or closed, and to wind speeds of 100 miles per hour in any and all directions.

Looking east more recently at Chicago Avenue Bridge. “Looking east on Chicago Avenue bridge” by Steven Vance is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

By 1920, improvements in bascule bridge design allowed for the construction of a double deck trunnion bascule bridge where car, truck and foot traffic could be carried simultaneously on its upper and lower decks. The first such double deck trunnion bascule bridge in Chicago was near the site of the old Fort Dearborn on the Chicago River at Michigan Avenue—today’s busy DuSable Bridge, formerly Michigan Avenue Bridge which opened in May 1920.

The Chicago Avenue Bridge is also significant as it belonged to a set of Chicago city bridges built between 1910 and 1915 whose designs looked to go beyond their utilitarian function to incorporate artistic and other aesthetic elements. Beginning with the Chicago Avenue Bridge in 1913, the Chicago Planning Commission worked with the city’s Bridge Division at the bascule bridge’s design stage.

Engineer’s drawing of the Chicago Avenue Bridge, 1914. Public Domain.

Following the demolition of the Chicago Avenue Bridge in 2018, an immoveable temporary steel girder bridge was installed in 2019 over this span of the Chicago River. For the moment, bridge design has returned to utilitarian functionality alone with little or no artistic or aesthetic program which had been one of the progressive features of the Chicago Avenue Bridge over a century ago.

Temporary replacement bridge, Chicago Avenue at the Chicago River, 2019. “Chicago – Chicago Avenue bridge, north branch of Chicago river” by ukdamian is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

SOURCES:

Solzman, David M., The Chicago River: An Illustrated History and Guide to the River and Its Waterways, Wild Onion Books, Chicago, 1998.

http://chicagoloopbridges.com/Ctype.html

https://preservationchicago.org/newsletter_posts/threatened-historic-chicago-avenue-bridge-targeted-for-demolition/

https://chicago.curbed.com/2018/10/29/18038134/construction-chicago-avenue-bridge-traffic

https://www.archpaper.com/2018/06/chicago-offers-historic-chicago-avenue-bridge-free/

https://loc.gov/pictures/item/IL0823/

https://historicbridges.org/bridges/browser/?bridgebrowser=illinois/chicago/

Architecture & Design Photography: ANONYMOUS/UNKNOWN. Collegiate Church of St. Gertrude (c. 1050), Nivelles, Belgium. (2 Photos).

FEATURE image: The Westwork of the Collegiate Church of St. Gertrude in Nivelles, Belgium, fronts an expansive historical building of the 11th century. Photograph by author, March 1992. Nivelles is an ancient settlement about 25 miles south-east of Brussels in Belgium’s French-speaking region of Wallonia.

The Collegiate Church of St. Gertrude on Grand’ Place, c. 1050, Nivelles, Belgium. It contains the tombs of its foundress, Bl. Ita of Metz and her daugher, St. Gertrude of Nivelles, the monastery’s first abbess in the 7th century.
St. Gertrude of Nivelles, patron saint of cats.

St. Gertrude of Nivelles (c. 628-659) was the daughter of Blessed Pepin of Landen (c. 580-640) and Blessed Ita of Metz, O.S.B. (592-652) who founded Nivelles monastery. Gertrude was born about 45 miles north east of Nivelles in Landen, Belgium on the boundary of Wallonia in Flanders.

In the 7th century, the territory was part of the Austrasian Frankish kingdom and Pepin had established a personal presence there. Following Pepin’s death when Gertrude was about 12 years old, the bishop of Maastrict in today’s Netherlands encouraged Ita to transform Pepin’s royal villa into a monastery. Pepin and Ita’s daughter, Gertrude, become the monastery’s first abbess.

Ita joined her daughter in the monastery to live out their days in a life of work and prayer. In the distant past, older well-endowed individuals often retired to monasteries or convents. A modern corollary may be that some retirees today choose to establish themselves in church-sponsored retirement villages. Ita’s other daughter (Begga) also eventually became an abbess; another son (Bavo), a hermit. One final son (Grimoald) took his father’s place as Mayor of the Palace. (see – http://www.santiebeati.it/dettaglio/37900 and https://www.newadvent.org/cathen/06533c.htm)

In addition to being the patron of cats and gardeners, St. Gertrude was an early medieval patron of travelers. From her birthplace of Landen to Nivelles, Belgium, it is a distance of around 40-45 miles, or a one or two-day journey on foot.

