Reply Thu 26 Oct, 2006 04:45 pm
The Wirt Dexter building by Adler and Sullivan burned quite badly yesterday. The landmark building was only a couple of hundred feet from where I stayed in Chicago, and close as well to the hotel Walter stayed at.
Among other things, this is resulting in a huge disruption to the el/subway system.

My hotel was right about where the Har of Harrison Street is on this map -

http://www.chicagoist.com/attachments/chicago_scott/2006_10_streetclosuremap2.jpg



Article from lynnbecker.com here -

Article by Lynn Becker with many photos HERE


A portion of the text here - see link for the rest, and many photos.


Massive Fire Claims Adler & Sullivan's landmark Wirt Dexter Building in Chicago


The loss to fire of two Adler and Sullivan's landmarks, Pilgrim Baptist Church and now the Wirt Dexter Building, in less than a year raises questions about the effectiveness of the Chicago's landmark protection.

-by Lynn Becker

Chicago's dwindling roster of Adler and Sullivan landmarks was reduced again on Tuesday as a massive fire destroyed the 1887 Wirt Dexter building on south Wabash Avenue.The fire came little more than 10 months after another blaze gutted the firm's 1891 K.A.M./Pilgrim Baptist Church to the bare walls.

A building that had been largely forgotten suddenly became the focus of attention as throngs of spectators watched the spectacular fire from outside the Pacific Garden Mission just across the street. Smoke billowed into huge clouds rising high above the building and seeped through South Loop streets, casting them into an acrid fog that moved up Wabash, through the block-long arcade of Adler and Sullivan's Auditorium Building, and, crossing Michigan Avenue, hung over the gleaming metallic forms of Frank Gehry's Pritzker Pavilion at Millennium Park. In its dying, an essential landmark that in life could find no one to pay it heed, blanketed the city's center with the pain of its demise.


Although it had received official designation in July of 1996, the Wirt Dexter building was the landmark that nobody wanted. "As far as we know, the building was vacant," Fire Commissioner Raymond Orozco said on the scene. Concern continued that the large sign for the long-closed George Diamond steakhouse, the building's last major tenant, would break off the building's Wabash Avenue facade and crash down into the street. The restaurant, a prime venue in the 50's and 60's, underwent a long decline that paralleled that of the area around in it, ending up a threadbare ghost of its former self.

Recently, Chicago's South Loop has been undergoing a major revival, with a massive new dorm for the district's burgeoning student population opening just to the north. Columbia College has been acquiring and renovating vintage turn-of-the-twentieth-century buildings all along the street. The Wirt Dexter, however, continued to be passed by.

The Wirt Dexter was designed by Louis Sullivan and Danker Adler and built in 1887 at a cost of $100,000 as the store and warehouse for furniture manufacturers R. Deimel & Brothers. Unlike the huge Auditorium Building just a few blocks to the north, where Sullivan's design still bears the heavy imprint of Henry Hobson Richardson's Romanesque modernism, the Wirt Dexter, according to biographer Hugh Morrison "show's no trace of Richardson's influence, nor of the characteristic leaf- ornament" that would become integral to Sullivan's work in such buildings as the Carson Pirie Scott store. "It is an entirely mature work," says Morrison, "rigorously thought through," where Sullivan "attained a new simplicity and monumentality growing directly out of the problems of the commercial office building."

The entry level is of sparingly ornamented rusticated granite. The brick facade above is arranged into three simple vertical piers, two windows wide at each end, with a three-window-wide bay between them, slightly recessed and originally terminated in a small gable at the roofline. The openness and lightness of the facade, in the judgment of another biographer, Robert Twombly "anticipated the aesthetics of the steel frame." Perhaps the structure's moststriking feature, visible along the El that went up a decade later in the alley behind it, is the series of tall, perforated iron support beams, placed outside the building to free up space in the interior, perhaps modern architecture's first example of an exoskeleton.

It's still too early to assess the building's final fate, but the outlook is bleak. Early in the blaze, firefighters were pulled from the interior, back to "defensive" positions pouring thousands of gallons of water onto the building from a half-dozen snorkels, when the spread of the fire throughout the interior made the integrity of the building and of its floors and ceilings uncertain.
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Merry Andrew
 
  1  
Reply Thu 26 Oct, 2006 07:05 pm
That is a crying shame, indeed.
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Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Sun 29 Oct, 2006 06:53 am
http://i13.tinypic.com/2dtqjbd.jpg

http://i14.tinypic.com/47wijwl.jpg

http://i13.tinypic.com/2vmztbp.jpg

Related online report in today's Chicago Tribune: Architect's legacy going up in smoke
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Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Sun 29 Oct, 2006 07:10 am
A second report in the same paper:

AN AESTHETIC STEPPINGSTONE

Quote:
The Wirt Dexter Building, which was destroyed by a fire Tuesday, was an aesthetic steppingstone on the path of Louis Sullivan, who defined the game plan of modern architecture: "Form follows function."

