Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Chicago's Century of Architectural Progress

Exactly ninety years ago, from December 1930 through February 1931, the Chicago Tribune ran a four-part series entitled “Chicago’s Century of Architectural Progress.” The timing was appropriate, as the year of 1930 had marked the unofficial centennial of Chicago, commemorating James Thompson’s first plat map of the future town and city on August 4, 1830. (Note: The map, shown below, laid out fifty-eight blocks around the juncture of the three branches of the Chicago River in an area bounded by State, Madison, Des Plaines, and Kinzie streets.)

Each of the four installments included a full page of pictures in the Tribune’s rotogravure section. The Committee on Public Information of the Chicago Chapter, American Institute of Architects, chaired by architect and urban planner Eugene H. Klaber (1883-1971), partnered with the Tribune on the project to make the selection of buildings and provide the narrative.

The four installments and supervising architect for each were as follows:

December 7, 1930
Chicago prior to the Great Chicago Fire of 1871
Earl H. Reed, Jr. (1884-1968) 

December 14, 1930
The Fire to the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893
Arthur Woltersdorf (1870-1948) 

January 25, 1931
The Exposition through the end of World War I in 1918
Harry Howe Bentley (1883-1968) 

February 8, 1931
Contemporary architecture
Thomas E. Tallmadge (1876-1940) 

The first installment included an article explaining the series, quoting Eugene Klaber:

“In the years since the great war, there has been a growing appreciation of architecture in Chicago. The man in the street, who previously hardly knew the names of the important buildings in the city, is today familiar with its principal architectural developments that are taking place. 

“He watches the loop as it grows; and the development of Grant park, of Wacker drive, of Michigan boulevard and the near north side engage his sympathetic attention. This change in attitude of the public toward architecture was greatly stimulated, if not actually fostered, by the competition for the Tribune tower. The worldwide response to this intriguing project, and the variety and excellence of the designs presented, caused endless comment. 

“What is less well known, is that the architecture of contemporary Chicago is but a link in a chain that stretches over more than a century. It is no sporadic manifestation. From the earliest days to the present day, it forms a continuous history. Various influences have affected the flow of architectural development from time to time, but it is nevertheless one continuous story. During that period, the architects of Chicago have manifested a constant and progressive spirit in the design of their buildings. Skeleton steel construction had its origin here, and the resultant architecture, as well as the original thinking of such men as Louis H. Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright, have created a wave of influence that has spread throughout the world.”

Chicago Architecture 1871-1893

This article will look at the second installment of the series which includes a total of thirteen sites constructed between 1871 and 1893. Despite the enormous building activity that took place in the years immediately following the Fire, it is interesting to note that none of the sites actually predate 1880. Sadly, only four sites survive today – the Town of Pullman, Monadnock Building, Auditorium Building, and Glessner House.

The sites in the second installment were selected by Arthur F. Woltersdorf, a life-long Chicagoan born in 1870, one year before the Fire. He attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and received training in the office of Burnham and Root before forming the partnership of Hill and Woltersdorf in 1894. Elected a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, he wrote extensively on the theory and practice of architecture and served as editor of Living Architecture: A Discussion of Present Day Problems published in 1930. He died in 1948.

The sites are shown below with their original narrative; additional notes are included in parentheses following each entry: 

PULLMAN

“An industrial town planned in 1880 by S. S. Beman, architect. It was the forerunner by more than a decade of industrial town plans in America, incorporating recreational, sanitary, and aesthetic features for the life of this community. The buildings of red brick and gray stone reflected Victorian Gothic architecture of the time. (Drawing by Irving K. Pond.)”

(NOTE: Pullman was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1970, a Chicago Landmark in 1972 [expanded 1993], and a National Monument in 2015. The style of architecture is generally referred to as Queen Anne, with influences of Richardsonian Romanesque.)

THE MARSHALL FIELD WAREHOUSE

“Erected in the later 1880’s, it stood until 1930, living evidence of H. H. Richardson’s skill in handling simple masses with charm and great power. Historians of American architecture will not forget it.”

(NOTE: The building, known as the Marshall Field Wholesale Store, covered the block bounded by Wells, Quincy, Franklin, and Adams. Richardson considered it one of his most important contributions to American architecture and was saddened when he realized he would not live to see it completed. It was completed in 1887, razed in 1930 and replaced by a parking lot, when the wholesale division moved to the Merchandise Mart.) 

