Tag Archives: Chicago

Chicago’s Laramie State Bank Building

Laramie State Bank Building, Chicago, Ill, Photo Romi Cortier
Laramie State Bank Building, Chicago, IL, Photo Romi Cortier
Laramie State Bank Building, Chicago, Ill, Photo Romi Cortier
Laramie State Bank Building, Chicago, IL, Photo Romi Cortier
Laramie State Bank Building, Chicago, Ill, Photo Romi Cortier
Laramie State Bank Building, Chicago, Ill, Photo Romi Cortier
Laramie State Bank Building, Chicago, Ill, Photo Romi Cortier
Laramie State Bank Building, Chicago, IL, Photo Romi Cortier
Laramie State Bank Building, Chicago, Ill, Photo Romi Cortier
Laramie State Bank Building, Chicago, IL, Photo Romi Cortier
Laramie State Bank Building, Chicago, Ill, Photo Romi Cortier
Laramie State Bank Building, Chicago, IL, Photo Romi Cortier
Laramie State Bank Building, Chicago, Ill, Photo Romi Cortier
Laramie State Bank Building, Chicago, IL, Photo Romi Cortier
Laramie State Bank Building, Chicago, Ill, Photo Romi Cortier
Laramie State Bank Building, Chicago, IL, Photo Romi Cortier

The Laramie State Bank Building in Chicago is a feast for the eyes. Whether or not you’re a lover of Art Deco, you can’t help but notice this gem while driving by. The butterscotch colored terra cotta, created by the Northwestern Terra Cotta Company,  is unlike anything I’ve ever seen.

Former Laramie State Bank Building, courtesy Forgotten Chicago Forum, via Berwyn Frank, circa 1910
Formerly the Ruzicka Drug Store Building, now the current Laramie State Bank Building, courtesy Forgotten Chicago Forum, via Berwyn Frank, circa 1910.

What started out as a one-story addition and remodel of a modest 1909 building,  grew into a massive overhaul which was completed by 1929. Architects Meyer & Cook were responsible for the Deco makeover that features such details as: coins, squirrels,  beehives, men at work, and the american eagle sinking it’s talons into the entire globe, all of which are symbols of industry and thrift. The moral of the story appears to be hard work and savings. The building resides at 5200 W. Chicago Avenue, on the corner of Laramie, in the community of Austin.

I found this building quite by accident, while driving to Oak Park to see all of the Frank Lloyd Wright homes and his personal studio last summer. It looked to be a short drive from the friends home that I was staying at. I dipped out early that Sunday morning while my friends slept, using google maps to find my way to Oak Park. The map looked simple, take a left anywhere,  turn right at Chicago Avenue, and follow it all the way to Oak Park. As I rolled through the neighborhood, it appeared to be quite run down, and to be honest… downright scary. I saw the ‘Golden Arches’ of  McDonald’s on my left and beelined it into the drive-thru for a quick bite. While waiting in line, I started observing the goings on in the parking lot…. hmmm. Drug deals, prostitution, it was very sketchy and I couldn’t get out of there quick enough. As I pulled out of the parking lot, I saw the amazing deco building sitting caddy corner and made a mental note to stop on my way back from Oak Park. If you’ve read previous posts on my blog, then you’ll see some of the other great buildings from my visit there, and I still have a few more to post.

Anyway, as I drove back from Oak Park, I parked my Jeep in the driveway of a different quick service restaurant, hopped out, and took a ton of photos in about 10 minutes. Yes, I was the only middle aged white guy with silver hair in the hood, so I sorta stood out. I simply smiled and said hello to those who looked at me, got my images and then bolted. When I got back to my friends house, I told her about my adventure. She said What! You went where?! Oh my god, don’t ever go there again, especially at night. You know when a fine looking black woman tells you to stay out of the hood, you’d better listen. I know I’m no Anderson Cooper covering some war torn country abroad, but I did feel like a bit of a rebel for being willing to get my blog photos. That said, so often these old buildings are in parts of town that are less than desirable.  So you just have to throw on your best New York attitude and go for it. It’s always so rewarding when you come away with so many amazing images. I hope you like them as much as I do.

