Chatham Center Chicago | Architecture
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Architecture

Built primarily between 1920 and 1950 as part of Chicago’s “bungalow belt” Chatham Center Chicago also boasts significant landmarks designated for historic preservation and mid-century architectural attractions…

VARIED ARCHITECTURE REFLECTS BEST IN CLASS

The buildings in Greater Chatham display many of the popular and significant historic architectural styles of the 1910s and 20s, the decades during which the District took shape: Classical Revival, Gothic Revival, Spanish Revival, Renaissance Revival, Sullivanesque Style, and Prairie Style.

The Greater Chatham Commercial District possesses one of the finest-surviving groupings of terracotta neighborhood commercial buildings in Chicago. The District’s development dates from the 1910s and 20s, during which time commercial buildings were built along Cottage Grove and the major intersecting arterial streets of 75th and 79th Streets. This handsome collection of 19 buildings retains a strong visual prominence today and is a reminder of the days when streetcar “transfer corners,” including 75th Street/Cottage Grove Avenue and 79th Street/Cottage Grove Avenue, encouraged the development of neighborhood shopping districts where residents could find a wide variety of retail offerings and services.

The District includes buildings designed in significant architectural styles of the early 20th century, including the Classical, Renaissance and Gothic Revival styles, as well as structures designed in the Chicago-originated Prairie and Sullivanesque styles. The District’s buildings located at street intersections are often particularly prominent due to their height, scale, and highly-detailed ornamentation executed in terracotta, brick and limestone.

The District’s buildings are especially noteworthy for their ornamentation, especially one of the District’s two contiguous groupings of buildings is at 75th Street and Cottage Grove Avenue, where buildings were constructed in the earliest phase of the development of the district from 1911 to 1925. Three corner buildings in this grouping visually anchor the intersection and are designed in the Classical Revival style, while others are ornamented in the Classical Revival, Gothic Revival and Prairie styles. The other grouping of buildings extends west along 79th
Street from its intersection with Cottage Grove Avenue. These buildings were constructed from 1922 to 1930, and the large, mostly terracotta buildings are designed in the Renaissance, Classical and Gothic Revival styles.

VICTORIAN & PRE-WAR ARCHITECTURE IN CHATHAM

Sven Linderoth designed a series of Queen Anne homes in the 1890s, most notably a building at 9620 S. Hoyne Avenue which is identified as one of the Forest Ridge Model Homes, an early real-estate development in the Beverly neighborhood. This modest brick and terra-cotta structure designed by Linderoth at 745 E. 75th Street was completed in 1911.

Edward G. McClellan was the architect and chief occupant of the building at 7439-43 S. Cottage Grove Avenue. He also partnered with Jacques J. Kocher to design the ornate terracotta building at 737 E. 75th Street. In 1929, he helped form the Chicago Associated Architects, and served as a member of its Board of Directors.

French-born Jacques J. Kocher, with his partner Benjamin Larson, created some of the most elaborate and visually-distinctive terracotta buildings in the Greater Chatham Commercial District. Early in his career, Kocher partnered with Edward McClellan to design the building at 737 E. 75th Street and later worked alone in designing the Classical Revival-style building at 735-737 E. 79th Street.

Charles Draper Faulkner designed the finely detailed terracotta buildings at 635 E. 79th Street and 8030 S. Cottage Grove Avenue and is the oldest building in Greater Chatham’s retail district.

Henry Worthmann and John Steinbach are the architects of the three buildings in the Greater Chatham Commercial District that anchor the intersection of 75th Street and Cottage Grove Avenue.

MID-CENTURY MODERN ARCHITECTURE IN CHATHAM

JOHNSON HOUSE 

 

This home has a flat roof, hidden entrance, and an uninterrupted brick exterior. Although, the exterior exhibits a home designed for privacy, within the house, large interior panels of floor- to-ceiling glass reveal a home of airiness and lightness. The characteristically large parkway on which the house sits- another staple of Chatham design is bisected by a prominent  circular drive.