St. Gertrude was superior of the monastery her parents established and, though a young abbess, Gertrude was known for her wise rule. St. Gertrude died at a young age on account of her personal austerities and was venerated as a saint.

The impressive appearance of the westwork of the Collegial Church of St Gertrude in Nivelles is the result of a reconstruction finished in 1984 following severe damage it sustained during World War II by bombing from the German Luftwaffe (air force) in May 1940.

The church was built in the 11th century to serve as a Benedictine abbey of cloistered nuns whose first abbess was St. Gertrude of Nivelles. The community of nuns developed so that by the 15th century Nivelles became professionally staffed and was designated a collegiate church. The dramatic church building is classified a major European Heritage site and remains one of the finest examples of the pure Romanesque style in Belgium. 

Its Romanesque crypt is one of the largest of its kind in Europe where tombs of the Merovingian (5th-7th centuries) and Carolingian (7th-9th centuries) periods have been found.

Interior, Minster (Collegiate Church of St. Gertrude), Nivelles, Belgium, c. 1050.  This structure was built in the early 11th century and consecrated by Wazo of Liège (c.985-1048) in the presences of Henry III, Holy Roman Emperor (1016-1056). Photography by author, March 1992.

IMAGES OF ST.GERTRUDE, PATRONESS OF CATS, GARDENERS AND TRAVELLERS:

Another image of St. Gertrude of Nivelles. Her feast day is March 17—the same as Ireland’s St. Patrick.

In addition to being the patron saint of cats, St. Gertrude of Nivelles is also the patron saint of gardeners and travellers.

St. Gertrude de Nivelles, from the Hours of Cardinal Albrecht of Brandenburg (1490-1545), Archbishop and Elector of Mainz, c. 1522. Opaque water-based paint mounted on board by Flemish artist Simon Bening (c.1484-1561). Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

SOURCE: The Saints: A Concise Biographical Dictionary, edited by John Coulson, Guild Press, New York, 1957.

Architecture & Design Photography: AUGUST WALLBAUM. St. Michael Church, 1869, in Old Town. Founded in 1852, it is Chicago’s Oldest German Parish.

FEATURE image: At the top of the high altar’s retable in St. Michael Church in Chicago’s Old Town is the figure of St. Michael the Archangel, the parish church’s patron. St. Michael is mentioned in several places in both the Hebrew and Christian scriptures. The near northside Chicago parish has been administered by the Redemptorist Order since 1860.

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The bell tower of St. Michael Church in Chicago’s Old Town at 1633 N. Cleveland Avenue. From 1869 to 1885, this church tower was the tallest building in Chicago. It was surpassed by the old Board of Trade Building.

In 1876, five years after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 that ravaged the city, the rebuilt St. Michael Church raised five new bells into the tower. They were cast by McShane Company. The tower’s four-sided clock was installed in 1888. Atop the steeple, the twenty-four-foot tall cross weighs over a ton.

By John P. Walsh

The story is told that if you can hear the five 2-to-6-ton bells peel from the 290-feet-tall tower of St. Michael Church you live in Chicago’s Old Town. Yet it depends on which way the wind is blowing.  

St. Michael Church is one of Chicago’s oldest parishes and church buildings. It was founded by German Catholics in 1852. From their arrival in the 1830s and 1840s until World War I, German immigrants of all faiths made up Chicago’s most numerous nationality.

German immigrants soon migrated out of downtown Chicago and about two miles north to North Avenue. The east-west thoroughfare became known as “German Broadway.”

This European immigrant community expanded to eventually settle a four-mile square area that was called “North Town.” St. Michael Church was situated in the virtual center of North Town on land donated by successful German-born Chicago businessman and brewer Michael Diversey (1810-1869). Diversey had immigrated to the United States in the 1830s from Saarland in western Germany.

Michael Diversey
St. Michael Church stands on land donated expressly for the purpose of building it by successful German-American brewer Michael Diversey (1810-1869). Diversey emigrated from Germany in 1830, and by 1844 he was a Chicago alderman. The church is named after the wealthy beer maker’s patron saint, St Michael the Archangel, whose limestone figure stands in the high niche on the façade (see photograph below). Diversey’s so-called Chicago Brewery, first established in Chicago in 1839, grew to become one of the most extensive establishments of its kind in the West.

