Henry Ives Cobb's Chicago: Architecture, Institutions, and the Making of a Modern Metropolis 9780226905631

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Henry Ives Cobb's Chicago: Architecture, Institutions, and the Making of a Modern Metropolis

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Henry Ives Cobb’s Chicago

Chicago Architecture and Urbanism A series edited by Robert Bruegmann and David Van Zanten


Henry Ives Cobb’s

Architecture, Institutions, and the Making of a Modern Metropolis

e dwa r d w. wo l n e r

The University of Chicago Press  Chicago & London

edward w. wolner teaches architectural history in the Department of Architecture, and the Western humanities in the Honors College at Ball State University. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago 60637 The University of Chicago Press, Ltd., London © 2011 by The University of Chicago All rights reserved. Published 2011. Printed in the United States of America 20  19  18  17  16  15  14  13  12  11   1  2  3  4  5 isbn-13: 978-0-226-90561-7 (cloth) isbn-10: 0-226-90561-6


Two grants from the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation funded most of the research for this book and all photographs by Patricia Evans. A grant from Ball State University’s Intellectual Property Review Committee funded the reproduction of archival illustrations and permission fees. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Wolner, Edward W. Henry Ives Cobb’s Chicago : architecture, institutions, and the making of a modern metropolis / Edward W. Wolner. p. cm. — (Chicago architecture and urbanism) Includes bibliographical references and index isbn-13: 978-0-226-90561-7 (cloth : alk. paper) isbn-10: 0-226-90561-6 (cloth : alk. paper) 1. Cobb, Henry Ives, 1859–1931. 2. Architecture—Illinois—Chicago. 3. University of Chicago—Buildings. I. Title. II. Series: Chicago architecture and urbanism. NA737.C59W65 2011 720.92—dc22 2010037302 [Frontispiece] Portrait of Henry Ives Cobb,

∞ The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements of the Ameri-

ca. 1893. Courtesy Art Institute of Chicago.

can National Standard for Information Sciences—Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials, ANSI Z39.48–1992.

To Cat


Acknowledgments  ix Introduction  1 Part I

Part II

Part III

A Proper Bostonian’s Chicago  13 1

The Union Club, Self-Made Men, and Chicago’s First Period of Growth  15


Three Mansions, Four Self-Makers, and Chicago’s Metropolitan Expansion  33


Skyscrapers and Rationalized Work I  67


Cultural Politics and the Newberry Library  89

Cultural Institutions and Metropolitan Maturity 



Cobb’s Varieties of the Romanesque  119


Skyscrapers and Rationalized Work II  153


Self-Made Men, Civic Culture, and the University of Chicago (1889–1893)  181


Science, Self-Makers, and the University’s Second Building Campaign (1893–1897)  215


Design, Civic Discourse, and Rationalized Government  245

Trials and Triumphs In and Outside Chicago 


10 Professional Ethics, and the Pennsylvania State Capitol  267 11 Falls from Grace  289 12 Chicago in New York  315 Notes  339 Selected Bibliography  367 Index  375




he exceptionally generous support of the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation made this book and the photographs of Patricia Evans possible. Executive director Sunny Fischer’s curiosity, receptivity, appreciation of Cobb’s

importance, and unfailing encouragement enabled me to take risks, follow leads, and enrich the project in ways I might not otherwise have pursued. Thirty-five years ago, in their individual ways, Thomas Bender, Richard Sennett, Ross Miller, and Ziva Kwitney played crucial roles in helping me develop the abilities without which I would not have had an intellectual life of any real substance. Patricia Evans and Jamie Kalven first alerted me to the significance that Cobb’s career might have in the history of Chicago. To them I owe the rare opportunity of working on a neglected figure of major importance. As the book developed over the last four years, their friendship, ideas, and uncommon hospitality have eased logistical and intellectual difficulties and made a compelling project that much more rewarding. Before any historian paid attention to Cobb, several Chicagoans deeply interested in their city’s architectural heritage grasped the significance of his work. Among his other contributions, Ron White provided irreplaceable information about the Chicago Athletic Association, steered me away from one unfruitful line of interpretation, and introduced me to the Architects Club of Chicago. There


Jon Notz pushed me to investigate the rivalry between Cobb and Charles Allerton Coolidge, and Dale Cowel helped propel the first phase of research with his documentation of the firm of Cobb & Frost. Arthur Miller made my work in the Special Collections at Lake Forest College efficient, productive, and pleasurable by housing me and sharing his detailed knowledge of Cobb’s commissions in Lake Forest. Franz Schulze kindly checked this section of the book. My largest intellectual debts are to several other historians. Mary Woods’s critique strengthened the sections on professionalization. Robert Bruegmann raised several important questions and suggested a set of excellent qualifications. Despite facing formidable deadlines of their own, Katherine Solomonson and Richard Longstreth took the time to read second drafts. Their comments and professional generosity reanimated the flagging faith of the author. Longstreth’s observations and criticisms greatly improved five chapters. Colleagues Jim Connolly and Chris Thompson made helpful suggestions. Any errors or interpretative weaknesses are, of course, my own. Staff at libraries and archives were uniformly resourceful. Robert Sherbon (Pennsylvania State Archives), Danielle Kramer (the Ryerson and Burnham Libraries of the Art Institute of Chicago), Daniel Meyer and Christine Colburn (Special Collections at the University of Chicago’s Regenstein Library), and staff at the Research Center of the Chicago History Museum were especially helpful. At the University of Chicago Press Susan Bielstein oversaw the review and acquisition of this manuscript with rare speed, grace, and enthusiasm. Anthony Burton provided much-needed technical assistance, and Carol Saller fine-tuned the manuscript with admirable precision.





enry Ives Cobb is Chicago’s other major nineteenth-century architect. Only in a city with such abundant architectural talent would historians have neglected or underestimated the number, quality, and importance

of Cobb’s buildings. Certainly Frank Lloyd Wright, Louis Henry Sullivan, Henry Hobson Richardson, John Wellborn Root, and Martin Roche were more creative architects, and William Jenney’s parks, Daniel Burnham’s Plan of Chicago, Sullivan’s project for setback skyscrapers, Richardson’s reinvented Romanesque, and Wright’s low-cost housing schemes and residential designs rooted in the region made more important contributions to the public realm at the turn of the century. Even so, Cobb filled a huge institutional void that Chicago’s architect-giants did not. With the Union Club, the Newberry Library, the Chicago Athletic Association, the Fisheries Building for the Columbian Exposition, the University of Chicago, and the Post Office and Customs Building, Cobb designed more of the city’s prominent civic and cultural institutions than any of its other architects. To a greater degree than their largely residential and commercial work, Cobb’s institutional buildings and the enterprises they housed signified that Chicago had come of age, that it had transcended the materialism for which observers had long criticized the city, and that its leaders pursued the highest ambitions in the realms of culture, intellect, and civic enhancement. The same was true of Cobb’s work in Lake Forest, the city’s most affluent railroad suburb. Along with more than a dozen houses he designed with his early


partner Charles Sumner Frost, Cobb’s buildings for the town and for Lake Forest University—especially the First Presbyterian Church, the Durand Art Institute, and the Onwentsia Club—provided this avowedly Protestant community with its signature buildings, with the institutional and cultural ballast that supported domestic life on large estates owned by some of Chicago’s most successful businessmen. As home to the most important set of institutions in the most expansive period of the city’s growth, Cobb’s Lake Forest and Chicago buildings had a historical import—a multifaceted urban, social, cultural, and architectural significance— that the buildings of the city’s other firms did not. Several aspects of Chicago’s development stand out in his work. First, Cobb’s buildings and patrons showed how projects initiated in Chicago’s prefire generation of development (1835–1871) seeded much of the city’s cultural and metropolitan maturation in its postfire period of growth (1872–1910). Individually and collectively, these buildings brought to a modern maturity the cultural initiatives of the city’s founders, climaxing the city’s rapid ascent from a frontier town to the nation’s second most important metropolis. The word “metropolis” had specific meanings at the turn of the century. For intellectuals like the English historian James Bryce and the American Progressive Herbert Croly, a metropolis was an urban center that disproportionately concentrated material and cultural resources, and that occupied the top rank in a regional or national hierarchy of cities. Economically, from the 1840s onward, Chicago produced, consumed, and shipped the goods that generated such immense wealth and urban growth between western New York and the Rocky Mountains that contemporaries came to see it as the dominant metropolis of “the Great West.”1 Culturally, as Bryce put it, the metropolis joined the “forces of rank, wealth, knowledge [and] intellect” to make “a sort of foundry” in which “opinion” and creative projects of various sorts were “melted and cast,” then “propagated and diffused” to the region and the nation. In Croly’s complementary view, the metropolis had to “anticipate, define, and realize national ideals,” become “the city to which men will be attracted in proportion as their enterprises, intellectual or practical, are far reaching and important.”2 One of the century’s most scrutinized cities, Cobb’s Chicago was certainly the Midwest’s metropolitan “foundry.” There, individuals and groups with money, power, knowledge, and their own canons of taste responded to and expanded a climate favorable to both conservative and more experimental forms of literary and architectural creativity. There, they “melted and cast” new cultural institutions, new forms of business enterprise, and new types of civic expression that influenced regional and national developments. But Bryce and Croly did not mention a pair of metropolitan forces on which many “far reaching” enterprises depended, and that constituted the second feature of Chicago’s growth that was pronounced in Cobb’s largest commercial and institutional buildings: new technologies and new ways to organize work. These paired developments, of course, were not unique to Chicago, but Chicago made 2


them more visible or developed them sooner or more thoroughly in part because its first two periods of growth coincided with the industrial revolution. Chicago’s physical and institutional infrastructure was unconstrained by the premodern streets, buildings, and many of the cultural assumptions embedded in the historical palimpsest of eastern cities, and its unequaled speed of development forced those who confronted the daunting challenges posed by new types of buildings and organizations to solve problems with little recourse to precedent, or to mate tradition with innovation in unpredictable ways. One result was that several of Cobb’s skyscrapers and institutions—the Owings Building, the Athletic Association, the university, and the Federal Building—rivaled comparable facilities in New York and Boston. The new technologies included the reaper, the railroad, the elevator, and buildings framed in steel, while the new ways to organize or rationalize work greatly expanded the divisions of labor for blue- and white-collar employees. Chicago’s central position for transport, the region’s munificent natural resources, and the unprecedented speed and power with which new machines and organizational arrangements transformed urban and rural landscapes fueled Chicago’s expansive sense of possibility and enabled individuals like Cobb to undertake cultural and commercial projects beyond the reach of earlier generations, to achieve at a fortuitous modern moment things normally associated with older cities and much longer periods of time. If one of the fascinations of Chicago’s history is how clearly and quickly the major contours of its development fell into place, then few architectural careers provide such a complete and sharply focused view of the city’s accelerated unfolding as Cobb’s. The third aspect of Chicago’s growth that was prominent in Cobb’s career involved another pair of developments that cross-fertilized each other: civic humanism and professionalization. It was the booster initiatives of Chicago’s amateur scholars, scientists, and cultural patrons before and after the 1871 fire that launched the institutions Cobb designed for. As was true of other midwestern and northeastern cities, the projects of Chicago’s underappreciated civic humanists were evident in subscription libraries, historical and scientific societies, and theaters that booked touring opera stars and Shakespearean acting troupes. Historian Thomas Bender has argued that such projects were, in kind if not always in quality, nineteenth-century descendants of the Florentine tradition of civic humanism and of early American cultural initiatives like those of science autodidact and Philadelphia civic leader Benjamin Franklin.3 Whether in Philadelphia, Hartford, Albany, Cincinnati, or Chicago, these projects were amateur rather than professional in nature, provincial not cosmopolitan in character. Yet their historical significance had to do precisely with their local origins, with their democratic attempts to address widespread public interest in the sciences and the arts during an ideologically egalitarian period. The autodidactic humanists in these towns were actually cosmopolitan in the one sense that historians have tended to dismiss or distrust: they were boosters who knew what



kinds of cultural institutions their cities needed to cultivate, and in Chicago at least they often backed up overcharged rhetoric about the city’s great future by producing results commensurate with their ambitions. During the 1880s and 1890s, however, professionalization and specialization, two new ways to organize intellectual and creative work, took hold in fields like architecture and the disciplines of the modern university. The introduction of trained professionals like Cobb or the University of Chicago’s William Rainey Harper into a culture of amateur or self-made men greatly benefited Chicago’s institutional resourcefulness. While the professionals subscribed to extralocal or national standards, the people behind the city’s cultural and civic institutions were amateurs who carried on the tradition of directing local intellectual and cultural life. Since the professionals still required the sponsorship of local elites, the productive tensions in the partnerships between amateurs and professionally trained individuals gave Chicago by century’s end a set of institutions that at once met cosmopolitan standards and exhibited a distinctly local character. Moreover, in an era of growing institutional and urban complexity, of feverish change and constant renewal, the amateurs who helped build Chicago’s institutions often had to professionalize, specialize, or educate themselves in one or another form of expertise, while certified professionals had to solve problems for which their educations had not prepared them—they became amateurs of a rarefied sort. Both conditions favored creative results. Cobb’s patrons came largely from the city’s socially and commercially most powerful groups. But unlike complacent or insular elites, those who played leading roles in Chicago’s civic humanism were unusually ambitious. They seized or created exceptional opportunities, recognized standards outside their parochial milieu, and worked to establish a complete network of civic and cultural institutions. Although their numbers were small and they worked in a very large city growing at unsettling speed, their social status and Chicago’s youth positioned them to dominate its underdeveloped cultural and civic realms beginning around 1880. Over the next twenty years, their talents and resources—the collective energies of the self-taught and the formally educated—created the university, libraries, clubhouses, civic projects, theaters, and the musical, literary, and architectural cultures that transformed Chicago into a Brycean metropolis, into Croly’s center of “far reaching” enterprises. A fourth aspect of Chicago’s history embedded in the institutions for which Cobb designed the signature buildings was a unique mix of democratic and elite constructs. The city’s leaders backed a half-dozen institutions whose democratic features their counterparts in eastern cities either did not have or acquired later in time. These features enhanced local character by extending into Cobb’s generation the egalitarian strain of Chicago’s civic humanism before the fire. To take just one example: Harper sought not simply scientific preeminence for the university, hence Cobb’s plans for specialized laboratories, but also access for those individuals who could take only evening or correspondence courses, and for women at a 4


time when few colleges and universities admitted both men and women, and fewer still provided women’s dormitories as well planned as Cobb’s. Moreover, Cobb designed the allied Lewis and Bradley Technical Institutes, both of which trained men and women for skilled occupations in newly industrialized cities and prepared their abler students for Harper’s university. Yet in the social elaboration, institutional specialization, and refinement of culture associated with cities at their most creative and competitive, much of Cobb’s work also involved purely elite cultural initiatives. Cobb was among the first American architects to develop sophisticated designs for men’s clubs, an upper-class institution that acquired a heightened prestige in the gilding of urban life after the Civil War. His 1881 Union Club on Washington Square, the 1890 Chicago Athletic Association (CAA) on downtown Michigan Avenue, and the 1895 Onwentsia Club in Lake Forest were the work of an architect who moved in metropolitan Chicago’s most exclusive social circles, and whose eclecticism satisfied the desire of many Chicagoans for eastern and European elegance in a city with few ties to history or tradition. A fifth feature of Chicago’s development that figured prominently in Cobb’s career underscored the impact of the democratic tradition of self-made individuals on Chicago’s metropolitan development. Cobb’s patrons, who helped make Chicago the nation’s most receptive city for individual initiative, comprised a whole typology of modern self-makers: literary businessmen like Newberry trustee Eliphalet Blatchford; creative entrepreneurs and city builders like Clement Studebaker and Potter Palmer; more conventional ones like railroad executive Ransom Cable; and unscrupulous manipulators like street-car magnate Charles Yerkes. Counterintuitively, scions of self-made men like Charles Hutchinson, Martin Ryerson, and Bertha Honoré Palmer figured in this typology too. Privileged rather than bootstrap individuals, they nonetheless responded to the city’s pervasive ethos of self-making by forging unique identities for themselves. They shaped novel institutions like the university, or used a mansion, as Bertha Palmer did, to institutionalize an unorthodox array of social and political projects. Professionalized talents like Harper and Cobb made up a second privileged group who nevertheless made themselves over in a frontier boom town because its modern opportunities provided them with more open arenas for the pursuit of ambition, the likelihood of faster, more creative success, and the prospect of developing enterprises at a larger scale than older more established cities might have allowed them. In this regard, Cobb was not just the architect but also the entrepreneur of three elite institutions. As one of the founders and leaders of the Chicago Athletic Association, Cobb designed a building whose skyscraper scale, spatial sophistication, sports facilities, and ornamental richness made it exactly what its charter members wanted it to be, the finest indoor athletic club in the country. This kind of ambition, fostered only in the most dynamic urban centers, also affected the profession of architecture itself. In his Autobiography of an Idea, Louis Sullivan famously credited Daniel Burnham with the organizational shift from the studio or



atelier, with its small number of architect-artists, to the big-business enterprise run by an entrepreneurial architect. But it was Cobb who by 1893 had created a firm as large as or larger than Burnham’s, one equally or more reliant on the new divisions of labor associated with modern organization, and with a city whose unusually large businesses often astonished American and foreign visitors.4 Although Cobb left Chicago in 1896, Chicago did not leave him. In the late 1890s, the city’s feverish development cooled on both economic and cultural fronts, its outsized opportunities shrinking in number and magnitude. Though he periodically returned to tend ongoing Chicago commissions, Cobb, along with other architects, builders, entrepreneurs, socialites, and writers, abandoned the city in order to pursue elsewhere ambitions that Chicago had spawned. Yet Cobb’s later work in Washington, D.C. (1896–1902) and New York City (1902–1931) consistently showed the direct influence of his Chicago experience. This was particularly true of the office buildings he designed in midtown and Lower Manhattan, especially the Liberty Tower (1910), which instantly became a modern icon and one of a group of seven new towers that by 1913 had reshaped Lower Manhattan’s skyline and redefined the skyscraper’s visual and rhetorical powers. Cobb’s career thus opens to view a rare kind of historical study: an integrated social, cultural, urban, and architectural cross-section of one of the nation’s most important cities at the high point of its development, in the midst of the fundamental shifts that so rapidly transformed an agrarian society into an urbanized and modernized America. Because he designed buildings for most of the city’s major cultural and civic institutions, and because he worked with a greater variety of buildings than Chicago’s more famous architects, Cobb’s career provides a more representative view of the city’s development than theirs. If Sullivan, Jenney, Root, Roche, and Wright expressed in different ways and to varying degrees the more experimental and original sides of Chicago architecture, and thus exemplified those aspects of a frontier city that encouraged a modernizing creativity not found to the same degree elsewhere, Cobb best represented what was possible to achieve in the city’s architectural mainstream. The achievements of men like Cobb, who were not geniuses and who had stronger ties to eastern culture, in some ways better illustrated the intensification and dispersion of creative energies that occurred in the kind of hothouse urban development for which nineteenth-century Chicago was the country’s preeminent example. In this milieu Cobb became not just a more successful architect sooner than he would have in his native Boston, but a more creative one as well. The English Gothic of the University of Chicago set standards in campus planning rivaled only by McKim, Mead & White’s Columbia University. The Venetian Gothic of the Athletic Association broke new ground in the composition of skyscraper façades. Most important, Cobb’s remarkably varied neo-Romanesque homes and institutions—the Ransom Cable House, the Chicago Opera House, the Newberry Library, the Chicago Historical Society, the Fisheries Building, and the Durand Art Institute—made significant contributions to metropolitan Chicago’s identi6


fication with that architectural language. In the decade between 1884 and 1893 it powerfully expressed in houses, institutions, office buildings, and exposition halls the city’s outsized entrepreneurial and creative energies. This book, then, is as much about Chicago’s development as it is about Cobb’s major work. The chapters that follow, therefore, are neither an exhaustive account of every one of Cobb’s buildings even though he had commissions in cities as far apart as Toronto and San Francisco, nor a biography despite the biographical elements that condition the narrative, nor an aesthetic examination except insofar as traditional and more modern forms of architectural expression and their signification enter into the urban and cultural analysis. Rather, the book focuses on the man and his works as the human and institutional points of intersection for crucial developments in Chicago’s climactic period of growth. It emphasizes Cobb as an individual acting within the radical transitions characteristic of modern America as a whole but intensified and distilled into some of their purest forms in Chicago, the latecomer metropolis that many nineteenth-century commentators called the most American of America’s cities. Given the import of his career, why have historians undervalued or dismissed Cobb’s work? That he left no archive of drawings and letters at his death, and published no books or articles during his life, certainly inhibited close study of his career. But other causes have been more important. It is not to beat a dead horse to mention the modernist historiography that in books like Sigfried Giedion’s Space, Time and Architecture (1941) excluded eclectic architects because their historicizing buildings did not lead to a recognizably modern architecture. Giedion and historians like Nicholas Pevsner canonized an unrepresentative group of skyscrapers and made the city of Chicago a triumphant center of modernism and Hegel’s spirit of the age. It took forty years even to begin to dismantle their Chicago. In 1980 the very title of Gwendolyn Wright’s Moralism and the Model Home: Domestic Architecture and Cultural Conflict in Chicago, 1873–1913 announced a new emphasis in building analysis on factors (class, gender, social mobility, developer homes) that were then natural subjects for social and cultural but not architectural historians. A decade later came Robert Bruegmann’s monumental studies of the undervalued firm of Holabird & Roche and Joseph Siry’s illuminating monographs on key buildings by Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright.5 In rejecting Giedion’s preoccupation with “universal architecture,” in grounding buildings in specific local and regional contexts, in their precise attention to the functional, structural, formal, and symbolic issues in the historical development of new types of buildings or changes in traditional ones like the home, their work complicated ideas about architectural modernism, recovered how their first observers responded to Chicago buildings, and gave buildings themselves a newly central position in Chicago’s urban and cultural histories. Still, except for Gwendolyn Wright’s book, revisionist studies continued to concentrate on the architects whose buildings fit within one or another pro