THE ART INSTITUTE

“The Art Institute, later the Chicago Club, by John Wellborn Root (Burnham and Root, architects), displayed Romanesque forms and proportions in a modern and masterly manner. The influence of Richardson is clearly evident. The disappearance of this structure was Chicago’s loss.” 

(NOTE: The building was completed in 1885 and was located at 404 S. Michigan Avenue [southwest corner of Van Buren]. Ownership of the building changed hands when the Art Institute moved into its present building in 1893. The interior of the building collapsed in 1928 during renovation. The old structure was razed and replaced by the current Chicago Club, with Granger & Bollenbacher serving as architects).

THE REVOLUTION OF THE SKYSCRAPER
(The next three buildings were treated together) 

MONADNOCK

“The Monadnock block, north section, dates from 1892. The power expressed in the simple soaring walls is the swan song of wall bearing floor construction for high buildings. Burnham and Root were the architects.” 

(NOTE: At sixteen stories, the north half of the Monadnock building, 53 W. Jackson, was the tallest wall-bearing building in Chicago. Holabird & Roche designed the south half in 1893, which incorporated a more traditional steel skeleton frame. The Monadnock was designated a Chicago landmark in 1973).

HOME INSURANCE BUILDING

“In the Home Insurance Building is the germ of the steel skeleton building, originating in 1884. Up to the second floor the walls are solid masonry. Above this, the floor systems are carried on cast iron columns in self-supporting masonry piers; the spandrel walls are supported by rolled iron beams, such as comprise the floor systems. The two top stories were added in 1890. W. L. B. Jenney was the architect.”

(NOTE: Located at the northeast corner of LaSalle and Adams, this was one of the most important buildings ever constructed in the United States. Although there has been considerable debate as to whether this can be considered the first true “skyscraper,” an analysis undertaken at the time of its demolition in 1931, to make way for the Field Building, confirmed that it was “the first high building to utilize as the basic principle of this design the method known as skeleton construction.”)

MASONIC TEMPLE

“In the Masonic temple, now the Capitol building, the skeleton building, with the date of 1891, appears in its full development. All walls are carried from floor to floor on the metal frame. Burnham and Root were the architects.”

(NOTE: The Masonic Temple, which stood at the northeast corner of State and Randolph, was the tallest building in the world. It remained the tallest building in Chicago until the 1920s when Chicago’s building regulations were amended to allow for taller buildings. The construction of the State Street subway resulted in its demolition 1939, as expensive alterations to the foundation would have been required. The Joffrey Tower now stands on the site).

GLESSNER HOUSE

“The J. J. Glessner house, last remaining example in Chicago of the work of Architect H. H. Richardson. Rugged exterior stone walls enclose stately rooms and a patio. It is destined to become the home of the Chicago chapter, American Institute of Architects.” 

(NOTE: The Glessners deeded the house to the Chicago Chapter (CCAIA) in December 1924, retaining a life-tenancy. After their deaths in the 1930s, the CCAIA did not feel it had the resources to renovate and maintain the building and returned it to the Glessner heirs. In the late 1970s, the CCAIA did rent the former children’s bedrooms on the second floor as its headquarters. Glessner house was designated a Chicago landmark in 1970 and a National Historic Landmark in 1976). 

BORDEN HOUSE

“Richard M. Hunt, designer of the Administration building of the 1893 World’s fair, was architect. Its design is inspired by chateaux of the Loire of the time of Francis I. Its stonework is exquisite.” 

(NOTE: The William Borden house stood at 1020 N. Lake Shore Drive [northeast corner of Bellevue Place]. Completed in 1884, it was one of the earliest houses on the Drive. After William’s death in 1906, it passed to his son John, a noted Arctic explorer, and was occupied by his wife, the former Ellen Waller, after their divorce. Their daughter, also named Ellen (and the ex-wife of Governor Adlai Stevenson II), operated the 1020 Art Center out of the house in the 1950s. It was demolished in 1962 to make way for The Carlyle apartments. Click here for images of the demolition taken by Richard Nickel).

McCLURG HOUSE

“The McClurg house is the work of Francis M. Whitehouse, architect, with Arthur Heun as the designer. Reminiscent of the Louis XII wing of Chateau Blois, its charming proportions and color still hold the passerby in Lake Shore Drive.” 

