January 18, 2011

Chronicles of Chicago: Buildings to Die For

In the 1950's and 1960's 'urban renewal' was a buzzword in all of the older cities in America and Chicago was no exception. Countless architectural treasures were demolished during this time period in the name of progress. In the early 50's a man named Richard Nickel happened to take a photography class and one of his early assignments was to photograph the architecture of Louis Sullivan.

Sullivan is known as the father of the modern skyscraper. Combining technological advances like the steel frame building with a city ready to rebuild after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, Louis Sullivan was able to become one of the most influential architects in history. After his death, his legacy was carried on and taken in different directions thanks to his most famous pupil Frank Lloyd Wright. He is credited with the phrase "form ever follows function" which has become influential in not only architecture but all forms of design.

While Sullivan was witness to his skyscrapers going up at a rapid pace, sixty years later Richard Nickel was racing to document them before they came down. Eventually, Nickel had become so emotionally involved in the work of Sullivan that he took a stand and tried to get the demolition of the Garrick Theater stopped in court. Sadly, he failed and the beautiful building was turned into a parking lot. He then turned to the preservation of the old Chicago Stock Exchange. When he realized he couldn't stop the demolition he worked feverishly with other like-minded people to save the interior of the building when a stairwell tragically collapsed and killed him.

He did not, however, die in vain. His work became a major impetus for the preservation movement in Chicago and many of Sullivan's remaining buildings have survived. Below I've compiled some Richard Nickel photographs I've found on the internet. Click the images for their sources.

The Garrick Theater
From the Garrick Theater

Garrick Before
Garrick After
Carson Pirie Scott Building. Still standing.
Old Chicago Stock Exchange and where Richard Nickel died.
Thanks in part to Nickel's efforts the entrance to the Old Chicago Stock Exchange was preserved and put on display at the Art Institute of Chicago.
They were also able to save the original interior from the stock exchange trading floor and have rebuilt it within the Art Institute of Chicago.
For previous Chronicles of Chicago click here.

Sources: The Richard Nickel Story http://www.wttw.com/main.taf?p=1,7,1,1,32
Richard Nickel and the Garrick Theater http://www.artic.edu/aic/collections/exhibitions/LouisSullivan/GarrickTheater

13 comments:

  1. The part of chicago I would love to visit is the downtown area, specifically jeweler's row and wherever uno's is

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  2. I'm interested in skyscrapers so found this post fascinating.

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  3. watchmen: Yea, I can imagine you'd love jeweler's row. I usually only go there if I get in trouble with the girlfriend.

    David: Me too, read up on the rivalry between Burnham and Sullivan sometime. Fascinating stuff.

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  4. What a shame some of those buildings were lost :/

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  5. Poor guy!

    Thanks for that interesting slice of history.

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  6. never been to chicago!

    and for your awesomeness:
    http://ecogrrlnetwork.blogspot.com/2011/01/stylish-ecogrrlwhaaaaa.html

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  7. I love the boat architecture tour, which I always took people on! Chicago IS an awesome city. Beautiful! I'm so glad I grew up there!

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  8. one thing I love about the city is the skyscrapper archetecture. too bad I don't get that in mine! I'd love to go to NY or Chicago just to experience

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  9. Sarah: It really is sad.

    Missed: I'm a history fan so I'm always happy to share what I pick up.

    Eco: Definitely check us out someday!

    Samantha: I've wanted to that for a couple years but for some reason I never have. I really need to though.

    Pop: It's fun to check out for sure, visit sometime.

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