Thursday, June 17, 2010

Capital-M Modernism in Rogers Park

Granville Gardens

It's always nice when the AIA Guide to Chicago notes a building I'm interested in, since that means most of the legwork (who, when, what style, original use, for what client) is already done. However, you'd think guys as educated and smart as the authors would, in a city like Chicago, know better than to tempt fate with statements like the following:

"Amazingly, the entire complex is in close to original condition."

Granted, it's been 17 years since those words were published in the first edition copy of the Guide, in reference to Rogers Park's Granville Gardens apartments. But sure enough, when I first paid a visit to photograph the Moderne garden apartment complex, there was construction work underway in the courtyards. On a recent repeat visit, I discovered that the interior courtyards were being converted into parking lots. Augh!!



To be fair, the lots appear thoughtfully designed, retaining the two mature trees in the center of each of the two courtyards as well as a sizable band of grass around them. And hey, parking lots can always be removed. In theory.


Granville Garden - now partially renamed Granville Court Apartments - stands amid the sides streets between Peterson and Devon, on the corner of Hoyne and Granville. It's a complex of 14 buildings, connected by open terraces in groups of three and four, and arranged around the two courtyards. It's a lovely, thoughtful way to manage housing, dense but not crowded.




The buildings went up as a privately financed venture under government insurance and supervision, in a time when not much was being built in Chicago or elsewhere. The architects were Rissman & Hirschfeld, the year was 1938, and the styling is Moderne, with prominent corner windows and thin mullions which (knock on wood) still remain intact. For now. Architectural interest is provided by brick banding at the exterior corners, curved concrete entry canopies with scalloped edges, glass block and curved walls in the entry foyers, and the stepped massing of the buildings. Look close at the entryways and you may find some surprisingly sleek original door hardware still in place.


Winchester-Hood Garden Homes

Granville Gardens are not the only early Modernist housing development in Rogers Park, nor even the only one in this neighborhood. Just down the street is an even bigger complex, occupying parts of four contiguous, partially-developed city blocks. The Winchester-Hood Garden Homes were built from 1948 to 1951, to the designs of Holsman, Holsman, Klekamp and Taylor.


HHK&T liked their angles. Not only do short angled bay windows form the buildings' most distinctive feature, but the site plans place nearly all of them at slight angles to the streets and to each other. The four block plans are all different, as none of the available parcels were the same shape and size. The result is a delightful variety in the resulting garden spaces between buildings, with no two alike. Meandering sidewalks lead through the buildings and to their doors.


The buildings themselves are almost Spartanly simple, though many feature three sculptured designs piercing the walls of their stairwells. The three sculptures - stylized versions of Zodiac figures Aeries, Pisces, and Capricorn - were designed by architect Coder Taylor. Each is only semi-solid, allowing light from the stairwell to illuminate its outlines at night.


Winchester-Hood apartments


The resulting effect in the evening, of lantern-like lights filtering from the buildings, the curving paths, and the mature trees, is like walking through some celebratory forest village.

Winchester-Hood Garden Homes

Winchester-Hood has a near-twin down on the south side, the Parkway Gardens apartments at 6415 S. Calumet. Fenced off, surrounded by parking, and in a generally rough section of town, it's not nearly as inviting. I have yet to photograph it.

Lunt Lake Apartments

HHK&T were busy after World War II. In addition to Winchester-Hood and Parkway Gardens, they acted as consulting firm to Mies van der Rhohe's famous Lake Shore Apartments. And in 1948, the firm designed a second Rogers Park complex, the Lake Lunt Apartments.



Consisting of three buildings on a single large lot, Lunt Lake stands on one of the many dead-end street stubs east of Sheridan, that end at the lakefront. Lunt Lake isn't as bucolic as its sister development, but its structures are cut from the same cloth.

One might expect a U-shaped arrangement facing the lake, but instead the buildings are simply arranged in a line along the street, doing little to take advantage of the lakefront location. Only one receives lake views. These structures also lack the the fascinating stairwell sculptures of the other complex, and the view of them from lakeside is a bit underwhelming.

Lunt-Lake Apartments


Lunt-Lake was finished at a cost of $1,000,000 - quite a steal for putting up three buildings! Lunt-Lake and Winchester-Hood were both featured in Architectural Forum of January 1950, which noted the unusual brickwork. Designated "rowlock bond", it was combined with poured, steel reinforced concrete to create a very thin, strong bearing wall.

Today, the buildings look as good as new. May they remain unblemished for another 60 years to come!


Eric Allix Rogers said...

Check out this detail from a building on King Drive in (technically) Greater Grand Crossing:

I unfortunately don't have an overall shot of the buildings, and I think they may have since been demolished, but the decorative panels and angled windows look tantalizingly similar to the Winchester-Hood Garden Homes.

The Public Square Bear said...

The book you cited probably noted the neighborhood as Rogers Park, but I'm afraid that is an error.

As a former resident of the Granville Gardens complex (in fact, my apartment overlooked the courtyard being converted to parking), I need to point out that both G.G. and the Winchester-Hood Gardens complexes are actually located in West Ridge, not Rogers Park.

Though sometimes referred to as "West Rogers Park," West Ridge is a separate and distinct community area from Rogers Park (the west & south borders of which terminate at Ridge Boulevard and Devon Avenue respectively).

Though, more specifically, the complexes are located in the Nortown neighborhood for which the intersection of Devon and Western Avenues is the main commercial hub.

Robert Powers said...

@Eric: WHOA!! Sweeeeet! That's definitely the same sculptor! What a bummer if they're gone.

@QRBNST: I guess I knew that if I'd thought about it. I tend to think more in terms of contiguous areas of city rather than official boundaries, so I tend to use "Rogers Park" for everything east of Western Avenue, or more broadly, everything east of the north river channel. There is a shift in the architectural character of the streets west of Ridge, but otherwise Ridge isn't much of a barrier or dividing line. For my money, a better place to draw the line would be Western Avenue, which is a big obstacle separating east from west. But I guess it's good to be accurate as possible, if only for the sake of Google-friendliness.

Ultra Local Geography said...

I've seen so many of those steel casement windows replaced with crummy double-hung aluminum windows. One on Sheridan near Chase, one on Wolcott near Lawrence. The list goes on. There's another interesting modernist building on Lunt opposite the ones you posted. Smaller, with plenty of turquoise brick.

Robert Powers said...

L.Shure: I know the turquoise one well! Some day I'll have a post collecting various apartment buildings with those vertical stripe pattern things on them. As always, I'm very curious to find out if it was a signature style of a particular builder or designer, or just another MidCentury design idea that got passed around among builders.

David said...

Yes - the buildings on King Drive are HHK&T and still there, there is also another complex just west of the deco buildings - with the dreaded double-hung windows, it's only one that is now condo, rather than still a co-op, of the north side complexes.

There's also the Sherman Gardens in Evanston at Sherman. I think that the three/four in West Ridge are Granville Terrace (Wolcott and Granville), Winchester Hood Garden Homes and I can't remember the other names - I looked at units in three of the complexes, but ended up in a "Just Holsman" building elsewhere. I've posted partial plans and details on my blog (had to hype that) if anyone is interested.

jf said...

The local news media are constantly referring to locations that are not in Rogers Park as "Rogers Park." I think their rule is, if it's close to Rogers Park, call it Rogers Park, since it's slightly more well-known across Chicagoland than are adjacent areas like West Ridge and Edgewater.

Jean SmilingCoyote said...

Thanks for the photos; I'm planning to refer another party to this blog with the URL. I live in Granville Terrace. The others who've pointed out the official boundaries of the Rogers Park Community Area are correct. Granville Gardens is in West Ridge CA. It's getting new windows. There are many media org's who bend over backwards to not use the name West Ridge. Even the Tribune which did a feature on it some years ago. Then when some org's do use West Ridge, they might be using it incorrectly, as on the wrong side of Ridge. My late mother saved all the original blueprints and articles about the whole Win-Hood complex. Very little info is on the web.