Laramie State Bank Building, Chicago, IL, Photo Romi Cortier
Laramie State Bank Building, Chicago, IL, Photo Romi Cortier

Hills – DeCaro House, Oak Park Illinois

Hills-DeCaro House, Oak Park, Illinois, Photo Romi Cortier
Hills-DeCaro House, Oak Park, Illinois, Photo Romi Cortier
Hills - DeCaro House, Oak Park, Illinois, Photo Romi Cortier
HillsDeCaro House, Oak Park, Illinois, Photo Romi Cortier
Hills - DeCaro House, Oak Park, Illinois, Photo Romi Cortier
Hills-DeCaro House, Oak Park, Illinois, Photo Romi Cortier
Hills - DeCaro House, Oak Park, Illinois, Photo Romi Cortier
Hills-DeCaro House, Oak Park, Illinois, Photo Romi Cortier
Hills-DeCaro House, Oak Park, Illinois, Photo Romi Cortier
Hills-DeCaro House pergola,, Oak Park, Illinois, Photo Romi Cortier
Hills - DeCaro House, Oak Park, Illinois, Photo Romi Cortier
Hills-DeCaro House, Oak Park, Illinois, Photo Romi Cortier
Hills-DeCaro House, Oak Park, Illinois, Photo Romi Cortier
Hills-DeCaro House, Oak Park, Illinois, Photo Romi Cortier

The Hills-DeCaro House, located at 313 Forest Avenue in Oak Park,  has an extraordinary history.  This house is part of the self guided Frank Lloyd Wright walking tour that can be seen while visiting Oak Park, Illinois.

The original structure, seen below, was built by architect Charles C. Miller for William Cunningham Gray in 1883.  After changing ownership in 1900, the home was moved south of its original location, and rotated counterclockwise… who knew they could do that in 1906. Frank Lloyd Wright was then commissioned to redesign the home, thus creating the Prairie Style home seen above. This was achieved by entirely engulfing the original building, creating a more horizontal vibe, versus the vertical look of the original home.

The Gray House by Charles C. Miller, Photo courtesy of the Northwest Architect Archives at the University of Minnesota Libraries in Minneapolis.
The Gray House by Charles C. Miller, Photo courtesy of the Northwest Architect Archives at the University of Minnesota Libraries in Minneapolis.

Completed around 1907, the home was a wedding gift from Nathan Moore, to his daughter Mary Hills . Not fond of the homes ‘stern and austere’ look, she hired a new architect to make alterations, such as extending the kitchen wing to include a pantry and breakfast room, enclosing the rear porch, and adding a children’s playroom under the rear porch.

In 1975 Tom and Irene DeCaro purchased the home and began a diligent restoration with the aid of architect John Tilton. But a fire in 1976 devastated much of the structure, including the entire second and third floors.  Following a neighborhood fundraiser, construction resumed, returning the front elevation to its original 1906 design.  For their part in the restoration, the Oak Park Landmarks Commission voted to rename the completed structure as the Hills-DeCaro House in 1977.

In 2009, the Smylies, who bought the home in 2001, decided to recreate a portion of the original pergola that had once existed. Subsequent digging uncovered the limestone foundation for the pavilion, while Roman bricks were matched to remnants found near the buried foundations.

I had no knowledge of any of these facts until I did research for this article. All I can tell you is how much I loved the grand, yet elegant proportions of this home when I stood in front of it. I also loved the color palette of the home, which seems to reflect todays current trend of of highly  contrasting  black and white exteriors. Little did I know when I walked through the alley behind the home, that the gorgeous pergola was fairly recent and a recreation of the original lost many years ago. This kind of love for architecture gives me faith in humanity on the eve of this very nerve racking election.