(NOTE: The house stood at 1444 N. Lake Shore Drive and was completed in 1892 for bookseller Alexander C. McClurg. [In June 1891, Frances Glessner noted in her journal, “Genl. And Mrs. McClurg called in the afternoon to see something about our house – to see if they could get any suggestions about their own building. We took them all over the house.”] It was later home to George M. Reynolds, chairman of Continental Illinois National Bank and Trust. In 1935, it was leased to the Republic of Poland as a consulate, which closed in 1941 after Poland was invaded by Germany. It was converted into apartments at that time and was razed in 1955 for construction of the current apartment building designed by Philip B. Maher known as 1440 Lake Shore Drive.)

COONLEY-WARD HOUSE

“On a visit to Chicago, President Taft pronounced this the best example of American residence architecture in the city. It is untrammeled by historic formalism, distinctively an American home. Pond and Pond, were the architects.” 

(NOTE: Built for Lydia Coonley, widow of the founder of the Chicago Malleable Iron Company, and later the wife of eminent geologist Henry Ward. The house stood at 1150 N. Lake Shore Drive [southwest corner of Division]. Pond and Pond received the commission in late 1888, and the house was completed in 1891. (Coonley’s son, Avery, later commissioned Frank Lloyd Wright to design his home in Riverside, Illinois.) She sold the house to Frank Logan in 1911. It remained in the Logan family until it was razed in 1955 for construction of the current high rise, known as 1150 N. Lake Shore Drive.

An amusing incident took place in January 1889, as recorded in Frances Glessner’s journal: “Sunday, Mrs. Coonley came over with a party of ten to ‘see the house.’ She brought her six children and four very ordinary young men – two of them architects, who said they knew the house by heart, had been all through it time without number – and were making Mrs. Coonley’s house as near like ours as they knew how. The whole call was most disagreeable.”)

BANQUET HALL OF THE AUDITORIUM HOTEL

“Adler & Sullivan were architects. This was an early Sullivan blossom in ornament and color after tryouts in loft and office buildings. The medal of the Societe central des Arts Decoratifs, awarded to Mr. Sullivan after the Columbian exposition, was the only French testimonial elicited for architecture.” 

(NOTE: The hotel’s 10th floor dining room now functions as the Murray-Green Library for Roosevelt University. The Auditorium Building, completed in 1889 and located at the northwest corner of Michigan and Ida B. Wells Drive, was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1975, and a Chicago landmark in 1976).

SCHILLER BUILDING

“A new note in street architecture, introducing the tower dominant. An early application of ‘progressive recessions from base to pinnacle.’ Adler and Sullivan were the architects.” 

(NOTE: The Schiller, later known as the Garrick Theatre, was completed in 1892 at 64 W. Randolph Street. Designated an “honorary landmark” by the City of Chicago and considered one of Sullivan’s masterpieces, the significant effort to save the building turned to a salvage operation prior to demolition in 1961. The building and its preservation battle will be the focus of an upcoming exhibition at Wrightwood 659.)

GOLDEN DOORWAY OF THE TRANSPORTATION BUILDING OF THE WORLD’S FAIR

“American’s most gorgeous flower of architectural romanticism. Aglow with color, it stood apart from the classic formalism of the Court of Honor. The term Sullivanesque, after Louis H. Sullivan, creator of this doorway, applies to the style of the Banquet Hall, Schiller building, and doorway.”

 (NOTE: Sullivan’s displeasure with the Classical architecture of the Fair, in particular the Court of Honor, is well documented, including his famous comment, “The damage wrought by the World’s Fair will last for half a century from its date, if not longer. It has penetrated deep into the constitution of the American mind.” An exhibition featuring a plaster cast of the “Golden Door” and photographs of several of Sullivan’s taller buildings toured France, Russia, and Finland after the Fair. When built, the Barack Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park will occupy portions of the sites of various Fair buildings, including the Transportation Building).

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

A Toast to the Glessners - Christmas 1924


Framed Deed of Gift, December 1, 1924

Today, December 1, 2020, marks the 96th anniversary of the Glessners deeding their beloved Prairie Avenue home to the Chicago Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (CCAIA), to ensure its preservation. A beautiful toast noting that act of generosity, written and delivered by architect Hermann V. von Holst at the Glessners’ Christmas dinner later that month, was recently acquired for the house collection. Clearly, it was a celebratory month for the Glessners as their friends and the architectural community thanked them for their magnificent gift. In this article, we will reconstruct the month of December 1924, ending with von Holst’s touching tribute to his long-time friends.

