Saturday, December 13, 2008

Springfield, Springfield

No, nope, sorry. I'm sorry, no, it's not a Simpson's Tribute, and nope, sorry, it's not a Governator Blowdryavitch posting, it's Springfield, Mass! Yes, in Springfield Massachusetts, this lovely ten-family building was built in the early years of the last century. It has quite a lot in common with our humble high-class six-flat planwise, but with the addition of two floors and an additional luxury, a lift. With the elevator, it really breaks with our local building tradition, however, it does make for a rather luxurious building, which is, in fact, what this was intended to be.

Despite this, it was built quite economically, with, and I quote "less than $200 worth of stone in the whole front". However, it also featured an incinerator connected to the provision of domestic hot water and heating via the boiler. The intent was to give a comfortable and home-like appearance, rather along the order of the Arts and Crafts movement, albeit with a dash of New England thrift and dosh of Yankee practicality, one would imagine, being in an industrial town (I believe, they call themselves a city). In fact, it was, it appears, to have been a great success, with the average local rent being $6.50 a room, while this fine building garnered $10/room.

As you can see from the plan, there were a few units with a slightly different plan, intended for smaller families. Closets were ample for the time and the finishes were of great quality, while not ostentatious and good provision was made for service staff as well, in a maid's room.

The information came from The Architectural Record, however, unfortunately, I cannot recall the issue or year, as it was not on the pages these came from. The architects were a local firm called Huestis & Huestis and the builder was a local of the name Russell C. Parsons.

Viking Apartments

Continuing on our Wisconsin themed posts (you did know, didn't you, that we had this theme going?), I present here, the patented plans of the Viking Apartments in Milwaukee by one Herbert W. Tullgren in 1931. Yes, I did say patented, U.S. Patent # 1,896,734. His plan, used several times in Milwaukee, features a skip-stop elevator set-up with duplex or maisonette units, with the elevator stopping only at the living room floors. While I'm not a big fan of design patents, I do find it rather interesting that he did so. Unfortunately this set-up is not very common in the US due to our, perhaps admittedly over-stringent fire codes and overly paranoid and litigious society, however it works quite well for creating a house like, even exclusive feel to what would otherwise be an ordinary apartment, as well as saving money on construction by having fewer elevator doors and creating more rentable, leaseable and saleble space within the building, or by allowing more, larger units with fewer elevators (the other solution for large elevator apartments would be more elevators with smaller lobbies). It is also an attractive simple art deco or moderne building of white masonry construction.
As a sidenote or aside, the building is on the National Register for it's contribution to it's local area.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Out of town two flat

Here's an adorable two-flat, set of two-flats, actually, from a quick trip to Racine last weekend. Those wide bays, mission arches on the parapet wall and two entrances, each entry seems to have it's own porch, all add up to a nice change from the densely packed Chicago two-flat. I'd love to see inside, I'd hope they are as substantial inside as they look to be from outside.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Do blondes have more fun?

Do blondes really have more fun? Certainly, in Chicago, it would seem that Gentlemen Prefer Blondes - just look at all of the Sarah Siddons that Caro... Oh, sorry, wrong blog, but yes, Chicago IS a blond brick city, just look at all the examples of it, from the humble bungalow, to six flats, to courtyard buildings to Pei Ieoh Ming's rowhouse (or townhouses if you prefer) in Hyde Park with several hundred thousand tri-levels in between.
Blond brick is omnipresent, though it seems to be concentrated when it appears. Here is a yellowish tinge in Edgewater.
An early example in Ravenswood, with wonderful cornices.A more formal example along the north lakefront.A mid-rise example.

And since blondes have more fun, I'll leave you with some examples of fun blond brick entryways from the Farwell Avenue Corridor. I would say that certain gentlemen did prefer blond, the builders of these buildings, that is.
Cos' I'm a blond,yeah yeah yeah, don't you with you were me, b.l.a.n.d.e., oh I don't know.... I really shouldn't write these posts late at night...