To design this Chatham gem, North Shore architects Huebner & Henneberg were hired,  not to mention  the architects had built several homes in Park Ridge and Skokie. The mid-century architectural appreciation group, Chicago Bauhaus and Beyond, calls Huebner & Henneberg, “one of the unsung architects of the period.” Their homes were widely published in the late 1950s and sixties, including features in House & Garden, and in a special edition of Arts & Architecture magazine on “visionary architecture” alongside Marcel Breuer, Richard Neutra and Pierre Koenig—all internationally known mid-century heavyweights.

Another widely recognized home in Chatham is the black-and-white rectangular building. The home is situated on a corner lot, the front facing Michigan Avenue in a tri-level design with a raised basement and second floor clad in black painted wood. The front door, which faces 85th, has a prominent gate made of copper fashioned in an intricate, mod pattern of circles. The interior features a sunken living room with a large, wood clad fireplace.

 

 

This majestic house stretches out on 84th as if it sat on acres, rather than a typical urban lot. It is clad in a rustic stone with a large center entrance. A November 11, 1965 issue of the magazine Jet describes a party at Maybell’s home, calling it the “Rock Castle.” The architect of the Soul Queen’s home was Milton Schwartz.

SMITH HOUSE 

Just north of Maybell’s house, at 8348 South Calumet, is the home built in 1964 for prominent civil rights attorney Lawrence E. Smith and his wife, Virginia. According to his obituary in the Chicago Tribune, he was a mentor to many African-American lawyers and worked toward racial justice, and was a member of Funference, a predecessor to the Council on Racial Equality (CORE).

African-American architect K. Roderick O’Neil designed the Smith house. Chicago architect ElDante C. Winston, AIA, NOMA, is a first-year PhD candidate in architectural history at MIT and researches African-American architects. He explained that O’Neil is central to the story of black architects in Illinois. Before striking out on his own, O’Neil worked for Walter T. Bailey, the first black architect in Illinois. Winston believes that many black architects in the state can trace their lineage back to Bailey and O’Neil.

K. Roderick O’Neil had a national presence. A reference in a 1954 Iowa Alumni Review called him a “leader among Negro architects.” Another article in The Pittsburgh Courier, published in 1954, states that O’Neil is “one of the youngest and most successful Negro architects and engineers in the country.”

361 East 89th Place

Just south of the officially recognized southern border of Chatham, on 89th Place, is a house designed by architect John Moutoussamy. Moutoussamy was the first black architect to become a partner in a major firm, Dubin Dubin Black & Moutoussamy, and designed the Johnson Publishing headquarters on South Michigan Avenue—currently owned by Columbia College.

Moutoussamy attended IIT School of Architecture on the GI Bill after serving in WWII. He studied and worked with Mies van der Rohe. He also spent time working in the office of K. Roderick O’Neil. His classmates at IIT included YC Wong, Jacques Brownson, Carter Manny and Bruno Conterato, central figures in twentieth-century modern architecture.

Winston, the architectural historian, says, “Moutoussamy can arguably be considered the godfather of black architects in Chicago. A devout Miesian, he is perhaps Chicago’s most prolific black architect in terms of the number of signature buildings. Consider the fact that the AIA awarded his Lawless Garden Homes top honors when it was built, ahead of SOM’s John Hancock Center.”

A two-story Miesian modern home on 84th and Calumet was designed by architect Martin Schaffer for Frank Anglin, a civil rights attorney and founder of one of the first integrated law firms in Chicago. He was also a president of the Chicago chapter of the National Lawyers Guild. Anglin married his neighbor, the Soul Queen, Helen C. Maybell, in 1976, and their wedding was said to “steal the social spotlight” of the city at the time. It was officiated by the Rev. Johnnie Colemon of Christ Universal Temple, who delivered Anglin’s eulogy too along with the Rev. Jesse Jackson.