THE HOUSE IS GIFTED TO THE CCAIA
During the 1910s and early 1920s, the Glessners witnessed the enormous change that was happening all around them, as families left Prairie Avenue and their homes were demolished or converted into boarding houses or business offices. In 1922, Richardson’s only other house in Chicago, built for Franklin and Emily MacVeagh at 1400 North Lake Shore Drive, was razed and replaced with a high-rise apartment house.

The Deed of Gift between the Glessners and the CCAIA, signed on December 1, 1924, represented the best way to ensure the preservation of their house, and its continued use by the architectural community that understood its significance. The Deed was specific – Richardson’s portrait must always remain on the wall, and his monogram on the façade must never be altered – but the use of the house would change dramatically. This was no house museum – the building was to be repurposed for the uses of the CCAIA to include offices, meeting rooms, gallery space, and an atelier.


Chicago Tribune, December 3, 1924

The announcement of the gift was published in the Chicago newspapers, and within weeks newspapers from across the country covered the story, a clear indication of how important the house was considered even at that time. Among the many notes of appreciation the Glessners received was one from Julia “Lula” Shepley, daughter of Henry Hobson Richardson and the wife of George Shepley, one of the three men, who, following Richardson’s death in 1886, reorganized his office as Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge.


Page 1 of Lula Richardson Shepley's letter to Frances Glessner

HERMANN V. VON HOLST
An important member of Chicago’s architectural community in 1924 was Hermann V. von Holst, and he was among the Glessners’ closest friends. (Read this 2012 blog article for more information on his life and career). Hermann, just 18 years old when he arrived in the U.S. in 1892, accompanied his father, Dr. Hermann E. von Holst, who had accepted an appointment at the new University of Chicago. The Glessners quickly formed a friendship with the von Holst family, which also included Hermann’s mother and sister. Dr. von Holst was forced to retire in 1900 due to ill health. He returned to Germany with his wife and daughter and died in 1904.


Hermann V. von Holst (from 1924 passport application)

Son Hermann, who by this point was chief draftsman in the Chicago office of Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge, stayed behind and was quickly “adopted” by the Glessners. He starts showing up regularly in Frances Glessner’s journal, attending Sunday suppers or joining them at the symphony. For the first Christmas apart from his family, Hermann was invited to trim the Glessners’ tree on Christmas Eve, and he stayed the night, so that he could “see the fun in the morning.” In a letter from Hermann’s mother to Frances Glessner, dated February 1, 1901, she noted:

“Yes, he is lonely and we, too, miss him greatly. In almost every letter, indeed in every one now, he speaks of your kindness to him and of the enjoyment he receives from his visits with you. It was so very kind of you to have him with you just at Christmas time, for a Christmas spent alone is about the most doleful thing imaginable.”

The Glessners greatly enjoyed surrounding themselves with architects, artists, authors, and musicians, so the friendship is no surprise. But in the case of Hermann, it may well have had added significance. Hermann was born in 1874, the same year as the Glessners’ son, John Francis, who had died at the age of just eight months. In a meaningful way, the young and talented architect may have been a surrogate for the lost son, especially in those first years after George and Frances had both married and were preparing for the holiday in their own homes. (In 1902, on the anniversary of the birth of the infant son, Frances Glessner noted in her journal that he would have been 28 years old had he lived, so his memory always remained with her).

Hermann traveled to Germany to help care for his ailing father in April 1901, remaining for three years, but upon returning to Chicago, he was welcomed again to share in the Glessners’ Christmas festivities, as noted in his reply to Frances Glessner’s invitation for Christmas Day 1904:

“To begin and to close Christmas Day at Mr. and Mrs. Glessners’ – nothing finer could Mr. von Holst wish, and, as the best wishes are so seldom realized, he looks forward with pleasure to the fulfillment of this one: to Breakfast at 8, to Supper at 7.”

His Christmas card from 1909 contains a short but heartfelt greeting:

“To Mrs. Glessner – a Merry Christmas. I know of no truer heart or better friend. Hermann”

It appears Hermann was present every Christmas for decades, even after his marriage to Lucy Hammond in 1911. Soon after, Hermann published Modern American Homes, and one of the first copies was presented to Frances Glessner for Christmas in 1912, with the following, thoughtful inscription:

“To Mrs. Glessner – Your ideals and ideas for the American Home have ever been an inspiration, to seek and strive for beauty along simple straightforward lines.”