Farwell Corridor

This posting is about the Farwell Corridor, as I term it (which also includes Morse, but that's neither here nor there), in West Rogers Park (or West Ridge, if you really, really prefer). This short stretch features a treasure trove of high class apartments (as well as some newer, somewhat interesting higher density housing) from Tudor to Art Deco and between.
It features everything from two and three flats to...
Courtyard buildings.
With Tudor-Gothick facades.
It features from truly grand de Luxe three-flats with impressive facades.
Which feature elegant facades with generous sizes, which must have large sized rooms.
As well as some truly massive six-flats.
With incredibly rich and varied facades.
From Neo-Classical to Tudor/Gothick to nearly Art Deco.
To imposingly massive...
I suspect that some of this development was due to proximity to good transport, both streetcar (along Western Avenue) and heavy rail (currently, today's Metra), as well as a combination of zoning and speculation. These really are good examples of some of the best of Chicago's residential architecture of the era, and even of American residential design of the era. There was also the convenience of proximity to a large park nearby.

Six-Flats deLuxe

Even though the humble six-flat is the workhouse of family apartment housing, they are sometimes elevated to something more, which I call the six-flat deLuxe which can be found in middle-class areas, and more especially upper-middle and upper class areas which fairly high densities, such as Lake View or Hyde Park.
Here we have an early example from the south side's grand boulevard, Hyde Park Boulevard, where many high class buildings were built as "exposition" buildings for the 1893 Columbian Exposition. This building appears to have one of the finest features of the de luxe building, which is side by side living and dining rooms, rather than having the dining room at the rear, either in front of the kitchen or facing the rear at the end of a long corridor.
Here we have another six-flat, but this time with a conventional layout, with the dining room at the end of a long, winding and twsiting hall in front of the kitchen, maids room and butlers pantry. This ordinary exterior belies it's interior, which hides two light wells, linen room and cedar room (NOT closets, but rooms), multiple bathrooms and luxury features.
Here we have a red brick entry with elegant features and sparse details.
And another similar example. Some buildings have another version of the front dining room plan, which places the dining room behind the living room besides the front hall, with the foyer or entry hall next behind the living room and the kitchen next to the front stairs which open front-wards onto the entrance hall and posess three staircases, two service and one main, as opposed to the standard rear kitchen layout, which has two sets of stairs.
Here with have another example of a side-by-side living room and dining room building, which has, if you look carefully to the right, where you can see, side porches and service stairs.
Our last building also features in the 20's variants, which four examples fall into, however with a more conventional plan, dressed up in a tudor or gothick facade. I hope you've enjoyed out little tour of six-flats de Luxe, of which I shall be getting some plans up and posted soon as well, to better explain the three basic layouts.

Thursday, November 6, 2008


So is suburbia all bad? Not when this is your view from your balcony and you have a subway at the local shopping center to zip you downtown.
You could live high up in a high rise, with a sunny balcony facing the view, enjoying the comfort of apartment living.
Or you could be in an atrium rowhouse at the foot of the high rises, even closer to the beach.
Enjoying your own private garden with a garden gate in your sunny courtyard.
Or in this hillside development of rowhouses, overlooking the playing fields.

So where is this bucolic, idyllic suburban ideal you ask? Why it's Hässelby strand of course, the westernmost suburb on the Green Line. No silly, not THAT Green Line, it's not Oak Park. This is in the land of the planned suburb, built by city for comfortable living to alleviate massive overcrowding in the 1950's, the beginning of a golden age of prosperity and modernity in Sweden's capital Stockholm. The views overlook Mälaren, the castle and pine studded lake that Stockholm City (yes, downtown Stockholm is called "city" in Swedish) straddles the outlet of into the Baltic.