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The church building is built of red brick with limestone trim in the Romanesque style. Construction started in 1866 and was finished three years later. In 1871 the new building was virtually destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire along with its North Town neighborhood. Only the church’s exterior walls remained. Using these existing walls, the fire-gutted St. Michael Church was rebuilt and rededicated in 1873. Ashes from that infamous conflagration can still be seen in the church’s basement.

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Gabled three-portal main entrance was added to the façade in 1913 by a Chicago architect. The architectural design harkens back to the cathedrals of Europe.

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Main altar at one end of a 190-foot central nave.

St Michael Church, interior.
St. Michael Church, Chicago, 2013.
The High Altar

Dating from 1902, the Main Altar of the Angels is a cacophony of German-style wood carving, 2013.

In 1851 when St Michael was founded, Chicago’s total population was around 30,000 making it the twenty-fourth largest city in the United States.

Ten years later, in 1860, right before the outbreak of the American Civil War, Chicago’s population had nearly quadrupled and ranked in the nation’s top ten largest cities.

Chicago’s Catholic Church hierarchy in the middle of the nineteenth century was mostly Irish. These English-speaking bishops relied on religious orders to handle a tidal wave of non-English-speaking immigrants to Chicago, including the Germans.

In 1860, the St. Michael Church parish was entrusted to the Redemptorists, a religious order founded in 1748 in Italy. The Redemptorists with their German congregation built the St. Michael Church in Old Town that stands today. Over 170 years later, the Redemptorist order continues to shepherd the parish.

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A mosaic of Saint Michael the Archangel in the floor at the entrance of the church. “Archangel” is a title that signifies he is the leader of all God’s angels. 

The mosaic of the patron angel in the floor starts the church’s 190-foot-long nave. It is one of the many religious images—others in stone, wood and paint—that constitutes the interior and exterior decoration of  St. Michael Church.

St. Michael the Archangel is mentioned four times in the Bible: twice in the Book of Daniel and in the Epistle of Jude and the Book of Revelation. In the Book of Daniel, St. Michael the archangel helps the prophet Daniel and is linked to the “end times” of the world. In the Epistle of Jude, St. Michael the archangel guards the tombs of Eve and Moses and combats Satan to protect these holy sites.

In the Book of Revelation St. Michael and his angels do battle with the “dragon.” In addition to being charged with expelling Satan from Heaven (as depicted in the retable), St. Michael is charged with the care of all departed souls to introduce them to the holy light. St. Michael the Archangel is the patron saint of soldiers, police, and doctors.

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Detail of the Main Altar retable depicts St. Michael the archangel in the traditional iconography of armor with sword and shield casting Satan out of Heaven by God’s command. St. Michael the Archangel is the patron saint of soldiers, police, and doctors.

The spacious, airy, and dramatic church sanctuary today looks basically as it did by 1902. The motivation for the church’s extensive redecoration in 1902 was its Golden Jubilee as well as one expression of the parishioners’ decided prosperity by the later 1890s.

Some Stained Glass

Created and installed by Mayer & Company of Munich for St. Michael Church’s Golden Jubilee in 1902, the tall and thin stained glass windows —the fourth set of windows to be installed into architect August Walbaum’s original design— depicted Biblical and other scenes. The window’s artistic technique drew upon centuries of European craft and design – and were recently cleaned in 2012.

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Annunciation of Jesus to Mary Window (Luke 1: 26-38). Mary’s virginal conception of Jesus is stated explicitly in verses 34-35. In Hebrew her name, Miryām, means “exalted one.”

In that Jubilee year, the stained glass was installed along with the 56-foot-high carved wood retable of the High (or main) Altar of the Angels. Though there are five altars in St. Michael Church, the main altar is the most spectacular, drawing the eye forward and upward from practically anywhere in the church. Crowning this painted construct—which is so heavy that it required a new local foundation to be dug for it—is the figure of St. Michael the Archangel described in the Book of Revelation. The angel is garbed in his panzer (“armor”) running rebellious angels out of heaven. St. Michael is flanked by the archangels Gabriel and Raphael. Nine choirs of angels and the saints Peter and Paul are also depicted in wood. Smaller human figures depict the four evangelists identified by their Christian symbols—specifically, the Winged Man (Matthew), Winged Lion (Mark), Winged Ox (Luke) and Eagle (John). All five altars were made by E. Hackner Company of La Crosse, Wisconsin, an early twentieth century designer, manufacturer and importer of artistic ecclesiastic furnishings.