Dining room, 1923

CHRISTMAS 1924

Frances Glessner’s journal stops in 1917, but various other documents left behind help us to reconstruct what Christmas would have been like in 1924. The guest list shows that seventeen people joined the Glessners for dinner. 

Frederick and Elizabeth Stock – Music director of the symphony since 1905. On his photo above, which he presented to the Glessners for Christmas in 1907, he notes that they are his “best friends.”


(From left) Frederick Wessels, Henry Voegeli, Eric DeLamarter

Frederick and Minnie Wessels – The orchestra’s business manager, and treasurer of the Orchestral Association, of which John Glessner was a trustee. 

Henry and Frances Voegeli – The orchestra’s assistant business manager, and assistant treasurer of the Orchestral Association. He took over as business manager upon Wessel’s retirement in 1927.

Eric DeLamarter – Assistant conductor of the symphony since October 1918.

Enrico and Juliette Tramonti – They came to Chicago in 1902 when he accepted the position of principal harpist with the symphony; he continued in that position until 1927.


William Bernhard with "Jerry" (Ephraim Historical Foundation)

William and Svea Bernhard – A Chicago architect who later designed the summer home for the Stocks in Ephraim, Wisconsin.


Lucy von Holst (from 1924 passport application)

Hermann and Lucy von Holst – Records indicate that Lucy von Holst, Juliette Tramonti, and Svea Bernhard were regularly asked to decorate the Glessners’ Christmas tree. All would have been about the age of the Glessners’ children.

Nathalie Sieboth Kennedy – Reader for Frances Glessner’s Monday Morning Reading Class from 1902 until it was disbanded in 1930. During the 1890s and early 1900s, she was co-principal of the Sieboth-Kennedy School for Girls with her sister Marie (Sieboth) Gookin. It was considered one of Chicago’s finest finishing schools, the graduates “marrying well and early.”

Nathalie Gookin – Mrs. Kennedy’s niece, and the daughter of Frederick and Marie Gookin. Frederick was a close friend of John Glessner, and the long-time curator of Japanese prints and drawings at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Alfred and Vera Wolfe – Vera was the only child of Frederick and Elizabeth Stock. This was the couple’s first Christmas as husband and wife, having been married at Fourth Presbyterian Church in April 1924.

In addition to the guest list, we also have Frances Glessners’ seating chart. Frederick Stock occupied the place of honor to her right; Eric DeLamarter sat to her left. The two youngest female guests, Nathalie Gookin and Vera Wolfe, sat to either side of John Glessner.

The menu was not as elaborate as it would have been in the late 1800s, this time including just four courses (as opposed to eight).

First course
Soup, served with crackers, olives, and celery. Crackers would have been baked by the cook (no saltines here), and celery was still quite popular, with special dishes designed to hold the crudité. 

Second course
Turkey, sausage, cranberries, jelly, sweet potatoes, corn, beans, and radishes. The sausage was most likely from Deerfoot Farms, the finest and most expensive sausages at the time; it is frequently identified by name on other dinner menus. Jelly referred to a gelatin dish, i.e. a “Jello mold,” all the rage at the time. 

Third course
Tomato and lettuce salad, with cheese balls and crackers. Menus consistently show that salad was always served after the entrée. 

Fourth course
Plum pudding, ice cream, cake, candy, fruit, nuts, and raisins. Plum pudding was a standard on the Glessners’ Christmas table, and ice cream was served at almost all dinner parties. 

Beverages
This being Prohibition, no alcohol was served. During dinner, guests consumed cider and White Rock, the most popular mineral water of its day. Coffee was served with dessert.

HERMANN’S TOAST
The toast read by Hermann at dinner is significant in that it combines a bit of history of his relationship with the Glessners, how meaningful the years of friendship were to him, and a first-hand account of how the Glessners’ “spirit” impacted all those around them. 

He begins the toast by noting that in 1896, he received his first independent commission as an architect from the Glessners – a bronze tablet commemorating their horse Jim, who had died earlier that year at The Rocks, where he was buried beneath a huge boulder.


Jim's memorial plaque, 2013

The remainder of the toast makes note of the Glessners’ gift of their Prairie Avenue home and how that act embodied and reflected their generous spirit. The toast reads:

“A few weeks ago, the Chicago papers announced that this home was presented in perpetuity to the (Chicago) Chapter of the American Institute of Architects. The same spirit that remembered the faithful horse with a bronze table dedicated this beautiful structure to posterity, a gift which will have untold influence for good on generations of followers of the art of building. 

