Prehistoric relics similar to this spear point were some of Chicago’s original stone bits and pieces. This three-inch-long artifact is attributed to the Early Paleo or Clovis Period and is believed to have been fashioned between 13,000-8,000 B.P. This is an early poem, recorded in stone, by a man who died before writing was invented. Collection of the author.
Drawings like this were used for centuries to arrive at exacting details for copying and ultimately fashioning stone to the will of the architect. Entitled Ionic Details, this document describes the ancient Greek details to be located on the façade of a building. A Textbook on Architectural Drawing, Scranton, Pennsylvania: International Textbook Company, 1897. Collection of the author.
Entitled Applied Ornament, this drawing was invaluable for the study and carving of foliate details in stone. A Textbook on Architectural Drawing, Scranton, Pennsylvania: International Textbook Company, 1897. Collection of the author.
Chicago’s Midland Terra Cotta Company published a set of drawings to be used for architects. This 1920s-produced document helps to describe the location of each piece of numbered terra cotta. Collection of the author.
Whimsical decorations appeared most often upon a building’s main façade and close to its principal entrance. Here is one example of a lion head option, one promoted by the Midland Terra Cotta Company for a theoretical office building. Collection of the author.
Cast iron images may be found inside Macy’s Department Store, originally the Marshall Field Store (Charles B. Atwood, 1892) on the northwest corner of North Wabash Avenue and East Washington Street. It depicts a muse or “pretty lady” of the 1890s, the type of woman who may have been a regular customer there and then. This iron artwork echoes those terra cotta carvings to be found at the building’s cornice, on the outside of the store. Although a metal decoration, its inclusion here is purely obligatory; images of people and animals in a variety of materials can be found in other CHIPS (Chicago Hidden in Plain Sight) Series publications, those not dedicated to abstract artistic design only.
This is a sculpture of a group of knapped points or arrowheads as fashioned during the early 19th century. These are not of the Clovis type, but the meaning here is clear: These were tools of defense and ultimately death to both man and animal. The heroic-size sculpture Defense (Henry Hering, 1920) appears upon the west bridge tender’s house of the Michigan Avenue Bridge (Chicago River at East Wacker Drive and North Michigan Avenue). Little poems are these.
Door and Window Treatment lends insight into historic styles employed by architects and stonemasons years ago. A Textbook on Architectural Drawing, Scranton, Pennsylvania: International Textbook Company, 1897. Collection of the author.
The Northwestern Terra Cotta Company of Chicago promoted itself by touting one of its most noted projects, the Wrigley Building (Graham, Anderson, Probst & White, first phase 1922). Architectural Forum, August, 1922, 8. Collection of the author.
A small view of a larger architectural drawing by the Midland Terra Cotta Company shows the placement of terra cotta on the façade of an anonymous commercial building. Building edge conditions, including the parapet, were often highly decorative. Collection of the author.
This is an image of a craftsman at the turn of the 19th century. Though unidentified, this man was considered an expert installer of decorative terra cotta and plaster. A carefully trimmed moustache, buttoned collar, and snazzy vest suggest an air of authority on the jobsite. Collection of the author.
This delicate, low relief coil carving may be found near the entrance to the Hotel St. Benedict Flats (James J. Egan, 1882) located at 801 North Wabash Avenue. The carved coil form was originally based upon the observations and artistry of early man—a motif used artistically for some ten thousand years—which recalled the shapes of shells or the horns of rams; of course variations are plentiful for this nature-based design.
The Victorian-style “Flats” is replete with a host of carved details, most remaining crisp and intact. However, an anomaly exists: Originally two such coil carvings (etched in reflection) decorated this column’s pedestal and now there remains only one. Curiously, both carvings existed just inches apart, faced the same direction, were of the same material, and should have weathered in unison. They did not.
The disappearance of one carving is not only mysterious but both tragic and prophetic. What was once a gift to the street, bestowed by the hand of a man long gone, has disintegrated into dust. The whole pedestal, with its gritty surface, is likewise destined to simply blow away, to vanish like its carver.