Architecture 

Here are articles about architects and buildings (most of them in Chicago or Springfield), the architecture business,  landscape architecture, preservation, and reviews of (mostly) books on the same topics, as published mainly in Chicago’s Reader, Inland Architect, and Illinois Times.

My interest in buildings was homegrown. Like most Illinois towns of any size, the downtown Springfield I grew up in was a museum of  American commercial, civic, and religious building styles. Growing up, I wandered around and through them like a kid at a fair. Nor was my interest parochial. I suppose it signified something that,while on our one family outing to the big city, when I was about ten, the only snapshot I took in Chicago was of a building. (It was the 1955 Prudential Building, then the tallest and one of the newest in the city.)

 

Beginning during my teen years back in Springfield, fine old structures of every type were being replaced by nothing near as fine, if they were replaced by anything at all. Springfield's Romanesque city hall, its handsome old banks, its YMCA, its Carnegie library, its most splendiferous movie house—the embodied history of the city, which by then was my history too—was taken away bit by bit in the backs of trucks.

I lived for more than eleven years a block and a half from the house that Frank Lloyd Wright designed for Susan Lawrence Dana, which by then was the headquarters of a publishing firm and now is the state-owned Dana-Thomas House. The building beguiled, and the saga of its purchase for the public, its restoration, and attempts to recover its long-scattered original furnishings were stories I was happy to report on. In learning about his work I learned from Wright's critique of his predecessors, so to that extent he was a teacher about architecture generally. 

 

In 1988 I moved to Oak Park, across the street and a world away from Chicago, and in 1990 I found myself again living up the street (exactly 714 feet, sayeth Google) from the door of another Wright-designed house, this one Wright's home and studio on Chicago Avenue. So amazing a place had the world become by the middle 1990s that I had acquired a global reputation as an expert on Wright. I spent an hour tutoring an importunate Japanese student as we sat beneath the nearly 200-year-old gingko tree in the courtyard of the studio whilst the cream of the world's tourists chattered and gawked all around us. 

 

Just as Chicago is a bigger city than Springfield, so was its architecture a bigger topic, and I wrote about it often. I knew nothing about it, really, but a freelancer must learn to masquerade his ignorance as respectful curiosity. I doubt that I fooled the editors at Inland Architect, but I suspect that they asked me to contribute anyway because I was willing to work cheap.

In any event, while posing as an architecture writer I got to meet and talk with distinguished practitioners such as Dirk Lohan and Harry Weese and Bertrand Goldberg from whom I collected quotes and they collected publicity according to the ancient laws of my profession, so everyone was happy. 

 

As for the articles, I convinced myself that my ignorance was a qualification insofar as I was had never been infected with the architecture-as-art virus then rampant in the better schools. My perspective instead was that of the public which is obliged to look at, move through, and use buildings, often (in Chicago) with delight, sometimes with befuddlement and annoyance.

Note: Old buildings are perforce examples of the architecture of their period, and architectural styles are artifacts of their historical period. The distinction between architectural preservation and historical preservation is pretty blurred, so these articles about architecture include pieces about historic preservation. 

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Dismembering the Sullivan Legend

Louis Sullivan and modern architecture

Illinois Issues October 1986

Prophet of the Prairie

Jens Jensen and the prairie asethetic

Landscape Architecture  April 1992

"Skyline: Chicago" and "New

Chicago Skyscrapers"

What you get for what you see

Inland Architect  May/June 1992

The High and the Flighty

A century of Chicago skyscrapers, reviewed

Reader  July 26, 1991

Edifice Complex for Architecture

Designing buildings for fun and not much profit

Crain's Chicago Business  June 14, 1993

Persian Thumbs

Springfield's daily builds a new home

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  July 3, 1981

Chicago’s Classic Look

. . . owes to Graham, Anderson, Probst & White

Reader January 15, 1993

Jet-set architecture? In Springfield?
A vanished age endures in its buildings
"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times March 24, 2016    

I Think Icon, I Think Icon, I Think Icon

Building iconography explained, sort of

Crain's Chicago Business  April 5, 1993 

Merchandising Modern Art
Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art

Reader  April 10, 1992

Homage to the Barons Who Built Chicago

Great buildings need great developers

Chicago Enterprise  November 1992

The Atrium as Field Daze

Field’s flagship store unveils a new old feature

Crain’s Chicago Business  August 5, 1991

Preservation, reuse, and restoration

Gimcrackery

When the state runs its landmarks on the cheap

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times  April 2, 1992

Rookery a Rare Roost Indeed

Cheers for the restoration of Root's masterpiece

Crain’s Chicago Business August 3, 1992

Saving History from the Wrecking Ball

Richard Nickel and Sullivan's legacy

Illinois Issues April 1995

Altered Visions

Walter Netsch’s brutalist Chicago campus is mugged

Inland Architect  March/April 1993

Positive Incentives

Springfield’s lazy, hazy, razing days of summer

"Prejudices" Illinois Times July 24, 1981

Refined, Delicate and Urban
Marking the Centennial Building’s centennial
"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  September 1, 2016

“You look fabulous, really!”