“The young draughtsman of 1896 has been under the influence of this spirit for 28 years and knows what it has done for him.

“You assembled here know too what a wonderful enlightening factor it has been in your lives. It is a spirit for good and it will outlast this glorious, lovable building. It is the spirit of Christmas that lasts 365 days in the year. Mrs. Glessner and Mr. Glessner are the embodiment of this spirit. They have given the inert materials composing this structure a mighty soul.

“Let us rise and wish them in unison A MERRY CHRISTMAS.”


And with those carefully chosen words, Hermann V. von Holst preserved the special spirit of this house and its occupants for all of us to appreciate nearly a century later, when the true spirit of Christmas is needed more than ever.


POSTSCRIPT
After dinner, the party traveled down to Orchestra Hall, where Stock led one of his “popular concerts” consisting of lighter works, with tickets priced from 15 to 50 cents, making the concerts available to a wide audience. 

On January 1, 1925, to conclude the celebratory month, the Glessners hosted a reception for the members of the Chicago Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, assisted by the Chapter president, Alfred H. Granger. That day was also Frances Glessner’s 77th birthday.



Tuesday, November 3, 2020

The Thanksgiving Day Protest March of 1884

A mass gathering – a protest march – banners displaying grievances – complaints about the police and the mayor – the National Guard conducting street riot drills. Is the year 2020? Well, it might be, but in this article, we will look at the issues which culminated in Chicago’s largely forgotten Thanksgiving Day protest march of 1884.


Albert Parsons

The roots of the protest can be found in the Great Railroad Strike of 1877, the first general strike in the United States, brought on by the railroads cutting the wages of its workers. On July 23, 1877, Albert Parsons (later of Haymarket fame) spoke to a crowd of 30,000 Chicago workers, demanding fair wages. The uprising lasted for three days and came to a head on July 26 when the police confronted assembled workers at the railroad viaduct at Halsted and 16th Street. The police opened fire into the crowd, and thirty workers lost their lives, with many more wounded. (Read more in this May 2020 article from Chicago Magazine).


1877 riot

Parsons, who lost his job at the Chicago Times during the incident, started his own publication, the anarchist Alarm. He shared an office with August Spies, a German furniture maker and publisher of the Arbeiter Zeitung. Together, the publications helped to spread their cause to the Polish, German, and Bohemian immigrants who were rapidly increasing in number in Chicago.


August Spies

A major grievance was the demand for the eight-hour day. Chicago’s business community could not ignore the growing movement, and several of the leading businessmen that were targeted resided on Prairie Avenue. Chief among them were Marshall Field, George Pullman, and Philip Armour.


1886 map of Market Square

On the cold rainy afternoon of November 27, 1884, Thanksgiving Day, a crowd estimated anywhere from 500 to 2,000 answered the call of the Socialists and gathered in Market Square, located along Market Street between Madison and Randolph. A band played the Marseillaise Hymn as the crowd waited for Parsons and others to ascend to the speaker’s stand, hastily assembled from a half dozen chicken crates. Around the stand, banners sewed by Parson’s wife Lucy, an integral part of the movement, read:

-Our capitalistic robbers may well thank their Lord that we, their victims, have not yet strangled them

-Thanks to our ‘Lords’ who have the kindness to feast on our earnings

-Shall we thank our ‘Lords’ for our misery, destitution, and poverty?

-The turkeys and champagne upon the tables of our ‘Lords’ was purchased by us

-Why we thank? Because our capitalistic brothers are happily enjoying our turkeys, our wines, and our houses


Market Square

Parsons started his speech, “Men of the disinherited class of the earth, we are assembled here on this day of National thanksgiving to curse the capitalistic robbers who are feasting on the blood of our wives and children. We are justified in cursing these vipers by the Bible which they hurl at us with so much unction,” after which he quoted from the Gospel of John and the Epistle of St. James. “Your riches are corrupted . . . Your gold and silver is cankered, and the rust shall eat your flesh as if it were fire. We do not intend to leave this matter for the Lord, we intend to do something for ourselves.”

During the next speech, given by C. D. Griffin, men arrived from the West Side, carrying two large red and two large black flags. “This is the first time in America that the black flag of hunger has been carried in the streets of a city. Shall we submit to being starved? No; we will flaunt these black emblems of want and despair in the faces of the rich robbers as they are eating our turkey and drinking our wine.”