gressive framework. Put another way, the revisionists still favored the individual genius, or, since Burnham, Roche, Root, Jenney, and Beman were not as original as Sullivan, Wright, and Richardson, the revisionists kept their sights trained on architects with at least some degree of creative brilliance. That Cobb was a resolute eclectic, was only rarely brilliant, and had no progressive agenda may well have blinded even revisionist historians to Cobb’s importance in the city’s institutional maturation, and to what cultural historians like Helen Horowitz had recognized as far back as the mid 1970s: the central place in Chicago’s development of its civic and cultural institutions.6 Yet Horowitz herself did not address what roles architecture and architects might have played in shaping these malleable organizations, nor how institutional concerns may have shaped institutional buildings. Pivotal discussions or conflicts between Cobb and his clients about how to design and in what directions to take cultural organizations still in the process of formation, or how to make institutional architecture signify in the larger city, played out across the histories of the Newberry Library, the Chicago Athletic Association, the University of Chicago, and the Federal Building. So did unexpected ex post facto shifts in the meanings ascribed to three of Cobb’s government buildings. The three notable exceptions in this regard were Daniel Bluestone’s Constructing Chicago (1991), Bruegmann’s The Architects and the City (1997), and Siry’s The Chicago Auditorium Building (2004).7 Bluestone’s last two chapters probed the relations between form and signification in the city’s multiplying civic designs of the 1890s. But his resurrection of Cobb’s neglected Federal Building and his project for a new city hall and county courthouse necessarily excluded much in their complex histories, since he also examined how parks, churches, and skyscrapers as well as civic projects countered the city’s reputation for excessive materialism. Among other strengths of these works, Bruegmann’s study revived the relations between urban and architectural history, and Siry made civic, cultural, and political issues even more central to the exceptionally rich history enfolding the Auditorium. These three works make all the more important a comparable analysis of the works of an architect who figured so prominently in the city’s residential, civic, cultural, and commercial heritage. How did Cobb come to dominate the institutional architecture of metropolitan Chicago? The answers have to do with the fit between Cobb’s eclectic designs, his persuasive skills, the Chicago worlds his employers inhabited, and the ambitions they harbored about what the city should become. Like most other patrons of architecture in this period, Cobb’s clientele looked to historical forms as the most appropriate way to dignify or ennoble institutions that required extraordinary financial, intellectual, and artistic investments, and Cobb’s command of precedent was more assured than that of most of his Chicago contemporaries. No less important, however, were the expectations of his clients having to do with class, age, family background, and formal qualifications that helped Cobb best his rivals 8


when it came to what Henry Hobson Richardson once phrased as the architect’s first imperative: “Get the job.” Cobb’s Boston pedigree played an important role in securing his disproportionate number of prestigious commissions, and Cleveland Amory’s The Proper Bostonians (1947) is a precise portrait of the Brahmin society to which Cobb and his family belonged. Although they were hardly Cabots, Lodges, or Lowells, the Cobbs were nonetheless one of Boston’s “First Families,” Amory’s shorthand for the few dozen clans who after the Civil War dominated the several thousand individuals listed in Boston’s Social Register, who in turn set themselves apart from the city’s half a million Irish, Poles, Italians, and Jews.8 Amory was well qualified to write the book. He was Cobb’s grandson through the architect’s daughter Leonore, who in 1910 married Robert Amory, Jr., himself a scion of a First Family. They named Cleveland after one of Cobb’s sons. Thirty years old when he published the book, Amory had already been editor of the Harvard Crimson and written for two Arizona newspapers and the Saturday Evening Post, enabling him to construct an outsider’s perspective on an insider’s experience.9 With the discretion required of First Families Amory mentioned nothing of his own background or anything to do with his grandfather. The family lineage, though, is traceable in other sources. Cobb’s paternal great-grandfather was Thomas Cobb, a Revolutionary War soldier and a Quaker. Cobb’s own first and middle names may have come through Thomas’s son Henry, who married Augusta Adams, daughter of Mary Ives and John Adams of Beverly, Massachusetts, a small but commercially important harbor community north of Boston. In the only known family scandal, Augusta Cobb sometime in the 1830s left her husband and took her three youngest children to become the fifth wife of Brigham Young, a prominent leader of the Church of Latter Day Saints. Cobb’s father Albert Adams Cobb, one of the six children whom Augusta abandoned, displayed the moral rectitude expected of First Families by never forgiving her.10 Cobb’s mother, Mary Russell Candler, was the daughter of Captain John Candler, Jr., an officer on the USS Constitution in the War of 1812. Captain Candler married into the merchant Wheelwright family and became the pivotal figure in what Amory characterizes as the “romance . . . necessary to the founding of any [high] Society.” After the war, during Boston’s heyday of global trade, when the word “merchant” still carried its Johnsonian meaning of a man who “trafficks to remote countries,” and when “the flavor of the sea [was] a living tradition” in a Boston harbor dense with packets, clipper ships, and block-long multistory buildings like Charles Bullfinch’s marketplace at Faneuil Hall and India Wharf ’s stores and counting houses, Candler became a shipbuilder who made his name as well known among seafaring Yankee merchants as those of Ives and Wheelwright had been earlier. Candler and other strivers “upset many a Puritan applecart” by conferring on commercial enterprise a prestige nearly equal to that of the ministers, literary men, bankers, and judges who typically dominated the First Families.11



Candler’s son, John W. Candler, continued the firm, became a three-term president of Boston’s redoubtable Commercial Club, and added public service to his family’s profile, including campaigns for prison reform and two terms as a U.S. congressman (1880–1882; 1888–1890). For a number of years he and Cobb’s father jointly managed Candler, Cobb & Company, exporting and importing goods from the Cape of Good Hope, and the East and West Indies. Their other joint venture was a typical case of Brahmin intermarriage, which preserved the rarefied identity that First Families quietly but assiduously cultivated through family alliances often as calculated, in Amory’s view, as the “planned marriages of European royalty.” In parallel with Albert Cobb’s marriage to John’s sister Mary, John Candler married Albert’s sister Lucy A. Cobb. Both men settled their families in Brookline, one of Boston’s “socially circumspect” suburbs. Circumspection required obedience to unwritten sumptuary laws and a strict reticence about domestic and business matters. Although Boston’s tightly controlled family trusts make his exact financial status difficult to determine, Cobb’s father probably possessed only modest wealth at most, this or lesser sums typifying First Families.12 Cobb’s forebears thus included two men with battle bona fides in the seminal wars against the British, a family founder with a military title and trading success on the high seas that added the requisite “romantic flavor,” intermarriage with another seafaring merchant family, and residence in a suburb both upscale and toned down. That Cobb and his older brother Albert were the first Cobbs to graduate from Harvard University filled out what Amory termed “the dynastic proportions” expected of First Families.13 Born in 1859, Henry Ives Cobb was a particularly interesting dynast-to-be. Talent and professional education were not necessary in Brahmin society, but Cobb had plenty of both. A child who amused himself by making toys and model buildings, he caught the attention of the drawing master at Brookline High School, where for a couple of years, when the teacher was ill and after his retirement, Cobb drew on the blackboard, rapidly and accurately, the buildings that classes of a hundred students or more had to draw. Cobb studied not only civil engineering at Harvard’s Lawrence Scientific School, but also mechanical engineering and architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which had what was then one of the few professional programs in the country. Before he finished high school he spent six months traveling in England and France with his father and uncle John Candler, and after finishing at MIT he independently studied architecture in Europe for a year.14 Cobb was one of the very few architects in his generation to capitalize so well on the early professionalization of knowledge in architectural studies. Cobb also made an excellent match in the professional equivalent of intermarriage: first employment with the firms of other First Families. After his second European sojourn Cobb worked at Peabody & Stearns, whose two principals also had Harvard and Brookline pedigrees. Fourteen years Cobb’s senior, Robert Swain Peabody was from one of the very first First Families, old and righteous enough 10


to have spurned Colonial Boston’s commercial triangulation of rum sales in West Africa, slave markets in the West Indies, and molasses wholesaling back home.15 Cobb, then, was bred, educated, and trained for what Amory described as the “most exclusive” social world “of any city in America.” But Cobb broke as well as perfected the mold. In their view of Boston as “the hub of the solar system,” First Families abjured travel, but Cobb was already an inveterate traveler by the time he entered Peabody & Sterns. While Brahmin Boston generally gave the underdeveloped territory west of the Appalachians “a wide berth,” brothers Albert and Henry, in 1878 and 1881 respectively, embraced opportunities in Chicago that were less easily available in their native city’s more insular and hierarchical world.16 Although Boston Brahmins invested their money in Chicago’s development, the Metropolis of the Great West was in many respects “Boston’s bane.” First Families carried on “honorable” mercantile or professional “strife” with a “calmly confident front,” but Chicago’s commercial competition was overtly Darwinist. Its more open arenas of ambition made it preeminently a city of self-made men, a type opposed to the inherited advantages and closed-off society of First Families. Since they regarded Boston as the highly refined “hub” of the universe, they refused “to talk it up,” while unrefined Chicagoans aggressively boosted their industrial, commercial, and cultural potential, employing, in Amory’s anachronistic phrase, just that “chamber of commerce approach” that First Families disdained.17 This was the Chicago embraced by Cobb the proper Bostonian. Archival sources and the nearly five hundred articles the Chicago Tribune published about Cobb between 1881 and 1906 show not only how he fit Amory’s characterization of Brahmin Boston but, more important, how boosterish Chicago reshaped Cobb. Yet while his genealogy, Amory’s portrait, and a near surfeit of articles in the Tribune and other newspapers promise full disclosure of how Cobb actually used his social advantages, and of his particular charms and appeals for the elites in Chicago, Boston, and New York with whom he associated, no archive of his professional work survives, and there is a surprising dearth of information and anecdote about his family and social relations. Who his friends were in Chicago is clear enough, but I have found no letters or notes or diary entries testifying to Cobb’s attractions in those friendships or the subtler aspects of his character.18 While he clearly enjoyed their respect up through 1895, little evidence shows precisely what his relations were with such elders of the profession as Daniel Burnham, Robert Peabody, and Charles McKim. Nor is it always clear whether this eclectic architect shifted among distinct architectural languages after 1890 because of changing public or professional tastes, the demands his clients made, or Cobb’s own sense of which forms best suited which occasions. Even the question of how wealthy this rich man eventually made himself eludes exact or even approximate calculation. But these gaps do not in any fundamental way compromise Cobb’s larger historical import. While his own archive, destroyed soon after he died, may have filled in some of the gaps, the limited personal expression he allowed himself in the correspondence that survives in institutional archives suggests otherwise. Many of



these confirm the reserve so highly valued by Boston’s Brahmin families, a resolute circumspection that made Cobb elusive, something of a man apart, despite his central roles in the development of Chicago’s institutions and architecture. It is those roles that make him not only one of the most important and overlooked of American architects, but also one of the very few so crucial to the metropolitan maturation of a nineteenth-century city. His work on an uncommon array of civic, cultural, and commercial initiatives, the rich veins of Chicago history embodied in these initiatives, his entrepreneurial ventures in a city that exhibited a whole spectrum of self-made men and women, the technological and organizational innovations that enabled him and others to create a precociously modern city, and those aspects of Chicago’s civic humanism and incipient professionalization that Cobb helped transform into institutional realities make his work as vital to the city’s renaissance in the last two decades of the nineteenth century as the better known musical, literary, journalistic, architectural, and reform projects that have made this place and period one of the more compelling instances of creative urban ferment in American history.



1 The Union Club, Self-Made Men, and Chicago’s First Period of Growth


n September 1881, Henry Ives Cobb, in his first year as an architect at the prestigious Boston firm of Peabody & Stearns, entered a competition sponsored by the Union Club of Chicago to design a clubhouse on Washington Square

in the middle of the well-to-do North Side. Cobb almost certainly learned of the competition through his older brother and club treasurer Albert Wheelwright Cobb, a fellow Harvard alumnus and Boston Brahmin who had moved to Chicago to enter the importing business to which his father had introduced him in Boston. Soon after he arrived he helped found the Union Club in 1878. With such prominent members as real estate developers Potter Palmer and Charles Henrotin, the club, which consisted mostly of affluent younger men like Albert Cobb, enjoyed a prestige out of proportion to its short history.1 The competition and the club’s membership underlined four features of

Chicago’s increasing social complexity in this period. First, after the cataclysmic fire of 1871, Chicago businessmen, who before the fire had made the city the economically dominant metropolis in the Midwest, not only rebuilt and extended the technological and organizational infrastructure of the prefire period, but also launched multiple campaigns to make the city just as notable for its metropolitan culture. The campaigns included Chicago’s intensified club rivalries, which led to initiatives like the Union Club’s architectural competition, then a rarely used means in Chicago to secure the best possible design for a building, and to the city’s first architecturally sophisticated clubhouses.


Second, the club’s North Side membership highlighted that neighborhood’s pivotal role in the pre- and postfire phases of Chicago’s development, and helps explain why Henry Ives Cobb, like his brother Albert, moved there to establish his first firm. Third, although self-made men by definition did not inherit the wealth, family name, educational opportunities, and social status that members of the most selective men’s clubs typically did, the Union Club, with its mix of patricians like Albert Cobb and self-makers like Potter Palmer, showed how permeable the barriers between self-made and clubbable men in Chicago could be, and how open the city’s arenas of ambition actually were. Fourth, the competition and its outcomes underlined aspects of the recent professionalization of architecture, ones that slowly displaced the local apprenticeships and the strictly local practices that in the prefire period were nearly the only means to attain recognition from peers and the public.

Social Clubs and the 1881 Competition The Union Club’s competition measured how quickly the rivalries among elite men’s clubs in Chicago and other cities had intensified. Only a year before, the membership had not contemplated a new facility at all. Instead, like many Chicago clubs, it occupied quarters not originally designed as a clubhouse. Even so, the property it leased on the north side of Washington Square revealed the membership’s social ambitions and set the stage for the later clubhouse campaign, a stage for which the square’s history provided an indispensable backdrop. A three-acre parcel that a land speculation company gave the municipality in 1842, just five years after Chicago’s incorporation as a city, Washington Square was

1.1  Map of Henry Ives Cobb’s major

an amenity that attracted people and groups who built fine homes and churches in

residential and institutional work on

the neighborhood bordered by State, Division, Chicago, and LaSalle Streets (fig. 1.1). In 1869, the city formally landscaped the park with trees, lawns, and diagonal

Chicago’s North Side ca. 1890. Adapted from Robinson’s Atlas of the City of Chicago, Illinois (1886). Drawn by Paul

walks, making it Chicago’s single example of the urbane residential squares of

Laseau, after Paul Kruty’s 2004 version.

cities like Boston, Philadelphia, Savannah, and New York, whose own Washington

A = Union Club

Square perhaps suggested the name of Chicago’s.2 The club’s leased property had its own historical associations. The grounds and its Second Empire house constituted about one half of the Mahlon Ogden estate, which covered the entire block bordered by Washington Square, Dearborn Avenue, and Oak and Clark Streets (fig. 1.1, B). Ogden had been one of Chicago’s early settlers, a lawyer, and a prominent figure in real estate and public affairs. Chicagoans into the 1890s mythicized his home as the only North Side property to survive the 1871 fire. But Ogden, reeling from the millions of dollars he lost in the conflagration, had placed this and his other properties in trust for creditors in the same year the Union Club was founded. The club’s payments on the lease therefore serviced the mortgage held on Ogden’s property by the trustees of another wellknown estate, that of Walter L. Newberry, a yet more lionized early settler who, like Ogden, had made a fortune buying and selling land before the fire.3 16

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B = Newberry Library; formerly site of Mahlon Ogden estate C = Chicago Historical Society 1 = Potter and Bertha Palmer residence; no longer standing 3 = Perry Smith residence 5 = Row houses on Bellevue Place; all but three no longer standing 6 = Henry Ives Cobb residence (small rectangle) 7 = Ransom Cable residence 8 = V. C. Thompson residence 2, 4, 9, 11, and the top row house at 10 no longer standing

The square, Ogden’s estate, and club activities like summer concerts led the Chicago Tribune to claim that “a more eligible location for a club-house . . . would indeed be difficult to find throughout the length and breadth of the city.” With an “elegant” building and “fine grounds” used for “games and . . . several delightful lawn parties in the summer season,” the property, in the middle of “the best” residential neighborhood on the North Side, fronted on “one of the prettiest parks in the city,” and “under the present real-estate boom” was bound to increase greatly in value. Six months later, however, the club dropped its option to buy the property and instead purchased a less expensive, smaller lot fronting the park on the opposite side of the square, at the southwest corner of Dearborn Avenue and Washington Place (fig. 1.1, A).4 A new clubhouse illustrated the social competition then heating up among elite men’s clubs in Chicago and New York. After first pledging forty thousand dollars for the project, the Union Club, with more than three hundred members, increased that amount by 50 percent “to outdo” the Calumet Club, whose own plans for a new clubhouse had, in the Tribune’s view of the matter, “inspired [a] generous rivalry [with] that enterprising institution on the South Side.” For the Calumet Club, the firm of Burnham & Root had designed a four-story building of arcaded windows, red-brick walls, terra cotta trim, and a picturesque skyline of dormers, turrets, chimneys, and roof ornaments—features appropriate to what many regarded as the city’s most “aristocratic” club (fig. 1.2).5

1.2  Calumet Club, Michigan Avenue and TwentyFirst Street, 1883. Burnham & Root, architects. No longer standing. Inland Architect 1 (February 1883): 5.


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Although it was no older or larger than the Union Club, the Calumet enjoyed this reputation because its clubhouse at Michigan Avenue and Twenty-First Street was only a short block away from the mansions lining fashionable Prairie Avenue, and many of the avenue’s residents were club members, along with some of Chicago’s most prominent businessmen, including meatpacker George Armour, industrialist George Pullman, and dry-goods merchants Marshall Field and Levi Leiter.6 A few Union Club members like Potter Palmer were just as well known, but its other members were not, and their North Side mansions and townhouses were not concentrated along a single, highly recognizable avenue. These facts made the club’s site on elegant Washington Square and its architectural competition that much more important in the status rivalry. In seeking to do for club life on the North Side what its rival had just done for the South Side, the building committee of the Union Club solicited “plans and specifications” from a small number of firms. Each had to submit a design “without the architects’ names attached,” so that the committee might judge the designs on “their merits,” with “no room for . . . favoritism.” A follow-up article in the Tribune stated that the club had increased the building budget another 25 percent (to seventy-five thousand dollars), and that of the four different designs under review, the ones that “seem to meet the most favor are believed to be the work of Burnham and Root.”7 The irony that members favored the rival club’s architects, or that Daniel H. Burnham and John Wellborn Root both belonged to the Calumet Club, apparently did not matter. Since their firm was just hitting its stride in commissions for homes, churches, and office buildings—its ten-story Montauk Block was set to become Chicago’s tallest structure—the committee instead used Burnham & Root’s growing reputation and the competition itself to enhance its own social standing in the pages of the city’s leading newspaper. Such jockeying for status created the nation’s first examples of the imposing club buildings that already lined Pall Mall and St. James’s Street in London, the Anglophile’s capital of cosmopolitan club culture. And in a booming urban America, 1881 was the threshold year: at the same time as the rivalry between Chicago’s principal North and South Side clubs heated up, Manhattan’s Union League Club, a group of prominent Republicans, moved into their clubhouse on Fifth Avenue, its bristling monumentality the result of a competition held in 1879 and won by Peabody & Stearns just before Cobb went to work for the firm (fig. 1.3).8 Preceded by six clubs founded shortly before and after the fire, and motivated by urban anonymity, individual ambition, and group desires to reinforce and advance their class, wealth, family, social, and business standing, Chicago’s clubhouse fever in the 1880s confirmed an early Chicago historian’s view that men’s clubs were rapidly becoming “indispensable to modern city life.”9 But if the building committee favored Burnham & Root early in the competition, it was Cobb’s design that in mid-December emerged as the membership’s unanimous choice. His selection was remarkable in part because of his youth. When the Tribune called Cobb “a young man” it failed to note that he was just

The Union Club, Self-Made Men, and Chicago’s Growth


1.3  Union League Club, northeast corner of Fifth Avenue and E. Thirty-Ninth Street, New York City, 1883. Peabody & Stearns, architects. No longer standing. Photo ca. 1930. Courtesy Murray Hill Neighborhood Association.

twenty-two, in his first year of practice, unacquainted with Chicago, and without the varied experience that Burnham & Root had already accumulated between 1873 and 1881, years when they designed and built more than forty buildings.10 Nor did the newspaper mention that Cobb brought unusual social and professional assets to the club, for not long after he had won the competition he announced his intention to move from Boston to Chicago. The assets included everything in his Brahmin pedigree: scion of one of Boston’s First Families, a graduate of Harvard and MIT, and a respected architect at Peabody & Stearns. Cobb and his brother Albert were also acquainted with club life through their uncle John Candler. During one of his three terms as president of Boston’s Commercial Club (1868), the prestige of that organization caused several Chicago businessmen to pay for Candler’s visit to the city in 1877, an event that catalyzed the formation of Chicago’s own Commercial Club.11 20

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But that Cobb was an ideal catch for the Union Club hardly explains why he quickly abandoned Boston, “the Athens of America,” to launch a career in what was still an upstart city. He forsook New York City’s opportunities as well, since his fiancée was Emma Martin Smith, a direct descendant on her mother’s side of a dissident Quaker in New Amsterdam and of Walter Bowne, an early nineteenthcentury New York State senator and New York City mayor. Since her father was Augustus F. Smith, a well-known Manhattan attorney with an international clientele in America and Europe, his prominence and her maternal lineage would likely have yielded the social contacts necessary to launch a promising architectural career in Manhattan.12 Why did this educated, ambitious, talented, and patrician architect choose Chicago and its North Side instead? Meeting the merchants who formed Chicago’s Commercial Club may have led his uncle to talk up the city’s business and professional prospects with his nephews. Having lived there for more than three years, Albert Cobb might also have urged his younger brother to move, or Cobb may have seen enough of Chicago on short visits to the city to convince him to do so. Be that as it may, the neighborhood’s history and privileged position in the Chicago of the 1880s had much to offer in the way of seeding the career of an architect as young as Cobb.