Chicago’s Buckingham Fountain

Buckingham Fountain, Chicago, Photo Romi Cortier
Buckingham Fountain, Chicago, Photo Romi Cortier
Buckingham Fountain, Chicago, Photo Romi Cortier
Buckingham Fountain, Chicago, Photo Romi Cortier
Buckingham Fountain, Chicago, Photo Romi Cortier
Buckingham Fountain, Chicago, Photo Romi Cortier
Buckingham Fountain, Chicago, Photo Romi Cortier
Buckingham Fountain, Chicago, Photo Romi Cortier
Buckingham Fountain, Chicago, Photo Romi Cortier
Buckingham Fountain, Chicago, Photo Romi Cortier
Buckingham Fountain, Chicago, Photo Romi Cortier
Buckingham Fountain, Chicago, Photo Romi Cortier

Chicago’s Buckingham Fountain is breathtakingly beautiful. To stand in front of it, is to be enveloped by the truest essence of beauty. The sound of splashing water. The waters mist surrounding you. The sumptuous warmth of the pink Georgia marble. Bronze sculptures that immediately remind you of Versailles. The view of the ocean behind it. It’s truly a feast for all of your senses and should be at the top of your to do list while visiting Chicago.

I was lucky to arrive just as the sun was beginning to set, and I felt like I was witnessing the creation of an 18th-Century Italian painting. The rolling clouds changed color before my eyes, with shades of pale pink and baby blue. The spectacular ‘soft moonlight’ lighting on the fountain revealed itself as the sun continued to set. The warm tones of the marble against the backdrop of cool tones in the sky could not have been anymore perfect. I circled the fountain to experience it from every vantage point. I wanted to linger and spend hours by the fountains edge, but there were still so many things to see along Michigan Avenue.

Kate Sturges Buckingham (1858 – 1937) bestowed this remarkable gift to the city in 1927, as a memorial to her late brother Clarence Buckingham. To this day, it is one of the largest fountains of it’s type in the world.  Architect Edward H. Bennett designed the fountain, and French artist Marcel Loyau produced the sculptural elements, inspired by the Latona Fountain at Versailles.  Located at Columbus Drive and Congress Parkway in Grant Park, the fountains runs from 8 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. daily, from early April through mid-October, depending on the weather.  I can’t wait to return to this glorious  Chicago landmark.

 

Chicago’s Carbide and Carbon Building

Carbon and Carbide Building, Chicago, Photo Romi Cortier
Carbide and Carbon Building, Chicago, Photo Romi Cortier
Carbon and Carbide Building, Chicago, Photo Romi Cortier
Carbide and Carbon Building, Chicago, Photo Romi Cortier
Carbide and Carbon Building, Chicago, Photo Romi Cortier
Carbide and Carbon Building, Chicago, Photo Romi Cortier
Carbide and Carbon Building, Chicago, Photo Romi Cortier
Carbide and Carbon Building, Chicago, Photo Romi Cortier
Carbide and Carbon Building, Chicago, Photo Romi Cortier
Carbide and Carbon Building, Chicago, Photo Romi Cortier
Carbide and Carbon Building, Chicago, Photo Romi Cortier
Carbide and Carbon Building, Chicago, Photo Romi Cortier
Carbide and Carbon Building, Chicago, Photo Romi Cortier
Carbide and Carbon Building, Chicago, Photo Romi Cortier
Carbide and Carbon Building, Chicago, Photo Romi Cortier
Carbide and Carbon Building, Chicago, Photo Romi Cortier
Carbide and Carbon Building, Chicago, Photo Romi Cortier
Carbide and Carbon Building, Chicago, Photo Romi Cortier

Chicago’s Carbide and Carbon Building is an extraordinary example of 1920’s Art Deco. I remember seeing this gorgeous building on my last visit to Chicago in 2004, but strangely enough,  I couldn’t remember going inside of it. As it turns out, the building underwent over $106 Million worth of  renovations and updates from 2001 – 2004  and was closed to the public during that time.  No wonder my UCLA art history  teacher who was hosting our trip didn’t take us inside. But you know me, if I see a stunner like this one, I’ll do my best to step inside and experience the glory of a by gone era.

One of the things that I love about the renovations done by the Hard Rock Hotel, is that their signage doesn’t interfere with the striking polished black marble exterior on the lower portion of the building. The upper portion of the building is dark green terra cotta, not black as I’d originally thought. I’d assumed this building was like LA’s very rare gold and black terra cotta art deco buildings, however I was wrong. And can you believe the gold color on the tower is 24k gold.  Even though it’s only one five-thousandths of an inch thick, it’s actual gold.  Elegant bronze trim extends from the tip of the spire to the ground, leading some to believe  that the building was built to look like a champagne bottle.