The black flag of hunger

Several Socialist resolutions were adopted noting that property rights should no longer be maintained or respected and that the “great army of useless workers, among whom are the lawyers, insurers, brokers, canvassers, jailers, politicians, armies and navies, including all useless employees whose sole business is to adjust property claims between man and man, should be deprived of this useless and corrupting employment.” August Spies then spoke noting that “when the Socialists asked for bread, (Mayor) Carter Harrison appointed 400 new policemen to drive them from their homes and hovels.”


Protest banners

After a final speech, delivered in German, “the crowd was then formed into a procession, headed by a band, and paraded the more aristocratic portions of the city, such as Michigan avenue on the South Side and Dearborn avenue on the North Side. At the head of the line were displayed two flags, a red and a black one.” The march proceeded onto Prairie Avenue, “the very citadel of capitalism.” Marchers rang the doorbells of Marshall Field and George Pullman and others, Samuel Fielden proclaiming “Our international movement is to unite all countries and do away with the robber class, prepare for the inevitable conflict.”


1900 block of Prairie Avenue looking northeast; Marshall Field's home is at center

The marchers dispersed quietly as night fell, there being no attempt on the part of the police to break up the crowd. However, that morning, the First Regiment infantry had been directed to practice “street riot tactics,” not only to be at the ready should there be a need to intervene, but also as a show of strength.

“The First Infantry spent something over two hours of the morning in drilling the ‘street riot’ tactics recently prepared by one of the New York National Guard officers . . . These various movements are intended to be used in forcing their way through and dispersing any mobs which have taken possession of the streets and are something entirely new to the National Guard . . . As the street-riot fighting is about the only kind that the Chicago regiments may expect to have to engage in, the officers are going to give a good deal more attention to this particular feature hereafter.”

The Thanksgiving Day march was an important moment in the anarchist movement, which continued to grow. The next year, when the elaborate Board of Trade building opened, the marchers were there proclaiming that the “Board of Thieves” stood for “starvation of the masses, privileges and luxury for the few.” One of the marchers exclaimed, “blow it up with dynamite.” General Philip Sheridan, who had helped protect Chicago following the Great Fire in 1871, only created more unrest with comments such as, “The better classes are tired of the insane howlings of the lowest strata, and they mean to stop them.”


Lucy Parsons

On May 1, 1886, the anarchists and the labor movements came together in a nationwide fight for the eight-hour workday. Albert and Lucy Parsons led 80,000 workers down Michigan Avenue and the city of Chicago became the center of the strike. Three days later, the Haymarket Riot took place with Parsons and Spies and several others being wrongly convicted of throwing a bomb at the police that arrived to break up the gathering. They were among four men hanged on November 11, 1887, all becoming martyrs for the movement.


1700 block of South Michigan Avenue, looking northeast

Various monuments have been erected through the years to honor those who lost their lives as a result of the events at Haymarket Square. There is no monument commemorating the 1884 Thanksgiving Day protest march, but it remains an important chapter in the history of the labor movement in Chicago and the nation.

NOTE: The Thanksgiving Day march and the incidents that followed left their mark on the Prairie Avenue neighborhood. By the spring of 1889, residents had raised necessary funds and enforced sufficient political pressure to result in the erection of a new armory for the First Regiment. It was conveniently located at the northwest corner of Michigan Avenue and 16th Street, providing a gateway between downtown and the residential district centered by Prairie Avenue. The building was designed to portray strength and authority.


First Regiment Armory

“The days of the Plantagenets, of bastions, ramparts, and parapets, is suggested by the proposed new First Regiment Armory, the plans and specifications of which have just been completed by architects Burnham & Root . . . Here, overlooking the boulevard and lake, will stand the grim, solid, military-looking pile . . . The armory will stand alone in its medieval picturesqueness, a veritable fortress capable of resisting any attack from without unless it be a prolonged siege by heavy artillery . . . The walls will be four feet thick . . . The entire four stone walls are unbroken save by the vast sallyport on Michigan avenue. The stone reveals of this port will be ten feet deep and the arched opening itself forty feet wide. An entire company front may march through the door in a charge on an enemy without breaking. The door is protected by a portcullis made of chains and bars of steel which can be raised out of sight when not in a position of defense . . . War is clearly embodied in every line and angle of the structure, which combines solidity, dignity, security, and permanence.”