Self-Made Men and Chicago’s First Period of Growth, 1835–1871 In many ways, the North Side’s development and that of much of the rest of Chicago was catalyzed by Mahlon Ogden’s brother, William Butler Ogden, whose own estate before its destruction in the 1871 fire was a short walk away from the Union Club site. William Ogden established so many of Chicago’s most important institutions and business enterprises that by the time he died in 1877, four years before Cobb entered the Union Club competition, Ogden’s multiple legacies constituted much of what people identified with Chicago’s distinct character. An upstate New Yorker who settled in the frontier village of Chicago in 1836 to manage his brother-in-law’s extensive holdings in land, Ogden made a fortune in real estate, became Chicago’s first mayor, promoted the Illinois and Michigan Canal that linked Chicago to burgeoning international trade on the Mississippi River, and developed the city’s first railroads, without which Chicago’s extraordinarily rapid development was unthinkable.13 After launching the Galena and Chicago Union Railroad in 1848 with lawyer J. Young Scammon and fellow real estate speculator Walter Newberry, Ogden founded and aggregated lines in Wisconsin and northern Illinois to form the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad, of which he was president from 1859 to 1868. When Congress authorized a transcontinental railroad in 1862 he became the first president of the Union Pacific.14 Exploiting the railroad’s capacity to make Chicago a transshipment and manufacturing center, Ogden also developed lumber mills at Peshtigo, Wisconsin, and ironworks at Brady’s Bend, Pennsylvania. In 1847, when Cyrus Hall McCor

The Union Club, Self-Made Men, and Chicago’s Growth


mick, who had recently perfected the reaper, moved from Virginia to Chicago, Ogden was his partner in the reaper factory he constructed less than a mile south of Washington Square. Like Ogden with his ironworks, lumber mills, and railroads, McCormick pioneered some of the first modern economies of scale when he deployed a novel kind of organization: a national sales force whose success radically transformed agriculture on the vast, level farmlands of the Midwest and the Great Plains that were ideally suited to his new machine.15 Ogden’s railroads and McCormick’s reapers were two of the enterprises behind Chicago’s exponential, recognizably modern rates of economic growth. In facilitating McCormick’s move to Chicago, Ogden became an entrepreneur of entrepreneurs, one among the reasons why people like Henry Strong, who worked with Ogden at Peshtigo, thought he had no peer “in the planning and management of large enterprises,” for his “constitution of iron . . . executive power of a high order, ability to master the details of anything he had on hand . . . faith in his own judgment and plans, and an unbending will [allowed him] to carry through to completion, and against all opposition, anything he undertook.” Men like Ogden, Strong declared, made Chicago “one of the powers of the earth.”16 Ogden’s public and cultural initiatives were just as various and remarkable. Ogden was an abolitionist, a donor of land to expand the North Shore’s Lincoln Park, and a founder, an officer, or a board member of the Chicago Historical Society, Rush Medical College, the first University of Chicago, and the Astronomical Society. Ogden corresponded with artists, commissioned work for his private gallery, persuaded the expatriate portrait painter George P. A. Healy to relocate from Paris to Chicago, and recruited John Van Osdel, an apprentice architect in New York City, to move to Chicago to design Ogden’s North Side estate and Chicago’s first City Hall and County Courthouse (1853).17 In these and other activities Ogden exemplified the civic humanism then common even in small midwestern and northeastern cities. His recruitment of Chicago’s first major architect was instructive. Unlike Cobb some thirty years later, the uncertified Van Osdel attended no school of architecture organized around extralocal standards. Like almost all architects of his generation, his success depended on a local building culture, local apprenticeships, and sponsorship by a local elite.18 The pursuit of knowledge and cultural refinement by self-educated amateurs addressed a widespread interest in the sciences and the arts during a time when these fields were accessible to a general public. City builders like Ogden knew they were laying groundwork for the civic and cultural institutions that after their deaths they hoped would mature enough to command respect in the major eastern cities. Civic initiatives like Ogden’s typically mixed self-interested and disinterested motives. His charitable and public projects, influenced by antebellum reform movements emphasizing the moral obligations of the wealthy, boosted both the city and Ogden’s financial and social profits as a self-taught businessman, cultural authority, and civic leader.19 Unexceptional in his mixed motives, Ogden was 22

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highly exceptional in the variety of his enterprises and the entrepreneurial creativity evident in building both a personal fortune and a city that started from little more than swamps, sandbars, and a squalid fort. The center stage for Ogden’s civic humanism was the Greek Revival home Van Osdel designed for him in 1837 nine blocks southeast of Washington Square. With a pedimented portico, a cupola, a broad porch across the south front, a welllit dining room, and an excellent library, the house sat in the middle of four acres that Ogden, who founded the Chicago Horticultural Society, may have landscaped himself, since he included a conservatory and fruit houses on the shaded grounds. Not just an avocation, his horticultural interests served the antebellum ideal of the Christian gentleman, which abjured giving to the poor from a distance. Instead, Ogden, as neighbor Isaac Arnold observed, “never forgot in his busiest days to visit the suffering, and always took with him the choicest products of his fruit and green-houses.”20 Ogden’s estate became an informal embassy for Chicago’s unofficial ambassador to the rest of the world. For Ogden employed what Arnold—friend, lawyer, fellow railroad promoter, and cofounder of the Chicago Historical Society—described as his “good books, good pictures . . . good music” and brilliance in conversation to entertain friends, Chicago investors, and such American and foreign visitors as Martin Van Buren, Daniel Webster, Stephen A. Douglas, William Cullen Bryant, Margaret Fuller, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Harriet Martineau, and the Prince of Wales. Although it was not surprising that Chicagoans regarded Ogden as “our representative man,” foreign observers like the French historian François Guizot went so far as to call him “the representative American. . . . He built and owns Chicago.”21

Self-Made and Professional Men The North Side’s mix of comfortable living, continued expansion, and ongoing leverage in developing Chicago were three possible appeals for a young architect about to start both a family and an independent practice. So was a social structure less constricting than Boston’s or New York’s. As with early settlers like McCormick and Newberry but in a much higher key, Ogden’s success showed that Chicago was a wide-open arena for ambitious self-makers. Asked by a wealthy woman who had fallen into poverty how her sons could ever hope to fare well in life, Ogden replied that she should not have “the least concern” about letting them “begin at the bottom.” He offered himself, the son of a bankrupt New York merchant, as an example: I was born close by a sawmill, was early left an orphan, was cradled in a sugar trough, christened in a mill-pond, graduated at a log house, and at fourteen fancied I could do anything I turned my hand to, and that nothing was impos

The Union Club, Self-Made Men, and Chicago’s Growth


sible, and ever since, Madam, I have been trying to prove it, and with some success.22

Whatever hyperbole Ogden injected into this artful self-portrait, it nonetheless vividly expressed the presumed advantages of adversity and the individual will— unassisted by family name, inherited wealth, education, or social position—that in the view of many of his contemporaries were central elements in Chicago’s explosive growth, in building the nineteenth century’s most astonishing new city. But while postfire Chicago remained more open to ambitious individuals than eastern cities, the Union Club competition and its rivalry with the Calumet Club clearly showed that Chicago after Ogden’s death had become more socially complex. Now talented individuals like Cobb, with their patrimony and newly professionalized educations, moved to the city built by talented self-made men. This novel mix of patrician individuals and autodidactic self-makers facilitated urban creativity. In contrast to eastern cities, where urban greenhorns might have to contend with established elites, Cobb and other newly arrived but sophisticated urbanites were themselves an elite whose cultural and institutional aspirations often coincided with those of self-made early settlers like Ogden and Newberry, who in these matters often looked to eastern models. The Union Club’s membership showed this mix in embryo, with a notable Boston slant. Self-makers like Palmer, George Pullman, and Marshall Field mingled not only with proper Bostonians like the Cobb brothers but also with lawyers like Owen Aldis, who was the real estate agent for Burnham & Root’s Montauk Block and the representative in Chicago for Boston developers Peter and Shepherd Brooks, the latter an architect and another First Family Harvard graduate who had recently commissioned Peabody & Stearns to design a country estate in the Boston exurb of Medford.23 In this way, Chicago inverted the nineteenth-century literary trope of greenhorns struggling to make it in a city of established elites. Rather, in Chicago’s postfire development, cosmopolitan young professionals trained at elite institutions quickly found favor with the self-made Chicagoans who had once been greenhorns contending not with established groups but with other equally inexperienced newcomers. Two other factors—a singular event and a modern development—figured in the mutuality of self-made and professional men. The magnitude of the event and the development distinguished the modernizing boomtown of Chicago from other cities by countering the tendency of big cities getting bigger to limit the types of opportunities that Ogden, McCormick, and Newberry had been able to exploit. The event was the apocalyptic fire of 1871. The development was the advent of economies of scale made possible by Chicago’s location, and by the new technologies and forms of organization prefigured in Ogden’s railroad management and industrial enterprises, and in McCormick’s reaper works and sales force. That development encompassed the very grid of Chicago streets, hundreds of miles of 24

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which Ogden himself had laid out in the northern division. Largely uniform lots and street widths facilitated the efficient transfer and aggregation of properties, and were an integral part of newly rationalized capitalist urban expansion, or what historian Dell Upton has called “the power of the systematic urban vision.”24 Along with modern machines and rationalized organizations, the systematized urban grid recreated and multiplied the city’s opportunities for both self-made and educated men like Cobb. For young architects, these factors in the North Side’s history added to the appeal of a city rapidly rebuilding itself. Since Ogden’s arrival Chicago had had a double character in the minds of its boosters and many of its American and foreign visitors: at once the raw frontier town and one of the world’s coming great cities, a settlement whose extraordinary sense of possibility in the 1880s had everything to do with those who sought to make Chicago the creative center that any great city had to be, and which it now seemed poised to become. Certainly this was the Chicago foreseen by another young architect eight years before Cobb arrived. Observing its feverish reconstruction two years after the devastating fire and an economic recession, Louis Sullivan, who had already lived in Paris, Boston, New York, and Philadelphia, saw in Chicago a different kind of city, and not just because it was “all magnificent and wild” or a “crude extravaganza.” Chicago for Sullivan was the unapologetic product of the “most savagely ambitious dreamers and would-be doers in the world.” Many other strivers, even when appalled by Chicago’s blatant inequities, still experienced Sullivan’s intoxicated “sense of big things to be done” in a city whose “energy . . . made him tingle to be in the . . . game.”25 Cobb’s may well have been a kindred feeling when he won the Union Club competition, and he certainly showed a comparable ambition in so quickly transplanting himself to Chicago, in throwing over the conventional success that his talents and status as a proper Bostonian virtually guaranteed for him in that city. The transition was not an abrupt one, however. He relied, after all, on his brother for the lead that gave him his first commission. His membership in the Union Club instantly widened the circle of contacts that young architects needed to secure jobs, including ones that could alter the trajectory of a career. His marriage to a woman of New York society may also have added to his appeal as an architect for the affluent. Moreover, he persuaded Charles Sumner Frost, a draftsman at Peabody & Stearns who had also studied architecture at MIT, to move with him and jointly mount a practice, with Frost in charge of construction.26 Finally, since Cobb soon invested in Chicago real estate, that very prospect—the same one that had drawn Ogden, Newberry, and so many other New Yorkers and New Englanders to the city and given to much of its development since the 1830s the feverish intensity noted by visitors—may have been another if secondary motive to move.27 Cobb thus demonstrated exactly the kind of entrepreneurial initiative that Chicago encouraged and that would have been more difficult in Boston or New York. The city was already remaking Cobb in its own image, molding the patri

The Union Club, Self-Made Men, and Chicago’s Growth


cian professional into a kind of upper-class self-maker in the Metropolis of the Midwest, the city spurned by many of Boston’s First Families. Establishing a firm so quickly was ambitious even by the standards of a go-getter’s city. Sullivan, John Wellborn Root, Daniel Burnham, and other young architects first apprenticed with older ones like William Le Baron Jenney or Peter B. Wight. Not Cobb, who jumped at the opportunity to piggyback the founding of a firm on his design of a newly prominent urban institution.

The Club’s Design and Divided Labor Cobb’s design did not possess the big-city hauteur of New York’s Union League Club, with its colossal columns, tall, ornate chimneys, and elaborately worked pediments. Neither did Burnham & Root’s Calumet Club. Instead, Chicago’s first two architecturally sophisticated clubhouses dropped down to a scale commensurate with the city’s smaller size and more thinly populated upper classes. Nonetheless, both facilities clearly expressed the hybrid nature of the clubhouse as a type of building. Like a mansion or an estate house, it had to communicate status and affluence even as it had a public prominence that the mansion did not. Chicago’s new clubhouses took over and enlarged many of the formal social events that until recently had taken place only in homes like Ogden’s, McCormick’s, and Newberry’s.28 Such were the attributes specified for New York’s Union League competition: all entries had to mix “the privacy and comfort of a private home” with “publicity” and “a pretentious show,” to be “conspicuous enough to invite public attention [but not] extend an invitation to the casual stroller to walk in, as a museum or theater might.”29 In this frank profession of motives, the clubhouse, which housed a large number of unrelated individuals all of whom claimed an elevated social standing, had at once to beckon and withhold, to arrest the attention of passersby through a design that communicated an unattainable but enviable exclusivity. The competition program and the winning design marked a shift in club architecture from antebellum republican modesty to a more aggressive assertion of status after the Civil War. A political club originally committed to the freedom of slaves and a united republic, New York’s Union League, in the person of park designer and civic reformer Frederick Law Olmsted, argued back in 1862 that club dues and new quarters should be modest enough to allow men of merit but without wealth or family lineage also to join.30 Nineteen years later modest quarters clearly lost out to a new monumentality and socially more rigorous selectivity. The Calumet and the Union Clubs met these imperatives more circumspectly. With its variegated roofline and its Ruskinian mix of textures, colors, patterns, and materials the Calumet was the more picturesque of the two facilities. Cobb’s building, however, was the statelier design (fig. 1.4). Unlike the Calumet Club, which pushed up against two streets, the Union Club’s fifteen-foot setback from 26

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1.4  Union Club, southwest corner of Dearborn Street and Washington Place, 1881. Henry Ives Cobb, architect. No longer standing. Joseph Kirkland, The Story of Chicago (Chicago: Dibble Publishing, 1892), 340.

the sidewalk and the expanse of grass and trees in Washington Square gave passersby uncrowded views.31 The club’s unusual walls of rock-faced random courses of a dark red New England sandstone, the broad stone steps, the clustered columns, and the stilted arches of the entrance portal, which was ampler and more dignified than that of the Calumet Club, introduced Chicago to features of the widely acclaimed neo-Romanesque buildings designed in the previous decade by H. H. Richardson, who practiced in Cobb’s own Brookline.32 But the young architect’s version of Richardson’s muscular manner was more restrained. Largely symmetrical, vertically emphasized monochromatic façades replaced Richardson’s lateral emphasis, asymmetrical massing, and polychromatic walls of light-gray granite and chocolate brownstone. Further, Cobb domesticated the rough-faced masonry by introducing Elizabethan or Queen Anne features: three-story bay windows, curved Dutch gables and finials, a hipped roof, and a crowning balustrade. These motifs made the walls and roofline as interesting as those of the Calumet Club without compromising the Union Club’s more aristocratic formality, suitable for what instantly became Chicago’s finest uptown club. Similarly, the tower and oriel on Dearborn Avenue and some patches of intricate ornament gave the dominant symmetry some offcenter relief. Cobb scored a major success with his first major commission when in 1884 the American Architect and Building News, one of the profession’s leading journals, published photographs of the interiors (fig. 1.5). Masculine urbanity was the unsur

The Union Club, Self-Made Men, and Chicago’s Growth


1.5  Union Club, entrance hall (top) and reception room (bottom). American Architect and Building News 15 (28 June 1884): plates.

prising keynote, but Cobb developed this quality more richly and subtly than Root did in the Calumet Club’s sparely treated interiors.33 Mahogany panels framed the parlors, cherry walled the supper and reading rooms, and quartersawn oak warmed up the hall, café, billiard, and reception rooms. The Adamesque motifs on friezes, pilasters, and fireplace mantels enlivened and lightened the woods, as did a mix of blues and yellows for the plaster walls and ceilings of the main rooms, colors that better reflected natural light and composed what the Tribune described as a harmonious “yet . . . varied scheme in the whole.” Paints replaced wallpapers, as pipes and cigars were “most deleterious to papered walls.”34 “Simple and well adapted” to clubhouse purposes, Cobb’s plan was also spatially deft. Divided by an arch and columns, the reception room (fig. 1.5, bottom) was as impressive in its own way as the upstairs “supper room,” whose folding doors could expand it into a banquet hall when required. At once to conserve space, create a ceremonial ascent, and ease the climb, the staircase enforced three changes in direction as members and guests moved forward, up, and around to the second floor (fig. 1.5, top). In addition to the billiard room on the first floor, the ample recreational facilities included a bowling alley in the basement and, on the second floor, four card rooms en suite. Ten pine-paneled bachelor suites, each with a sitting room, bedroom, and bathroom, occupied the third floor. For its part, the Tribune noted the excellent views of “fashionable” Dearborn Avenue from the windows of the southeast tower. Along with prospects across Washington Square from all rooms on the north side, the planning enhanced the members’ sense of dominion. The “pleasing and dignified” exterior announced the club’s new prominence in the city, and inside and outside together constituted “an edifice . . . worthy of the intelligence, wealth, and social position of the club.”35 This was not simply a booster point of view. For Clarence Blackall, a Boston architect familiar with clubhouses there and in Manhattan, the Union Club’s “good taste” and suitability for meetings, “business-exchange,” lunches, or “an afternoon nap” refuted earlier criticism of Chicago’s clubhouses as “unambitious, unluxurious and unsuccessful.”36 Providing social anchorage, commercial or professional connections, affirmation of a gentleman’s status, and asylum from the pressures of work, married life, and the fashionable society dominated by women, Cobb’s building, inside and out, was Chicago’s first elite men’s club of metropolitan sophistication.37 What another local publication called the club’s “original design” and “model interior” was, in fact, the product of newly divided, newly mobile professional labor.38 In contrast to Van Osdel—the self-taught, locally validated architect who worked with craftsmen in the local building trades—Cobb, certified by the extralocal standards of two degrees, subdivided both creative and construction work among four professionals, all from out of town. The club’s polished design depended on Cobb’s own codified knowledge of architectural history and his skills at synthesizing elements from several of its various languages. Frost, in charge of the construction drawings and draftsmen, exemplified the changeover from local to profes

The Union Club, Self-Made Men, and Chicago’s Growth


sional certification: before he went to MIT, he apprenticed for three years with an architect in his hometown of Lewiston, Maine. Like Cobb, George A. Fuller, another MIT graduate, gave up his prize perch at Peabody & Stearns as the partner in charge of its New York office to form a construction firm in Chicago and take on the contracting work for the Union Club.39 Finally, the Boston firm of Frank Hill Smith detailed the interiors. Cobb’s division of labor thus underscored an increasing reliance on the national standards and putatively universal knowledge and skills imparted in professional schools. Professionalization was afoot among unschooled architects as well. Burnham, Holabird, and Roche learned to design buildings entirely or largely through apprenticeships. Jenney, Root, and Adler were schooled but in engineering, so they too were architectural apprentices in their early years. A student at MIT and the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, Sullivan was the only Chicago architect to approach Cobb’s level of education. But schooled or not, all these men, like the members of the Calumet and Union Clubs, recognized the value of group solidarity, uniform standards, and a distinct identity in anonymous cities of rapidly increasing size and complexity. Within a year after the two clubhouses opened, these individuals established the Western Association of Architects (WAA) to improve the artistic, scientific, and practical aspects of the architectural profession in the Midwest and the South.40 In a city becoming more culturally and professionally ambitious, the similarities between elite men’s clubs and the WAA were not insignificant. Both were intensely urban institutions that depended on instrumental relations, the efficient prosecution of social and professional agendas that dense cities uniquely facilitated, the development and transmission of privileged information or specialized knowledge or new techniques, and the use of new organizations to advance social standing and counter metropolitan impersonality. Both were highly selective. Simply to look at Cobb’s clubhouse, or to name individuals like Potter Palmer, was to recognize the club’s exclusivity, while the WAA advocated the licensure of architects to distinguish themselves sharply from masons, carpenters, and bricklayers. Just as Chicago’s self-made and professional men freely associated with one another and enjoyed the status each group might confer on the other, so the WAA mixed educated with unschooled architects, all of whom claimed the higher status of a rationalized expertise inaccessible to craftsmen in the building trades. But the WAA, of course, prided itself on professionalism, not sociability. Boston architect Clarence Blackall noted an “esprit de corps” in the WAA that led members “to exchange criticisms” of their work, a practice that outpaced eastern architects “inclined to disregard this means of progress.” In a Chicago “not content with itself,” the WAA also sought to avoid the midcentury reputation of the older American Institute of Architects (AIA) as “an exclusive gentlemen’s club.” The western group’s rules for governance were more egalitarian, and its more liberal admissions policy quickly resulted in the first female practitioner elected to a professional organization (1885). In the face of the AIA’s outright opposition, 30

