Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Chicago’s West Side; A Wright, A Sullivan and A Golden Dome

To be honest with you Chicago’s west side hasn’t been known for much of anything for the past hundred years or so. Poverty, despair and crime dominate the landscape not the spectacular type of crime that attracts attention but the run of the mill crimes that grind the life out of a community. But like any community it’s not a monolith there are places of beauty from another era.

Last week I took a ride around and found three ChiTownView's to share with you. First in the Austin neighborhood at 42N.  Central Ave is the JJ Walsner Jr. home designed by prairie school architect Frank Lloyd Wright. The home was built in 1903 for Mr. Walsner who was a printing executive.

Austin boarders the suburb of Oak Park which was home to Frank Lloyd Wright for many years. It is also home to more Wright designed homes than anywhere else. There are more than two dozen in Oak Park and neighboring River Forest. On ChiTownView we have a playlist of Wright designs.

After that you drive down Madison Ave. which was where the riots of 1967 destroyed a lot of the commercial and industry that existed at the time. And never replaced. Take a left at Independence and drive into Garfield Park and as you head north you will see a large stone building with a golden dome. Pull into the parking lot and get out and take a look at Garfield Park field house with it’s dome and ornate Spainish Baroque Revival facade.

This building was designed by the firm of Michaelsen and Rognstad to serve as the west side district headquarters. They did a number of other park district structures as well as other Chicago area buildings like the ornate On Leong Merchants Association Building. That  remarkable Chinese-style structure is located  in Chinatown and  has been designated Chicago Landmark. We have a video posted of it on ChiTownView.

The building was closed that day so we didn’t get a look at the stauteary inside. But we’ll stop back another time because we also didn’t get in to see the conservatory at the north end of the park. After that go north to Division hang a right and head east just past Western to Leavitt and turn right. As you drive south you will soon see an ornate church bell tower piercing the sky. It is one of the surviving works of Louis Sullivan one of Chicago’s early architecture sky.
In the 20th century the Chicago architecture giant  only worked sporadically. The Holy Trinity Orthodox Cathedral located at 1121 North Leavitt in Chicago's north side Ukrainian Village neighborhood is one of those later commissions. Built in 1903 it is currently in need of extensive repairs. If you are interested in helping here is a site for more info.

We have collected a number of Sullivan videos of his surviving designs. You can view the playlist here

While the west side is still home to a lot of poverty there is development a lot of the area between Western and Ashland is a lot better off than twenty years ago. And just driving around I saw a lot more small scale redevlopment projects under way.

Produced for ChiTownView by MindsiMedia visit our web portal at

No comments:

Post a Comment