By 1887, when Sullivan and his partner, Dankmar Adler, designed the building, Chicago architects were working out a modern engineering solution to the ever-taller structures of a city in the midst of a building boom. Metal frames were replacing masonry walls as the principal support of the structure's weight. The remaining question was, What should these "skyscrapers" look like?
... ... ...
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Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Sun 29 Oct, 2006 07:14 am
http://i14.tinypic.com/4hixipz.jpg
http://i14.tinypic.com/2hr1pp0.jpg


source: Chicago Tribune, 29.10.06, section 2, page 3
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Merry Andrew
 
  1  
Reply Sun 29 Oct, 2006 08:10 am
Thanks, indeed, Walter, for all the detail and those links. The entire concept of today's high-rise architecture rests squarely on the shoulders of Adler and -- especially -- Sullivan.
0 Replies
 
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Sat 4 Nov, 2006 12:09 pm
Another Sullivan building burned this morning.

This is so strange and sad, this being his 150th Anniversary year...

Chicago Tribune link here
0 Replies
 
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Sat 4 Nov, 2006 12:16 pm
George Harvey house, built in 1888. I'm still looking for a better photo...

http://www.artic.edu/aic/libraries/rbarchives/sullivan/harvey2t.jpg


map here - http://maps.google.com/maps?oi=map&q=600+W+Stratford,+Chicago,+IL
0 Replies
 
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Sat 4 Nov, 2006 12:27 pm
Aha, that's interesting, that's the same house I posted on before as being possibly about to be destroyed, and then saved in some way... back after I check that. In the meantime, here's a better photo -
this is on Lynn Becker's site.

http://lynnbecker.com/repeat/harvey/nharveyhighrise.jpg


Here's the earlier article about the house being on a "hit list"....
Article from Lynnbecker.com
0 Replies
 
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Sat 4 Nov, 2006 12:29 pm
Walter, I just noticed your interesting photo and graph additions to the Dexter building event...
0 Replies
 
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Sat 4 Nov, 2006 12:32 pm
Here's the other thread on the house, the third post giving how the building got a reprieve...

http://www.able2know.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=79367


Oh, never mind, the article is now too old to see without paying re the Tribune archive.
0 Replies
 
Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Sat 4 Nov, 2006 12:35 pm
PreservationChicago has an own (web)site about the George Harvey House.
0 Replies
 
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Sat 4 Nov, 2006 12:43 pm
Thanks, Walter, that's a useful site...

Something happened after that was posted on the site re saving the house - somehow money was being raised. I can't remember if it was through a sale or what.
So, I'm wondering... something to do with remodelling? something do with arson? something to do with squatters? the odd electrical fire?

This interests me - besides my usual curiosity - since our 1884 wood building in my last home town was next to another oldie that caught fire, burning part of ours, with lots of smoke damage to us and major damage to the neighboring building that had the fire. That one turned out to be suspected arson, and I seem to remember they found the ignition device.
0 Replies
 
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Sat 4 Nov, 2006 01:02 pm
Regarding that first Harvey house photo - it was from the Art Institute of Chicago Libraries and Archives - SOURCE
0 Replies
 
Merry Andrew
 
  1  
Reply Sat 4 Nov, 2006 01:15 pm
The whole Chicago area is a Mecca for architecture buffs. Chicago itself still has a good selection of Sullivan buildings. Just a quick CART ride away is the suburb of Oak Park and that's Frank Lloyd Wright country.
0 Replies
 
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Sat 4 Nov, 2006 01:17 pm
Architecture buff here!
0 Replies
 
Merry Andrew
 
  1  
Reply Sat 4 Nov, 2006 01:20 pm
ossobuco wrote:
Architecture buff here!


Then you must visit my native city of Riga, Latvia, Osso. According to some sources, it has more art noveau structures still standing than any other European capital.
0 Replies
 
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Sat 4 Nov, 2006 01:22 pm
Merry, Walter and CI and Eva took some Chicago architecture tours this last Spring through the Chicago Architecture Foundation.. really enjoyable.
http://www.architecture.org/tours.aspx


I'd like to very much, Merry Andrew. Sigh..
now I'm going to do some research on Riga..
0 Replies
 
Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Sat 4 Nov, 2006 01:30 pm
Merry Andrew wrote:
According to some sources, it has more art noveau structures still standing than any other European capital.


We (=the Missus and I) are reall art nouveau freaks - walked e.g. four days through Nancy folling the various architects and buildings ...

Riga (and some some other places in Eastern Europe as well) have lovely buidlings from that period .... and most are beautifully restaured by now as well!


A good start for Riga's art nouveau buildings and more
0 Replies
 
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Sat 4 Nov, 2006 04:58 pm
Fabulous! Thanks a bunch.
0 Replies
 
 

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