FEATURE image: FISHER BUILDING, 343 S. Dearborn Street, view from the south. Author’s photograph, December 2017.
The success of the Reliance Building at 32 N. State Street built by Daniel H. Burnham (1846-1912) and John Wellborn Root (1850-1891) in 1890-91 and Burnham & Co. in 1894-95 led directly to the construction of the Fisher Building in 1895.
The Fisher Building was also designed for Burnham & Co. by Charles B. Atwood (1849-1895). The Fisher Building was three stories taller than the Reliance Building and possessed even more flamboyant Gothic detailing as it is sheathed in golden terra cotta on its visible façades.
The Fisher Building’s façade with its depictions of sea creatures in homage to the building’s namesake, Lucius G. Fisher (1843-1916), an Illinois paper company magnate and architect, was painstakingly restored and adapted for contemporary use in 2001. The rectangular prism with its Gothicized ornamentation sits on 25-foot piles under spread foundations engineered by Edward Clapp Shankland (1854-1924).
In the mid 1890’s, the skyscraper was erected quickly with pride. The steel frame’s first 13 stories were erected in two weeks. The building has oriel windows and engaged colonettes at its corner piers. In 1907, a 20-story addition was built to the north by architect Peter J. Weber with Shankland also as structural engineer.
AIA Guide to Chicago, 2nd Edition, Alice Sinkevitch, Harcourt, Inc., Orlando, 2004, pps. 62-63.
The Sky’s The Limit: A Century of Chicago Skyscrapers, Jane H. Clarke, Pauline A. Saliga, John Zukowsky, New York: Rizzoli, 1990, pps. 33-35.
Chicago’s Famous Buildings, 5th Edition, Franze Schulze and Kevin Harrington, The University of Chicago Press, 2003, pp. 82-83.
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, pps. 37 and 164-65.
FEATURE Image: 124 Scottswood Road, Riverside, Illinois, 1871, by William LeBaron Jenney (1832-1907). There is a full description of this house in the post below.
Text & photographs by John P. Walsh.
The location of today’s Riverside, Illinois, has been an active and important historical area since before the 17th century. It was part of an active trading route and the center for Native American Indian settlements – The Green Bay, Barry Point, Portage Trails, and numerous smaller Indian trails, all passed through the area. It was only a couple of miles from the so-called Chicago Portage which connected Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River centuries prior to the building of the I&M Canal before 1850. French explorers Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet passed by Riverside in 1673 when they were shown the portage by Native Americans. The Chicago Portage is a National Historic Site because it opened the western continent to trade and settlement as well as became the key to the founding and development of Chicago, just 11 miles away.
Riverside was originally inhabited by the Illinois and Miami Indians. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries the Potawatomi became the dominant tribe together with the Chippewa and Ottawa and formed an alliance called the “Council of Three Fires.” These tribes lived on wild game and roots, but later adapted to farming, with fields of corn, beans, and squash.
During these many centuries, Indian burial grounds and encampments were located in Riverside on grounds besides the Des Plaines River and towards the east to today’s Fairbank Road.
The state of Illinois was founded in 1818. For the next 24 years, the Illinois volunteer army fought local native American tribes and forced them to sign treaties and migrate west of the Mississippi.
After the Indians were first forced off their land by treaty in the early 1800’s, brothers David and Barney Lawton (or Laughton) came to the area from Michigan and established an outpost in Riverside in 1827 or 1828. Into the 1840s Illinois was the edge of the wilderness. These fur traders chose the area for similar reasons that the Native Americans had – its proximity to the Chicago Portage and the convergence of established trails whose traffic made it conducive to a thriving trading business.
In July 1832 the U.S. Government sent General Winfield Scott (1786-1866) to help with the Black Hawk War that started in April of that year and ended in August. That short war also involved a young 23-year-old captain from New Salem, Illinois, named Abraham Lincoln. Upon leaving Chicago, Scott and his army camped in Riverside along the Des Plaines River for several days and then marched further west. Scottswood Road, one of Riverside’s primary residential arteries, is named after the general.
In 1831, the first white permanent settlers came to Lawtons’ Tavern in Aux Plaines (the name for Riverside then) and settled in the first houses west of Chicago. Once Gen. Scott’s military campaign was over, he returned to Chicago and dispersed the volunteers. Federal law required the state to have a standing army, so the state legislature passed a law requiring counties to form militia. In 1834, Cook County formed the first militia when Stephen Forbes, Cook County’s first sheriff, called up volunteers to Laughton Tavern. Over 1000 enterprising men assembled in Riverside and elected Jean Baptiste Beaubien (1787-1864) the first colonel of the Cook County Militia.
The first stage of modern transit development was the Southwest Plank Road (later Route 66) completed from Chicago to Riverside in 1849. The road, called Ogden Avenue today, was eventually extended to Naperville, Illinois. It was operated as a toll road whose proceeds went to the private concerns that built it. Toll amounts depended on whether the traveler was a four-horse vehicle or a single horse and rider. Since its installation, the plank road has been a successful endeavor as it was the only road through areas that were often inaccessible.
Commercial enterprises in this period included additional taverns that offered lodging and board for travelers and their horses. There was also a brewery and distillery.
Riverside was mostly wooded tracts and farmland until the Civil War when the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad built a rail line through the area in 1863. With the rail a group of businessmen in 1869 formed the Riverside Improvement Company and set out to develop “a perfect village in a perfect setting.”
These Riverside businessmen hired landscape architects Frederick Law Olmsted (1822-1903) and Calvert Vaux (1824-1895), who had previously designed Manhattan’s Central Park, to design one of America’s first planned suburban communities. Their innovative plan set a template for suburban community planning such as curvilinear streets and modern amenities. Their vision was to design a mostly rural community with the conveniences of urban life such as utilities and broad streets. Whereas these curvilinear streets were utilized to fit an expansive community into limited open space it was also inspired by the community’s relationship to its natural environment, particularly the curves of the abutting Des Plaines River.
The design of Riverside included important public spaces including a central square and park system that contained several large parks and scores of small triangular parks scattered through the village.
By 1871, Riverside had several larger homes, the water tower, and one of the country’s first multi-shop arcade buildings. There was a church, train depot, and grand hotel. Following the Chicago Fire in October 1871 there was a time of regional financial panic accompanied by frenzied renewed building. In the wake of Riverside Improvement Company going out of business, local Riverside residents came together to see Olmsted and Vaux’s design plan completed and built upon.
Riverside grew slowly in its first decades but by the 1920s and 1930s had doubled and tripled its population of mostly middle class and upper middle Chicago commuters. This bedroom community grew steadily until its peak in 1970 (10,357 residents). Since then, Riverside’s population has dropped slightly and leveled off to a lower growth number so that by 2020 there were nearly 9,300 residents. (See – https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/decennial-census.html – retrieved 3.3.23)
Since its incorporation as a village in 1875, Riverside also attracted increasing numbers of eminent architects to contribute to the diversity of Riverside’s historic architecture. These include Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959), William Le Baron Jenney (1832-1907), Charles Frederick Whittlesey (1867-1941), Joseph Lyman Silsbee (1848-1913), R. Harold Zook (1889-1949), Frederick Clarke Withers (1828-1901), Howard Van Doren Shaw (1869-1926), and William Eugene Drummond (1876-1948). Much of their work remains today evident in scores of historic landmark structures in Riverside.
The original Water Tower had a Gothic Revival wooden tank. The tower is accompanied by two round stone well houses built in 1898 and designed by George William Ashby. When the original tank was destroyed by fire in 1913, a steel tank was installed and the tower was raised 20 feet. It was topped by a canopy designed by William Mann.
A railroad through Riverside came in 1863, 6 years before the Olmsted/Vaux plan and 12 years before the village’s incorporation. William Le Baron Jenney designed the first depot in 1871. This main depot with open covered extensions on the south side of the tracks was connected by a tunnel to the north platform.
The view above shows the expansive tile roof-covered main entrance. The two large columns with variegated brick gives columns design and texture. There are many windows to allow natural light from its south exposure and a view of the tracks to the north.
Looking east, the orange-brick-colored main depot has open covered extensions for commuters to be protected from the elements during their wait outdoors for a train connection.
Looking west, a view of the train depot with one of its open covered extensions and peaked snow-covered tile roof. The northern platform is visible across the railroad tracks on the right. Author’s photograph taken in February 2023.
In 1891, the Village of Riverside and Riverside Township reached an agreement so that the village donated the land for a town hall and the township paid for its construction.
In 1893 the township authorized $15,000 for construction (about $500,000 today) and this picturesque and stately building, designed by George Ashby, was completed in 1895. The clock was added to the main tower in 1941.
The building is Richardsonian Romanesque at a time when that style, very popular in the 1880’s, had begun to wane among contemporary architects in preference for the Beaux-Arts.
There is a steeply pitched hipped roof with brick for the top floor and rough faced stone for the ground floor. The turret is polygonal and the windows are of various sizes on all three floors. There are many delicate design elements such as copper cornices, colonettes, stringcourses and dressed stone.
The Arcade Building is the first commercial building built in Riverside following Olmsted and Vaux’s plan and is associated with the village’s original developers, the Riverside Improvement Company.
The Arcade Building – a multi-color brick and limestone building with pointed arches and projecting cornices and stringcourses – is High Victorian Gothic. It was designed by architect Fredrick C. Withers, an associate of Olmsted and Vaux. With its mansard windows between tower pavilions, the simple building references the elaborate and decorative Second Empire architecture.
The church building was designed by Fredrick C. Withers who designed the Arcade Building at around the same time. Like that early commercial building the church is an amalgam of styles and forms, including Gothic Revival and Italianate.
The stone building has a series of pitched gable roofs that cover and form the transepts and chancel. The corner tower rises to a timber belfry with moldings and pointed arch openings whose original manual pull bell as well as modern chimes still mark the hours. Extensions to the left and right are mid-20th century additions done in harmony with the original design.
