There is a movement afoot to try and save the Alfonso Iannelli studio in Park Ridge. This blog covered the unfortunate demolition of one of the five Cedar Court houses designed in 1923 by Barry Byrne and Alfonso Iannelli in the suburb where Iannelli lived and worked for 50 years. His work with Byrne alone is phenomenal – I have just published an article in the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians “Barry Byrne: Expressing the Modern” which details the highlights of their half-century partnership and details their 1924 visit to the modernists of France, Germany, and the Netherlands. Here is one of the Felicity Rich photos from the article:
That is the John F. Kenna Apartments, a Chicago Landmark built in 1916. Yes, that’s right, 1916. This work anticipates the International Style a decade before it begins, as the inimitable Sam Guard told me more than once. Mostly they are known for their work on Catholic churches, like Christ the King in Cork, Ireland (1928-31), the only Prairie School building ever built in Europe. Another Felicity Rich photo:
The issue in Park Ridge now is the altered studio buildings Iannelli worked in, buildings that housed such incredible designers as Annette Cremin (Byrne), Edgar Miller (subject of a great new book by Richard Cahan and Michael Williams), Bruce Goff, Ruth Blackwell, Margaret Iannelli, and many more. The story is best told by those closest to it in this blog.
Park Ridge, like River Forest, is feeling the effects of not having a strong landmarks protection policy, and this issue adds to the weight of those irrevocable decisions which may lead to the creation of same. Here’s hoping.
Thanks to Pauline Saliga at Society of Architectural Historians for providing the link to my current article on Byrne and Iannelli in JSAH online!
JANUARY 22 UPDATE: Here is the letter I sent to the planners in Park Ridge opposing the zoning change, which is likely to be decided in early February:
I am writing in opposition to the proposed zoning (Map Amendment)change from B-1 to R-4 at this property being presented to the Planning and Zoning Commission this February. This change would allow for the demolition of the Iannelli Studios and the construction of multi-family residences.
Alfonso Iannelli’s contributions to Chicago from the Century of Progress through the Prudential Building make this site worth saving, but the story is much larger. The Iannelli Studios have cultural and historical significance that reaches worldwide.
I recently wrote an article on the 1924 trip to Europe undertaken by Alfonso Iannelli and his architect collaborator Barry Byrne. An on-line version of my article is available for free for a short time at http://jsah.ucpress.jstor.org.
During that trip, Iannelli and Byrne developed lasting connections to the most important modernist artists and architects in Europe. If you do research at the Netherlands Architectural Institute in Rotterdam, or the Bauhaus Archiv in Germany, you find reference to Park Ridge, Illinois in the form of letters to and from the Iannelli Studios throughout the 1920s. There are few sites in Park Ridge that have this level of international significance,
Nationally, the Iannelli Studios hosted such important artists as Edgar Miller, Bruce Goff, John Lloyd Wright, Ruth Blackwell, R. Harold Zook, Annette Cremin Byrne, Oliver Rush and many others. I have lectured on Byrne and Iannelli’s important church designs in Racine, Kansas City, Tulsa and many other locations over the last decade. A revolution in the decorative and liturgical arts took place at this location, and despite some alteration over time, it retains this significance and grants Park Ridge a rare level of historic and cultural importance.
Vincent L. Michael, PhD