Chicago and History and Loop and Louis Sullivan and Old Photos and Preservation and The Hidden07 Mar 2013 05:56 am

Here’s an ad cribbed from a badly battered copy of the Chicago Daily News Almanac and Yearbook for 1908 I recovered from a friend’s trash. I’ll be running a few other interesting scans from the book in the coming week.


E.W. Blatchford Co., for a very long time, made lead shot at the Clinton address. The building once had a distinctive shot tower that can be seen on this package. It was, apparently, quite the eye-catching landmark back in the day.


Obviously, it was not a giant rook, despite what their logo would have you believe.

Of special note, after the factory suffered a fire in 1889, the firm of Adler and Sullivan was commissioned to redesign the interior. Today it’s a condo. See what it looks like today and learn more about this and other Adler and Sullivan fragments at my site.

By the way, the E.W. stood for the amazing first and second name of Eliphalet Wickes.

Architecture and Chicago and Old Photos and Signs and Uptown06 Mar 2013 12:17 am

Found in a 1980 book about layout and design. Highly inaccurate caption (those cars look 70s to me), but I’d love to know if this is Uptown and when. It might be somewhere along Milwaukee Ave. Click to embiggen? Great signage!


Art and Chicago and Columbian Exposition and Crime and Statues04 Mar 2013 01:20 am

As an addendum to my piece on statue desecration/destruction, I visited the Garfield Park Conservatory and snapped a few pictures of the restored bull and Native American goddess of grain statues (originally, in plaster form, on display at the Columbian Exposition). Welcome back!

Chicago and Portage Park28 Dec 2012 04:22 am

A bit of a mystery this time. My wife gardens in our backyard, and we regularly turn up marbles, small toys, bottle caps, bits of glass, dinner plate fragments, and similar things whenever she turns over the soil. One of the most intriguing objects is the below medallion. I suspect it’s a flattened penny, embossed(?) by a penny flattening machine. I have yet to turn up anything about a Mickey’s Lounge at 4080 Milwaukee Ave. (currently occupied by a parking lot and physical therapy clinic; though, intriguingly, up the street from the Portage Theater). The low drink price tells me this medallion goes way back, but while I’ve turned up several Mickey’s Lounges in the Chicago Tribune’s archives (all of which apparently ran afoul of the law through gambling or showing naughty films), none were located on Milwaukee Ave. So, what gives? Any suggestions or clues about what this is, exactly, and the history of this particular Mickey’s Lounge? Let me know at

Later Note: Not surprised to see that bar tokens were a fairly common item.

Architecture and Chicago and Loop10 Oct 2012 07:50 pm

Today I had an up-close look at the famous buttresses and grotesques of the Tribune Tower. Probably best-known for its neo-Gothic look and the international selection of stones and bricks embedded in its wall at ground level, many of the Tower’s finer, higher details are easily overlooked. here are a few close-ups from the 22nd floor balcony on the eastern side. Note the nifty WGN call letter plates!


Architecture and Chicago and Louis Sullivan and Outside Chicago and Parker Noble Berry and Preservation08 Oct 2012 01:48 am

One of the few structures extant by Sullivan’s last draftsman/protege Parker Noble Berry. Berry worked with Sullivan in the tower of the Auditorium Building before striking out on his own. He designed two banks (one in Manlius, IL, and the other in the neighborhood of Hegewisch [since demolished]), an “old ladies home” in Princeton, IL, and the below apartment building. It appears to be in need of better upkeep, with buckled and broken plaster, peeling paint, and general dinginess. Though I did enjoy the unseen presence of a practicing oboe player on the first floor, lending a bit of musical melancholy to my visit.

Architecture and Chicago and Churches and Disaster and Louis Sullivan and Outside Chicago and Preservation07 Oct 2012 10:08 pm

During the Iowa Flood of 2008, Louis Sullivan’s Peoples Savings Bank was hit hard. The interior appears utterly ruined, though I can only base that on peeking in a few windows (a string of trouble lights, all on, was hanging inside, which seemed odd). It’s understandable that the bank’s insides will require much TLC, but the exterior, in my opinion has been shamefully and needlessly neglected, The brickwork appears to still be covered with flood grime, and the windows are draped with cobwebs. Would it kill anyone to stop by with a broom and dust rag?

Conversely, the St. Paul’s United Methodist Church is in good shape, and is a remarkable piece of work. Practically space-age in its design.

Architecture and Chicago and Louis Sullivan and Outside Chicago and Preservation07 Oct 2012 09:29 pm

Located in Clinton, IA, an example of Sullivan’s work during his last years. Very reminiscent of Chicago’s Gage group and the Carson Pirie Scott Building in parts.

Architecture and Chicago and Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Sullivan04 Oct 2012 06:34 pm

I finally got around to seeing Tim Samuelson’s “Wright’s Roots” exhibit, currently set up at Expo 72. I won’t try to reconstruct the displays here for you —it’s an enjoyable little demitasse of an exhibit, giving a delicious, bracing jolt of history about Frank Lloyd Wright’s early years, his tutelage under Sullivan, and the development of his own inimitable style. perfect for a lunchtime visit. See it before it closes next week. I snapped a few pictures. Enjoy.

Architecture and Chicago and Preservation27 Sep 2012 07:38 pm

I intend to post here more often—mostly photos and short little bits of history—but the primary intent for the Steppes of Chicago is to run long-form essays. That doesn’t mean we can’t have a few fluffy bits in-between.

By the way… Save Prentice!

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