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the WAA pushed to license architects according to uniform standards above and beyond those of either apprenticeships or formal schooling, standards that in the view of historian Mary N. Woods “did not necessarily privilege breeding or class or degrees.”41 The WAA was thus one of the more democratic cultural institutions in this midwestern metropolis. Sullivan knew Boston, Paris, and Philadelphia well enough to intuit in the surge of ambition he felt when he first encountered a raw but supercharged Chicago that its fields of ambition were more open to inexperienced youth, schooled or not, than they were in other cities. Here men like himself, Cobb, and Fuller could enter the game more quickly, shape themselves more freely, and advance more rapidly than they could in the more competitive and conservative professional arenas of Boston or New York, where it would have taken them longer to achieve the widely recognized success of the Union Club, a feat that confirmed Sullivan’s intuition. Their embrace of a modernizing Chicago showed that it was still the city of William Butler Ogden, if with two differences. First, their opportunities were more specialized in nature, more limited in scope, and not as various as the projects Ogden or any one individual was able to undertake. Second, while Ogden’s generation necessarily focused on creating the material, technological, and economic armature of a city mushrooming in size, and thus gave less attention to the city’s cultural institutions, the new professionals reversed these priorities, altering the city’s physical appearance with a more sophisticated awareness of the cultural import of building design than that of older men like Van Osdel, who, as one historian put it, taught themselves architecture from builders’ manuals or apprentice libraries, and so “climbed up from the carpenter’s bench to the drafting table.”42 The major opportunities that came to Sullivan, Cobb, Fuller, and others arose in the overlapping circles of self-made men like Ogden and the somewhat later cohort of entrepreneurs like Palmer and Pullman and Field who launched their careers shortly before or after the Civil War. These men amassed the fortunes in real estate, industry, and commerce that seeded the city’s postfire cultural efflorescence. Some of them, preeminently Ogden, also exemplified a striver’s civic humanism, establishing in embryonic form the institutions of cultural refinement that fully flowered between the time Cobb arrived in Chicago and the mid 1890s. The Union Club competition marked the initial phase in the flowering. Owen Aldis and the Cobb brothers certainly knew that their club lacked the literary and historic resonance of its namesake in Boston, the Union Club where Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and Charles Francis Adams had numbered among the founders, the Lowell and Lawrence families had originally owned the clubhouse property, and the views from the clubhouse windows took in the Boston Common, the Massachusetts State House, and Beacon Hill. But just this lack of an august setting and an eminent membership may have enabled Aldis and the Cobbs to appreciate the Chicago club’s unique social mix. Here men with breeding associated with men who had little or none, and

The Union Club, Self-Made Men, and Chicago’s Growth


the dominant club members, all from New York State or New England, had made themselves over in Chicago or, like Cobb, were just starting to do so. All shared a clubhouse more spatially and ornamentally sophisticated, more in keeping with male gentility, than the Boston club’s plain Federalist aesthetic or the Calumet Club’s Victorian heaviness. All could appreciate the developing urbanity of Washington Square and a half-century of the North Side’s already storied history. With or without inherited wealth or family name, all had a claim on the status touted in publications like the Tribune: “gentleman of affluence [and] substantial citizens of Chicago.” Cobb’s success with the Union Club placed him at the flash points of the institutional and cultural creativity then unfolding in the gateway city to the West. Superficially the very image of the complacent high-society architect-to-be, Cobb was actually a telling reflection of the vaulting ambition Chicago was likely to inspire, and an unusual figure among the city’s strivers, whether they were his clients for the residential commissions he quickly acquired after settling in Chicago, or the architects with whom he competed. His patrician attributes, his entrepreneurial initiative, and the eclectic sophistication in architecture that he was abundantly trained to provide were about to serve him better than even his success with the Union Club might have led him to suppose.


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2 Three Mansions, Four Self-Makers, and Chicago’s Metropolitan Expansion


hree months after he arrived in Chicago, Cobb acquired what in the 1880s no architect of his age and inexperience should have been able to get: the city’s most coveted residential commission. Real estate developer Potter

Palmer and his socially prominent wife Bertha asked his fledgling firm to design a mansion on the newly built Lake Shore Drive directly east of the North Side neighborhood. Within the next three years, Cobb secured two other commissions that were almost as enviable: an estate house in South Bend, Indiana, for Clement Studebaker, the nation’s leading manufacturer of wagons; and a North Side mansion for Ransom Cable, president of the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad, one of Chicago’s most important lines. This trio of houses exhibited more than the youthful Cobb’s ability to acquire prestigious jobs, plan complex homes in varied settings, deploy distinct architectural languages, mass buildings in picturesque ways, and build a robust residential practice concentrated on the North Side. Collectively, his four clients comprised a typology of self-made men and women whose enterprises were as central to Chicago’s development and to the image its residents and visitors had of the city as Ogden’s and McCormick’s projects had been. Potter Palmer was a self-made entrepreneur who pioneered the sale of dry goods, developed Chicago’s department stores, single-handedly created the retail artery of State Street, and helped build and promote Lake Shore Drive, the tree-lined road on Lake Michigan that Palmer made into the city’s most beautiful neighborhood.


The daughter of a Chicago developer, Bertha Honoré Palmer was neither an Algeresque figure nor a conventional society woman. But in Chicago’s ethos of self-making, her beauty, energy, talents, and husband’s money enabled her to disregard convention and convert the Palmer mansion into an unorthodox cultural institution. Under her ministrations it became at once an art gallery, civic forum, the city’s first venue for high society, and a creative if carefully controlled expression of the striver’s civic humanism that William Ogden had made of his own estate a few blocks away. Headquartered in South Bend, one of Chicago’s many tributary towns, Clement Studebaker and his four brothers manufactured wheeled vehicles of all sorts, from prairie schooners and farm wagons to carriages for the carriage trade that shopped at Palmer’s stores. Studebaker wagons mapped a metropolitan dominance extending from Chicago’s retail and residential districts through an agricultural hinterland and areas of frontier settlement stretching to the Rocky Mountains. Ransom Cable’s railroad line extended Chicago’s metropolitan reach to the Rockies as well, but Cable was not a creative entrepreneur like Ogden, McCormick, Palmer, or Studebaker. Born into a modest farming family in Ohio, Cable was a different kind of self-made man, someone who rose through the ranks of enterprises created by others, a man whose competent management met the corporate and bureaucratic needs of agglomerated railroad corporations a generation after Ogden’s own railroad dominance. These individuals and Cobb’s varied designs for their mansions strikingly expressed the rewards, excesses, achievements, and complexities of self-making in Chicago. On the one hand, their mansions abandoned the prefire gentlemen’s ideal of refined but modest living expressed in Ogden’s republican estate.1 On the other, the mansions exemplified important aspects of developing Chicago. They were vital either to ambitious city building projects like those of the Palmers, or, as with Cable and Studebaker, to an architectural movement that creatively expressed the self-made energies disproportionately concentrated in the Metropolis of the Great West.

Potter Palmer and Chicago’s Metropolitan Development 1850–1890 How did Cobb snatch this most desirable residential commission away from many more experienced firms? Palmer, after all, was a man with an eye for design and long experience hiring architects for his real estate projects, and he could have picked from among the city’s most capable designers, whose work he surely knew. For Chicago’s most storied mansion there is, surprisingly, no story at all about how Cobb managed his coup. But getting the commission almost certainly involved the Union Club, where Palmer and several of his friends and associates were members. On the lookout for buyers of house lots in the new neighborhood he was planning only a few blocks 34

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east of the club, Palmer could easily have had an insider’s look at Henry Ives Cobb in the winter of 1882.2 Cobb’s club design and his formal education demonstrated a knowledge of architectural history that many other Chicago architects did not have. His Boston background probably appealed to the arriviste husband and the patrician wife, both of whom looked east in matters of culture. Bertha Palmer, who had taken two European tours, and Potter Palmer, the city’s purveyor of Second Empire fashions in architecture and clothing brought back from his buying trips to Paris, would certainly have been interested in an architect who had also traveled in France. In addition, the youthful Cobb exhibited a compliant savoir-faire that suited their expanding social ambitions: both husband and wife were perfectionists in their public presentation of themselves, and they had their own ideas for the mansion, whose location was as audacious as their interventions were about to make its design. An early biographical profile confirmed Cobb’s appeal for clients as knowledgeable and sure of themselves as the Palmers: “Mr. Cobb is a man of robust constitution, easy, graceful demeanor, cool and deliberate, yet active and energetic, a man who involuntarily impresses his hearers with his intellectual worth.”3 These and his other assets compensated for the fact that he had never designed a mansion before, nor anything else in Chicago except the Union Club, of which there were only drawings at this time. But the social rooms of an elite men’s club were similar enough to those of a mansion that drawings and plans, which Palmer the real estate developer could expertly scrutinize, were all he would have needed to judge Cobb as an architect. If, as seems likely, their joint association with the club initially brought Cobb and the Palmers together, then it exemplified what Charles Russell Lowell, a founder of Boston’s Union Club, said of such institutions: “Clubs have, at all times, been great levers for moving events along.”4 By April the event of the Palmer mansion had moved into the pages of the Tribune, where an article announced Cobb’s preliminary design: a tower eighty feet high, a castellated roofline, an unusual ground plan of seven large rooms organized around a central hall, plus a conservatory and a gallery for statuary and paintings.5 The ambitious plans suited the couple’s prominence. But while Bertha Palmer was poised to become the city’s dominant social figure and a leader in its social and political circles, her husband was the more formidable figure in 1882.6 The real estate projects of no other Chicagoan after William Ogden had as much impact on where the city’s most desirable residential and retail areas developed, how well they functioned, and what they looked like. But if Cobb had secured a commission that other architects could only envy, the mansion’s design posed a double challenge: not only to express the Palmers’ social and entrepreneurial clout but also to accelerate the growth of the new neighborhood that Potter Palmer planned around the mansion. To appreciate fully the risk he took on such a largescale modern project requires some knowledge of how he twice remade Chicago’s retail districts.

Three Mansions, Four Self-Makers, and Chicago’s Expansion


Originally from Lockport, New York, Palmer, like William Ogden, was an easterner transfixed by Chicago’s commercial potential. With loans from friends and associates in New York and New England, Palmer achieved his first success in the 1850s in retail merchandising on Lake Street, the inelegant commercial spine that backed onto the garbage-strewn North Branch of the Chicago River. In this unpromising locale Palmer comprehensively refashioned shopping for upper-class women. Unlike the crowded spaces and stale air of the street’s other emporia, Palmer’s was spacious and well ventilated. Rather than the general store’s range of items from foods to fabrics, Palmer stocked his shop for the carriage trade: glass from Belgium, carpets from England, and Parisian gloves, silks, and embroidered goods. Eliminating middlemen, his own trips to Paris helped Palmer undersell competitors. Moreover, he introduced practices found in no other Chicago retail establishment. He or his managers greeted women at the door, escorted them through the store, gave cash refunds or exchanged purchased items “without question or quibble,” offered liberal credit to select customers, provided free home delivery, and enabled women to shop without male escorts. To achieve metropolitan dominance, he placed foot-long advertisements in newspapers with out-of-town readerships, offered money-back guarantees to customers, provided goods on approval to retailers, and encouraged personal relationships with other firms.7 Bolstering the bottom line with “bargain” days and his newly systematic advertising, Palmer, a prescient consumerist impresario, made his store the largest and most eye-catching dry-goods establishment west of New York. He not only selected the goods and developed novel customer services but also designed the consumerist stage set: its attractive lighting, shelf displays, and counter arrangements had that much more impact for being the only thoroughly orchestrated retail environment in what was still a frontier town. From advertising and goods procurement to spotlit articles for sale, Palmer’s tightly integrated retail system was the modern consumer equivalent of McCormick’s linkage of production with the systematized selling of reapers. Yet the store was only a rehearsal for the man who believed that the future of merchandising lay with women, with still more completely designed commercial environments removed from a Lake Street that was dirty, crowded, narrow, and often so filled with the stench of the garbage in the North Branch that many of his customers held handkerchiefs to their noses in moving between the store and their phaetons or landaus. By 1867, with the fortune he made in cotton speculation during the Civil War, Palmer had secured control over three-quarters of a mile of property on State Street, which was then little more than a muddy stretch of shanties and two-story wood-frame buildings housing saloons, liquor stores, pawnshops, and blacksmith quarters. With a speed unusual even by the standards of Chicago’s rapid development, Palmer over the next two years redesigned and rebuilt the street as completely as he had planned and provisioned his dry-goods emporium (fig. 2.1). He persuaded other property owners and the municipal government to widen and pave the new 36

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thoroughfare, despite the opposition of Lake Street merchants and those on State

2.1  Potter Palmer’s State Street

Street who had to pay to move their own stores back for the new right-of-way.

ca. 1886. View looking north from Madison Avenue; buildings no

Palmer needed the additional width to allow carriages to park and horse-trolleys to pass one another on new tracks. Both features were crucial to Palmer’s high-end business ventures like the Palmer House, which became Chicago’s best known Leiter, to whom he had transferred control of his one-story Lake Street store, to occupy all six floors of the marble-fronted retail and wholesale palace he built for them on the prime corner of State and Washington Streets, and to whom he rented the premises for the then astronomical sum of $50,000 a year. The hotel and the department store anchored a development that saw as many as forty stone-faced commercial buildings go up on State Street in the same two-year period.8 Palmer also found new ways to fetishize commodities through opulent design. Field, Leiter & Company deployed tall, colonnaded shop windows at street level, liveried doormen, frescoed walls, and gaslight filtered through sculpted glass fixtures to give a yellow patina to the glossy walnut counters displaying goods from as far away as China. Hailed as “the chief pride of Chicago’s architecture,” Palmer’s store was the city’s first totally self-enclosed world for shoppers, its Three Mansions, Four Self-Makers, and Chicago’s Expansion

Andreas, History of Chicago, vol. 3 (Chicago: A. T. Andreas, 1886), 74.

hotel as soon as it opened in 1870. Palmer also convinced Marshall Field and Levi

longer standing. From A. T.


shelved ranks of objects, apparel, materials, textures, patterns, and colors promising consumers the pleasures of self-transformation, and of seeing and being seen in one of the country’s notable theaters of consumption. And unlike ramshackle Lake Street, Palmer’s properties up and down his new retail thoroughfare reinforced the sense of the store’s exclusivity and Palmer’s status as the quasi-heroic builder of Chicago’s future. His transformation of a rutted dirt road into a broad stretch of unified architecture was so fast, thorough, and on such a scale that one contemporary dubbed it the “Haussmannizing of State Street,” as though Palmer were Chicago’s own Baron Eugène Haussmann, prefect of the Seine and Emperor Napoleon III’s agent in the comprehensive redesign of Paris between 1853 and 1869. In truth, Palmer wanted his State Street to surpass the stone-faced buildings along the commercial portion of New York’s Broadway, and to approach the architectural consistency of Haussmann’s new avenues, which he had observed firsthand in 1867. Hence, his architects topped off the hotel, the store, and other buildings with stepped versions of the mansard roof that was the signature architectural element in Second Empire Paris. Anything but a journalist’s glib characterization, the “Haussmannizing of State Street” actually registered contemporary shock at something that defined Chicago more emphatically than it did other cities: planned development at a modern scale that exploited new technologies and new organizational arrangements. Ogden had consolidated railroads and laid out gridded North Side streets; McCormick had spread drummers across the country to sell reapers; George Pullman had developed new techniques that allowed his coordinated crews to jack up and move multistory buildings several blocks over from their original locations; Sidney Kent and others had mechanized death at the vast Union Stock Yards; and Pullman had embarked on comprehensive social, industrial, and urban planning for the company town just south of Chicago that was to manufacture his sleeping cars.9 This kind of modern planning Potter Palmer translated into the terms of retail development, giving Chicago its most dramatic demonstration yet of “the power of the systematic urban vision.” The Haussmann analogy actually understated Palmer’s achievement. While the prefect of the Seine created modern economies of scale through fiat or government appropriation of land, Palmer had to rely on lot-by-lot purchases and the secretive aggregation of private properties. In building a much larger downtown than Chicago had ever had, Palmer joined unconventional real estate development, anchor tenants, and new technologies like trolley tracks, gaslight, and sheet glass to sell high-end consumer goods in attractively designed settings. When François Guizot, who lived in the city whose avenues Haussmann had modernized, declared that William Ogden “built and owns Chicago,” he was not romanticizing America at a transatlantic distance. Rather, he implicitly recognized how new technologies and organizational arrangements changed city building, and that both Ogden and Haussmann—and by extension Palmer—were the representative agents of an accelerating modernity. 38

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This was so much the case that not even the 1871 fire reigned in the scope of Palmer’s project. Although it destroyed the hotel, the Field-Leiter store, and many of his other State Street buildings, Palmer had more lavish replacements up and running by 1873. John Van Osdel, Ogden’s handpicked architect, became Palmer’s. At two hundred thousand dollars the first hotel was expensive, but Van Osdel’s replacement, topping out at thirteen million dollars, occupied another universe altogether. Said to hold more bricks than any two hotels in the country and ninety thousand square feet of marble tiling, the hotel also boasted a barbershop floor laid entirely in silver dollars. Such size and expense invited criticism. Rudyard Kipling found Palmer’s enormously successful hostelry “a huge hall of tessellated marble, crammed with people talking about money and spitting about everything.”10 But at the dawn of the Gilded Age, Palmer knew that careful management and opulence even in barbershops were good publicity and therefore good business, as his mansion was soon to show. It was Palmer’s reputation as a retailer and hotelier, his reach as a landlord into any commercial and residential market that might become profitable, and the fortune he earned from the herculean relocation of the city’s commercial spine from Lake Street to State Street that leveraged his second extraordinary real estate transformation. Palmer intended his new home, sited in the middle of an unpromising stretch of marsh and sand dune next to Lake Michigan, to trigger the development of an exclusive residential neighborhood on the same scale as his triumphant rebuilding of downtown. Palmer’s plan, untried elsewhere in Chicago or in other cities on the Great Lakes, was to permit no railroads, viaducts, or industrial facilities to block access, usurp views, stifle breezes, or foul the air for residents on or near the lake, precisely the drawbacks for occupants of the South Side townhouses and mansions on Michigan, Prairie, and Calumet Avenues. Nor would the covenants governing the sale of Palmer’s lots allow commercial development at a later date to displace the houses of the rich, as had already started to happen on downtown Michigan Avenue. Still, Palmer’s mansion would have been a failed advertisement for Chicago’s wealthy to relocate—every bit the fool’s errand into an urban wilderness that scoffers claimed both his State Street and lakeside ventures to be at their outsets—without his usual thoroughness in literally preparing the ground. By the time Cobb began to design the mansion, Palmer had helped build Lake Shore Drive, a roadway that the Lincoln Park commissioners had planned in 1875, and that on its completion a contemporary boosted as “one of the handsomest carriageways to be found in the world.”11 Acquiring cheap properties in the late 1870s and early 1880s that stretched from Lincoln Park south to Bellevue Place and reached two blocks inland from the lake (see fig. 1.1), Palmer knew that the new roadway would not only give this inaccessible and underdeveloped area access to the downtown, but also link his properties to the archipelago of metropolitan parks that ringed Chicago along the tree-lined boulevards that joined the parks together. No other American city possessed such a modern park-and-boulevard system. And as a South Parks commissioner who had helped beautify Washington

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Park, Palmer was well acquainted with the profits parks and boulevards generated for surrounding real estate. In return for ceding some of his riparian rights to Lincoln Park and donating other parcels of land for the drive’s right-of-way, Palmer got permission to dredge the lake bottom, his hired scows pumping up sand to fill his boggy land and stabilize the ground for house foundations. As Daniel Bluestone and Paul Kruty have shown, Palmer, who owned several scores of lots in the area, chose his own neighbors, developed mansions for the wealthy on the lake shore proper, built dozens of rental and owner-occupied row houses and freestanding homes for upper- and middle-class residents on the inland properties, enforced contracts with construction deadlines and requirements for curbs and trees and sidewalks, and thus shaped the architectural and socioeconomic character of a whole new neighborhood. When, therefore, Palmer asked friends to join him in “a community where there had been wilderness,” Chicago’s own Baron Haussmann, a capitalist city planner who both expanded and exploited the modern integration of the manmade and the natural beauties of drive, park, boulevard, and lake, gambled that his very own arrondissement would outclass Prairie Avenue and the North Side neighborhood contiguous to his own.12 Finished in 1885 on an estate occupying half the block bounded by Schiller, Banks, and Astor Streets, the mansion catalyzed the neighborhood in ways that even Palmer the astute publicist and systematizer could not have anticipated (figs. 2.2 and 1.1, no. 1). Cobb called the aggressive stonework “the English battlements style.” Sources differ on whether he added the insouciant comment that in the eclectic repertoire there was nothing more “chic.”13 Certainly the panoply of turrets, towers, chimneys, loggias, castellated cornices, and an angled porte cochere pulled out all possible picturesque stops. The texture, color, pattern, and materials in the masonry walls made up the most vivid sort of Ruskinian structural logic. Against the darker rusticated Wisconsin granite, the lighter hue of smooth-faced sandstone picked out floor lines, corbels, crenellations, flat arches, quoin work, window frames, and even the placement of each tread in the tightly turned spiral staircase for the eighty-foot tower. Although some critics saw only a striped capriciousness, and one historian claimed that the Rhenish mansions of Milwaukee brewers provided the model, the Palmer residence resembled actual castles on the Rhine River much more than any Milwaukee estate house. While Cobb’s and Palmer’s sources remain uncertain, the mansion’s walls and massing, in a decade of often ungainly medieval homes for the rich, were simultaneously vigorous, rational, picturesque, and a creative turn, perhaps, on the masonry striping favored by the British architect Richard Norman Shaw. 14 Inside, Cobb’s orderly arrangement of rooms belied anything capricious in the exterior silhouette. The bedroom loggias on the second floor exploited the fresh air and breezes, the arresting sounds of roaring or lapping surf, and the views over a lake of shifting grays, blues, aquamarines, and opalescent hues. Tower and 40

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bay windows afforded panoramas of city, lake, and prairie in all directions. And

2.2  Palmer residence, Lake Shore Drive

the porte cochere clearly advertised a neighborhood for the carriage set and the

between Banks and Schiller Streets, 1882. Cobb & Frost, architects. No longer stand-

property’s easy access to Lake Shore Drive.

ing. Courtesy Chicago History Museum,

Impressed by the mansion in other ways, visitors overlooked the planning


logic and spatial originality of the octagonal hall (fig. 2.3). From the resort homes of H. H. Richardson and Peabody & Stearns, Cobb was familiar with the central placement of the living hall, usually a rectangular space large enough for informal gatherings. For the Palmer mansion, however, Cobb reshaped his functionally more pivotal and urbanized hall. The small, dark vestibule that preceded it magnified the impact of this large skylit space. A full thirty feet across and three stories high, it opened onto the staircase and the six ground-floor rooms promised in Cobb’s 1882 plan. Since the central hall, the library, and two southern rooms communicated with each other through unusually wide doorways, the large number of guests at Bertha Palmer’s social functions circulated easily in their fulsome

Three Mansions, Four Self-Makers, and Chicago’s Expansion


2.3  Palmer residence, first-floor plan. From George William Sheldon, Artistic Country Seats (New York: D. Appleton, 1886–1887), 45.

evening clothes, enjoying a spatial openness from room to room that was unusual in boxed-off Victorian interiors. To an extent not true of most other central hall plans, Cobb’s unification of space was vertical as well as horizontal (figs. 2.4 and 2.5). An arcaded gallery overlooked the hall from the second floor, and from a bracketed cove on the third level rose a domed art-glass skylight. In these ways, Cobb’s plan compared favorably with plans for the mansions on Fifth Avenue’s “Vanderbilt Row” (1879–1882).15 The grander four-story rectangular hall of colored marbles and superimposed galleries in the home of William H. Vanderbilt, for example, was unyielding in its rightangled formality, while Cobb’s central octagon was more fluid in form, adjoined more rooms, was done in warmer wood, and was better adapted for the formal and less formal events in Bertha Palmer’s varied social life without any loss of spatial emphasis on a millionaire’s power to dispose and dominate. Except for the plan, however, the interior features were not the work of Cobb & Frost, a fact that reflected the modern division of labor then current in the design of mansions. The Palmers closely supervised a small army of foreign and American craftsmen, artists, and architects for the three years that construction required. The Chicago firm of Silsbee & Kent designed such architectural elements 42

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2.4  Palmer residence, central hall, looking east into the library, Chicago, IL, 1885, 1921. David Adler (1921 remodeling). The remodeling changed nothing of the architecture in this photo. Frederick Bemm, photographer, ca. 1925. Digital file 60380 © The Art Institute of Chicago.