This clapboard Carpenter Gothic style house was designed as a model home for the Riverside Plan by that plan’s designer, Calvert Vaux. It is an example of East Coast architecture transplanted into the heart of the Midwest. The ground floor is higher than the second floor. The low-pitched roof is punctuated by a projecting porch with Gothic Revival carpentry supported by struts and a gabled roof.
Two other second floor porches are on the short sides of the building extending across that width above a ground-floor projecting bay. The clapboard sheathings are meticulously and variedly cut for decorative effects throughout the building’s exterior.
This neighboring pair of Queen Anne style homes are variations of the same building design. The buildings’ design shares a porch across the entire front, arched enclosed second floor porch, and front-facing attic windows. Both share the same kind of clapboard and shingle sheathing.
This house is set back from the road and built in 1869 which was the year that Olmsted and Vaux were commissioned to design the suburb. The Italianate-style house has tall windows and large brackets with feet and shoulders for their jambs and segmental points. The second-floor windows are met by a first-floor transomed window. A steeped pitched roof and complex massing is Gothic Revival. A subdued color palette blends into the natural surroundings. The porch veranda is original.
The above 1870 house is a T-shaped Gothic revival with the stem of the “T” facing the street. The stem is surrounded by a veranda whose porch columns are Italianate with Gothic style “carpenter” capitals. The tall windows and lintels are Italianate. The façade’s windows are under a hood molding and the attic has a small window with a pointed lintel. The T-stem’s pitched roof in the Gothic Revival style is slightly lower than the T-cross’s pitched roof behind it.
A frame clapboard and shingled 4-square cube from 1905. There is a front porch held up by four huge piers with ornamental moldings that cover expansive first-floor polygonal bay windows. Below the hipped roof are two center windows with round heads. The painted dark green and yellow mix is stately and blends into the nature setting.
The Queen Anne house from 1890 has a lot of windows. It is a basic cube with a gambrel roof with a wing that also has a gambrel roof. The front porch is covered on one side with a flared roof and on the other side with a pitched gable roof. The second floor has an open porch that looks over the Des Plaines River. The original clapboard and shingles have been covered on the first floor by later stucco.
Avery Coonley Estate, 1909, Frank Lloyd Wright.
What became the nationally-recognized Avery Coonley School was founded in 1906 to promote the progressive education theories of John Dewey (1859-1952). It was founded as The Cottage School by Queene Ferry Coonley (1874-1958) on her estate in Riverside, Illinois, for her 4-year-old daughter.
The school, which continues to thrive today, has occupied several structures in its history. This included a literal small cottage on the Coonley Estate in Riverside to larger buildings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1909. The school moved to Downers Grove in 1916 and, on a 11-acre campus there designed by landscape architect Jens Jensen (1860-1951), became the Avery Coonley School in 1929.
This section of Wright’s 1909 design is set back well off the street and mostly hidden by trees. Behind an iron fence, it is difficult for the public to perceive the full extent of the estate. Wright’s design begins at the street with a low stone urn.
On June 11, 1978, the courtyard’s swimming pool heater exploded and started a fire. The fire destroyed the main house’s living room and a bedroom. The exterior was later meticulously restored to its original appearance which included the school’s stucco walls, simple board trim and multi-color tile façade, all beneath a broad, tiled, hipped roof. At the time of the restoration the swimming pool was re-converted to its original function as a lily pond.
A free-standing L-shaped domestic structure with a broad hipped roof, the house was added sometime after 1909. Within its setting in the highly-designed suburb of Riverside, this Prairie style house sets a template and direction for much of what would be 20th century suburban development across the country.
This is the main block of the Avery Coonley estate. The house is the epitome of the Prairie School style of broad horizontals, here using stucco boards, tile and glass beneath a low hipped roof. Wright’s design starts at the street with the low stone urn.
The basic plan of the playhouse is a T-shaped building with the higher T-stem to the street. A simple stucco structure, the playhouse’s flat roof and lower wings provide the broad horizontality of the Prairie style. The flat roof of the T-stem extends over three elongated windows while the lower wings have clerestory windows.
Drummond began his career working for architect Louis Sullivan (1856-1924). Later, working for Frank Lloyd Wright, Drummond became the chief draftsman for many of Wright’s well-known commissions. In 1912 Drummond went into partnership with Louis Guenzel who had been a draftsman for Dankmar Adler (1844-1900) and Louis Sullivan (1856-1924).
The house is a one story hipped roofed cube or block with a broad brow of stucco soffits with eaves. The original casement windows include three in the front for the living room with geometric Prairie patterns. The lower portion of the façade is board siding and the top section is stucco.
The simple stone house in an English country cottage style was built in 1897. It has diamond-patterned casement windows and a single half-timbered gable poking out of a gambrel roof. The timber entrance porch that abuts stone achieves an overall craftsman effect.
Attributed to William LeBaron Jenney, the house is an early building in Riverside. It is a fusion of two styles – the Stick Style and Gothic Revival. The carpentry is solidly masterful. The roof has a low pitch and is punctuated with a massive chimney, dormers and gables with filets, spars and kingposts. The spurs or brackets supporting the overhanging eaves rest on boards intersecting with the clapboard. There is a broad veranda with turned posts supporting a lintel that supports small pointed arches with struts. The porch railing has tightly aligned balusters extending to a below-porch skirt with complementary cut-out patterns. The veranda roof extends over the angled main entrance to become a porte-cochère for the driveway.
In the Gothic Revival style, the design and board-and-batten construction of the house is grand and appealing. With steeply pitched roofs, there are several gabled wings of varying distances and directional faces from the building’s core. Windows include long tabernacle windows and others with more elaborate extending jerkinhead roofs that are supported by boards incised with decorative cuts. There are pointed head windows on the second floor over the main entrance while the veranda stretches across two sides of the house supported by slope cut square posts with milled brackets. These and other rare trim and other details, including two massive chimneys, have survived in this house that is today over 150 years old.
A Guide to Chicago’s Historic Suburbs on Wheels and on Foot, Ira J. Bach, Swallow Press/Ohio University Press, 1981, pp. 664-679.
FEATURE image: 562 Keystone Avenue, River Forest, Illinois, is a house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1909. It is an excellent example of Wright’s mature Prairie style including its original Prairie-style glass.
River Forest, Illinois is a suburb of Chicago in Cook County. River Forest is perhaps best known for its diversity of 19th and early 20th century American residential architecture. House designs and styles include those by Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959) and others in the Prairie School. Nestled near the Des Plaines River to the west, along heritage lands of the Menominee, Chippewa and, later, Potowatomi Native American tribes, today River Forest is an affluent residential suburb closely tied to its adjacent neighbor to the east, the suburb of Oak Park, Illinois. These communities share several affinities including its high school, namely, Oak Park and River Forest High School that is in Oak Park and was founded in 1871. River Forest’s population today approaches 12,000 residents and the suburb is home of two universities, including Dominican University founded in 1848 and Concordia University Chicago founded in 1864. River Forest’s train station is on Metra’s Union Pacific/West Line with service into nearby downtown Chicago, about 12 miles away.
These are my photographs of some of the residential architectural highlights to be seen in River Forest and were taken in June 2022.
INTERLUDE: OTHER PERIOD HOMES in RIVER FOREST, ILLINOIS.
A Guide to Chicago’s Historic Suburbs on Wheels and on Foot, Ira J. Bach, Swallow Press/Ohio University Press, 1981, pp. 605-622.
FEATURED image: Manuscript 16th century (detail): Queen consort Anne of Brittany (1477-1514) receiving a Book of Hours from her Dominican confessor, Antoine Dufour (d.1509). Montfort L’Amaury returned to the crown of France after Anne of Brittany married Charles VIII “the Affable” (1470-1498) in 1491.
At the north edge of the Rambouillet forest the city of Montfort L’Amaury spreads along the restored ruins of its ancient fortified castle. Founded under the Capetian kings, the city owes its fame to Simon de Montfort (1208-1265), Anne de Bretagne (1477-1514), the Valois royal dynasty, and Henry IV (1553-1610). Its monuments begin in the 11th century, stretch towards exceptional Renaissance stained-glass windows and half-timbered houses as its civilization has attracted writers, artists, and musicians to live there. This would include the house of Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) called Le Belvédère where he lived from 1921 until his death and where we were invited to sit at, and play, the piano where Ravel composed Boléro. It was in March 2002 during a visit to Paris and the Île-de France that we ventured through Yvelines by train to Montfort-L’Amaury for a day trip which included a memorable déjeuner in a restaurant that has since disappeared.
The interior of Saint Pierre church is bright and intimate. Like other French monuments, today’s Saint-Pierre was completed over many centuries. Its origin is in the 11th century. A notable reconstruction of the edifice began in the late 15th century by initiative of Queen Consort, Anne of Bretagne. There is a vast ambulatory around both sides of the nave. Since 1840, the church has been an historic monument because of its unique ensemble of 37 stained glass windows. The oldest date from the 1540s and 1570s. The others were installed in the late16th century. That ecclesial project was started by Catherine de Medicis (1519-1589) in 1562. The windows were installed during the time of the Council of Trent (1545-1563) and some of the glass commemorates that event. As none of the glasswork is signed, it is not known whether its painters are from Montfort L’Amaury or elsewhere.
The role of Montfort l’Amaury as a town began to develop in the High Middle Ages when Capetian king, Robert II (976-1031), built a castle there in the forest of Yvelines which was then a royal prerogative. William of Hainaut built the castle whose walls were finished around 1050. Hugues Bardoule was captain of the castle and thus a later 16th century gateway is named after him. It is in the 11th century that L’Église Saint-Pierre and L’Église Saint Laurent begin to be built. Robert II was married three times, and excommunicated by the Catholic Church – one of the early examples of French royals who married as they wished.
In the twelfth century, Bertrade de Montfort (1070-1117), after giving birth to a boy who would become King of Jerusalem, left her husband, the Duke of Anjou, Fulk IV (1043-1109) in 1092. She married the king of France, Philip I “the Amorous” whose spouse, Bertha of Holland, was also still living.
Philip was so in love with Bertrade that he refused to leave her even when threatened and finally excommunicated by Pope Urban II (1035-1099) in 1095. Because of his excommunication Philip was prevented from taking part in the First Crusade (1096-1099).