The entrance at 230 N. Michigan Avenue sports a bronze grill over the massive doorway, something that beckons any seasoned deco enthusiast to enter. And once you’ve stepped  inside the lobby, the exquisite deco elevator doors will practically take your breath away, They’re every bit as beautiful as the ones at the Waldorf Astoria in New York.

The Carbide and Carbon Company developed the first dry cell battery  and commissioned the Burnham Brothers to create their home base, which was completed in 1929. There were plans for a sister building, however, the stock market crash of 1929 put an end to that.  Zoning laws in 1923 limited the height of skyscrapers, allowing for towers as long as they didn’t take up more than one quarter of the lot size. Therefore, this building has a 23 story base and a 15 story tower. There’s something so elegant about the proportions of buildings from the 20’a and 30’s.  They’re more human in scale and have so easily stood the test of time. Hooray for the Hard Rock Hotel for reinvesting in this gem of a building and bringing it up to date.

If you’d like to book a room at the Chicago Hard Rock Hotel, click HERE. 

Revisiting the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio

Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, Oak Park, Illinois, Photo Romi Cortier
Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, Oak Park, Illinois, Photo Romi Cortier
Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, Oak Park, Illinois, Photo Romi Cortier
Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, Oak Park, Illinois, Photo Romi Cortier
Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, Oak Park, Illinois, Photo Romi Cortier
Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, Oak Park, Illinois, Photo Romi Cortier
Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, Oak Park, Illinois, Photo Romi Cortier
Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, Oak Park, Illinois, Photo Romi Cortier
Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, Oak Park, Illinois, Photo Romi Cortier
Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, Oak Park, Illinois, Photo Romi Cortier
Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, Oak Park, Illinois, Photo Romi Cortier
Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, Oak Park, Illinois, Photo Romi Cortier

I first visited the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio in 2004 on an architectural tour hosted by my art history teacher from  UCLA.  It so impressed me that I couldn’t wait to revisit it on my recent trip to Chicago.  The entire neighborhood  surrounding the studio was absolutely pristine. Clearly there must be an HPOZ or some governing body in place to ensure that the neighborhood remains in tip top shape for visiting tourists such as myself, who are devotees of Frank Lloyd Wrights Prairie Style architecture.

Mr. Wright built his original home on this site in 1889, seen below from the side. In 1897 he added on the architectural work studio seen above. Even though he had an office in Chicago’s downtown Loop neighborhood, he preferred to be in an environment that ‘conspired to develop the best there is in him.‘ An environment free of the distractions of the busy city. 

Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, Oak Park, Illinois, Photo Romi Cortier
Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, Oak Park, Illinois, Photo Romi Cortier

By viewing the homes located directly across the street (seen below), it helps you see just how revolutionary Wright’s designs were. Typical buildings of this era were mired in the past, with styles derived from the architecture of old Europe. Organic Architecture, as he referred to it, meant that architecture should be suited to its environment and be a product of its place, purpose and time. The Prairie Style was inspired by the broad flat landscapes of the American Midwest and it was the first uniquely American architectural style of what has been called ‘The American Century’.

Oak Park, Illinois, Photo Romi Cortier
Oak Park, Illinois, Photo Romi Cortier

In 1888 Frank Lloyd Wright studied under the prestigious firm of Adler & Sullivan. Louis Sullivan soon recognized Wright’s talent and spent countless hours mentoring him and shaping his philosophies. It’s my opinion that the four decorative pillar supports seen above are an homage to Sullivan, who was famous for his vegetal ornamentation, also a signature of the Art Nouveau period. Wright’s later vegetal work becomes much more streamlined and graphic, like the detail seen below in Los Angeles’s Hollyhock House.

Hollyhock Panel, Hollyhock House, Barnsdall Park, Photo Romi Cortier
Hollyhock Panel, Hollyhock House, Barnsdall Park, Photo Romi Cortier

Next time you’re visiting Chicago, be sure and find time to tour this remarkable and important home that was the foundation for Wright’s illustrious career as one of Americas foremost architects.

Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, Oak Park, Illinois, Photo Romi Cortier
Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, Oak Park, Illinois, Photo Romi Cortier

flwright.org

… and lastly, check out my recent video about the painting I created from the garden statue above known as ‘Sprite in the Garden‘.