Built to survive a military attack, the building could not survive the changing fortunes of the Prairie Avenue neighborhood. After the First Regiment abandoned the armory, it endured years of use hosting sporting events and car shows before being razed in 1967.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

The Lithographic Technical Foundation opens in Glessner House - 1945


Reception desk in main hall

In October 1945, exactly 75 years ago, and just weeks after the end of World War II, the Lithographic Technical Foundation (LTF) opened its new research laboratories in Glessner House. For the next twenty years, LTF occupied the building, helping to ensure its survival, while many of the neighboring houses were demolished. Utilizing a souvenir booklet from the opening of the laboratories, and a series of photographs taken by Hedrich Blessing, this article will provide a glimpse inside the house during the LTF occupancy.

Laboratory in former dining room

LTF was begun in the 1920s as a non-profit endowed institution with a mission of providing cooperative scientific research and related educational activities in the field of lithography. It maintained its educational headquarters and administrative offices in New York City, with a research laboratory at the University of Cincinnati. 


Laboratory in the former parlor; a light box (shown at far right) blocks off the north entrance into the room from the main hall

By the early 1940s, LTF was looking to expand its research activities and investigated eight of the leading research facilities in the United States, settling on Armour Institute, which had been gifted Glessner House in 1938. The first few collaborative projects were so successful, that the decision was made to relocate the research laboratories from Cincinnati to Chicago. With no facilities available on the main campus, LTF was offered Glessner House rent free, with LTF only responsible for a share of the annual maintenance.


Press set up in former coach house

The official opening of the laboratories took place on Tuesday October 23, 1945. LTF made good use of the 17,400 square foot building as is noted in the “Guide to Glessner House” included in the opening booklet.

The reception area was placed in the first-floor main hall, with the large panel over the fireplace painted with “Lithographic Research Laboratories” and a listing of the six main divisions. The research director, Prof. Robert F. Reed, used the Glessners’ former bedroom as his office. 


Prof. Reed's office in the Glessners' former bedroom

The library was retained for use as the research library, the large partners desk still in place. The parlor and dining room were converted into the main laboratories, with a physical chemistry laboratory, hood room, and experimental laboratories for platemaking, photography, and press occupying the rooms of the former kitchen suite.


School Room

The school room was, appropriately, designated for educational activities. The second-floor hall was made into a large conference room, utilizing the Glessners’ original dining room table, chairs, and sideboard. The two guest rooms were converted into additional conference rooms. 


Second floor hall with the Glessners' original dining room furniture shown at right

George’s former bedroom became the office of Wade E. Griswold, the executive director, and Fanny’s former bedroom was dedicated to optics and light research. The conservatory and female servants’ wing became ink and paper reference rooms and a lunchroom. The coach house became a demonstration room with a full-size press, with a maintenance shop, paper storage, and caretaker’s quarters above in the former hayloft and male servants’ quarters. The basement and third floor were turned into a series of demonstration rooms for chemistry, platemaking, dot etching, hand retouching, stripping, and opaquing, in addition to a darkroom and camera lab.


Executive Director Wade E. Griswold's office in George's former bedroom

The ample wall space in the house, previously filled with the Glessners’ collection of steel engravings, was hung with “many of the fine examples of lithographic workmanship, including a large portion of the fine collection of retrospective historical lithographic prints and other art subjects and fine examples of lithography produced by its members.”


Research library; the Glessners' partners desk is in the foreground with two of the original dining room chairs

The Deed of Gift between the Glessner family and Armour Institute (which became the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) in 1940 upon its merger with the Lewis Institute) stipulated that Armour must retain ownership of the house for at least twenty years. A few years in advance of that anniversary date, IIT informed LTF that the leasing arrangements would be terminated at that time. LTF examined its possibilities and ultimately decided to purchase Glessner House from IIT at an agreed upon price of $70,000. A ceremony transferring ownership was held at the Lake Shore Club, 850 N. Lake Shore Drive, on April 2, 1958 – twenty years and two days after Armour had originally accepted the house.


Corner guestroom in use as a conference room: the walls were covered in silver leaf

Just five years later, LTF made the decision to consolidate the research facilities in Chicago and the educational activities in New York into a single location in Sewickley, Pennsylvania, near Carnegie Mellon University, with whom it often partnered. Glessner House was put up for sale for $70,000 and most of the original Glessner furniture pieces still in the house were sold, as LTF was considering demolition. The house was ultimately purchased by the newly formed Chicago School of Architecture Foundation in the spring of 1966 for just $35,000, and Glessner House Museum was born.

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