2.5  Palmer residence, gallery, view looking west. Courtesy Chicago History Museum, i59726.

as the staircase and gallery arcade. Who designed the marble mosaic for the octagonal floor is not clear, but no less a discerning critic than H. H. Richardson deemed it “the handsomest in the country.”16

The Palmer Mansion as a Chicago Institution Chosen by Mrs. Palmer, the Herter Brothers, sought-after decorators from New York, worked up the Flemish Renaissance library in English oak, the anglicized dining room in Dominican mahogany, the foliated German ironwork for the gallery arcade, the East Indian motifs of the drawing room, and the Islamic ones for Bertha Palmer’s lakeside bedroom. Muralists John Elliot and Gabriel Ferrer painted friezes for the dining room and library. Commissioned from Ogden recruit George P. A. Healy, portraits of the Palmers hung to the left and right of the dining room’s Elizabethan sideboard (fig. 2.6). The portraits were one of the few instances of creative rather than strictly acquisitive art patronage in this period, even as they served their centuries-old purpose of promoting social dominance: the dinner guests seated themselves below the Palmers’ nearly life-size images.17 Into the late eighteenth century architects like Robert Adam, William Kent, and Thomas Jefferson selected or designed all the ornament and furniture for their houses, so that a single language and one architect’s taste governed every detail of homes conceived as total works of art. In the mid-nineteenth century, however, encyclopedic knowledge of palaces and country houses from around the world, and the Industrial Revolution’s specialized labor and machined reproductions so multiplied the number of languages, decorative motifs, furniture, and fabrics, that the rich of England and America, in the insightful formulation of David Lowe, entertained “one long romance with infinite variety,” a romance in which “architects lost control over the interiors of the structures they designed.”18 Such profusion also depended on fortunes that rivaled those of premodern monarchs, that gave commoners like Potter Palmer the new powers of self- and social transformation apparent in the scale and opulence of this lakeside mansion. His wife’s selection of Chinese porcelains, Gobelin tapestries, Smyrna rugs, Florentine chests, garnet glass, gold and silver trim, immense fireplaces, and her Orientalist bedroom were just a few of the objects that upstaged Cobb’s remarkable plan. Compared to Marshall Field’s compact, stately, and stylistically uniform Prairie Avenue home, designed by Richard Morris Hunt in 1875, the Palmer mansion was flamboyant and profligate.19 While Field also patronized the Herter Brothers and spent more money than the Palmers, his mansion did not appear to be as concupiscent or willful. Still, Bertha Palmer, who supervised most of the interior work, was not a mindless patron of extravagance. She replaced the unified art and design of a Field or a Vanderbilt mansion with a deliberately eclectic arrangement of styles, objects, and pictures. The mansion was not simply a showpiece for social aggrandizement

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2.6  Palmer residence, dining room, Chicago, IL, 1885, 1921. David Adler (1921 remodeling). The remodeling changed nothing of the architecture and the paintings in this photo. G. P. A. Healy portraits (ca. 1892) of Potter and Bertha Palmer to the left and right of the sideboard. Frederick Bemm, photographer, ca. 1925. Digital file 60388 © The Art Institute of Chicago.

but also, like the recently founded South Kensington Museum (1859) she admired in London, a repository of the decorative arts. More than a few works within it, like the library murals Romeo and Juliet and Faust and Marguerite, testified to her belief, as Arnold Lewis has noted, in art’s transformational or redemptive powers (fig. 2.7).20 The results, outside and inside, stunned critics and admirers alike. The exterior striping and quasi-medieval silhouette were so much more pronounced than the stonework’s Ruskinian rationality as to startle observers and cause some insider disavowals. According to biographer Ishbel Ross, Bertha Palmer “took care to say she was away when the discordant sandstone [for the exterior walls] was applied,” this being “one of Potter Palmer’s building whims.” If her husband’s interventions also helped shape the castle’s towered silhouette, that might explain Ross’s otherwise puzzling claim that Cobb himself “disowned the massing.”21 Still, enough 46

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observers saw in the turrets, towers, and crenellations their idea of the picturesque

2.7  Palmer residence, library, Chicago,

that the mansion succeeded as publicity for the development of Palmer’s lakeside

IL, 1885. Murals Romeo and Juliet on

neighborhood. So did emphatic praise and criticism of the interiors. French fortune hunter Count Boni de Castellane, who married Jay Gould’s daughter and with it fifteen to the mansion as Kipling had had to the second Palmer House: “sumptuous and abominable.”22 But others gushed. The Inter-Ocean declared that “the age of Pericles seems to be dawning in Chicago.” After Bertha Palmer had the Herters redo the Indian drawing room in Louis Quinze gilt furniture, wall-height mirrors, and a marble mosaic floor of pink rose stems, another visitor declared, “I have been in palaces of crowned heads . . . but not in Brazil, not in Russia, shall you see such taste. . . . It is a throne room fit for Liberty herself.”23 Three Mansions, Four Self-Makers, and Chicago’s Expansion

the upper right. Kaufmann & Fabry Co., photographer, 1896–1902. Digital file 60417 © The Art Institute of Chicago.

million dollars shortly after he called on Mrs. Palmer, had much the same reaction

the upper left, Faust and Marguerite on


The European responses were one thing, those of the Americans another. The count and Kipling were used to the disciplined opulence of Old World estates. To them the ornamentally profuse and quasi-traditional forms that had no real indigenous tradition behind them were meretricious and historically presumptuous. The American responses, on the other hand, arose from cultural and political naïveté. Some respondents had no direct experience of European palatial magnificence, so the Palmer mansion struck them with a revelatory force. For others it turned a sense of inferiority to European culture inside out: the hyperbolic allusions to “Liberty” and the “Age of Pericles” conveyed a vaunting pride in the upward mobility of Potter Palmer, his self-made ascent “proof ” that a capitalist democracy was free of European class rigidities, that Chicago might yet become a new Athens. Such responses helped Palmer’s new neighborhood succeed, especially since his wife made of herself and the mansion an unofficial cultural institution. From an aristocratic Louisville family of French descent who had settled Chicago in 1855, Bertha Honoré Palmer had already found the city’s social life—as led by the Fields and Pullmans—dreary, false, and conventional. Her own life was anything but, beginning with a mansion whose lavishness matched that of her Paris gowns, the diamonds in her hair, and the ropes of pearls around her neck. These objects, like the sunken tub in the shape of a swan in her bathroom—so unique a form for so intimate a function—expressed an imperial sense of self, the serene confidence of an uncrowned queen who used an eclectic mansion for eclectic and often unorthodox purposes, who mixed social events and reform politics in ways that socialites in Chicago, Boston, and New York had not seen before. Bertha Palmer’s guests were even more diverse than those in Ogden’s republican salon: ward politicians, reformers, labor leaders, shopgirls, artists, actors, intellectuals, factory workers, statesmen, and zealots. The antithesis of the smug or incurious society woman, Bertha Palmer married a quickly won social dominance to unorthodox forms of civic humanism. At her mansion and elsewhere, she advocated better education for women, promoted equal pay for equal work, and questioned whether men really admired the “stupid, superficial fools they have trained us to become.” Rather than stock the mansion solely with old masters, as other collectors in Chicago and New York were doing in the 1880s, she bought and hung contemporary American and French paintings. While opening her collection to interested viewers did not distinguish her from private collectors in New York, she broke new ground in pushing Charles L. Hutchinson, organizer of Chicago’s recently opened Art Institute, to purchase medieval textiles and other neglected decorative arts.24 Unlike such society women as New York’s Alva Vanderbilt and Boston’s Isabella Stuart Gardner, Bertha Palmer directly experienced the modernizing city. She observed the working and living conditions of factory women on site, gave illustrated lectures on this subject at the mansion, held meetings for the women 48

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there, organized millenary workers, and backed protective legislation. As vice president of the Civic Federation, she pushed for Chicago’s first civil service law, and supported Jane Addams’s settlement house. In the Haymarket affair (1886), it is unlikely that she did anything other than support or persuade her husband to be one of only two prominent Chicago businessmen publicly to favor clemency for the six anarchists condemned to death.25 It is also unlikely that in making herself over from a conventional debutante into an advocate for cultural advance and democratic reform she was not responding to a city that honored self-invention to a disproportionate degree. Few of her enterprises were ad hoc, however, for she organized them as systematically as her husband did his real estate projects. Without exterior knobs or locks, the mansion doors could be opened only by servants, the better to guard against burglars, social climbers, interrupted schedules, and a guest’s failure to notice how many servants the Palmers actually had. Her secretary screened supplicants, six servants waited on her hand and foot, and a staff of twenty-seven arranged meetings, balls, soirees, art showings, and the admission of friends, even the closest of whom had to write for appointments. Such organization made the mansion’s mistress as remote as a business manager, a necessity reflected in her own recognition that “the Palmer family is . . . an institution.”26 As such, its untitled chief executive transformed the conventions of mansion life into the heterodox public life to which she had opened herself, an implicit rebuke to the insular class from which she had sprung. The institutionalization of the Palmers depended in part on the new relations between mansions and publicity.27 Articles in newspapers and magazines about the charitable, social, civic, cultural, and political activities staged at their new home promoted not only those causes but also the growth of a unique lakeside neighborhood and the Palmers’ own social position, hence the time and money they spent on ever more ambitious plans for their residence. Costs increased from ninety thousand to two hundred thousand dollars in 1882 alone, and then to more than one million dollars three years later. One of the modern payoffs for Potter Palmer’s modern planning, and his and his wife’s close supervision of the architects and interior specialists who deployed a gamut of decorative styles to nest spectacle inside spectacle, was newspaper reporting newly attentive to the lives of the rich as a way to increase circulation. In modernizing Chicago, publicity was a new kind of social power, architectural and decorative opulence a new type of publicity, and reporters the new publicity agents. Chicago publisher-entrepreneurs, who made millions professionalizing newspapers before their counterparts in other cities, were the new arbiters of the social whirl. Articles, discrete notices on the “society page,” and the Tribune’s household department for women heightened and hardened social distinctions. Unlike the inclusive press in provincial towns, whose limited circulation required flattery of the maximum number of subscribers, the society page of the metropolitan press excluded. At the same time that it drew the remote near, brightening the

Three Mansions, Four Self-Makers, and Chicago’s Expansion


dazzle of already powerful figures and talked-about architecture, it reinforced the barriers and invidious comparisons embodied in the Palmers’ castellated residence and lavish interiors.28 Yet such reportage also highlighted Bertha Palmer’s causes. Her unique conflation of the social and the political made her irresistible copy. Newspapers sold to an expanding metropolitan readership an evanescent intimacy with a hostess who was sui generis and a mansion that was one-of-a-kind, with the prescient woman of wealth who ushered Chicago’s upper class into the city’s first period of high society, and who simultaneously embraced an array of reform movements that were exceptional in number and kind. If by 1890 Bertha Palmer had conferred an unanticipated authority on what for some had been parvenu architecture, so had the quickening pace of Palmer’s lakeshore development, which Cobb & Frost and a few other firms dominated. On the next block north of Palmer’s estate eight new mansions and homes sprang up, including one by Cobb and another by H. H. Richardson for wholesale merchant Franklin MacVeagh (fig. 2.8). Their front yards, their shared architectural language, the newly landscaped drive, and the picturesque Palmer mansion made these two Chicago blocks favorites of postcard publishers, another form of publicity that boosted the image of Chicago in the eyes of residents and visitors alike.29 Such residences typified what for English journalist George W. Stevens was “a style . . . peculiarly Chicago’s own.” Loggias, porches, and arches opened up the “prehistoric” or “cyclopean” walls and “admirably” combined the “solid strength and breeziness . . . typical of the spirit of the place.” Cobb & Frost also designed three other homes within a block of the Palmer estate. Further south, on Bellevue Place, among houses within or just outside

2.8  Lake Shore Drive, 1400 block. H. H. Richardson’s MacVeagh House is first on the left. Pictorial Chicago (1893), n.p. All houses no longer standing.


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another subdivision of Palmer’s, Cobb by his own count designed “some twenty” of the approximately one hundred townhouses on this street (fig. 1.1, nos. 2–5). Generally, walls of brick or rough-faced granite or brownstone framed entrance arches with varying degrees of emphasis.30 The firm’s work thus helped shape the distinct character of Palmer’s extraordinary project. The $1.3 million that one of the richest men in the country invested in a total of eighty-five properties, and the nearly equal sum he spent on his estate, extended and further systematized the park planning and Haussmannesque urban development that he, Ogden, and their contemporaries had earlier made notably modern features of Chicago. Like a Poseidon reversing the flow of rivers, Potter Palmer simultaneously landfilled, landscaped, and assembled lots, aided the development of the carriage drive, and changed the course of residential settlement for Chicago’s upper classes by creating the nation’s only large-scale lakeside urban neighborhood close to a central business district. Architectural historian Thomas Tallmadge was more perceptive than he knew when he wrote that the Palmer “castle” was “by far the most famous, probably the largest, and by all odds the most imposing in our city . . . a mansion to end all mansions.”31 Not simply Gilded Age extravagance, the mansion accomplished what both Palmers in their money-bought freedom hoped it would do. It constituted them as a cultural force, as an institution with more financial and social clout than most banks or civic groups. With it, Bertha Palmer became the undisputed leader of Chicago society, its most venturesome art patron, and an outspoken advocate for women and people completely unlike herself. In a mere decade Potter Palmer’s modern accelerations joined beauties of an entirely unique sort in American cities: the lithic boldness of his and his neighbor’s homes, the raw nature of an oceanic lake, and the manicured landscape of the lakeshore drive (fig. 2.9). Linked to the city’s park system, his project advanced Chicago’s claim to be the “Garden City of the West.” As Bostonian Clarence Blackall put it, anyone walking the Palmers’ neighborhood among the “long lines of trees in foliage” and feeling the “refreshing breezes . . . blowing from the lake . . . knows what a beautiful city [this] really is, and understands . . . the intense pride the Chicagoans take in their city.”32 Enveloped by nature, the Palmer mansion and the events staged there suggest modern, urbanized versions of activities associated with the traditional villa.33 Potter Palmer’s conversion of leftover land into productive urban lots, Cobb’s creative turn on the central hall, the estate’s gymnasium, its access to Lincoln Park and the lake, its isolation from the city’s noise, crowds, and pollution, and Bertha Palmer’s art collection, art showings, varied entertainments, and still more varied guests exemplified the economic exploitation of land, the architectural creativity, and the recreational and cultural features associated with premodern villa life in suburban or exurban settings. Bertha Palmer’s curiosity about the city, and her alternately learned, reformist, or art-inclined guests gave to an in-town villa both a distinct Chicago and an improbably humanist cast. At the same time, as with William Ogden’s use of his North Side house, her public commitments made of the

Three Mansions, Four Self-Makers, and Chicago’s Expansion


2.9  Lake Shore Drive looking south from Burton Place, ca. 1890. Courtesy Chicago History Museum, i14197. All houses no longer standing.

mansion something that the villa never was: at once a kind of civic forum and an embassy representing the city to itself and the rest of the nation.

The Ransom Cable House (1885–1888) Shortly before he retired in the late 1860s William Ogden warned Chicagoans that the city needed more “culture, taste, beauty, art and literature to avoid the danger of becoming a town of mere traders and money getters; crude, unlettered, sharp, and grasping.”34 If Bertha Palmer or businessmen like Charles Hutchinson of the Art Institute represented the first stirrings of institutionalized culture able to command attention outside Chicago, railroad executive Ransom Cable was hardly in their league. But while he was not a cultural leader, neither was he one of Ogden’s “money getters,” and the North Side home he commissioned from Cobb & Frost in 1885 helped advance Chicago’s most creative architectural movement. In more than one sense, Cable occupied an instructive middle ground. He was acquainted, as Industrial Chicago put it, with “the leaders and managers of the largest railway systems of the East as well as the West,” but his standing in railroad circles did not approach Ogden’s towering reputation. Nor did he enjoy the local prominence of other North Siders like Cyrus Hall McCormick, Levi Leiter, and 52

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Tribune editor Joseph Medill. As president of the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railway Company, Cable managed a form of transportation that was just as crucial to Chicago’s growth in the 1880s as it had been before the fire, but railroads in this phase of metropolitan development had lost the heroic luster they possessed in Ogden’s day.35 Industrial Chicago’s assessment of Cable as a man of “tenacity,” “decision,” and “stability” accords with the respectable but unspectacular trajectory of his career, with Cable’s view of himself, and with the scale of his house on the southwest corner of Wabash and Erie Streets, a few blocks from where Ogden’s own home had been before the fire destroyed it, and a ten-minute walk from Washington Square (fig. 1.1, no. 7). In size Cable’s residence resembled Ogden’s modest home more than it did the grander mansions of other self-made men on Prairie Avenue, Lake Shore Drive, or North Side streets. Catty-corner from Cable’s home, for example, was the neo-Renaissance palace (1883) of Samuel Nickerson, penniless migrant to Chicago from New York, founder and president of the First National Bank, and member of the Union Club. 36 But even the mansion’s coldly impressive interior walls of marble fell short of the precious woods, silver appointments, bowling alley, and theater with two hundred seats in Cyrus McCormick’s Second Empire home (1879) six blocks south on Rush Street.37 Yet if Cable was not profligate, neither was he so modest that his house failed to be more ambitious than that of fellow railway executive Perry H. Smith, one of Ogden’s successors as president of the Chicago & Northwestern line, and another client of Cobb & Frost in Palmer’s lakeshore neighborhood (fig. 1.1, no. 3). 38 Belying Cable’s circumspect behavior and the middle position he occupied on the spectrum of Chicago’s self-makers, the residence Cobb designed for him spoke to the magnified sense of self that many of Cable’s neighbors expressed more fulsomely. Their imperial self-conceptions derived from their outsized success exploiting the modern technology and organization that with unprecedented speed and power transformed wilderness into metropolis, and from a Protestant work ethic so unrelenting that McCormick’s remark that he knew “of no better place for a man to die than in harness” was not exceptional.39 In varying degrees these men lavished material resources on homes that their impoverished or modest backgrounds had denied them, that their work ethic had otherwise held in check, and that their business triumphs moved them to validate in the social sphere of affluent neighborhoods. Raised in a pioneer Ohio family, Cable moved to Rock Island, Illinois, in the 1860s, where, after jobs in mining, lumber, and rail yards, he held several managerial positions in the region’s expanding railroad network. In 1880 he arrived in Chicago as general manager of the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railwayroad, now a transcontinental road that had consolidated the Rock Island lines in Illinois and Iowa.40 Although he was a competent executive, Cable was not a creative entrepreneur who built a railroad empire from nothing like Ogden had, or who made dramatic breakthroughs like the Rock Island managers in 1862 who won

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for railroads the legal right to bridge the Mississippi River and thereby compete with steamboats and advance Chicago’s metropolitan dominance over that of St. Louis.41 Rather, Cable rose through established ranks, systematizing and building on what others had started. Nonetheless, Cable’s Chicago & Rock Island exemplified a key phase in modern railroad organization: the formation of a continental network through buying and consolidating smaller lines or securing agreements for joint usage of tracks, as Cable did twice with branches of Ogden’s Union Pacific. Despite those who criticized his company for second-rate terminals, insufficient industrial development along its rights-of-way, and conservative leadership, Cable made the Chicago & Rock Island the pivotal railroad in Iowa, and one of the four most important midwestern lines for transporting corn, oats, rye, barley, lumber, iron, coal, livestock, pork, and packaged beef. By the time he had moved his family into the house Cobb & Frost completed in 1888, he had overseen the railroad’s extension into Minnesota, South Dakota, Missouri, Nebraska, Colorado, Oklahoma and Texas. Hence Chicagoans “credited [him] with doing more for the upbuilding of the [Rock Island] system than any other one man connected with it.”42 Cable’s career thus demonstrated the kind of management as crucial to Chicago’s postfire development as entrepreneurial risk-taking. His focus on the prosaic tasks of solvency and system refinement did not prevent the Tribune from placing him among “the representative businessmen of Chicago,” if only because he increased the city’s advantage in the transshipment of goods, a particularly important position to maintain because other cities began to supersede Chicago as grain centers when frontier development moved west in successive stages after the Civil War.43 The Tribune praised Cable’s Algeresque “tenacity” in 1884, when he staved off William H. Vanderbilt’s challenge to his election as president of the Chicago & Rock Island. Vanderbilt claimed that the Rock Island’s “attitude” was “inimical to the Chicago and Northwestern,” in which Vanderbilt then had the controlling interest and with which Cable’s line competed in several markets. Yet Cable’s victory in this and other fights did not lessen his diffidence. He told the Tribune that “you don’t want to publish anything biographical about me” because he believed that his career was “in the main that of every self-made man who has risen from a small beginning.” “Glad” to have been born of “poor but honest parents,” Cable, like Ogden but without Ogden’s articulate polish, extolled the advantages of adversity, declaring that “it would be well for every man to start in life the same way. We would have better men.”44 This is not to deny Cable’s imperial self in a lower key, or the social ambition that made him covet the prestigious North Side, join the elite Union Club, and commission the sought-after architect of the Palmer mansion. Especially since Cable shared railroad interests with the father of the club’s principal financial backer, Henry H. Porter, Jr., club associations almost certainly brought Cable and Cobb together. Once complete, Cable’s new home heightened his status enough that he 54

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and his wife regularly appeared in the Tribune’s society column in the company of prominent North Side families.45 While the modest man, measured career, and the minimal size of Cable’s house plot were all of a piece, Cobb made the Cable House as striking as the larger and more lavish McCormick and Nickerson mansions (fig. 2.10). He walled it in Kasota stone, an easily worked sedimentary rock quarried in the upper Midwest and known for its peach-pink hue. The felicitous choice may have been Cable’s, since shipments on his Minnesota branch line could have acquainted him with a building material rarely if ever used in Chicago, or it may have been Cobb’s, given his Ruskinian interest in the sensual properties of different stones, and his experiments during this period in several distinct versions of neo-Romanesque design. Either way, as if to trumpet Cable’s arrival among other self-made men, the stone’s soft pink radiance in sunlight and the rock-faced random coursework contrasted sharply with the smooth gray walls of the Nickerson mansion on the opposite corner. These features also gave the residence an imposing heft that other aspects of the design reinforced. The inclined basement emphasized the weight of the superincumbent stone. Deeply recessed windows stressed wall thickness, while their smooth reveals enhanced the visual power of rough-hewn façades. In a more conspicuous structural drama, squat porch columns, fattened in the middle, seemed to bend or flex under the load they carried.