An old fiend on Monroe Street gets a makeover
"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  December 17, 2015

Old Arguments
Is the state spending too much to restore the statehouse?
"Dyspepsiana" Illinois Times  September 19, 2013

Temple of the Law
The state is doing justice to the Supreme Court Building
"Dyspepsiana" Illinois Times  June 20, 2013 
   

Selling Off a Metaphor
Should the State of Illinois sell the Thompson Center?    
"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Tmes  April 9, 2015    

Adieu to the Abe

Springfield’s grandest hotel dies prematurely

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times  December 7, 1978

A Shooting

The end of the Hotel Abraham Lincoln

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times  December 22, 1978

Silk Purses and Sow’s Ears

Converting the capitol into an office building

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  September 7, 1979

Saving the “Castle,” Monument to the American Dream

Springfield’s Brinkerhoff House makes new friends

Illinois Times  January 13, 1978

Orpheum

A loss to the arts—but oh, the banking convenience!

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  December 16, 1977

Richard Nickel

Louis Sullivan, Chicago, and preservation

Unpublished, 1996

Tolling for the Chapel

Progress rolls over the good sisters of Springfield

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  June 9, 1994

Revising a Revision

Are the Rauners giving Illinois a mansion it really wants?

"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  July 28, 2016

The Future of the Past

Preservationism in Chicagolandia

See Illinois (unpublished) 2004

George Washington’s Ax

When does restoring become destroying?

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times  December 14, 1979

The Tourists’s State Capital

Visiting the statehouse complex in Springfield

See Illinois (unpublished) 2006

Architectural Dreams

Springfield's unfamous buildings by famous architects         

"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  August 4, 2011 

Cheese on a Plate

A bigger, not better, capitol complex

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  September 15, 1983

Unbalanced Structure

Checking out the new Illinois State Library

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  January 11, 1990

More Burg than Beauburg

Public architecture of the capital is not capital

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  September 28, 1979

Cheeseparing in the  Capitol Complex
Will a new Stratton Building be a better one?
"Dyspepsiana" Illinois Times  June 10, 2010    

How Chicago's Gentry Shaped the City

“How culture made itself manifest” in Chicago

Chicago Enterprise  April 1992

From Bungalow To Bauhaus

A survey of Chicago-area architecture

See Illinois (unpublished) 2002

The Dana House

An early Frank Lloyd Wright house is up for sale

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  March 6, 1981

The Building Arts

Some architecture in Downstate Illinois

See Illinois (unpublished)  2002

Susan's House

The state is a poor host at the Dana-Thomas House

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  Undated

Gimcrackery

Illinois tries to run its landmarks on the cheap

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times  April 2, 1992

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To leave an article and return to this page, click on your browser's back button or on "Architecture" in the topics menu

SITES

OF

INTEREST

John Hallwas

Essential for anyone interested in Illinois history and literature. Hallwas deservedly won the 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Illinois State Historical Society.

Lee Sandlin Author

One of Illinois’s best, and least-known, writers of his generation. Take note in particular of The Distancers and Road to Nowhere.

Chicago Architecture Center

See Home Page/Learn/

Resources for a marvelous building database, architecture dictionary, even a city planning graphic novel. Handsome, useful—every Illinois culture website should be so good.

The Encyclopedia of Chicago

 

The online version of The Encyclopedia of Chicago. Crammed with thousands of topic entries, biographical sketches, maps and images, it is a reference work unmatched in Illinois.

Illinois Great Places

The Illinois chapter of the American Institute of Architects in 2018 selected 200 Great Places in Illinois that illustrate our  shared architectural culture across the entire period of human settlement in Illinois.

McLean County Museum

of History

A nationally accredited, award-winning project of the McLean County Historical Society whose holdings include more than 20,000 objects, more than 15,000 books on local history and genealogy, and boxes and boxes of historical papers and images.

Mr. Lincoln, Route 66, and Other Highlights of Lincoln, Illinois

 

Every Illinois town ought to have a chronicler like D. Leigh Henson, Ph.D. Not only Lincoln and the Mother road—the author’s curiosity ranges from cattle baron John Dean Gillett to novelist William Maxwell. An Illinois State Historical Society "Best Web Site of the Year."