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Annunciation window (detail), 1902, Franz Mayer & Co. of Munich. St. Michael Church, Chicago, 2013.

Annunciation Window (Detail). The angel Gabriel’s greeting, “Hail, full of grace,” is a greeting that is full of peace, joy and wisdom. Mary is the object of God’s grace and favor and is shown to be chosen for a long time past. The depiction of lilies, whether in the angel’s hand or arranged into a bouquet by Mary’s side, is traditional imagery for purity.

In 1869 the St. Michael Church building cost over $130,000 to build which is approximately $2.65 million today. After the fire the repairs in 1872 cost an additional $40,000 plus unknown amounts of insurance money–or upwards of $700,000 today. Reconstruction did not include the stained glass windows which were installed in 1902. For a history of the stained glass in St. Michael church go to: https://johnpwalshblog.com/2016/05/10/angels-in-stained-glass-1902-complete-st-michael-church-in-old-town-chicago/.

Anointing of Jesus by Mary Magdalene (detail), 1902, Franz Mayer & Co. of Munich. St. Michael Church, Chicago, 2016.

Anointing of Jesus by Mary Magdalene at Bethany Window. The anointing of Jesus in Bethany by the sinful woman, traditionally the Magdalene. Though the story varies in certain details, all four gospels relate the anointing set in a house for a meal and a woman who pours expensive ointment on Jesus to which someone objects. In regard to the ointment, Mark’s account (14:3) records that it is the purest of spikenard which was very expensive costing over a year’s wages (Mark 14:5). Luke’s gospel speaks of Jesus’ feet being anointed by a woman who had been sinful all her life and who was crying (7:38). As her tears fall on the feet of Jesus, she kissed and wiped his feet with her hair. The iconography of the woman’s actions in the Gospels has traditionally been associated with Mary Magdalene though none of the biblical texts specify her as the story’s subject.

In 2020, the spikenard plant is part of Pope Francis’s coat of arms. He uses the image of the plant as does the Latin American church, as a symbol for St. Joseph.

Spikenard was grown in India, China, and Nepal and known in ancient Rome where it was used as a cooking agent. By the time of Jesus, in the early Roman Empire, spikenard was used primarily in perfume.

Coat of Arms of Pope Francis (2013-). According to the Vatican, the image of the plant to the right of the star on the blue background is spikenard and represents St. Joseph.

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Let the Little Children Come to Me Window. In Jesus’s public ministry, crowds often followed and pressed in upon him and his disciples. Jesus’s famous words, “Let the little children come to me,” are cited in all three synoptic gospels: Matthew 19:14, Mark 10:14 and Luke 18:16. When the people’s children were brought to the miracle worker and teacher -even their infants- they wanted him to lay his hands on them and bless them. The disciples rebuked them and Jesus became “indiginant” as he said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.”

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Sacred Heart Window. The first of four great visions in which Jesus Christ revealed his Sacred Heart to French nun St. Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647-1690) took place on December 27, 1673 in her Visitation convent in Paray-le-Monial in Burgundy France. In each of these visions Christ revealed messages that the young saint was to communicate. The greatest of all the visions took place in 1676. Before the Tabernacle on the altar that exposed the Eucharist, Jesus said: “Behold this Heart which has so loved mankind, that it has spared nothing, even to exhausting and consuming itself in order to demonstrate and prove its love for them.” St. Margaret Mary was ordered by her confessor, St. Claude de la Colombière, a Jesuit priest, to write down all her visions. Afterwards, the saint suffered great persecutions from the Church and others for these visions until she fell ill and died in 1690 at 43 years old. She was beatified in 1864 and canonized in 1920.

As with other American church building adaptations of earlier European architectural styles, the use of Romanesque rounded arches and corbels accentuated the use of Gothic-style glass in Chicago’s Old Town Roman Catholic church.

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Original Pulpit.

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Ceiling mural. St. Michael Church, Chicago, 2013.

Central nave ceiling mural includes symbolic depictions of the four evangelists: Winged Man (Matthew); Winged Lion (Mark); Winged Ox (Luke); Eagle (John).

Its filigree evokes medieval illuminated manuscripts and perhaps is inspired by a scene painted in the 15th century in the dome of The Basilica of St Mark in Venice.

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Pietà, copy of a 16th-century Swabian-style artwork made around 1913.