2.10  Ransom Cable House, southwest corner of Erie and Wabash Streets, 1885. Cobb & Frost, architects. Courtesy Chicago History Museum, i25320.

Three Mansions, Four Self-Makers, and Chicago’s Expansion


Capped by a conical roof, the bulging turret and the arcaded porch under it curved from one street into the other to exploit the corner site. Gables crowned each side of the house, and large window groups there and in the stories below centered both façades. The accomplished ornamental work included intricate foliage carved into the column capitals and the lower portion of the turret, and the small gridded cubes of stone that checkered both gables (fig. 2.11). When Cobb began work on the house, the arcaded porch, the attention to surface effects, the emphatic mural density, and the naturalistic and geometric ornament were features of the city’s fledgling neo-Romanesque movement, one initially inspired by Richardson’s work, which then included Chicago commissions like Franklin MacVeagh’s mansion on Lake Shore Drive. Yet Cobb did not, as Richardson did, make the house hug the ground, push swelling interior volumes out against a taut masonry shell, or heighten the tension between wall and window, solid and void. Rather, the Cable House was transitional, a mix of Richardson’s suggestive power and the Queen Anne idiom to which Cobb was still attached. Cobb compressed the picturesque silhouette, wraparound porch, and polychromatic wood frame of Queen Anne homes into a monochromatic but brightly


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2.11  Cable House, corner detail. Photo © Patricia Evans.

hued stone version. The steep gables, high dormers, corner turret, and prominent chimneys were so many vertical accents in tension with the gravitational pull of the masonry, with the horizontality of the porch and window groups. Against the late-career calm and restraint of Richardson’s Glessner House on Prairie Avenue, the Cable House was all youthful exuberance, an almost brash insertion of a palepink Romanesque counterpoint into the sober North Side context of dark brick, brownstone, and gray masonry, of Italianate, neo-Renaissance, and Second Empire forms. A critic might argue about the proportional relations of turret, porch, gable, and chimney, or façades perhaps too busy, but such criticisms would overlook the risks Cobb took to fuse heft with delicate grace; thick walls with surface subtlety; domestic monumentality with a lack of pretension; prominent corner elements with imposing façades; and picturesque Queen Anne massing, ideal for large, outlying sites, with a smaller lot in a denser district. 2.12  Cable House, first and second floor

Cobb also had to fit the rooms and spatial rhetoric appropriate to a man of

plans. Peter Graef and K. Hinckeldeyn,

Cable’s social position onto an undersized property. As in the Palmer mansion,

Neubauten in Nordamerika (Berlin:

a small vestibule preceded a large single-story central hall (fig. 2.12). On its west

Verlag Von Julius Becker, 1897), taf. 11.

end was a formal staircase, lit by windows in a tower at the back of the house that

Three Mansions, Four Self-Makers, and Chicago’s Expansion


Courtesy Art Institute of Chicago.

echoed the corner turret up front. The library and dining room, well lit by the façade’s two largest window groups, opened off the hall to the east and north. The home’s lithic power, structural articulation, picturesque accents, centralized plan, and the sensual appeals of texture, pattern, color, and material gave Cable, in the form of a North Side house to crown his career, the social standing he had never had before. Bold, vigorous, and individualized, the house made him one of the patrons of culture that Ogden urged Chicagoans to cultivate, and Cobb himself one of its creators. In his survey of the city’s domestic and clubhouse architecture Clarence Blackall exempted the Cable residence and two other homes by Cobb & Frost from his criticism of Chicago houses, which he claimed often lacked “care in planning” and failed “to secure the best light.” The firm “cleverly planned” the O. R. Keith House (1886), a neo-Romanesque home adjacent to the Glessner mansion on Prairie Avenue, by simplifying elements in townhouse plans by Robert Adam (fig. 2.13): a

2.13  O. R. Keith House, 1808 S. Prairie Avenue, 1886. Cobb & Frost, architects. No longer standing. Plan and view from the southeast, Inland Architect 11 (February 1888): plate. Courtesy Art Institute of Chicago.


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light well and utilitarian rooms on the back end of a long narrow lot, the spatially ample and geometrically more interesting public spaces at the front, and circulation woven back and forth across the narrow site to make it seem wider. Blackall thought the firm’s plan for the neo-Romanesque A. C. Bartlett House (1886), also on Prairie Avenue, was “one of the best…in the city.”46 Between 1883 and 1888, in at least a dozen other homes, townhouses, and mansions along Prairie, Calumet, and Michigan Avenues, and in at least thirty other residences in Palmer’s lakeshore neighborhood and the North Side (fig. 1.1), Cobb & Frost deployed three versions of the neo-Romanesque, most with arched windows or entrances or both: modest row houses that mixed brick and rockfaced masonry; freestanding homes like Cable’s done entirely in rusticated blocks of stone, with or without ornamental episodes and turrets; and a few all-brick townhouses like the one on an exceptionally narrow site for Perry Smith, its arched entrance pulled to the side to face diagonal Astor Street (fig. 1.1, no. 3).47 In their flourishing practice, it is likely that Frost designed at least some of these homes in addition to supervising their construction, though no documents make it possible to say which ones. Even so, Cobb, much the more talented and ambitious of the two architects, would almost certainly have reviewed his partner’s work. Three men’s clubs and Cobb’s own North Side home on Rush Street helped make Cobb & Frost one of the leading residential firms in the city’s most creative architectural movement. A year before he designed the Cable House, Cobb moved himself and his family into a four-story Romanesque townhouse of his own design, its walls laid up in a ruddy, rock-faced sandstone (fig. 1.1, no. 6, smaller rectangle). At once the circumspect home of a Boston Brahmin and as chromatically bold as the Cable House, his residence was a ten-minute walk from the Union Club, where Cobb met North Side clients like Ransom Cable, Perry Smith, or Cyrus McCormick’s brother Leander. Neighborhood word of mouth and Cobb’s membership in the University Club probably secured other work. In addition, Frost, who belonged to the Calumet Club, may well have gotten some commissions in the Prairie Avenue district, where the two architects extended their practice after 1885.48 The mix of older but still ambitious self-makers like Potter Palmer and Ransom Cable with younger men on the rise like Cobb, Frost, and more than a few of their clients made the three clubs what Boston’s Union Club president said clubs should be, “great levers for moving events along,” incubators of the cultural creativity that in the 1880s gave Chicago purchase on a fuller metropolitan status.

The Clement Studebaker Mansion (1886–1889) A commission almost as desirable as the Palmer mansion, the estate house Cobb & Frost designed for Clement Studebaker crowned this self-made man’s career as the president of the Studebaker Brothers Manufacturing Company, the carriage firm in South Bend, Indiana, that was one of the best-known industrial organizations

Three Mansions, Four Self-Makers, and Chicago’s Expansion


in the country. How the firm plucked this plum is not clear, but since Studebaker maintained an elaborate showroom in downtown Chicago and knew all of the city’s most powerful business and political leaders, an overlap between his and Cobb’s own network of prominent friends and acquaintances may have led to the introduction that led to the job. A creative entrepreneur on a par with Cyrus McCormick and Potter Palmer, Clement Studebaker exploited the multiple markets for wagons. Between 1852 and 1900, his company was geographically in an ideal position in a small city just south of Lake Michigan to provision soldiers in the Civil War and the last Indian campaigns, and to meet the transport needs of the hundreds of thousands of farmers moving through Indiana to the Northwest Territory, the Great Plains, and points further west. The company turned out a variety of wagons that withstood rugged road and farming conditions just as frontier settlement and agricultural development were peaking. As small towns and cities boomed, Studebaker and his four brothers branched into the field of municipal maintenance, their sprinkler, flusher, sweeper, and dump wagons bringing production in 1890 to almost thirty types of vehicles made in a vast factory compound of ninety-five acres and two thousand employees.49 The firm became the world’s largest producer of wagons and carriages using the same organizational techniques McCormick had concurrently employed: high-volume production, mechanical innovations, and nationwide marketing and sales offices, the most impressive of which was in Chicago. An eight-story building designed in 1885 by Solon Beman in the rough-faced stone arcades of Chicago’s emerging neo-Romanesque, the Studebaker Repository on Michigan Avenue showcased the company’s wagons on its first five floors through windows emphatically larger than those for any other commercial building at the time (fig 2.14).50 Highly acclaimed for just this reason, the building exemplified recent innovations in the production of large sheets of glass and in salesmanship through consumer display. Devout Christian and son of a failed farmer and blacksmith from rural Ohio, Clement Studebaker did not share Ransom Cable’s modesty about self-made men, in part because he was in the rarefied group that included friends and acquaintances like Andrew Carnegie, J. P. Morgan, and Cyrus McCormick, not to mention Presidents Grant and Harrison.

2.14  Elevation of Studebaker Building, 410–418 S. Michigan Avenue, 1885. Solon

A civic and religious philanthropist in South Bend,

Beman, architect. Andreas, History of Chicago, 743.


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and like his brothers extraordinarily demanding at work, this multimillionaire commissioned a mansion of forty rooms, a number that not even Bertha and Potter Palmer awarded themselves, and that, improbably enough, had to do with Studebaker’s religious convictions. As Cyrus McCormick endowed the North Side’s Theological Seminary, Studebaker forcefully conveyed the Protestant portion of the Protestant work ethic the two men shared when he paid for South Bend’s YMCA, tithed himself for the city’s indigents and transients, served as president of the Chautauqua Assembly, and near his mansion built a church, also designed by Cobb & Frost. Studebaker and McCormick actually justified their mansions as material expressions of moral worth, as unembarrassed displays of the just rewards of frugality, high standards, and self-reliance.51 However implausible the justification might seem in retrospect, these were the values Studebaker and his perfectionist brothers claimed to inculcate in their employees, even or especially when they fired competent workers for nothing more than complacency. An imperial self in a much higher key than Cable, Studebaker exemplified what historian Kathleen McCarthy describes as a “blind faith in the openness of the system and the power of the ambitious individual to make his own way,” a faith that made Studebaker, Pullman, and other Chicago businessmen not only “intractable foes of unionization and labor unrest” but also of those who failed to push themselves hard enough.52 This gospel of self-making Studebaker commemorated in both his mansion and a project to build and sell homes to his employees. Besides turning profits and stabilizing the labor force, Studebaker hoped homeownership would improve worker self-reliance. This and his civic philanthropy constituted a small-scale version of the kind of moral management that George Pullman undertook in his company town (1884) south of Chicago, designed by Beman. An experiment in social, industrial, and town planning initially hailed by many as a breakthrough in labor relations, Pullman’s project, like Studebaker’s view of South Bend, grew out of the unprecedented power that both men exercised in their development of modern mechanical and organizational techniques. The name Studebaker gave his mansion reflected another aspect of this power. “Tippecanoe” referred either to William Henry Harrison, the victor in the battle against Tecumseh and his allies in the west central Indiana territory in 1811 and the grandfather of Studebaker’s friend president Benjamin Harrison, or to the historic associations of the site, once a preferred camping ground of the Miami Indians.53 Either commemoration associated Studebaker in the minds of his contemporaries with the romance of the frontier, with what for them was the triumph over “savages” by soldiers, pioneers, and farmers, many of whom used Studebaker wagons as one of the instruments in the mechanized displacement of native tribes by the pistol, the rifle, the railroad, and the reaper. Tippecanoe’s thick walls of a local granite fieldstone laid up by local craftsmen in hues of red, gray, and pink may have been, like other Chicago houses of polygonal

Three Mansions, Four Self-Makers, and Chicago’s Expansion


2.15  Clement Studebaker residence, 620 W. Main Street, South Bend, Indiana, 1885. Cobb & Frost architects. North façade showing crowded bay window and weakened arcade corner. Author’s photos.

masonry in the mid-1880s, a toned-down version of the boulder walls in one or two of Richardson’s late houses. Again, the varied colors, textures, patterns, and materials, along with the legible structure of the walls, united the different forms of the Palmer, Cable, and Studebaker homes through Cobb’s allegiance to Ruskin. But Tippecanoe had faults. Compromising the view from the northwest, the six stone-mullion windows lighting the third-floor ballroom crowd the framing gable. Two bay windows on the north façade jam up against the belvedere, other windows, and the entrance arcade; string courses are discontinuous, and a bisecting column weakens the quoin work and arches at the corner of the arcade (fig. 2.15). Where the Cable House had a compact vigor, the mural vitality of the sprawling Studebaker mansion was of a blunter sort. In writing about the Cable House and another of Cobb’s North Side homes, John Root noted that “with all their beauty” they exhibited “a certain clumsiness, or lack of grace,” an assessment apt for Tippecanoe’s exterior as well.54 The fieldstone carriage barn was, however, elegant in plan, materials, angled openings, and the long gambrel roof that hugged the ground (fig. 2.16). A linear logic also governed the mansion’s planning (fig. 2.17). Cobb banked the principal rooms and porches on the east side and drew the house deep into the site along the highest ground. Though placed against the west wall, the expansive single-story 62

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hall was still the spatial pivot: wide doorways for the drawing room and library united the principal ground floor rooms. The staircase, down which women paraded on formal occasions, was itself a balconied stage. Its horizontal emphasis, and that of the fireplace, ceiling beams, and floor-to-ceiling wainscot lowered the apparent height of a tall room. This and the warmth of excellent woodwork gave the largest space in the house an informal ambience that, like many of the other rooms, belied the mansion’s exterior monumentality. Tippecanoe confirmed Studebaker’s dominance in South Bend. The estate’s size and belvedere views over the nearby steepled downtown, and the company’s huge factory complex four blocks away reinforced an overlord’s sense of dominion. Like the Palmer, Cable, McCormick, and Pullman mansions, Tippecanoe was no mere appendage to entrepreneurial achievement. The proliferation of such mansions on the North Side, Lake Shore Drive, Prairie Avenue, and in satellite towns like South Bend testified to the overriding purpose of mansions for a wide variety of self-makers throughout the region. Lavish homes measured in materials, number of rooms, divided labor, munificent budgets, and longer periods of gestation than those for skyscrapers the full dimensions of the owner’s accomplishments and his

Three Mansions, Four Self-Makers, and Chicago’s Expansion

longer standing. Plan and perspective drawing, Inland Architect 11 (March 1888):

seamless command of industrial, commercial, and social production.

2.16  Barn, Studebaker residence. No

plate. Courtesy Art Institute of Chicago.


2.17  Studebaker residence. First- (top) and third-floor (bottom) plans. Courtesy Tippecanoe Place Restaurant.

Dominating smaller houses in the midst of the city’s most desirable neighborhoods, these mansions reprised at a smaller scale the metropolitan dominance that their owners advanced through modern technology and organization. McCormick’s reapers, Cable’s railroad lines, Pullman’s sleeping cars, Studebaker’s wagons, and Palmer’s new neighborhood access to the city’s park system plied the fields, tracks, trails, roads, and boulevards that mapped the centrifugal reach of the metropolis. So did the new client geography for architects. In the changeover from horses to mechanized horsepower, Ogden’s and Cable’s railroads enabled firms like Cobb & Frost to oversee house construction two hours away in South Bend, and architects like Richardson to tend Chicago commissions a thousand miles from Brookline. Conversely, Pullman’s company town, Studebaker’s South Bend, and Palmer’s lakeshore neighborhood exemplified the industrial, commercial, and town planning that the centripetal forces of metropolitan dominance concentrated at key points. In a brief period of unrepeatable opportunities in city building, they exploited the new forms, larger scales, and greater degrees of individual control over comprehensively organized community development. As distilled wealth and power, mansions were also part of an unwritten social compact. Mansion extravagance was socially acceptable because of Studebaker’s civic and religious philanthropy, the communitarian beneficence initially attributed to the developer of Pullman, and the interlocked public and private enterprise connected to the Palmer estate and Bertha Palmer’s unconventional political and cultural initiatives. Design and construction of the Studebaker mansion encompassed the most productive but also the last years of the Cobb & Frost partnership. While theirs was a residential practice, Cobb did secure during their time together two skyscraper commissions whose novel complexities and profit-making imperatives prepared him for his later pursuit of the institutional commissions that were the ultimate objects of any talented architect’s ambition.

Three Mansions, Four Self-Makers, and Chicago’s Expansion


3 Skyscrapers and Rationalized Work I


he most formidable expression of Chicago’s emerging architectural identity occurred not on the North Side or in the Prairie Avenue district where Cobb & Frost had concentrated their largely residential practice,

but downtown, in newly tall buildings like the Studebaker showrooms. The rapid increase in progressively taller office buildings throughout the 1880s signaled an expansion in the size and number of the companies and corporations in metropolitan Chicago, and the redistribution of managerial and clerical staffs from factories dispersed throughout the region to a densely centralized downtown. Tall buildings concentrated the collective energies of a self-maker’s city, rapidly recreated Chicago’s real estate as a source of wealth for a new generation as it had been for Ogden’s, and confronted architects with technical, organizational, and aesthetic challenges for which there were few precedents. This entirely novel kind of building demanded ever more rationalized methods of finance, planning, design, and construction. As he had in the new cohort of men’s clubs and mansions, Cobb was among the first architects to take up these challenges in the two office buildings he designed in the middle of the decade. Integral parts of Chicago’s vibrant architectural culture, and two of many experiments in design and metal framing, both buildings played prominent if very different roles in shaping the Loop’s quickly evolving character. Their tight budgets, unforgiving deadlines, functional variety, technical complications, and problems of architectural expression seasoned a still youthful Cobb.


Begun a year before his firm started work on the Cable and Studebaker homes, the Chicago Opera House, an early mixed-use building at a modern scale, was another instance of how fortunes that were accrued in Chicago’s first generation directly seeded developments in the second. Its shops, offices, and a theater confirmed the functional and financial versatility of the new building type, and in both purposeful and inadvertent ways rehearsed the subsequent development of the Auditorium, one of Chicago’s first major cultural institutions. Cobb’s rationalized design clearly expressed the building’s different functions and its new structural technology through the medium of the neo-Romanesque, and his surprisingly skeletal version of it validated the protean resources of an architectural language increasingly identified with Chicago. The formal means of expression for the Owings Building were completely different. Not at all skeletal or Romanesque, its unique silhouette, decorative forms, and solid appearance may have depended as much on the developer’s understanding of an overlooked real estate reality as it did on the architect’s imagination. Although the picturesque and the rational are not categories usually associated with one another, the owner’s demand for picturesque design nonetheless suggested a novel way to rationalize building height, and thus to maximize profits: transform a location into a prestigious landmark to allow the developer to charge higher office rents.