The ramparts and castle were destroyed by the English during the Hundred Years’ War in the 15th century. After the battle of Agincourt in 1419, the English occupied the French domain and it was during this time that the castle at Montfort was destroyed. The two rebuilt towers were named for Anne of Brittany after she assisted in the castle’s restoration. From this height, the fort overlooked the old Roman road from Beauvais to Chartres.
Also from this place, troops assembled at Montfort L’Amaury in the 12th century as Amaury III raised lords and knights to fight alongside Louis VI (1081-1137) against the Emperor of Germany. Simon IV fought alongside Philippe II Auguste (1165-1223) against the English as well as to the Crusades in the Middle East and the Albigensian Crusade in southern France. The Montforts distinguished themselves especially in this crusade against the Cathars.
At the beginning of the Third Crusade (1189-1192), not wanted by King Philippe Auguste (1165-1223), the future Louis VIII “the Lion” (1187-1226) was looking for companions. Simon IV, Lord of Montfort (1175-1218), embarked on the crusade where victory was equalled by its terror.
In January 1238, Montfort married Eleanor of England, daughter of King John and Isabella of Angoulême and sister of English King Henry III. While this marriage took place with the king’s approval, the act itself was performed secretly and without consulting the great barons. Eleanor had previously been married and swore a vow of perpetual widowhood after her husband died. This vow was broken when she married Montfort and, for that reason, the Archbishop of Canterbury condemned it. The English nobles protested the marriage of the king’s sister to a foreigner who was only of modest rank. Most notably, Richard, 1st Earl of Cornwell, the king’s and Eleanor’s brother, rose up in revolt over the marriage. King Henry III eventually bought off his brother and peace was restored. The marriage brought property to Montfort and when a child was born of the union in late 1238, he was baptized Henry, in honor of his uncle, the king. In February 1239, Montfort was finally invested as Earl of Leicester where he acted as the king’s advisor and became godfather to Henry’s eldest son, Edward, who became King Edward I (“Longshanks”).
From Montfort L’Amaury, the lords continued to assist the French kings in the crusades. After John I, only a daughter allowed the continuity of the Montfort family. Beatrice d’Albidon married Robert, Count of Dreux. The Comté de Montfort was related to the Duchy of Brittany following the marriage of Yolande de Dreux-Montfort (1263-1330) with Arthur II of Brittany (1261-1312) in 1294. It was in the late 13th century that Monfort established a public school in 1298.
Montfort returned to the crown of France after Anne of Brittany married Charles VIII “the Affable” (1470-1498) in 1491. The marriage contract stipulated a union of France and Brittany. If the queen were to die first and childless, the king would inherit all her property. Also in their pre-nuptial agreement, if Charles VIII died first Anne was to marry his successor. This was his cousin, the handsome and seductive Louis XII (1462-1515). By 1550, Brittany and the French Crown finally united under a single sovereign, Henry II (1519-1559).
This union of Brittany and France was beneficial to Montfort as the union with Brittany only was not particularly. In this period the castle ruins were restored and there was construction of a notable staircase to be seen today. The cemetery was relocated outside the city walls. Churches were rebuilt. Meanwhile, Montfort maintained a semi-autonomy from the crown of France.
Under the Valois the Yvelines region of which Montfort is a central part received royal favor. Catherine de Medici (1519-1589) was named the Lady of Montfort in 1561. When the Wars of Religion broke out (1562-1598), the king, Charles IX (1550-1574), offered to the city home-rule in exchange for the reconstruction of its medieval ramparts at his expense. At the end of these wars, the passage of the future king, Henry IV (1553-1610) on the road that led him to Paris to take power, allowed Montfort L’Amaury to prove its loyalty to the new king. Montfort provided Henry Navarre with weapons and later obtained special rights in exchange. During the reigns of the first two Bourbon kings of France, Henry IV and Louis XIII (1601-1643), there are frequent royal visits to Montfort L’Amaury.
A canonized Catholic saint among the Valois- Joan of Valois (1464 – 1505), sister of Charles VIII, and betrothed of Louis XII.
The second daughter of Louis XI (1423-1483) and Charlotte of Savoy (1411-1483), Joan of Valois was a fleeting Queen of France as the wife of King Louis XII following the death of her brother, King Charles VIII. Her marriage was soon annulled so that Louis could, as pre-arranged by contract, marry Charles VIII’s widow, Anne of Brittany.
Joan’s demeanor was characterized by an accepting and placid countenance. When she retired from court politics to become Duchess of Berry, the former Queen of France remarked: “If so it is to be, praised be the Lord.”
In Bourges, Joan of Valois founded a monastic order of sisters and served them as their abbess. In terms of her personality, Joan could be autocratic as an administrator of her nuns, which may have been a vestige of her former high-born role. Joan was canonized in May 1950, almost 450 years after her death.
Le Belvédère: the House of Maurice Ravel from 1921 to his death in 1937 at Montfort L’Amaury.
Jean Anouilh (1910-1987) was a French dramatist who lived in Montfort-L’Amaury in France. Anouilh’s 1944 play, Antigone, was an adaptation play of Sophocles’ play of the same name. The 34-year-old Anouilh’s work was seen as an attack on the Vichy government of Marshal Pétain (1856-1951) in World War II.
Anouiih also wrote Becket. The original French play is titled Becket ou l‘Honneur de Dieu. It was staged in Paris at the Théâtre Montparnasse-Gaston Baty in October 1959 and directed by Anouilh. The play dramatizes historical martyr and Catholic saint Thomas Becket (1120-1170), the Archbishop of Canterbury In England, whose feast day is December 29.
Becket was the best friend to younger King Henry II of England. Cunning and proud, vulnerable and lonely, pent-up King Henry is interested in hunting and women, and not necessarily in that order. Henry is bored with political affairs and as king has his one friend, Thomas Becket, who is his companion in vice and debauchery.
Becket serves his king loyally, without compromise. Wanting to strengthen his power over the Church in England and believing his idea to be an excellent one, Henry appoints Becket as chancellor of England and he later becomes Archbishop of Canterbury. But nothing goes as planned. Becket, on his path to sainthood, finds he cannot serve both king and God.
For Henry the arrangement is one of disillusionment, resentment, hatred, and torn friendship – and, later, repentance. For Becket it is a tale of courage, renunciation, and honor as the archbishop seeks to defend church freedom in England against an ambitious secular power. Such conflict provokes Becket’s murder by the king’s knights in the archbishop’s own cathedral.
Anouilh’s Becket became an international sensation. Successive productions in English translation were mounted in London (starring Christopher Plummer and Eric Porter) and in New York City (starring Laurence Olivier and Anthony Quinn). In 1964 Becket became a major motion picture starring Richard Burton and Peter O’Toole which won the Academy Award for Best Screenplay.
Montfort L’Amaury de l’an mil à nos jours, Marie-Huguette Hadrot, Paris: Somogy Editions d’Art, 2002.
Montfort-L’Amaury, Le Syndicat d’Initiative des Fêtes et des Arts de Montfort-L’Amaury et ses Environs, 1972.
Montfort-L’Amaury Les Verrières de L’Eglise Paroissiale Saint-Pierre(Yvelines), Laurence de Finance and Marie-Huguette Hadrot, Paris: Centre de Documentation du Patrimoine, 1994.
FEATURE image: Flanders House (1841), 24044 Main Street, Plainfield, Illinois. See a fuller description below.
Jason and Lucy Flanders House, 1841, Plainfield, Illinois.
Plainfield was settled at the end of the 1820’s when James Walker constructed a sawmill on the DuPage River. The mill attracted settlers to the region and created Will County’s first permanent community. Located about halfway on the Chicago-Ottawa stagecoach line, Plainfield developed commercially, including a booming lumber trade. Jason and Lucy Flanders married in Lowell, Massachusetts, in 1833 (they were both 23 years old). Jason Flanders, born in Vermont, had worked in Boston, Massachusetts since 1830. Lucy Ann Clark Flanders was born in New Hampshire. The Flanders arrived into Will County in 1833 and after seven years of farming, moved to Plainfield in 1840. The Flanders had six children.
Built in 1841, Flanders House exhibits characteristics of both the Federal and Greek revival styles. This includes symmetrically arranged windows and a central entrance overlaid by a porch of the 1920’s. Also known as Mapleview Farm and Bragaw-Klomhaus House, The Flanders’ Place has had only a handful of owners in its 180-year history. There is no record of the house ever being used for any non-residential purpose though it may have served in a commercial capacity, perhaps serving travelers on the Dr. Temple Stage Line Chicago-Ottawa route.
The two-story, side gabled rectangular building is approximately 30 x 40 feet in dimension and with later additions. Jason Flanders built the house with hewn logs and sided it with walnut, its original siding hidden by later exterior finishes. The house was finished on the inside also with walnut. Walnut was abundant in the Plainfield area which may explain partly why the Flanders did not hesitate to whitewash the house exterior.
Jason Flanders was the town constable (Plainfield’s first) and at his death had amassed many hundreds of acres of land. The Flanders and their descendants retained control of the property until 1974. While it is recorded that Jason Flanders was a Methodist, his late-20th-century descendant sold the house to a Lutheran church for use as a parsonage. It was sold again in the early 1990s and restored to emulate its original appearance. Flanders House remains one the oldest extant houses in Plainfield, Illinois, today.
FEATURE image: Exterior of Sts. Volodymyr and Olha Church with its gold domes. The tradition-minded parish, founded in early 1970s, serves a busy urban community.
The huge mosaic over the main entrance memorializes the conversion of the Ukrainians to Christianity in 988 by St. Volodymyr of Kyiv or Vladimir of Kiev (957-1015). The mosaic was executed by Hordynsky, Makarenko, and Baransky. The church is built in the modern Byzantine style.
In addition to the colorful and bright mosaic, the upward angle and its perspective adds to the feeling of entering into a sacred space. Along with the archways and curve of the main golden dome, the eye focuses on the artwork’s bright figures.