Illinois Digital Archives

 

Created in 2000, the IDA is a repository for the digital collections of the Illinois State Library and other Illinois libraries and cultural institutions. The holdings include photographs, slides, and glass negatives, oral histories, newspapers, maps, and documents from manuscripts and letters to postcards,  posters, and videos.

The Illinois State Museum

 

The people's museum is a treasure house of science and the arts. A research institution of national reputation, the museum maintains four facilities across the state. Their collections in anthropology, fine and decorative arts, botany, zoology, geology, and  history are described here. A few museum publications can be obtained here.

Chronicling Illinois

“Chronicling Illinois” showcases some of the collections—mostly some 6,000 photographs—from the Illinois history holdings of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library.

Chicagology

I will leave it to the authors of this interesting site to describe it. "Chicagology is a study of Chicago history with a focus on the period prior to the Second World War. The purpose of the site is to document common and not so common stories about the City of Chicago as they are discovered." 

Illinois Labor History Society

The Illinois Labor History Society seeks to encourage the preservation and study of labor history materials of the Illinois region, and to arouse public interest in the profound significance of the past to the present. Offers books reviews, podcasts, research guides, and the like. 

Illinois Migration History 1850-2017

The University of Washington’s America’s Great Migrations Project has compiled migration histories  (mostly from the published and unpublished work by UW Professor of History James Gregory) for several states, including Illinois. The site also includes maps and charts and essays about the Great Migration of African Americans to the north, in which Illinois figured importantly. 

History on the Fox

An interesting resource about the history of one of Illinois’s more interesting places, the Fox Valley of Kendall County. History on the Fox is the work of Roger Matile, an amateur historian of the best sort. Matile’s site is a couple of cuts above the typical buff’s blog. (An entry on the French attempt to cash in on the trade in bison pelts runs more than

2,000 words.)

BOOKS

 OF INTEREST

Southern Illinois University Press 2017

A work of solid history, entertainingly told.

Michael Burlingame,

author of Abraham 

Lincoln: A Life 

One of the ten best books on Illinois history I have read in a decade.

Superior Achievement Award citation, ISHS Awards, 2018

A lively and engaging study . . .  an enthralling narrative.

James Edstrom

The Annals of Iowa

A book that merits the attention of all Illinois historians

as well as local historians generally.

John Hoffman

Journal of Illinois HIstory

A model for the kind of detailed and honest history other states and regions could use.

Harold Henderson 

Midwestern Microhistory

A fine example of a resurgence of Midwest historical scholarship.

Greg Hall

Journal of the Illinois

State Historical Society

Click  here 

to read about

the book 

Click  here 

to buy the book 

Southern Illinois University Press

SIU Press is one of the four major university publishing houses in Illinois. Its catalog offers much of local interest, including biographies of Illinois political figures, the history (human and natural) and folklore of southern Illinois, the Civil War and Lincoln, and quality reprints in the Shawnee Classics series.

University of

Illinois Press

The U of I Press was founded in 1918. A search of the online catalog  (Books/Browse by subject/Illinois) will reveal more than 150 Illinois titles, books on history mostly but also butteflies, nature , painting, poetry and fiction, and more.  Of particular note are its Prairie State Books,  quality new paperback editions of worthy titles about all parts of Illinois, augmented with scholarly introductions.

University of

Chicago Press

The U of C publishing operation is the oldest (1891) and largest university press in Illinois. Its reach is international, but it has not neglected its own neighborhood. Any good Illinois library will include dozens of titles about Chicago and Illinois from Fort Dearborn to

Vivian Maier.

Northern Illinois University Press

The newest (1965) and the smallest of the university presses with an interest in Illinois, Northern Illinois University Press gave us important titles such as the standard one-volume history of the state (Biles' Illinois:
A History of the Land and Its People) and contributions to the history of Chicago, Illinois transportation, and the Civil War. Now an imprint of Cornell University Press.

Reviews and significant mentions by James Krohe Jr. of more than 50 Illinois books, arranged in alphabetical order

by book title. 

Illinois Center for the Book

Run by the Illinois State Library, The Center promotes reading, writing and author programs meant to honor the state's rich literary heritage. An affiliate of the Library of Congress’s Center for the Book, the site offers award competitions, a directory of Illinois authors, literary landmarks, and reading programs.

Contact James Krohe Jr. at CornLatitudes@outlook.com

All material copyright © by James Krohe Jr. unless otherwise indicated