The Chicago Opera House (1884–1885) With two floors of shops, eight of offices, and a theater for popular and high-culture

3.1  Map of major buildings by Henry Ives

productions, the Chicago Opera House, located on the southwest corner of Clark

Cobb in the Loop c. 1895. Adapted from

and Washington Streets (fig. 3.1, no. 1), went up during a period whose various experiments in the financial, architectural, and technical aspects of tall office buildings responded to imperatives to rationalize all aspects of their production. Cobb & Frost entered this arena at the invitation of investors Charles Henrotin, one of the founders of the Chicago Stock Exchange (1882), and William D. Kerfoot, a wealthy realtor who, like Bertha Palmer, was one of Chicago’s early collec-

Robinson’s Atlas of the City of Chicago, Illinois (1886). Drawn by Paul Laseau, after Paul Kruty’s 2004 version. A = Chicago Athletic Association B=P  roject for a new city hall–county courthouse on Public Square C = Federal Building 1 = Chicago Opera House

tors of art. Both Henrotin and Kerfoot were members of the Union Club, and this

2 = Owings Building

and other associations probably explain how Cobb got the commission. As real

3 = Hartford Building

estate men and club members, Kerfoot and Potter Palmer likely knew one another, and Henrotin’s wife Ellen worked with Bertha Palmer in the Women’s Club on its initiatives for women’s rights, so both Palmers could have spoken for Cobb.1 A celebrated Chicago figure, Kerfoot was yet another of Cobb’s clients whose work linked Chicago’s two generations of development. According to A. T. Andreas, only a day after the 1871 fire, Kerfoot became the first man to reopen for business by erecting a small “shanty of boards” on Washington between Clark and Dearborn Streets, a stone’s throw from the Opera House site. On top of his shack he placed a sign painted with the words “Kerfoot’s Block,” and on the shanty itself 68

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4 = Chicago Title & Trust Building 5 = Boyce Building 6 = Wellington Hotel 7 = Medinah Bulding

a second sign, “Everything gone except wife, children, and energy.”2 Like journalist John S. Wright’s prediction that the city “will have more men, more money, and more business within five years that it would have had without this fire,” or Potter Palmer’s quickly secured line of credit for three million dollars to rebuild State Street, or Ogden’s vow after losing millions in a simultaneous but coincidental fire at his Peshtigo lumber mills to “rebuild . . . and do [more] logging than ever before,” Kerfoot’s pluck entered the lore of the city’s willed resurgence, its veneration of “indomitable” or “heroic” men.3 Heroic or not, Kerfoot and his partners planned the Opera House to maximize profits from several functions well suited to the location, and from two postfire financial developments. Leasing rather than purchasing the site from its owner reduced the developers’ costs and short-term risks, and helped propel the downtown building boom. In addition, the Opera House, as Joseph Siry has pointed out, was among the first buildings to employ the joint-stock plan, which allowed investors to deposit their capital in a common fund and stockholders to sell or transfer their shares to others, further reducing individual risk. A combination of capital stock and bonds with a 6 percent annual yield underwrote building costs.4 Unusually tall for the time because of the site’s money-making potential, the ten-story building faced the Chicago City Hall and Cook County Courthouse, the recently opened replacement for John Van Osdel’s earlier complex, which the 1871 fire had destroyed (fig. 3.1, B). That complex virtually guaranteed that merchants, lawyers, and other professionals would quickly lease the Opera House’s twelve shops and two hundred forty offices in order to be close to clients abundantly generated by the government functions across the street. Behind the L-shaped office wings was an unusually large theater of twenty-three hundred seats. Possessing one of the few sites easily reached on streetcars from the north, south, and west sides, the investors exploited the theater’s metropolitan draw for different audiences by signing Chicago impresario David Henderson to stage his popular spectacles there for half a year, and by booking visiting troupes for serious drama and opera during the other half. Both Henderson’s elaborately mechanized spectacles and the troupes, whose repertory theater on the road proliferated after the Civil War in the so-called “combination system,” were forms of recently systematized theater production.5 Such a systematic integration of site, finance, and multiple functions illustrated the centripetal forces of metropolitan development focused on the Loop. To be near the lawyers, accountants, insurance agents, and bankers on whom they increasingly depended, the rapidly expanding class of industrial managers abandoned outlying factory compounds for downtown offices. There, companies and corporations expanded and divided white-collar labor in ways analogous to the division of blue-collar labor in factories. Spatial and functional specializations quickly aligned. Potter Palmer had already made State Street the city’s principal dry-goods corridor; the western Loop’s proximity to the river and the southern Loop’s proximity to train stations attracted light manufacturing to tall loft 70

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buildings; and the office wings at the Opera House exploited its proximity to the Chicago City Hall and Cook County Courthouse. Behind the reorganization of downtown work were metal frames that raised usable buildings higher than they had ever been before, thus reorganizing the work of building production. New technologies were as consequential for business districts in the 1880s as the steamboat, the railroad, and the reaper had been for city expansion from the 1840s onward. Installed by Cobb & Frost as residential novelties in both the Palmer and Studebaker mansions, elevators in office buildings were already increasing property values and building heights in tandem with other new technologies like cast-iron columns, wrought-iron beams, fireproof terra-cotta tiles, incandescent light bulbs, the telephone, the telegraph, mechanical ventilation, and novel foundations that converted Chicago’s unstable mud to the load-bearing equivalent of granite.6 Although these interlocked developments did not distinguish Chicago from Boston or New York, other factors did: the city’s rate of growth, the properties of its street grid, its distance from eastern culture, its large number of problem-solving architects rather than artist-architects like Richard Morris Hunt and Robert Swain Peabody, and its older engineers like William Le Baron Jenney and Dankmar Adler with whom many of the younger ones apprenticed.7 Along with the new technologies, newly rationalized or bureaucratized work, and new pressures on downtown land, these factors invited or demanded architectural and technological experiments carried out on the run. The experiments favored architects with an education like Cobb’s. Clarence Blackall criticized the mechanical arrangements of many Chicago homes designed by older architects “who were little more than builders” and praised the houses of Cobb & Frost in part because they reflected “Boston training.”8 Blackall’s shorthand for Harvard and MIT underlined how central professional education was to the technical aspects of tall buildings. In each of the Chicago firms that played leading roles in this area one of the partners had graduated from an engineering school or had done engineering work in the Civil War. Although the tall office building hardly existed when they were students, their studies gave them the tools that later allowed them to create solutions to, or oversee the engineering that solved, the problems posed by this new type of building. And unlike Manhattan’s bedrock, the soft clay under Chicago’s streets compounded the problems, making engineers that much more crucial in the transitional period when individuals trained in a variety of American and European professional settings began to displace apprenticed and locally validated architects like Van Osdel. Lastly, the tension between professional education, with its conceptual and artistic emphasis, and the daily demands of practice was yet another factor that fostered technical and architectural creativity. That Cobb was an engineer as well as a designer; that he commanded the services of architect, contractor, and engineer George Fuller, a colleague who fully understood a complex project that might frustrate other contractors; that the

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Union Club membership in a formal resolution had commended Cobb, Frost, and Fuller for completing the clubhouse on time and under budget; and that the resolution pointedly noted that architects “do not always justify such expectations” may well explain why club members Kerfoot and Henrotin chose Cobb despite his and Frost’s lack of experience with tall buildings. The resolution’s description of the club’s design as “the admirable product of their genius” did no damage to the firm’s prospects either.9 The demands for efficient, budget-conscious engineering, construction, planning, and design were more exigent with skyscrapers than with any other building enterprise. Through its novel expression of function and structure, Cobb’s rationalized design of the Opera House’s office wings not only met these imperatives but also made a significant contribution to the experiments in Chicago’s first wave of neo-Romanesque office buildings. Several leading examples show how startling Cobb’s design really was. In the ten-story mixed-use Pullman Building (1883), on the southwest corner of Michigan Avenue and Adams Street, Solon Beman introduced the turrets, the quarry-faced stone, the arcaded and battered first floor, and the maw-like arched portal that may have given John Root and Louis Sullivan their leads for later buildings (fig. 3.2). The following year Beman combined bold rough-faced blocks

3.2  Pullman Building, Adams Street and Michigan Avenue, 1883. Solon Beman, architect. No longer standing. Andreas, History of Chicago, 71.


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of stone with the wide-open Romanesque arcading in the nearby showrooms of Clement Studebaker (fig. 2.14).10 Designed by John J. Flanders, the twelve-story Mallers Building was the highest structure in Chicago when it opened (1885). A towered keep that landmarked the southwest corner of LaSalle and Quincy Streets, the Mallers Building communicated both Romanesque solidity in its corner turret and heavy cornice, and a modern openness in the triplet windows grouped under the high arcades (fig. 3.3). The building was part of the Romanesque reconstruction of Chicago’s financial district on and around LaSalle Street, a reconstruction led by Jenney’s Home Insurance Building (1883) and four buildings by Root.

3.3  Mallers Building, LaSalle and Quincy Streets, 1884. John J. Flanders, architect. No longer standing. Andreas, History of Chicago, 68.

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These and other tall office buildings, along with dozens of residential examples, identified metropolitan Chicago with new variations on Romanesque stonework more emphatically than was true of other cities. Blackall, comparing Chicago’s office buildings to those of New York and Boston, praised their Romanesque “originality,” their “thoroughly modern . . . spirit,” and the “purely . . . local genius” that created them. Simple, solid, substantial, and rugged, this sober but powerful idiom was especially apt for down-to-earth businessmen, and for a city whose ferocious work ethic was literally grounded in the earth, in the soils and natural resources of a stupendously rich inland empire. Before he analyzed the merits and faults of individual office buildings, Blackall experienced their collective potency, the unprecedented outcome of Chicago’s rationalized building production. The “huge structures” lining LaSalle Street and Michigan Avenue at first seemed “like the work of giants. . . . the effect was overpowering, and completely annihilated criticism.” At its best both chthonic and elegant, robust and graceful, Chicago’s downtown Romanesque formed “a picture such as can be found nowhere else in the world.”11 It constituted, in fact, one of the first major cultural developments in the 1880s to civilize a moneymaking metropolis, to mediate the materialism Ogden had feared would be the principal distinction of the nation’s largest, richest, and fastest-growing boomtown. The Opera House’s novel turn on the Romanesque was its clearly expressed metal frame. From the third floor up, wide piers in front of metal columns alternated with narrow piers in the middle of the structural bay, where no column was necessary (fig. 3.4).12 The treatment of the first two floors, faced in little more than shop windows, was just as novel, rivaling the transparent portions of the Studebaker Building. Only thin metal mullions separated the three sheets of glass in each structural bay, and one of the few surviving photographs of this demolished building reveals bolted columns and beams, unfaced in protective brick or terra cotta (fig. 3.5). The financial imperatives of minimizing investment costs, constructing the building rapidly to service debt as soon as possible, and opening the façade to natural light in a period of weak electric illumination certainly contributed to the unusually spartan treatment. But while it reduced Romanesque heft, tamping down the heroic amplitude first announced in the masonry base of the Pullman Building, Cobb’s design was not entirely skeletal. The cornice, the eighth-floor arcade, and the triplet bays that centered the Clark Street façade were eye-catching features, and suggested that a decorous simplicity may have been Cobb’s aim. Even so, the spare office wings looked sparer still against the neo-Mannerist might of the City Hall–County Courthouse across the street. Cobb gave over so much wall area to windows that Blackall, expressing the consternation of many people accustomed to much more solid-looking walls, described the Opera House as “an exceedingly practical building; in fact, it is nothing but a big box, pierced with square holes. It is said to be very well built, and is certainly very satisfactory in arrangement, but one cannot but wish it was treated in a more artistic manner.”13 74

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3.4  Chicago Opera House, southwest corner of Clark and Washington Streets, 1884. Cobb & Frost, architects. No longer standing. Commercial Photographic Co.

3.5  Chicago Opera House, marquee and first-floor shops on Washington Street. John J. Flinn, Chicago, the Marvelous City of the West (Chicago: Standard Guide, 1892).

If the eight stories of brick above the insubstantial glass of the first two floors gave the building a certain top-heavy appearance, that, too, confirmed its experimental character. Still, Blackall’s reaction, the very inverse of the praise of modernist historians for its straightforward structural expression, begs the question of why Cobb developed and his clients approved a skeletal treatment that for a discerning critic like Blackall seemed inappropriate for a such conspicuous location, and perhaps for the civic institution of a theater as well. That in the newspapers Henrotin and Kerfoot announced no public or institutional ambitions for the project suggests strictly financial motives, ones registered in unusually rapid construction and the minimalist street façades for the shops and offices that blocked views of the theater itself. Be that as it may, this mid-decade minimalism showed just how elastic the Romanesque idiom could be, not just for homes and mansions, but also for such newly large-scale functions as showrooms, apartments, warehouses, and office space. Along with Beman, Flanders, Jenney, and Root, Cobb had creatively reworked a medieval idiom to express the structure and functions of a building that helped shape the nation’s most modern downtown. The Loop’s many broad thoroughfares, unlike the narrower ones of central Boston or Lower Manhattan, allowed unobstructed views of entire façades, thus registering the full impact of loping arcades aligned with the trajectory of the street. Rhythmic arches countered the potential monotony of scores of identical windows in buildings that, like the Opera House, were not only tall and wide but also very visible on corner sites. In central and peripheral Loop locations the number, variety, and vigor of arcaded buildings conferred on Chicago’s modernizing business district an incipient cohesion and an architectural originality that distinguished it from other downtowns. There were two other rationalized features to the Chicago Opera House. Its builder, George Fuller, developed embryonic versions of his system of general contracting for the Opera House and another slightly later building. In Robert Bruegmann’s view, Fuller’s organizational pioneering “revolutionized large-scale construction throughout the country.” Buildings like the Opera House were now so large and complicated, so many factory-made materials like iron or steel had replaced on-site fabrication or finishing, and the divisions of labor in construction had so expanded that premodern or artisanal procedures in building were now impractical and costly. Among the costliest was the requirement that demolition firms, bricklayers, masons, carpenters, and plumbers make separate contracts with the building owner or architect. Starting with the Opera House and culminating with Holabird & Roche’s Tacoma Building (1888), Fuller streamlined the whole process: a single bid for a single contract made a single firm entirely responsible, either through in-house expertise or subcontracts, for financing, demolition, site engineering, procurement of building materials, their timely arrival on site, and construction. The single contractor could build more quickly, and control for quality and cost more carefully, than multiple contracts allowed.14 76

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Mixed-use complexes like the Chicago Opera House and the Pullman Building also required new machines and systematized planning. Shops, offices, theaters, and apartments in tall buildings testified to the increasing scale and density of the various demands on single downtown sites. To plan one mixed-use project required developers and architects to consider distinct income streams, tenant needs, functional arrangements, technical imperatives, structural options, separate entrances for unrelated uses, and individual floor plans for each function. The backstage and flywing of the Opera House theater alone involved exceptional complications. David Henderson specialized in musical burlesque and spectacles like the Arabian Nights and the Amazon Show, and the investors added to these extravaganzas the stage-set challenges of opera. According to one Chicago guidebook, the theater’s provisions made it “one of the finest in the country for plays requiring machinery to produce spectacular effects.”15 Spectacular effects required unusual fire precautions. As Joseph Siry noted in his resurrection of the lost history of this building, Chicago was only thirteen years removed from its destruction by fire, and the City Council had recently criticized another theater for an auditorium that was inadequately insulated against the spread of flames from backstage, a common point of origin in theater fires. Hence, for the Opera House Cobb & Frost specified a masonry wall three feet thick at the proscenium to protect the audience, and placed the theater’s ventilating and heating equipment in the adjacent office building, features that enabled the investors to promote the Opera House as “the only fireproof theater in Chicago.” In fact, it was the only fireproof theater outside New York City, where the opening of the Metropolitan Opera House (1883) had helped set new standards in this regard.16 But in a first experiment with a highly rationalized project involving inexperienced architects, there were bound to be lapses. Despite its technical advances, the theater’s first season was a failure. Crowding occurred when patrons entered or left seats, itself a fire hazard (fig. 3.6). Sight lines from the sides of the balcony were poor, and the ventilation system did not provide adequate amounts of cooled air.17 Some deficiencies may have arisen from the investors’ desire to maximize profit by shoehorning too many seats into the available space, or from the architects’ lack of experience with theater design, or from both factors. Yet the site was too valuable and its theater income too promising not to remedy these deficiencies. The theater closed for renovation in June 1886, only nine months after opening. Adler & Sullivan, who were already experienced theater architects, did the renovation. Among other improvements, they took out seats to relieve congestion in the aisles, added seats in the main balcony by bringing it forward, opened better sight lines from the upper gallery, and improved acoustics by converting a square proscenium into an arched one. Some had criticized the original decoration as overly bright, so Sullivan redesigned the color scheme and the ornament. Just three months after closing, the theater reopened to uniform praise. By 1889 the entire complex was paying investors dividends of 10 to 15 percent.18

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Along with the income streams from mixed uses, the Opera House’s joint-

3.6  Chicago Opera House, orchestra

stock investment mechanism provided developer Ferdinand W. Peck with what

and balcony floor plans. E. L. Lomax,

Siry calls “a model for his financial and architectural planning” of the Auditorium, a much larger, and culturally a much more ambitious, mixed-use complex designed by Adler & Sullivan and begun when they renovated Cobb & Frost’s theater. Peck knew all about the Opera House, because he leased the property to Henrotin and Kerfoot, and because it was the most valuable lot in the estate willed to him and his brothers by his father, Philip Ferdinand Wheeler Peck, a contemporary of Ogden’s who also made a fortune in real estate. In contrast to the Opera House investors, who simply sought profits from office rents and theater productions, Peck, in an extraordinary project of civic humanism, believed that opera presentations at the Auditorium could counter anarchist and socialist agitation, recently evident in the bricklayers strike of 1883. He thought that the investors could help validate capitalist democracy by giving 78

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Diagrams: Chicago Theaters (Chicago, 1885), 19, 21.

workers access to high culture through inexpensive tickets. But Peck’s Wagnerian faith in the socially redemptive power of opera’s total-work-of-art, and his desire to establish a cultural institution with a uniquely egalitarian cast, required him to offset the debts that opera productions invariably incurred. Discounted tickets made the problem more acute, as did Peck’s original proposal to exclude box seats from the Auditorium, which eliminated much of the income on which the New York Metropolitan Opera and other opera companies depended. The mixed uses and financing for the Chicago Opera House suggested the solution. Densely concentrated on the most valuable part of the site, financially reliable shops and offices counterbalanced the financial risks of theater. So did its innovative joint-stock plan. In Siry’s view, these arrangements “led to the erection of the Auditorium,” whose much larger Michigan Avenue lot could accommodate lucrative hotel and office space to underwrite opera, cheap tickets, and the suppression of boxes.19 Peck thus became Cobb’s first association, albeit an indirect one, with the scions of Chicago’s earlier generation of self-made men, with heirs who played key roles in the cultural development of the city’s second period of growth. That Peck extrapolated the Auditorium from the Opera House was a crucial turning point in the history of Chicago’s metropolitan ambitions, as was the organization of the Art Institute by Charles Hutchinson, the son of a self-made banker and speculator. Cosseted by their inheritances, both men could have coasted through life. Instead, Peck and Hutchinson, who had already undertaken several projects to make knowledge and the arts available to workers, created culture. Catalyzed by the successful Grand Opera Festival he ran in 1885 and by the Haymarket riots the following year, Peck assumed the Auditorium’s higher risks. For him, as for Hutchinson, who made the Art Institute accessible to laborers and their families, such conflicts made it imperative to bridge the divide between workers and capitalists, between Chicago’s native and foreign-born populations. Another link between Chicago’s earlier and later venues for opera was the corporation Peck formed to build the Auditorium, which rented offices in the Opera House. A third was Cobb & Frost’s inadequate theater, which inadvertently gave Adler & Sullivan the opportunity to develop or refine planning principles they soon applied to the much bigger Auditorium: more aisles, easy access to seats, unobstructed sight lines, acoustical refinements, appropriate ornament, double the number of seats to decrease ticket prices, and the forward location of the balcony to prevent the orchestra section from seeming too large.20 A fourth linkage involves Sullivan’s later work. The arcaded portion of the Opera House may have influenced his justly famous façade for Lower Manhattan’s Bayard Building (1897). The identity between the two compositions included not only the wider and narrower piers but also their placement in front of the spandrels, and the spandrels in front of the windows, thus retaining some of the depth of traditional load-bearing masonry walls. But because Sullivan did not develop his more refined version of this scheme until thirteen years later, the question of

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whether the Opera House arcade contributed to it may be as unanswerable as it is unavoidable. Finally, the Opera House and the Auditorium jointly enacted the new scale of high and popular cultures alike. The Auditorium’s four thousand seats embodied the modern faith, shared by many architects and their clients, that proper design of a high-culture facility in tandem with a program like Peck’s, which included public lectures as well as choral and symphonic music, could influence people’s behavior in important ways.21 Despite Shakespearean and operatic repertoires, however, the Opera House under Henderson’s ministrations quickly evolved into an institution of popular culture.22 The theater designed by Cobb & Frost and reworked by Adler & Sullivan became a form of initiation into city life. The scale of Henderson’s spectacles—beside which, one guidebook declared, “everything else in that line ever attempted in America shrinks to pigmy proportions”—helped. So did the iron marquee on Washington Street, which enticed passersby as one of the first electrified canopies to hover over pedestrian space and publicize what was still the novelty of theater interiors and stage productions lit by incandescent bulbs (fig. 3.5). Another guidebook noted that at night the marquee’s playbills and illuminations “make it a landmark of the city.”23 By starting the show on the sidewalk the marquee introduced innumerable greenhorns to a common rite of passage, one in which big-city architectural and theatrical spectacles awed naïve out-of-towners. Closely associated with urban growth after the Civil War, the greenhorn was a common trope in newspapers, popular fiction, and the biographies and autobiographies of self-made men. Siry notes, for example, Frank Lloyd Wright’s own induction in August 1886, when, barely eighteen years old, the ambitious young architect first arrived in Chicago. In his Autobiography Wright recalled sheltering from the rain under the theater’s “great canopy” and seeing “enormous posters” for a Henderson show. “The Henderson extravaganzas were duly extravagant. This one took the roof off an unsophisticated mind.” In 1887 another observer confirmed Wright’s experience and Chicago’s growing cultural as well as economic dominance of the hinterland: “It is no uncommon sight to see a party of honest country folks appearing, gripsacks in hand at the doors of the Chicago Opera House, having come straight from the train to the theater to witness the show, the fame of which had penetrated to their homes in the country.”24 The distance between William Kerfoot’s hand-painted sign advertising his “energy” on a shack he put up the day after the fire and his electrified marquee enticing “unsophisticated” minds into a sophisticated institution of popular culture underscored Chicago’s uncommonly swift metropolitan development at the hands of self-makers and scions like Kerfoot and Peck. They were Chicago’s first entrepreneurs fully to grasp the mixed-use skyscraper’s capacity to generate both culture and profits through the rigorous integration of modern organizational, financial, architectural, and technological systems. 80