Who are Sts. Volodymyr and Olha?Their little-known story – which is important to the Ukrainian people and pivotal to European history – is told in some detail immediately follows these photographs.
A beautiful outdoor garden with the residential streets of Ukrainian Village as its background is the setting for the larger-than-life-sized statue of Major Archbishop Josyf Slipyj (1892-1984). He was made a cardinal by Pope Paul VI in 1965 and is a “Confessor of the Faith.” The Founder of the parish, Slipyj blessed the new church building’s cornerstone. Supporting the Ukrainian state and refusing to convert to Russian Orthodoxy, he was continously imprisoned by the Soviet authorities from 1945 to 1963. Through the intervention of St. Pope John XXIII and U.S. President John F. Kennedy, Josyf Slipj was released by Nikita Khrushchev in early 1963 and participated in the Second Vatican Council.Josyf Slipyj died in Rome in 1984 and his cause for canonization as a saint of the Catholic Church has been introduced at the Vatican.
Parishioners praying and going to Communion at Sunday Mass.
With the artists’ skills, the bright colors and evocative forms of the artwork surround churchgoers as they move toward the altar at Communion during the Divine Liturgy.
The colorful and vibrant decorations that include paintings, carvings, vestments, books, stained glass, and more, are integral to the parish’s liturgy and life.
Two women sit before icons of Sts. Volodymyr and Olha and the Blessed Virgin.
Every nook and cranny of the church is decorated with colorful images from religious and Catholic Ukrainian history. The natural light streaking down from the main dome’s windows adds a heavenly glow.
Two female haloed saints in a modern art style are marked by their unique attire as one holds an unfurled scroll with words in Ukrainian. Christianity arrived into Ukraine by way of the Greco-Byzantine world over 1000 years ago.
A painting of the dormition of Mary is emphasized by, above, an icon of Mary and the child Jesus. Colors, forms, and subject matter are very high quality and soft and peaceful making them pleasant to look at and pray with.
The wood carvings and full-length portrait icons are gorgeous. The fresh flower arrangements further brighten the scene.
Visitors are joined by worshippers lighting candles and praying before a large icon of Mary and the child Jesus.
The main altar gate of carved wood with icons and gold curtain. The Last Supper in center above.
Residents and (below) a residence’s porch flower garden in Ukrainian Village near Sts. Volodymyr and Olha Church in Chicago.
Stained glass, paintings, banners, and chandelier blend together and provide a more complete picture of people and episodes of the faith. North wall and ceiling.
High above the sanctuary is a magnificent view of the main dome painted in bright colors with the figure of Christ Pantocrator. Christ gives his blessing as he holds an open book with the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet: alpha and omega. It signifies one of Christ as the Son of God’s titles in the New Testament: “I am the beginning and the end” (Revelation, 21:6, 22:13).
Ukrainian Village is a neighborhood first settled by Ukrainian immigrants in the 1890’s. It is about 4 miles to the northwest from downtown Chicago.
Who are Sts. Volodymyr and Olha?
St. Volodymyr is the apostle to proto-Russian and Russian Christianity. He was the great prince of Ukraine in Kiev. It was ruled by the Varangians, a barbarous Viking tribe from Scandinavia – and Volodymyr (or Vladimir) of Kiev was as barbarous as any of them.
In 988, when Volodymyr was about 31 years old, he was converted to Christianity. The missionaries came from the Byzantine world at Constantinople. The results were immediate: Ukraine was now in close contact with the Byzantine world to the south and its Christian church under the pope.
Volodymyr married the daughter of the Byzantine emperor, Basil II (957-1025). But it was Volodymyr’s personal embrace of the Christian faith that infused the Ukrainian people with their deep and abiding faith. Having received baptism, he set out to be a Christian and not corrupted by money and power that proved a serious temptation for many church and state leaders in the Dark Ages.
Volodymyr used his temporal powers to evangelize the people – his personal example his greatest asset to its success. Though he encouraged various activities and programs in the lives of the people – including the multi-faceted work of Greek missionaries – it was his sincere, transparent, and fundamental reform of his own life that by far had the greatest impact on the Ukrainian people. More than one thousand years after his rule, Volodymyr is still recalled as a generous, humble and devout soul.
As a Christian ruler Volodymyr had doubts about inflicting the death penalty. Though assured by his Byzantine church counselors that his Catholic faith allowed him to follow the law which allowed for it, Volodymyr corrected them and said that that sort of reasoning was not satisfactory to his faith.
Volodymyr, the great prince of Kiev, died a poor man – not only various from his origin but, again, that of many of the ecclesiastics now in the realm. Before his death, Volodymyr dispersed all his money and personal belongings to the poor and to his family and friends. St. Volodymyr’s feast day is July 15. He is patron of Ukrainian and Russian Catholics.
Saint Olha was the wife of the Kyivan Great Prince Igor. Igor signed a peace treaty with the Greeks in 944. The treaty of 944 was drawn up at Constantinople and allowed for Christianity in Ukraine. This toleration already indicates some sympathy for Christianity among the powerful in Kiev. Igor himself, however, in his official position did not embrace Christianity nor officially allow the presence of a structure of Church hierarchy. The treaty was drawn up to quietly allow co-existence of Christians in a pagan Viking culture.
Yet when the Byzantine emissaries arrived in Kyiv, pagan opposition had emerged from the Varangians. The Christians were thrown into abeyance and Igor was murdered in 945. Into this volatile situation the burden of government fell upon Igor’s widow — the Kyiv Great-Princess Olha, and her three-year-old son Svyatoslav (945-972). Her first act was to avenge Igor’s murder.
Olha belonged to one of the obscure ancient-Rus’ princely dynasties, whose Slavic line had intermarried with assimilating Varangian newcomers. Olha’s Varangian names includes Helga and Olga.
Though still a pagan, Olha’s revenge on the Varangians on behalf of her late husband was a victory for the realm’s Christians. Further, having weakened the influence of petty local princes in Rus’, Olha centralized the whole of state rule. She became a great builder of the civil life and culture of Kyivan Rus. Her centralization became an important network of the ethnic and cultural unification of the nation which, when Olha became a Christian, aided in the building of a network of churches. Her essential activities proved key in developing what is the modern Ukrainian national identity. At the same time, important trade with Poles, Swedes, Germans, and so forth, led to significantly expanding foreign connections. One noteworthy development was that wooden buildings were replaced with stone edifices.
Rus’ had become a great power. Only two European realms could compare with it in the tenth century – the Byzantine empire in the east, and the kingdom of Saxony in the west. Both these empires were Christianized and pointed the way to future greatness for Rus’. In 954 Great-princess Olha sailed to Constantinople. Though a display of Rus’ military might on the Black Sea, it was a spiritual mission. Olha’s might and the Byzantines’ wealth and beauty were mutually impressive.
Constantinople was the city of the Mother of God as dedicated by Constantine the Great in 330. Olha made the decision to become a Christian. She was baptized by Patriarch Theophylactus (917-956) with her godfather being the emperor Constantine Porphyrogenitos (905-959). She took the Christian name Helen for Constantine’s mother. Following the rite, the Patriarch said: “Blessed are you among the women of Rus’, for you have forsaken the darkness and have loved the Light. The Rus’ people shall bless you in all the future generations, from your grandson and great-grandson to your furthermost descendants.” Olha replied: “By your prayers, O Master, let me be preserved from the wiles of enemies”. It is precisely in this way, with a slightly bowed head, that Saint Olha is often depicted in religious artwork. During her state visit, and following her baptism, Great princess Olha of Rus’ was fêted throughout Constantinople
Saint Olha devoted herself to efforts of Christian evangelization among the pagans, and also church construction, including Saint Sophia Cathedral. Yet, many despised her new found Christianity and paganism became emboldened. They looked to the reign of Svyatoslav who angrily spurned his mother’s Christianity. Meanwhile Byzantine church and state leaders were not eager to promote Christianity in Rus’. In Olha’s lifetime, Kyiv favored paganism and had second thoughts about even accepting Christianity. By order of Svyatoslav, churches were destroyed and Christians murdered. Byzantine political interests found the church and state looking to undermine Olha’s influence and favored the Rus’ pagans.
Olha attempted to help Svyatoslav during a period of wartime, though Kyiv was a backwater to his imperial interests for the next 18 years. In the spring of 969 the Pechenegs besieged Kyiv and Olha headed the defense of the capital. Svyatoslav rode quickly to Kyiv, and routed the nomads. But the warrior prince wished to rule elsewhere than Kiev. Svyatoslav dreamed of uniting all Rus’, Bulgaria, Serbia, the near Black Sea region and Priazovia (Azov region), and extend his borders to Constantinople. Olha warned her son that his plans were bound to fail as the Byzantine Empire was united and strong.
On July 11, 969 Saint Olha died. In her final years, with the triumph of paganism, she had to secretly practice her faith. Before her death, she forbade the pagan celebration of the dead at her burial and was openly buried in accord with Orthodox ritual. A priest who accompanied her to Constantinople in 957 fulfilled her request.
Considered by Ukrainians the holy equal of Great Prince Volodymyr, St. Olha was invoked by St. Volodymyr on the day the people of Rus’ were baptized. Before his countrymen, St. Volodymr said of St. Olha: “The sons of Rus’ bless you, and also the generations of your descendants.”
Houses of Worship: An Identification Guide to the History and Styles of American Religious Architecture, Jeffrey Howe, Thunder Bay Press, San Diego, California, 2003.
AIA Guide to Chicago, 2nd Edition, Alice Sinkevitch, Harcourt, Inc., Orlando, 2004, p. 260.
The Saints: A Concise Biographical Dictionary, edited by John Coulson, Guild Press, New York, 1957, pp. 577; 760-761.
Chicago: City of Neighborhoods, Dominic A. Pacyga and Ellen Skerrett, Loyola University Press, Chicago, 1986, p. 193.
FEATURE image: Chicago. St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral.
