Architecture and Aurora and George Grant Elmslie and Outside Chicago and Preservation11 Aug 2013 05:21 am

I’ve mentioned George Grant Elmslie, Louis Sullivan’s former draftsman, here and elsewhere before, particularly noting one of his smaller working buildings, the Peoples Gas Irving Park Neighborhood Store at 4839 W. Irving Park Road.

Elmslie is best-known as the man who festooned Adler and Sullivan’s buildings with fractalizing terra cotta and cast-iron explosions of leaves, flowers, and other elements, bringing rapturous glissandos and arpeggios to Sullivan’s architectural operas. After leaving Sullivan, Elmslie started a firm with William Gray Purcell (about which more here). When that partnership dissolved, Elmslie went on to collaborate with other architects, but also worked through his own company, George G. Elmslie & Associates. Aurora, IL, as it turns out, holds the largest number of Elmslie’s commercial buildings in one place. All were designed in the 1920s, and though most experienced some unfortunate alterations over the decades, they remain mostly intact and feature Elmslie’s later, more subdued, but no less lovely, ornamentation.

Included below are photos of Elmslie’s German-American National Bank, Old Second National Bank (particularly amazing), Keystone Building, William H. Graham Building, and Healey Chapel. I’ve thrown in a few photos of Leland Tower/Leland Hotel (I knew nothing about its impressive history as the former tallest building outside of Chicago and a recording studo location for such blues performers as Sonny Boy Williams I, Robert Nighthawk, Jazz Gillum, Big Joe Williams, Washboard Sam, Tampa Red, and Yank Rachell), and Aurora’s Paramount Theater for good measure. Who would have thought the location of Wayne’s World would be so culturally rich?

Architecture and Chicago and Lincoln Park and Louis Sullivan and Preservation10 Mar 2013 05:28 pm

I drove over to Wells Street to take pictures of the former location of the Ripley’s Believe It…or Not! Museum for an upcoming post. On the way back I stopped by several Adler and Sullivan buildings I’d yet to visit. If you didn’t know already, the best time to visit buildings and snap pictures is early Sunday morning. Even the busiest streets have plenty of parking and no sidewalk traffic.

Here are several still standing structures erected by A&S in the early days of their partnership. Most are located in Lincoln Park. Wish the weather had cooperated a bit. I’ll return another, brighter day.

1826–34 N. Lincoln Park West, Row Houses for Ann Halsted


440 W. Belden, Ann Halsted House



2147 N. Cleveland Ave., Leon Mannheimer House



2310-12 N. Lincoln Ave., Ferdinand Kaufmann Store & Building



IMG_8114 IMG_8115





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 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 Art and George Grant Elmslie and Louis Sullivan and Outside Chicago and Preservation07 Oct 2012 10:40 pm
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 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!