So has this suburban idyll been abandoned? Hardly, here we have Nysäter outside of Göteborg (Gothenburg) which has recently been completed with a mix of custom houses, spec houses, cooperative (there are no condominiums in Sweden) and rental apartments.
Here we have a view of the spec houses, a big difference from American suburban building. Not a lick of vinyl siding, hardi-board or fypon to be seen. No Swede would accept something with cement board siding and popcorn ceilings.
Here is a view of the for rent housing - rental housing was traditionally the dominant form in Sweden with long tenure in units, since the bulk of housing was municipally owned, rents were raised only to keep up with expenses and inflation for many years.

Obviously, these are construction views, once the landscape fills in and the gardens grow up this will become lush and bucolic.
Here we have another view with the rental housing to the right and the spec houses to the left. Mixing of ownership types, the owner occupied single-family and the for rent apartments is quite common in Sweden. Many small town Swedes will emphatically tell people that there are no bad areas in their town and nowhere of lower social status (it is considered bad form to flaunt material possessions or to show off here, as well as to have a social hierarchy), in fact, it would be unseemly to noticeably have more than one's neighbors, and it is seem as appropriate that what different social classes there are should mix comfortably.
Here we have a view of the for-sale housing. Showing parking forecourts. And another view showing the rooftop decks or terraces at the top of the buildings. Swedes are very outdoorsy, and you will be hard pressed to find a dwelling unit in Sweden without outdoor space of at least a balcony. And finally, a view of the entry to the for-sale housing. There are two units, a ground floor flat and an upper floor maisonette, which are connected into a pair forming four dwelling units total.
And a last view of the for-sale units. And if people ask me nicely, I might just do a search for the sales brochure and plans for these units.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Courtyard Building, Part VIII; Courtyard Variations - Gothick Courtyards

You may have noticed some discontinuity in my postings on this subject. I have several in process and underway (i.e. heavy editing) which I mean to get finished up soon, once the leaves are off the tree's so I can take some better photographs, but in the meanwhile to both tide you over and whet your appetites, I offer; Gothick Courtyards.

Gothick is a typical style of 1920's and 30's to some extent, fantasy architecture - the architecture of escapism. It isn't quite as common in Chicago as in some other cities, and is certainly not as common in single-family residential construction, that being dominated by the bungalow which is omnipresent (though gothick can be found here as well).
In fact, there are some similarities to our own time here, as these were built at the end of a long era of massive housing construction - one wonders whether the current crop of residential building will be looked back on as fondly or so longingly? One guesses not. But you never know. It will be interesting to see if our new crop of buildings loose value as much as many did during the depression and after the war (WWII), but that is really subject of another post entirely, a completely new topic.

Here are some samples of Gothick Courtyard buildings from the north and northwest sides. This example, our first building, comes from West Rogers Park new the infamous duo, Park Gables and Park Castle, which represent the ne ultra plus of Far North Side courtyard buildings, however, this fine example, from just a block further north, sports some wonderful medieval details, stunning metal windows (with odd round arches oddly enough) and round turrets, which are well castelated. As well as half-timberings, rustication in stone, random stone in the brickwork and many other fine details.

However, when one turns the corner, this is what one gets, Chicago common brick and wood double-hung windows, just like any other (every other, one could say) courtyard building in Chicago. Luckily there is no building to the side which enables us to see this deception (or unfortunately, if one wishes to maintain the fantasy, as one certainly would).

Our next example comes from the Northwest side, and has been called Bavarian and described as a castle, like many other buildings from this era. This one has much in common with our first example, however it is in a more typical yellow butter colored brick, but has more emphasis on pointed arches and little Tyrolean sheltering roofs over the entry doors, as well as full on Germano-Medieval Gothick decor in the common entrance halls, yet again with the 1920's conceit of round arched openings in both doors and windows. Note the immense false fire place present in the entry hall.

With research, one might be able to identify whether or not this feature is authentically Germanic or at least German inspired (not a stretch, with Chicago's German heritage). There is also a quatrefoil motif both inside and out here as well, as can be seen in the bathroom shot - look closely at the tiled tub fronting and the flooring pattern of the tiles.