At the western main entrance are the stars and stripes of the U.S. flag and the blue and yellow Ukraine flag. An avenue of trees lines the south side of the cathedral building. With its huge size and detailed architecture, St. Nicholas stands prominently on its 20 city lots. Worthmann & Steinbach was a Chicago-based architectural firm active in the first three decades of the 20th century. It was a partnership of German-born Henry W. Worthmann (1857-1946) and John G. Steinbach. The firm, with offices in Chicago and Oak Park, Illinois, designed many of the great Polish cathedrals in Chicago and for Eastern Catholic and Lutheran clients. Clement L. Pointek collaborated with Worthmann & Steinbach until he formed his own architectural firm with principal Joseph A. Slupkowski (1884-1951). The church interior was renovated in the wake of Vatican II liturgical reforms in the mid 1970s by Ukrainian-American architect Zenon Mazurkevich (1939-2018).
The huge yellow brick church building in Chicago’s tree-lined Ukrainian Village neighborhood is 155 feet long and 85 feet wide. Among its details, the building is renowned for its frescos and mosaics. St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral’s impressive design and footprint on the skyline of one of Chicago’s neighborhoods was built as a worthy emulation of the 11th century (former) St. Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv, Ukraine. The church on Chicago’s near West side was built by the firm of Worthmann and Steinbach which built many churches in Chicago in the 1910’s and 1920’s. In the mid1970s the church interior was completely renovated and restored by a Ukrainian artist. Ukrainian Catholics follow the Byzantine-Slavonic Eastern Rite and acknowledge the pope in Rome as their spiritual leader.
History of the Cathedral parish
St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic parish was founded in 1905 by a group of 51 Ukrainian working immigrants. These Ukrainians arrived on Chicago’s northside in the late 1890’s from western and Carpathian Ukraine. Irish, Germans and Poles were already well established in Chicago by this time and built churches. The Ukrainians not only arrived later, but also were committed to their eastern-rite, Greek Catholic origins. They actively looked to fend off incorporation into the Latin rite under a mostly Irish Catholic hierarchy in the Chicago diocese. To this effect, the parish board adopted a resolution stating: “[T]hat all property of said church which may hereafter be acquired be held in the name of its incorporated name but under no conditions shall said church or its priests or pastors be ever under the jurisdiction of bishop or bishops except those of the same faith and rite.”
By 1911 it became clear that a new, larger church was needed for the growing Ukrainian community. Twenty lots were purchased on Rice Street between Oakley and Leavitt for $12,000 and building began. In 1913, Bishop Soter Ortynsky blessed the cornerstone of the new church. This Ukrainian Catholic church parish community relocated out of its original site and ventured about one mile directly west to build their new church under Fr. Nicholas Strutynsky. Fr. Nicholas had recently arrived from Ukraine and remained at St. Nicholas parish until 1921.
In 1941, St. Nicholas parish was host to the Eucharistic Congress for Eastern Rites. Twenty years later, in 1961, St. Nicholas Parish became St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral when it became the seat of the Eparchy for much of the United States. Msgr. Jaroslaw Gabro, a native son of the parish, became the first bishop of the newly created Ukrainian Catholic eparchy.
Completed in 1915, the magnificent, Byzantine-Slavonic structure with thirteen onion domes representing Christ and His 12 apostles was erected. The first liturgy was celebrated on Christmas Day, January 7, 1915 (Julian calendar). A Ukrainian heritage school (Ridna Shkola) was also founded. By the early 1960s the school had over 1000 students. In 2022, St. Nicholas Elementary School has about 150 students.
When Bishop Gabro announced that churches in the eparchy would need to follow the Gregorian religious calendar that is used in the Latin west, some parishioners left St. Nicholas. In 1974 these parishioners, adhering to the ancient Julian religious calendar. erected Sts. Volodymyr and Olha Church three minutes away on foot across Chicago Avenue.
In 1980 Bishop Gabro who passed away was succeeded by Bishop Innocent Lotocky and a healing began between the estranged Ukrainian churches that continues today. In 1988, an ecumenical commemoration of the millennium of Christianity in Ukraine brought together Ukrainian churches in Chicagoland. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990, a new wave of immigrants from Ukraine began arriving in Chicago and joined St. Nicholas Cathedral. In 1993 Bishop Innocent Lotocky retired and was succeeded by Bishop Michael Wiwchar. In 2003 Bishop Michael Wiwchar was succeeded by Bishop Richard Stephen Seminack.
The height of the cathedral building is appreciated looking up from its north side near its main entrance. Metal onion domes turned green by a century of oxidization cap the building’s 16 towers.
The architecture, supported by columns, is curvaceous and spectacularly colorful.
The gold and blue fresco above the altar includes a pair of depictions of the former 11th century St. Sofia Cathedral in Kyiv on whose design and appearance St. Nicholas Ukrainian Cathedral is inspired. Kyiv is the capital city of the Ukraine and its cathedral is one of the finest examples of East Russo-Byzantine architecture. Kyiv/Kiev, Ukraine became the first capital of proto-Russia in the mid9th century as Slavic lands were organized by Norsemen who, simultaneously, as the fierce Vikings were plundering through much of Europe as they transported their culture.
Before the 9th century was over, the first Christian missionaries had arrived from Constantinople to the south into Russia and Ukraine and many Slavs became Christian. From the 10th to 13th centuries Kyiv, like Moscow to its north centuries later, became the intellectual and religious center of the country, where there were established innumerable monasteries, churches, and convents.
The entirety of murals and ornamentation are permanently affixed on interior surfaces by being painted directly on them. The only icon that was not renovated at this time was the one at the rear of the sanctuary depicting Christ with his apostles and Mother Mary. It was kept from 1928.
Hanging from the center highest dome of the church is a 9-tiered golden chandelier with 480 brilliant lights. The chandelier was made in Greece and is one the largest such chandeliers in North America. The ceiling is in gold leaf and wall decorations depict Christ and the Virgin with Old and New Testament figures such as saints, prophets, and patriarchs, all in bright colors.
A propensity of brown and gold in a color scheme that works. The formidable dome is an integral aspect of the interior decoration.
Hanging from the highest dome, a stunning chandelier of 9 tiers and 480 lights crafted in Greece sets aglow the church interior. The artwork depicts the Pentecost (Acts 2: 1-13). The 12 apostles with Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, are seated in bright primary colors as they are gathered together to receive the Holy Spirit symbolized by a dove from Heaven. This event immediately followed the Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus into Heaven.
The subject matter and detailed application of artwork in St. Nicholas Ukrainian Cathedral is derived from the mosaics in the 11th century former Cathedral of St. Sophia in Kyiv, Ukraine. Renovated between 1974 and 1977, the Interior of St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral was led by Boris Makarenko (1925-2008), a specialist of Ukrainian Byzantine artwork.
Boris Makarenko was born in the Poltava region of Ukraine between Karkiv and Kyiv. With the outbreak of World War II, Ukraine was thrown into turmoil and Boris was drafted into the Soviet Army. He deserted with a group of friends and joined the Ukrainian Resistance. Boris fought his way across Europe and was eventually recruited into the British Army. Unable to return to his homeland, Boris immigrated in 1950 to the United States. He worked under the famed Ukrainian sculptor Mykola Mukhyn and eventually in a German-based firm where he learned and mastered the techniques of interior ecclesiastical art, restoration, and design. By the late 1950s, Makarenko founded his own studio in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Using classical methods, mosaics are created by utilizing pieces of smalti and gold whether the mosaics are on the exterior and or in the interior of the church building.
Typically, Italian smalti is poured thicker and cut into thinner pieces. Since they are cut from the inside of exposed molten glass they are more vibrant, consistent and reflective in colors. Italian smalti can provide a coarse or smooth surface depending on how they are laid into a working surface. To begin to understand the complexity and richness of the frescos and mosaic interior of St. Nicholas, the general rule is for each square foot of mosaic surface, about 600 pieces side to side are required. The amount of pieces for the cathedral are into the many tens of thousands.
The altar was built to face ad orientem, properly, “to the east.” This was the tradition and practice of the Catholic Church for nearly 2,000 years. The gold and decorations are outstanding.
Icons are visual symbols of eternal truth in the Christian Faith: the designs are based on archetypal images preserved and regenerated from the very beginnings of Christianity. Iconographers write icons in traditional media using egg yolk tempera and oil-based pigments. The predominance of the gold color that marks these interior paintings and decorations is gold leaf. Called “gilding,” the use of gold leaf pertains to iconography. plaster carvings, wood carvings, and metal.
Stained Glass by Munich Studio of Chicago
The colorful stained-glass is original to the 1915 church. They depict saints of the Catholic Church and were created by the Munich Studio of Chicago. The walls include tall, faceted windows displaying a hybrid of traditional and dalle-de-verre type glass techniques. Akin to mosaic, the latter stained-glass technique lends itself to abstract and highly stylized designs. The Munich Studio of Chicago was a major stained-glass studio in Chicago composed of skilled craftsmen and artists. In addition to the hagiography the windows depict, they also represent the artistic investment of the founding parishioners of St. Nicholas. While the term stained glass covers “colored, enameled, or painted glass”, Chicago’s pioneer “glass stainers” were primarily glass painters who used dark brown vitreous oxide and silver stain to paint designs on pieces of colored and/or opaque white glass. After the kiln firing the pieces were assembled like fragments of a puzzle and connected to each other with strips of malleable lead – called cames – which were fitted and soldered around each piece to create the full window.
The founder of The Munich Studio, Max Guler, was of middle-European extraction, as were the congregations of many of the churches who commissioned his firm for their windows. Guler came to Chicago about 1896 from the city of Munich, Germany where he had studied China painting. In 1898 his name appears in the Chicago city directory as an artist. Four years later the firm of Guler, Kugel and Holzchuh, presumably a small glass shop, is listed; and in 1903 the Chicago city directory first lists The Munich Studio, stained glass, 222 W. Madison, 5th f1r., with Guler as president. Catalog listings from 1910 to 1925 note thirty-two major church installations in Chicago and scores more elsewhere.