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Pieta. St. Michael Church, Chicago, 2013.
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Sacred Heart altar, 2013.

The Sacred Heart side altar (east nave). In addition to the central statue of Christ are those depicting Redemptorist Order founder, St. Alphonsus Liguori (Italian, 1696-1787) and Discalced Carmelite Order founder, St. Teresa of Avila (Spanish, 1515-1582).


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St. Joseph altar (west nave) with a mural of Redemptorists before Christ’s Heavenly throne. At right in the foreground, a wood confessional box. The founder of the Redemptorists, Italian-born St. Alphonsus Liguori, was highly educated and spent much of his life in the confessional as a home missionary to his city of Naples, Italy, among the ordinary people.

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Side altar honors Mary, Mother of Perpetual Help whose image was important to Saint Alphonsus, founder of the Redemptorists who were the religious order pastors of St. Michael Church from 1860. Pope Pius IX (1792 – 1878) gave this specific icon to the Chicago Redemptorists in 1865. After the Great Fire, it was picked out of the charred embers. Having survived intact in the rubble, it was taken as a sign to rebuild the church building and later set the icon into this German Baroque-style retable.

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Two of the 14 traditional Stations of the Cross. The traditional Stations of the Cross that are in Church-wide use were composed by St. Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1787) in 1761. St. Alphonsus was made a bishop in 1762, Doctor of the Church in 1871, and founded the Redemptorists in 1732. His stations are taken from the Gospels where the footsteps of Christ’s passion are chronicled and were venerated by the first Christians. St. Alphonsus Liguori’s stations are classic for their ability to stir the heart towards prayer, humility, and repentance. St. Alphonsus was born in 1696 in Naples, Italy and lived to be 90 years old. After an early career in law, St. Alphonsus heard the voice of Jesus calling him and became a priest in 1726. His parents were devout Catholics but not pleased by their lawyer son’s decision mainly because the clergy at the time was notoriously corrupt. In 1748 he published Moral Theology that received papal approbation and became an immediate success though it reflected some of the pastoral laxity of the Church in the 18th century which has remained controversial.

The history of St. Michael Church is a study in the rise of the German population to a dominant position in a new American city that was itself rising as the City of the Century. Chicago in less than 50 years developed out of an onion swamp into the second most populated city in the United States.

Between 1874 and following World War I, Chicago’s rapid emergence on the world stage was accompanied by Deutschtum (or “Germanness”) in its culture.

While Deutschtum appeared to be invincible, the Kaiser’s defeat in 1918 in the European war signaled the beginning of the end for German cultural dominance in Chicago. Their cultural hegemony in Chicago was virtually completely dismantled by the start of World War II.

Sources:
G. Lane and A. Kezys, Chicago Churches and Synogogues.
P. d’A Jones and M.G. Holli, Ethnic Chicago.
D.A. Pacyga and E. Skerrett, Chicago, City of Neighborhoods.
D. McNamara, Heavenly City.
The Saints: A Concise Biographical Dictionary, edited by John Coulson, Guild Press, New York, 1957.
The New American Bible, Catholic Book Publishing Corp, New York, 1993.
Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Edition, Doubleday, New York, 1997.
The Jerome Biblical Commentary, edited by Raymond E. Brown, S.S., Joseph a Fitzmyer, S.J., and Roland E. Murphy, O. Carm., 1982.
St. Michael Church website.
https://iamjesus.net/traditional-stations-of-the-cross/https://www.emporis.com/buildings/136851/st-michael-church-chicago-il-usa

Photographs taken by author February 2013; May 2016; and June 2022.

More of St. Michael Church in Old Town, Chicago? Please see:

Architecture & Design Photography: FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT (1867-1959). Fallingwater, 1935, Mill Run, Pennsylvania. (1 Photo & 2 Videos).

FEATURE image: Fallingwater, Frank Lloyd Wright, Mill Run, Pennsylvania. March 2010. Author’s photograph.

Fallingwater is a house designed in 1935 by American architect Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959). It is in the Laurel Highlands of southwest Pennsylvania, about 70 miles away from downtown Pittsburgh.

The house was intended as a weekend retreat for the owners of a Pittsburgh department store. It is built partly over a waterfall on Bear Run, a tributary of the Youghiogheny River, in the Appalachians.

The photographs and videos were taken in March 2010.

Approach to the house.

Photograph, videos & text: