Louis Henri Sullivan, the architect who transformed the modern world with his prescient designs and philosophy of the skyscraper, who made Chicago the first city of American architecture and inspired the Chicago preservation movement, was born 150 years ago. How are we celebrating this most important of native sons?
By tearing down one of his few remaining houses, on Stratford Place on the North Side. For reasons inexplicable, the Commission on Chicago Landmarks is not moving to designate the house, nor even to act on Marty Tangora’s very reasonable approach that would allow a builder to erect something on part of the lot in order to save the house. Even the Alderman, Helen Shiller, not known as a preservationist, is interested in saving it. Why would the Commission on Chicago Landmarks be the last one out of the gate?
Is this any way to celebrate a Sesquicentennial?
Granted, it is not the coolest or most innovative Sullivan design, and it has been altered. But for Louis’ sake, we tore down most of his earth-shattering skyscrapers and innovative houses decades ago. Richard Nickel literally gave his life for Sullivan’s architecture (see the book by Richard Cahan) and watched and collected as the 1950s and 1960s demolished more Sullivan than we have left.
Louis Sullivan almost got the Euripides treatment, only it took 50 years rather than 2500 to erase 80% of his output.
So, let’s blow out the candles and let one more go.