In 1913 the company moved from Madison Street to larger quarters at 300 West South Water Street (now Wacker Drive), and in 1923 to 111 West Austin Street (now Hubbard Street), at that time employing over 30 craftsmen, seven doing only glass painting. The Munich Studio imported most of its glass from France and Germany with domestically-made glass from firms in Indiana and West Virginia. As with European stained glass, they were painted with iron oxide and yellow stain and fired in ovens. The Munich Studio continued to prosper until 1930 when the Great Depression brought all building to a near standstill. Since it depended primarily upon the construction of new churches for its business, the economic downturn caused the company’s closing in 1932.
Mosaics of the Stations of the Cross were created by Boris Makarenko.
St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral’s regal appearance and design is inspired by the Cathedral of St. Sophia in Kyiv. This includes its 13 domes, symbolic of Christ and his 12 apostles. The Chicago cathedral is also similar to the Kyiv model in that it has 5 major domes.
On the steps of the main entrance the facade of the cathedral includes a treasured mosaic depicting “Our Lady of Pochaev.” Above that is an icon of St. Nicholas the Wonder (or Miracle) Worker, the cathedral’s namesake.
Story of “Our Lady of Pochaev”
Ukraine had been Christianized for about 200 years when, in 1198, when St. Francis of Assisi was about 17 years old, a monk climbed Pochaiv mountain in western Ukraine in order to pray. A pillar of fire appeared to the monk and some nearby shepherds. When the flames subsided, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared. The apparition left her footprint out of which a spring of water flowed. This supernatural event led to many others so that the region became dedicated to Mary.
In 1559, Metropolitan Neophit sent to Anna Hoyska an icon of our Lady of Pochaev. The icon shows our Lady wearing a crown and holding the infant Jesus. She holds the end of her veil in the other hand. It is an icon where the cheek of the baby Jesus touches Mary’s face as the infant gives a blessing with his hand. At approximately 11×9 inches in size, the original icon is small. Made from red-pitched cypress, the artist and circumstances of its creation are unknown.
The icon immediately worked a miracle as Anna Hoyska’s blind brother regained his sight. Following her death, the icon was donated to a Basilian Monastery and eventually placed in the Church of the Dormition of the Blessed Mother. Monastery chronicles record numerous miracles during the icon’s stay at their Church.
In 1773, the icon was crowned by Pope Clement XIV. In 1831 Russian Czar Nicholas I expelled the Basilians and gave the monastery to Orthodox monks. In 2001, the icon was moved from Pochaev to The Cathedra of the Trinity of The Danilov Monastery in Moscow.
Who is St. Nicholas the Wonder Worker?
St. Nicholas of Myra (270-340) is one of the church’s most popular and revered saints. He was the bishop of the ancient Lycian town of Myra in the eastern Mediterranean which is today’s Demre in Turkey. St. Nicholas Church that exists today in Demre (Myra) was built around 520 A.D. It was built over the older church where St. Nicholas was bishop and which became the saint’s burial place. St. Nicholas’s corpse remained incorrupt and exuded a fragrant odor of myrrh. For centuries St. Nicholas’s relics were in the cathedral in Myra. In 1087 his relics were moved from Myra to Bari, Italy, where they are today. The sweet myrrh smell that exudes from the saint’s body is said to still take place in 2022. St. Nicholas is an important religious figure for Latin and Eastern Rite Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians. St. Nicholas, who is the historical inspiration for Santa Claus, is the patron saint of children and those in dire need. He is also patron saint of prisoners, the falsely accused and convicted, and travelers. Nicholas is patron saint of Greece, Apulia in Italy, Sicily, and the Lorraine in France. Many miracles have been attributed to St. Nicholas during his lifetime and after his death which caused him to be called “the Miracle or Wonder Worker” of Myra.
Holy Trinity Cathedral was built on a limited budget. It is a small building at 47 x 98 feet situated on an east-west axis. The main body of the church is square with extensions and an octagonal dome above. The picturesque country-church entrance has a metal and wood canopy whose design and ornamentation were created by the architect, Louis H. Sullivan (1856-1924). Dedicated in 1903, the church was designated a cathedral in 1923.
The parishioners that built this church were rural people who had emigrated from southern Russia near the Ukraine as well as the area of the Carpathian Mountains.
The Eastern Orthodox central plan creates an interior where the congregation stands in a square space topped by an octagonal dome. For Easter services and the like, the cathedral is filled to capacity with parishioners and others spilling out the front door with its decorative canopy onto the public sidewalk.
The stenciled artwork is not by Louis H. Sullivan.
Louis H. Sullivan designed the bell tower (above and below) with its ornamentation and eaves and soffits for Holy Trinity Orthodox Cathedral in Chicago’s Ukrainian Village.
The walls of the church building are load-bearing brick covered with stucco. The bell tower and octagonal belfry, dome, and roof are made of wood with metal trim and latticework.
Louis H. Sullivan designed the portal canopy and its ornamentation such as the fretwork (above). He also designed the window frames (example below).
The church building was completed for around $27,000 in 1903 (approximately $1 million in 2022) with Sullivan donating half his commission to the church project.
Chicago Churches and Synagogues: An Architectural Pilgrimage, George Lane, S.J., and Algimantas Kezys, Loyola University Press, Chicago, 1981, p. 106-107.
Alice Sinkevitch, AIA Guide to Chicago, 2nd Edition, Harcourt, Inc., Orlando, 2004, p. 260.
FEATURE image: Detail of St. Anne and the child Virgin Mary Window, St. Francis Xavier Church, Wilmette, Illinois. The stained glass was designed by Henry Schmidt.
The building of an English Gothic-style church is usually associated with establishment mainline Protestants. Such was the attempt by Roman Catholics to fit in unobtrusively and harmonize with its well-maintained residential neighborhood in Wilmette, Illinois, a suburb on Chicago’s Northshore. Erected in 1939, it is a church built to be sophisticated and simple. 12/2018 11.6mb
Built by the firm of McCarthy, Smith & Eppig, St. Francis Xavier Church is built in the style of a sturdy country church. It is characterized by low walls, massive external buttresses, and a sloped, elongated roof. 6/2014 4.64mb
Interior of St. Francis Xavier Church from the altar looking towards the main entrance. McCarthy, Smith & Eppig was a design firm that worked extensively with Chicago Cardinal George Mundelein (1872-1939) in the 1930s. Lead architect, Joseph W. McCarthy (1884-1965), had been a young architect under Daniel Burnham (1846-1912), a major design force in Chicago. McCarthy later built, under his own name and with sundry firms, many churches and other ecclesial structures in the Chicago area in the 1910s, 1920s and 1930s. In 1939 McCarthy built both St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church and the more grandiose St. Joseph Catholic Church in Wilmette about one mile straight to the west. The design of St. Francis Xavier Church was handled mostly by the firm’s younger partners, David Smith and Arthur Eppig (1909-1982). The church building’s simple architecture with its fine details cost $200,000 to construct in the waning years of the Great Depression, or about $4 million in 2022 (see- https://www.dollartimes.com/inflation/). While the majority of McCarthy’s church buildings were built in Chicago and its environs some of his high-profile church projects included the cathedral church in Springfield, Illinois (1928) and parish church (1918) of what later became the bishop’s seat in Joliet, Illinois. 7/2014 5.85 mb
Depicted in marble at the entrance to the sanctuary in Wilmette, Illinois, is St. Francis Xavier (1506-1552), the parish church’s patron and namesake. His feast day, December 3, marks his death day at 46 years old on an island off mainland China in the mid16th century.
Holding a crucifix, the Basque Jesuit priest is dressed in a black cassock draped by an alb and stole. St. Francis Xavier, a naturally magnanimous personality, ultimately became the first Roman Catholic missionary to the Far East in the first years of the Jesuit order’s official existence in the 1540s.
By sheer audacity, St. Francis Xavier established a template of the Jesuit missionary and evangelizer: prayerful, prepared to go where the need is greatest, friendly, sincere, personally austere, hard-working, and joyful in the adventure of doing God’s will.
Leaving by ship from Lisbon, Portugal, St. Francis Xavier was, in 1545, the first Jesuit missionary to India and, in 1549, to Japan. The Jesuit Order was the only Roman Catholic missionaries in Asia until the 17th century.
The physical distances St. Francis Xavier traveled in the 1540s is remarkable. On his return trip to India from Japan – almost 6000 km by air from India – St. Francis Xavier’s ship was thrown off course in a sea storm where it stopped at an island near Guangzhou, Guangdong, China.
Once back in India, St. Francis Xavier looked to immediately return to China. After some delays, he reached Shangchuan Island a couple of miles from the mainland.
On December 3, 1552, as the 46-year-old Francis waited for transportto mainland China, he died of fever.
Buried on Shangchuanin quicklime, the chemical compound was used with the intention to more speedily consume flesh and leave only bones for easy transport.
Two months later in February 1553, when the saint’s remains were exhumed, his body was intact. Francis’s body was taken to Portuguese Malacca and, in December 1553, it was taken further to Goa in India which was the saint’s headquarters. In Goa Francis received a hero’s welcome.
In 2022 St. Francis Xavier is buried in Goa’s basilica. Reports of miracles were made in India, Japan and beyond following his death. In 1619 St. Francis Xavier was beatified by Pope Paul V and canonized on March 12, 1622 by Pope Gregory XV.
Nave looking towards the main altar. There are no columns to obstruct the view to a marble altar with a crucifix above it. Originally the tabernacle was on the main altar below the crucifix. With Vatican II reforms, it was removed and set to the side (on right). The extra-wide altar rail with cross legs whose form served the function of a communicant “being at table with Christ” was also removed after 1962. Though St. Francis Xavier Church is traditional in its architecture, its design elements are imbued with a modern, chic, formally streamlined sensibility, which has helped make the sanctuary flexible and adaptable to change.The ceiling is constructed like an upside barque- evoking the ones used by the co-patron of foreign missions, St. Francis Xavier, on his extensive journeys by sea to and in the Far East. 6/2014 5.99 mb
There are 8 major stained-glass windows in St. Francis Xavier Church: four in the west wall and four in the east wall. Other, smaller stained-glass oculi and panels are scattered throughout the interior. These stained-glass windows were designed by Henry Schmidt, a parishioner. They are quite beautiful, scintillating in their pseudo-English Tudor style, illumined in usually soft eastern and tree-obscured western exposures, although their subject matter is somewhat chaotic and a hodge-podge in its traditional and idiosyncratic admixture of hagiography, scripture, and popular piety. One aspect of their enduring appeal is that the glass can be seen close up and at eye level.
ST. PETER WINDOW.
CENTER PANEL: Saint Peter, leader of the apostles, holds the keys of the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 16:19). Peter also holds a book, a representation that alludes to St. Peter’s New Testament writings (1 and 2 Peter) and sermons (Acts). Below is St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City in Rome with its famous dome. LEFT PANEL: Crowning of Mary as Queen of Heaven by the Triune God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). From the time of the Council of Ephesus in 431, the practice of depicting the Blessed Virgin Mary wearing a regal crown came into use in Christendom. RIGHT PANEL: The Assumption of Mary into Heaven is not mentioned in the New Testament though there are biblical texts used to point to the doctrine of Mary as Theotokos, or Mother of God, taken (“Assumed”) into heaven, body and soul at death. The imagery of going “up” to heaven is related to Jesus’ Ascension insofar as being figurative to express the spiritual. The phenomenon of Assumption is not unprecedented in the Bible. It occurred in the Old Testament with Moses and Elijah who were pivotally important Old Testament figures and who were present at Christ’s Transfiguration in the New Testament (Matt 17:1-9; Mk 9:2-10: Lk 9:28-36; and 2 Peter 1:16-21). Below the panels are identical angel figures. 6/2014 4.98 mb
ST. BONIFACE WINDOW.
CENTER PANEL: St. Boniface (675-754) is the St. Patrick of Germany. He was a bishop who lived during Europe’s Dark Ages. Boniface was responsible for organizing the church in western Germany and established the bishoprics of Cologne and Mainz. On direction by the pope, Boniface anointed Pepin the short (714-768) – the son of Charles Martel (c. 688-741) and father of Charlemagne (747-814) – as king of the Franks. This was the beginnings of the modern European states and Pepin’s coronation became the model for future royal coronations. LEFT PANEL: Jesus meets his mother is the fourth station of the cross. The Holy Face, below, is a devotion proclaimed by Pope Leo XIII in 1885. RIGHT PANEL: Jesus mocked and crowned with thorns (Luke 22:63-65 and John 19:2-3) is the sixth station of the cross and an important marker of the suffering of Jesus. 6/2014 3.93 mb
ST. PATRICK WINDOW.
CENTER PANEL: St. Patrick (418-493) is one of the patron saints of Ireland. The Emerald isle’s two other patron saints are St. Brigid (c. 451–525) and St. Columba (540-615). Whereas St. Joseph Church in Wilmette was established in 1847 for German-speaking immigrants, St. Francis Xavier Church had Irish roots. The depiction of Patrick as an archetypal Irishman — the bearded bishop dressed in green with miter and staff – emerged in the late 18th century. St. Patrick’s symbology includes a book – a reference to the Holy Scriptures as well as ancient writings accepted as authentically his: the Confessio and the Epistola to Coroticus, both in Latin. He holds a 3-leafed clover which legend says was used to teach the Irish people about the Holy Trinity. Below is the harp which is one of the oldest musical instruments in the world and Ireland’s national emblem. LEFT PANEL: The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the cornerstone of the Christian faith (1 Corinthians 15:17). His empty tomb is proof of Christ’s deity (John 5:26; Romans 1:4). By rising from the dead, Jesus Christ saved us from our sins (Romans 4:24–25; Hebrews 7:25), gave hope for our own future resurrection (John 14:19; 1 Corinthians 15:20–23), and provides believers with spiritual power today (Romans 6:3–4; Ephesians 1:19–21).The window depicts the resurrected Jesus holding the banner of victory over death as a Roman guard cowers in the dazzling light of a Risen Christ with an angel in attendance. Christ’s cruciform halo (elaborated in three parts) usually contains three Greek letters that in translation spell out “I Am Who Am,” a reference to Christ’s Divinity. Though all four gospels contain passages pertaining to the resurrection, none describe the moment of resurrection itself. RIGHT PANEL: The crucifixion of Jesus with his mother Mary and John the Apostle at the foot of the cross. Above Christ’s head are the letters INRI. It is an acronym for Jesus Nazarenus, rex Judæorum, the charge against jesus written in Latin by Pontius Pilate who condemned him to death. It translates as “Jesus (the) Nazarene, King of the Jews.” This title appears in the Passion narrative of John’s Gospel (19:19). Below each side panel are identical angel figures. 7/2014 7.58 mb
The altar design includes tall candlesticks and compact, detailed baldacchino. 6/2014 4.61 mb
A depiction of the crucifixion in basswood stands atop a rood beam at the ceiling line above the main altar. The scene includes the figure of a crucified Jesus, half-naked, wearing a crown of thorns, and the INRI inscription overhead. Three figures at the foot of the cross are (at left) his mother Mary and (at right) John, the Apostle. The bowed middle figure could represent the other named and unnamed women present at the crucifixion (John 19:25; Luke 23:27 and 49). The artwork is by Fritz Mullhauser. 12/2018 8.47 mb
MARY QUEEN OF HEAVEN WITH INFANT JESUS WINDOW.
CENTER PANEL: The Queen of Heaven who reigns in heaven from the right hand of her son, is depicted in her role as mother of Jesus Christ. Below is a crown hovering above what may be a heart-shaped letter ‘M” for Mary’s name or her sacred heart. LEFT PANEL: The Presentation of Jesus by Mary and Joseph in the Temple and the meeting with Simeon, the “just and devout” man of Jerusalem (Luke 2:25–35). The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple is the fourth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary. In Luke, 40 days after Jesus’s birth, his parents took the newborn to the Temple in Jerusalem to complete Mary’s ritual purification after childbirth, and to perform the redemption of the firstborn, as prescribed by Mosaic Law (Leviticus 12 and Exodus 13:12-15). RIGHT PANEL: The nativity of Jesus in Bethlehem (Luke 2: 1-7 and Matthew 1: 18-25) is the third joyful mystery of the rosary. Below each side panel are identical Angel figures. 12/2018 12.5 mb
ST. ANNE AND THE CHILD VIRGIN MARY WINDOW. CENTER PANEL: The child Mary with her mother, Saint Anne. Nothing is known for certain about the mother of the Virgin Mary. Early apocryphal writings provide information for stories about Mary’s parentage and early life that have resulted in a beautiful legendary tradition. LEFT PANEL: Depiction of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary to her cousin Elizabeth (Luke 1: 39-45). Immediately following the Annunciation, Mary set out into the hill country to stay in the house of Elizabeth and her husband Zechariah for three months. Both women were miraculously pregnant at the time–Mary with Jesus by virgin birth and Elizabeth in her old age with John the Baptist. The scene depicts the moment when John the Baptist leaped with joy in Elizabeth’s womb upon hearing Mary’s voice (Luke 1:41). The Visitation is the second joyful mystery of the rosary. Below is an ark (or tabernacle). Luke structured his narrative passages of the Visitation on stories in 2 Samuel and 1 Kings about the ark of the Covenant in the Old Testament. The Catechism of the Catholic Church identifies Mary as the Ark of the New Covenant (2276): “Mary, in whom the Lord himself has just made his dwelling, is the daughter of Zion in person, the Ark of the Covenant, the place where the glory of the Lord dwells. She is ‘the dwelling of God . . . with men”. RIGHT PANEL: A depiction of the Annunciation to Mary by the angel Gabriel that she would bear the Son of God, Jesus Christ. “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you!” The episode is marked by Mary’s joyful acceptance of God’s will – “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:26-38). This is the beginning of the Incarnation when the Son of God takes on His human nature. The Annunciation is the first joyful mystery of the rosary. Below, there are two different angel figures. 12/2018 16.24 mb
ST. JOSEPH WINDOW.
CENTER PANEL: St. Joseph was the foster father of Jesus and served as Jesus’ guardian and protector. His symbology includes his holding a carpenter’s square to show he was a carpenter (Mt 13:55). He also holds a white lily to symbolize his faithfulness and chastity to Mary (MT 1: 25) and his holiness and obedience to God (Mt 1:24; Mt 2:14,21,22). An angel figure Is below St. Joseph. LEFT PANEL: The Holy Family in Nazareth. Jesus was obedient to Mary and Joseph and “progressed steadily in wisdom, age and grace before God and men” (Lk 2:52). Since Jesus was instructed by St. Joseph in the carpenter trade, the child holds a small wooden cross on his knees. The flowering grass below may be simply decorative or could indicate the flowering staff of St. Joseph which symbolized that Joseph was especially chosen by God to be Mary’s husband. That imagery was drawn from the Old Testament when Aaron’s staff, placed before the Ten Commandments, sprouted with almond blossoms as a sign that he was chosen by God (Num 17:22-23). RIGHT PANEL: Mary and St. Joseph find the 12-year-old Jesus in the Temple with the doctors of the Law (Luke 2:41-52). The event is the fifth joyful mystery of the rosary. It is the only time in the New Testament Jesus makes a public appearance during his first 30 years of life prior to His baptism in the Jordan by John the Baptist and the start of his public ministry (Matthew 3:3-17, Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-23; John 1:29-33). Below the scene are the tablets of the Ten Commandments with a symbol of the Trinity, including the sacred eye, hovering above. 12/2018 12.34 mb
ST. PAUL THE APOSTLE WINDOW (above in its east wall setting and below).
CENTER PANEL: St. Paul is depicted holding a sword, a common symbol for the Apostle to the Gentiles. Describing spiritual warfare in his letter to the Ephesians, Paul writes, “Take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17). Further, in the symbology of martyrs, those saints are traditionally depicted with the instrument of their death. Although Paul’s martyrdom is known (somewhere between 64 and 68 A. D.), its method and circumstances are not. Early Christian writers related that Paul was beheaded using a sword. LEFT PANEL: The Pentecost (Acts 2: 1-13) followed the Ascension where the 12 Apostles with Mary, the Mother of Jesus Christ, gathered together and received the Holy Spirit symbolized by a dove from Heaven. RIGHT PANEL: the Ascension of Jesus into Heaven is mentioned several times in the New Testament though primarily in Luke and Acts (Luke 24:50-53, Acts 1: 6-12, John 3:13, John 6:62, John 20:17, Romans 8:34, Ephesians 1:19-20, Colossians 3:1, Philippians 2:9-11, 1 Timothy 3:16, and 1 Peter 3:21-22). The Ascension is an event where the Resurrected Christ physically departed from Earth by rising into Heaven which, following Judas’s betrayal, was witnessed by eleven of his apostles. Heaven incorporates the resurrected fleshly body of Christ as the divine humanity of Christ enters into the intimacy of the Father and becomes the perfect God-Man. 6/2014 4.28 mb
WINDOW DETAIL An angel figure graces one of the stained-glass windows in St. Francis Xavier Church. There are several different angel figures throughout the church’s stained glass panels.
THE GOOD SHEPHERD WINDOW
CENTER PANEL: Jesus called himself “the good shepherd” (John 10). In the Old Testament there is a prophecy about shepherds who are overseers for the sheep who are the people of God. Ezekiel also prophesies of another shepherd to come who is the Messiah of Israel. Jesus, by calling himself the good shepherd, is claiming to be the Messiah that the scriptures foretold. Christ’s cruciform halo (elaborated in three parts) usually contains three Greek letters that in translation spell out “ I Am Who Am,” a reference to Christ’s Divinity. Jesus holds the shepherd’s staff and has a lamb slung over his shoulders referring to the people of God he cares for. Below is a lamb in a bramble referring to Jesus as “the lamb of God” a title for Jesus found in the Gospel of John (1:29; 1:36). It also alludes to the Old Testament when God sent a ram caught in a bramble to change places with Isaac who God called to be sacrificed as a burnt offering (Genesis 22:13). This Old Testament story foretold the sacrifice of the Son of God at Calvary. LEFT PANEL: The scourging of Christ is the 4th station of the cross (John 19:1-3). It is part of the brutalities that Jesus endured in his Passion. Jesus was slapped, beaten, punctured by thorns, and whipped with a reed stick. Two of these instruments of torture are depicted below the pillar. Below that is an angel figure. RIGHT PANEL: Jesus is depicted in the garden of Gethsemane following the Last Supper where, knowing of Judas’s betrayal, Jesus prayed: “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me. Yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42). With his prayer, “an angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him” (Luke 22:43). At the foot of the Mount of Olives outside Jerusalem all four Gospels relate that Jesus underwent an agony in the garden of Gethsemane where he was betrayed and arrested the night before his crucifixion. Below the scene is an angel figure. 12/2018 12.6 mb
Heavenly City: The Architectural Tradition of Catholic Chicago, Denis Robert McNamara, James Morris, Liturgy Training Publications, Chicago, Illinois, 2005, pp. 138-140 Chicago Churches and Synagogues: An Architectural Pilgrimage, George Lane, S.J., and Algimantas Kezys, Loyola University Press, Chicago, 1981. Saint Ignatius and His First Companions, Chas. Constantine Pise, P.J. Kenedy & Sons, New York, 1892, pp.105-151. 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.
FEATURE image: Iron Block, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, following its extensive restoration in 2014. Photograph by author taken in September 2016.
The Iron Block at 205 East Wisconsin Avenue on the corner of busy Water and Wisconsin in downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin, was erected in 1861. The architect was George H. Johnson (1830-1879) of New York City and is a landmark of special architectural significance.
The Iron Block building was financed and built by James B. Martin (1814-1878), a businessman and Baltimore native, who relocated to Milwaukee in the mid1840s. Martin established an early mill, for a short time a successful bank, traded on the grain and livestock futures markets, and bought and sold real estate. In 1849 Martin constructed “Martin’s Block” and, on the downtown real estate Martin purchased in 1860, built Iron Block.
The Iron Block building sat less than a half mile from Martin’s former downtown mansion at 742 N. Jackson where the proprietor of the Reliance Flouring Mills (1869-1878) and president of the Wisconsin State Bank in Milwaukee (1866-1868) is recorded to have once lived from 1852 to 1858.
Some of the Iron Block’s first commercial tenants were a bank, several stores, numerous offices, and a legal library. Cast-iron structures proved quintessentially functional for manufacturers, warehouses and office use.
ARCHITECTURAL IRON WORKS, NEW YORK CITY, WAS BUILDING DESIGNER AND MANUFACTURER
George H. Johnson was the chief designer for the foundry, metallurgy, and iron construction business of Daniel D. Badger (1806-1884) who had relocated from Boston to New York City in 1848. Badger established Architectural Iron Works, on Manhattan’s East 14th Street. With James Bogardus (1800-1874), Badger was a pioneer in the prefabrication and use of cast-iron building technology. In 1848 James Bogardus had built the world’s first prefabricated cast iron building in Manhattan. George H. Johnson had emigrated from England in 1852 and went on in the 1850s and 1860s to design iron-fronted buildings in Chicago, Memphis, New Orleans, and elsewhere, including Milwaukee’s Iron Block.
ENTIRE EXTERIOR MADE OF MASS-PRODUCED, PRE-FAB CAST IRON
The Iron Block’s entire façade is composed of cast iron and is a direct connection to the age of mass production and prefabrication, and high-end craftsmanship that characterized mid19th century industry from the railroad to the skyscraper. Erected during the first shots of the U.S. Civil War, the Iron Block is an integral part of the mechanized culture which the Industrial Revolution had thrust upon all aspects of modern society – from the workplace to the battlefield – to increasingly mark the age.
The Iron Block’s neo-Renaissance decoration is superbly delineated so to make for a cutting-edge Civil War-era grandiose building that is stylistically stunning and that has been renewed in and for the 21st century. The Northern Italian mode of the Renaissance Revival style first appeared in the United States around 1850 and is markedly displayed in the Iron Block’s sculptural ornament of lion heads and serpentine vines manifested in powerful contrasts of natural light and shadow.
When the Iron Block (originally Excelsior Building) was built in mid19th-century Milwaukee, it was the largest office building in the city. Today’s Iron Block is actually two buildings built next to one another about 40 years apart. Faced in brick, the southern annex was completed in 1899 and brought under one roof with the original 1861 building. Where the addition to the south meets the original 1861 building, there is an atrium with a skylight. A glass floor in the lobby which once allowed natural light into the basement is now gone.
IRON BLOCK LIKELY LAST SURVIVING CAST IRON BUILDING IN WISCONSIN
The Iron Block is Milwaukee’s only surviving cast-iron-fronted building and may be the last surviving example of this construction type in Wisconsin. In New York City—the origin of cast iron materials that came to Milwaukee—there remain about 250 such building types in Manhattan alone. More specific to the Iron Block, the Cary Building in Lower Manhattan (105–107 Chambers Street) designed by King & Kellum and completed in 1857 could have been an inspiration for the Milwaukee building’s own design and appearance.
The interior of the building is made of brick and timber with three-foot thick load-bearing walls. The façade is made of entirely prefabricated cast-iron modules that were bolted together to give the appearance of a sixteenth-century Venetian palazzo. Piers, columns, beams, and spandrels were all cast in a foundry. During various renovations, the original ground floor had been removed and the cornice diminished. The elevator installed in 1879 is still in use. The relatively lighter interior supporting columns allowed for spacious rooms and floorplans and for optimum daylight through expansive window openings. While possibly more fireproof than other materials, in a serious fire cast iron warped and even collapsed.
After the building’s timber and brick underlying structure was in place—the foundation is composed of inverted semi-circular arches of brick between courses of stone whose function worked to reinforce walls and distribute vertical load over a greater area—its prefab iron modules— numbered and ordered to their location on the building’s façade—were bolted into place following transport to the site by horse and wagon. Starting at the ground floor and going up its five floors, the assembly of the façade (painted creamy white) was erected quickly compared to the construction of the underlying structure.
Decoration included fluted Corinthian columns, pediments, dentils, balustrades, and series of bas-relief ovals alternating with narrow, pointed carvings. Spandrels and piers were made to look like stone blocks with lion heads glaring downwards. Since cast iron was easier to install and maintain than stone facing, owners and builders could create their own façade designs by selecting from catalogs of cast iron architectural elements.
SPECTACULAR RENOVATION COMPLETED IN 2014
In consultation with historical design experts, patterns and molds were created from historic photographs and pieces of the original building. Over 4,200 new pieces were cast in Wisconsin foundries. Some weighed ounces; others, such as columns at the original entrance on Water Street, weighed over 1,200 pounds. The entire iron façade was sandblasted down to raw steel and a paint system was used to chemically bond with the iron surfaces. A new cornice and pediments were molded from fiberglass-reinforced polyester to match originals. The 1899 south addition was stripped of its paint to reveal the Cream City brick. The renovated building was unveiled on June 17, 2013 and completely finished in 2014.
The Iron Block has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1973. Dental Associates purchased the building as its Wisconsin headquarters in January 2012. Using private funds, the building underwent extensive and detailed reconstructive work that was completed in 2014. This multi-year restoration earned Dental Associates the 2014 “Cream of the Cream City” award from the City of Milwaukee’s Historic Preservation Commission, the Common Council and the Mayor. Although the Iron Block had local designation and National Register status, the building had begun to rust and its architectural details, replicated in substitute materials during a 1983 renovation, were deteriorated with its ornament falling off the building. The 2014 renovation accurately recreated the heritage building’s missing details.
SOURCES: Milwaukee Architecture: A Guide to Notable Buildings, Joseph Korom, Madison, WI: Prairie Oak Press, 1995.
The Heritage Guidebook (Landmarks and Historical Sites in Southeastern Wisconsin), Russell Zimmermann, Heritage Banks, Inland Heritage Corp., 1976.
Source book of American architecture: 500 notable buildings, G.E. Kidder Smith, New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1996.