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The Owings Building (1887–1889) The Owings Building was a very different experiment in rationalizing finance, function, structure, construction, and design (fig. 3.7). A rapid increase in downtown property values since the erection of the Opera House three years earlier made the Owings Building Chicago’s first fourteen-story office tower.25 There were other firsts for office buildings as well: the type of competition the developer staged, the uniquely picturesque design that resulted, the public discussion it catalyzed, its notable architectural influence, and construction techniques that marked Chicago as an innovative building culture, an environment that spurred engineering and financial as well as architectural creativity. To counter Chicago’s unstable subsurface conditions, Cobb employed a variation of the floating raft foundation Root had developed only six years earlier. The Owings Building rested, the Tribune noted, on “massive pyramidal stone piers,” which in turn stood on “a substratum of concrete covering the whole lot two feet in thickness and having railroad irons imbedded and interlaced in it.” Above grade, the corridor floors laid in tile forestalled fears of fire, as did bedding the wood for the office floors in concrete and resting the concrete on the tile arches that sheathed the metal beams, a kind of sheathing developed in Chicago soon after the fire. In a more recent advance, the Tribune emphasized, the iron elevator cabs, like those in the contemporaneous Rookery Building, contained “not an atom of combustible material.”26 While these arrangements consolidated sixteen years of technical innovations, the design was so novel for tall office buildings that New York architectural critic Montgomery Schuyler singled it out for how well it represented an experimental period: without consensus on how to treat tall buildings, “every designer . . . was thrown upon his own resources and . . . the tentative solutions of the new problem were perforce individual as well as tentative.”27 Cobb’s experiment began with the building’s structure. In a cautious advance on Jenney’s framing of the top four floors of the Home Insurance Building in the new material of steel, which handled compressive and tensile stresses much better than iron, Cobb carried all floors of the Owings Building on steel beams spanning between cast-iron columns. At the third and seventh floors, the Tribune noted, he encircled “the entire building” with “heavy steel girders,” probably to brace such a tall slender tower against high winds. The Tribune’s comparison of the Owings and Tacoma Buildings underlined just how experimental structural arrangements for early skyscrapers were, and how variable their consequences were for how buildings looked, how much money they made, and how they made it. On both street fronts, “where space is most valuable,” the Tacoma’s developer and architects abandoned preliminary plans for heavy stone piers and walls that “ate up space which would rent for $1200 a year,” and instead used “strong [steel] columns carrying the superstructure.” The two frontages thus had no masonry whatsoever, and the bay windows that rippled

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3.7  Owings Building, southeast corner of Adams and Dearborn Streets, 1888. View from the northwest. Cobb & Frost, architects. No longer standing. Architectural Record, Great American American Architects Series 2 (February 1896): 72. Courtesy Art Institute of Chicago. Note the lawn in the lower-right corner that marks the setback from the sidewalk of Chicago’s first Federal Building.

across both façades created still more space, better light, and potentially higher income (fig. 3.8). In contrast, the Owings Building, like almost all other skyscrapers of the time, combined its internal metal frame with exterior masonry walls that supported much of their own weight. On a building this high they had to be three feet thick for the first three stories, thus consuming the rental space that the Tacoma’s metal members conserved. Francis P. Owings, however, may have been just as resourceful in his pursuit of profit as the Tacoma’s developer. The Tribune pointed out that Cobb was not “altogether responsible for the appearance of the tall slender structure with its animated top.” Since Owings wanted the building to have “certain picturesque features,” he held a design competition. Whether it was a limited or an open one the Tribune did not say, but it stipulated, uniquely for office buildings, that all entries be striking ones: Cobb & Frost’s design was chosen “as best combining with the convenience of an office building that strong individuality which the owner desired.”28 Although the Tribune did not explain why Owings wanted “picturesque features,” his motivations probably mixed self- and real estate promotion. Little is known about him, but his subsequent five-million-dollar bankruptcy, a real estate fiasco that the New York Times called “the largest schedule of liabilities ever presented for

3.8  Tacoma Building, northeast corner

discharge under the National bankruptcy act,” and his later work for a Chicago

of LaSalle and Madison Streets, 1888. Holabird & Roche, architects. No longer

investment house described by one financial expert as “a notorious bucketshop,”

standing. Chicago Architectural Photo-

suggest that Owings was exactly the single-minded schemer after money whom

graphing Co.

Ogden sharply criticized.29 These very facts, however, identified Owings as another distinct type in the gallery of self-made men with whom Cobb worked, and who made Cobb’s career so representative of Chicago’s development. And well before his bankruptcy Owings’s office building was highly representative too. His picturesque imperative was the alchemical premise of skyscraper architecture itself: the creation of culture out of the base motive for profit. Owings had, in fact, got hold of an exceptional property (fig. 3.1, no. 2). While small for a building so high, his lot, fifty by seventy-five feet, occupied the southeast corner of Dearborn and Adam Streets, an intersection served by streetcars in all directions. Even for a corner lot, the property was unusually visible since the Federal Building across the way was set back some twenty feet from the sidewalk (fig. 3.7, lower right corner). This break in the downtown building wall,

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which normally rose straight up from the lot line, allowed an unimpeded and unshadowed view of Owings’s property from the south and the west. To give his building a pronounced “individuality” was therefore to exploit an especially desirable corner lot set off by the lawn and the formal architecture of a public facility, to endow an office building with a heightened identity that was advantageous in an increasingly competitive rental market in an increasingly anonymous business district, and thus to enable the developer to maximize rents for companies who wished to increase their own prestige through occupying offices in a structure that stood out from all other office buildings. These motives are all the more plausible because a North Side theater that Owings had recently built also employed “picturesque” motifs—Moorish ones that obeyed the theatrical imperative of theater design to attract crowds and sell tickets. The design for another of his office building projects also employed emphatically Moorish forms. Moreover, an early watercolor rendering of the Owings Building showed a clock more than a story in height affixed to the upper portion of the corner turret.30 Apparently never installed, the clock nonetheless introduced into the advertising repertoire of skyscrapers a “civic” totem or quasi-public “service” that enhanced their identity as landmarks in the middle of the business district. But even without the clock, Cobb’s design, as Schuyler’s analysis showed, exceeded the developer’s hopes for picturesque individuality. “Canopied with a crocketed and richly carved gable,” the entrance had “a Gothic air, which is very effective and appropriate.” The tall, steep gable did, in fact, resemble the gabled portals into a medieval cathedral, but instead of a Crucifixion or a Last Judgment, the sinuous naturalistic ornament, unusually prominent for an office building, celebrated passage into what the Tribune called a “temple” for making money (fig. 3.9). To unite the building’s lowest and topmost levels, carved motifs reappeared in the two roof gables. Schuyler located the “force of [the building’s] design” in the “crowning” features of the ten-story turret, its conical cap, a counterpointed chimney, and the gables crossing one another. This “undeniably picturesque” composition was anything but facile: To crown each of two nearly equal and adjoining fronts with a gable is a hazardous undertaking, since it threatens two competing features. It has been managed here with skill and success by the subordination of one of them, and by the introduction of a third and reconciling feature in the angle turret with its steep and lofty hood. The effect of the whole is excellent. It is one of the most sketchable “bits” of a city which does not abound in such bits.31

Schuyler did not mention the red Akron roof tiles that relieved the gray Roman brick below, or the slender, fifty-foot “hood” atop the turret that was, according to the Tribune, “to glint and gleam under a sheathing of copper,” or the asymmetrical inflections that made the design still more dynamic, arresting, and 84

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3.9  Owings Building, Chicago, IL, 1890, entrance, after name change to Bedford Building. Henry Ives Cobb, Charles Sumner Frost (architects). Charles Wilbur (photographer), ca. 1939. Digital file 59494 © The Art Institute of Chicago.

unique. So did the turret itself, in Cobb’s houses a favorite motif that he converted into enviable corner offices. All these features enhanced the building’s advertising power through a comprehensively rationalized individuality. The Owings Building was so thoroughly picturesque in large and small matters alike that the rents they enabled Owings to charge may have compensated for the space sacrificed by thick masonry walls on the lowest stories and by the gables, which in the Tribune’s view rendered the topmost floor “of little value.” The Owings and Tacoma Buildings thus represented two opposed experiments in “huge money-making schemes.” The Tacoma made “no pretensions to picturesque or architectural effects. It looks to be just what it is—a large collection of offices for the busy money-makers of Chicago.” The idea behind the equally systematic planning of the Owings Building, however, was “to produce something

Skyscapers and Rationalized Work I


distinctly novel,” to make architecture advertise through a clock, gables, colored tiles, a reflective copper-clad cone, turreted corner offices, and an especially ornate entrance. The Tacoma’s developer sought “to secure the largest amount of rentable space that a corner lot . . . could be made to yield” (emphasis added), while Owings’s evident goal was to maximize office rents on a more prominent corner plot.32 Like the observation that the Opera House looked like “a big box pierced with square holes,” the Tribune saw the Tacoma as the product of “Chicago utilitarians.” In late 1891, a group of architects voiced more emphatic objections to the kind of design the Tacoma had come to typify. Feeling “circumscribed by the demands of owners” and their “disregard for exterior effect,” they criticized the increasing number of “severely plain” structures, and hailed the Owings Building for “the picturesque effect [that] distinguishes it from the generality of office structures.”33 The architects also placed Burnham & Root’s Masonic Temple (1890) “among the few exceptions to the general rule.” Financed by Chicago Masons, its gables and tiled roofs were in a clear line of descent from those of the Owings Building, as was their use on Chicago’s tallest skyscraper to advertise and advance the social standing and financial prospects of its backers. The flèche, gabled roof, and dormers of Burnham & Root’s Woman’s Temple (1891), as well as early versions of a building by Jenney and another by Holabird & Roche, testified to the immediate impact the Owings Building had on some of Chicago’s most important skyscraper work. This was true as well of Cobb’s gabled Boyce Building (1892), and of his mansard roof and Moorish turrets for the unbuilt Medinah Temple (1892), a twelve-story project with which Chicago Shriners, a fraternal order of elite Masons, tried to capitalize on the anticipated success of their brothers at the Masonic Temple (fig. 3.1, no. 5, no. 7).34 The Owings Building, the first office building vivified in its upper portions by the towered asymmetry normally associated with Queen Anne houses, thus stimulated a notable exploration of skyscraper rooflines, though every one of the subsequent examples retreated to symmetry. It was just this flaunting of the symmtrical convention by Cobb that so ably exploited the site and the advertising advantage that Owings saw in picturesque theatricality. Viewed up close, sinuous lines spread over the gabled entrance, and the Romanesque arch and nearby Romanesque capitals for the window mullions varied the ornamental intricacy of the gables. The elongated Roman bricks above the rock-faced stone of the first three stories drew attention to a new kind of cladding, one that may have influenced Root’s walling of the Monadnock Building (1889) in the same type of brick. Across the street, few observers could have failed to appreciate either the “sketchable” quality or the formidable impact made by a romantic silhouette at skyscraper scale. The vertical trumpeting of tower, gables, and chimney produced an unprecedented skyward thrust all the more powerful for the building’s undersized lot and conspicuous corner. In creating the gabled skyscraper, and in fusing Romanesque, Gothic, and Queen Anne motifs, Cobb the educated easterner demonstrated to his appren86

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ticed or self-taught western brethren, whose more practical or problem-solving orientation was evident in the Tacoma Building, architecture’s fullest expressive power.35 Yet in their polar opposition, both buildings represented breakthroughs. In making skyscrapers sell themselves either through an arresting silhouette or maximized office space, their architects and developers demonstrated the kind of creativity demanded and released by the pressured opportunities available only in the metropolis. With the Owings Building and the Opera House, Cobb distinguished himself in the design of two skyscrapers that looked as different from one another as possible despite their common reliance on rationalized finance, organization, and technology. That reliance, as with the Opera House and the other “severely plain” office buildings that some architects and the Tribune criticized as “‘dry-goods box’ giants,” overlooked the potential publicity power of picturesque design that Owings and Cobb jointly uncovered and incorporated into the skyscraper’s comprehensive rationalization. Whether plain or picturesque, then, whether walled in masonry or glass and terra cotta, skyscrapers colonized the air for rental income. Combining rigor and revolutionary erection speeds, their extrusions were the vertical realizations of the systematic, market-driven urban vision that William Ogden, Potter Palmer, and others had worked into the city’s horizontal grid. Owings’s competition and Cobb’s architectural salesmanship not only drew tenants to the Owings Building but caused the architect to endorse his own skyscraper. Like the other professionals and businessmen who wished to identify their companies with a newly prestigious location, Cobb moved to the tenth floor of the building soon after it opened, and shortly after that he ended his partnership with Frost to begin independent work on the Newberry Library, his first commission for one of the city’s major cultural institutions.

Skyscapers and Rationalized Work I


4 Cultural Politics and the Newberry Library


n a capitalist country that aggressively promoted frontier expansion it was hardly surprising that many of the men who built Chicago were speculators, real estate developers, and industrialists. Nor was it surprising that such men or

their heirs initiated or expanded major institutions of culture like the Art Institute and the Auditorium in the 1880s. What was surprising, however, was that one architect who was not a westerner, not a long-term resident, not yet thirty years old, and not associated with the families of Chicago’s earliest settlers was intimately involved with almost all of these initiatives. Already richly expressive of Chicago’s development, Cobb’s career became still more representative with his commission for the Newberry Library in 1888, when the Owings Building was well underway. More than the work of other Chicago architects, this and his subsequent commissions highlighted how cultural institutions dependent on modern systems were due to entrepreneurial individuals who pushed Chicago to become what any city ambitious for metropolitan greatness had to be: the locus of creativity that commanded national if not international attention. For the small group of men who developed the institution, the Newberry Library complicated this ambition. At the center of their civic discourse, the pursuit of metropolitan renown precipitated brief but telling conflicts over issues of public and private property, elite and popular demands, specialized and amateur research, and architecture’s role in articulating the public realm. Over the four-year


period between 1885 and 1889, the trustees, the librarian, and the architect also had to respond to the simultaneous increase and compartmentalization of knowledge, and to the new prospect of purchasing, aggregating, and making publicly accessible otherwise inaccessible book and manuscript collections.

Patron, Librarian, Trustee, and Site Developed at the same time as Hutchinson’s Art Institute and Peck’s Auditorium, the library resulted from a bequest by Walter Newberry, one of Ogden’s associates in many city-building enterprises. Both men passed ordinary childhoods in upstate New York, arrived in Chicago in 1833, grew rich dealing in real estate, petitioned for a city charter (1836), lobbied the city council to erect the first bridge over the North Branch of the Chicago River (1840) in order to develop their properties on the North Side, and promoted the Galena and Chicago Union Railroad (1848), the first line out of the city.1 In his civic initiatives, Newberry, again like Ogden, donated a lot at the corner of LaSalle and Ohio Streets for a Lutheran church (1843), helped start Rush Medical College (1837), served as mayor of Chicago (1851), and was a member of the Chicago Historical Society (1857–1868) and one of its presidents (1863). But while Ogden kept “good books” and “good pictures” in his house, Newberry’s bibliophilia led him in 1841 to found a subscription library that charged fees for access, a common way to circulate books among the upper classes before public libraries spread across the country. Such initiatives inaugurated Chicago’s frontier period of civic humanism: by 1860 men like Newberry, Ogden, Isaac Arnold, and J. Young Scammon had organized an academy of sciences, an astronomical society, a musical union, a historical society, public exhibits of works of art in private collections, the first University of Chicago, and several city-wide charitable organizations.2 Newberry became a major cultural patron when at his death in 1868 he left half his assets to fund a “free public library” in the “North Division” of Chicago, provided that his two daughters had no heirs.3 Twenty years later, following the resolution of legal issues surrounding Newberry’s will, trustees Eliphalet Wickes Blatchford and William H. Bradley appointed William Frederick Poole the head librarian and Henry Ives Cobb the architect for the new library. That Cobb landed this commission again suggests his capacity to convince potential clients—through credentials, comportment, references, articulate speech, and a growing body of authoritative work—that he was their man even though he lacked the experience of older architects of equal or greater talent, and had never designed a library, let alone the major one the Newberry trustees intended this one to be. Indeed, a reference letter from Henry W. Bishop, an Amherst graduate and the Union Club president in its formative years, said of Cobb that “his early associations and education were all in the right line” (emphasis added), 90

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by which he meant that Cobb’s father was “a leading citizen and business man” in Boston, that Cobb attended good private and public schools there, and that he entered Harvard College “at an earlier age than is usual for a young man to enter that institution.”4 Bishop’s remarks matched Cobb’s background to Eliphalet Blatchford’s business, civic, and intellectual interests. The more dominant of the two trustees, Blatchford, originally from upstate New York, had founded a highly successful plumbing-supply company that also manufactured lead shot and other metal products. A civic activist nearly as tireless as Ogden, he had helped organize the Chicago Relief and Aid Society, the Chicago Historical Society, and the Chicago Academy of Sciences, among many other initiatives. He had also worked on the Sanitary Commission with Newberry and shared Newberry’s interests in books: Chicagoans regarded Blatchford’s library of five thousand volumes as one of the finest in Chicago.5 But any fit between the trustee and the architect did not by itself get Cobb the commission. Like Blatchford, William Poole, among the nation’s most respected librarians, was eager to avoid any architectural ambition that might compromise a library’s functional efficiency or its funds for book acquisition. Hence, Cobb’s youth may well have been an advantage, since he was less likely to hold firm views or insist on a costly monument, demands often made by older architects when confronted with such a prestigious commission. In fact, a closer look at Poole’s own views on library design and his influence on the trustees’ decision to alter Newberry’s will clarifies how the appointment of an architect for a prominent civic and cultural project depended both on qualifications “in the right line” and on youthful pliability. In the cross-over period between amateur intellectuals and professionally trained ones, Poole was a self-taught historian and a self-taught expert on library planning and administration. An 1849 graduate of Yale University, he had been principal librarian at the Boston Athenaeum and the Boston Mercantile Library, a founder and president of the American Library Association, the creator of the internationally recognized Poole’s Index to Periodical Literature, the head of the Cincinnati Public Library, and the chief librarian of the Chicago Public Library from 1873 until his appointment at the Newberry, when he also became president of the American Historical Association.6 Poole’s experience encompassed the professionalization of librarians, the impact on books of modern technologies, and new ways to organize exponential increases in knowledge. New machines improved the production of paper and book binding, and enabled the publication of more books at lower cost; steamboats and railroads distributed them more widely, quickly, and cheaply; literacy rates among a rapidly growing population steadily increased; libraries sprang up in towns and cities, and developed into different types (specialized and comprehensive, central and branch, public and private, circulating and reference); and the explosion of knowledge led to codifications like Poole’s Index and, as with the Western Associa

Cultural Politics and the Newberry Library


tion of Architects, to professional organizations like the American Library and American Historical Associations.7 Poole’s exceptional range of experience would have been impossible without a forceful personality. Houghton Wetherald, the Newberry Library’s first historian, has argued that it was Poole who during the seven years prior to his appointment convinced the trustees to modify the terms of Newberry’s will, to make the “free public library” a public institution of noncirculating books for research purposes only. In 1881, at the annual meeting of the American Library Association in Washington, D.C., Poole presented a strictly functionalist proposal for a reference library of one million volumes (fig. 4.1). The compact plan and section were the antithesis of the new Library of Congress, whose vaulted spaces and grand staircase he excoriated as the “worst that could be devised,” utility and convenience having yielded to mere “architectural effect.”8

4.1  Frederick William Poole, plan and section for a reference library, 1881. From American Architect and Building News 10 (17 September 1881): 133.


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In January 1886, only a month after all the legal conditions in Newberry’s will had been met, Poole used the public forum of the Library Journal to urge Blatchford and Bradley to build a reference library like the one he had proposed five years earlier. “Although established as a free public library, the new institution will have no connection with, nor will it supplant the functions of, the Chicago Public Library. The latter is a municipal institution . . . and is supported by local taxation. The Public Library . . . will go on . . . meeting the wants of the people at large.” Moreover, because Newberry’s bequest constituted the “largest foundation for a free library ever made in this or any other country,” and because the trustees had “very large discretionary powers,” there was a unique opportunity to establish an institution “of national [rather] than local importance.”9 Poole’s arguments were that much more forceful coming from the head of Chicago’s circulating library at a time when there was talk of building a new, centrally located public facility to replace its rented and shabby quarters. But his arguments were also self-interested. He clearly saw the opportunity of a lifetime in the collections the head librarian would be able to acquire, and in Blatchford the bibliophile he had his sights on a natural ally. In the same article he placed the trustee in a specific subset of Chicago’s most ambitious individuals. Like Poole himself, or Cobb in a younger generation, Blatchford was an emissary of “New England thought in the North-west,” a phrase that presumably meant someone knowledgeable, ambitious, experienced, and talented enough to help transform the territory’s richest but rawest city into a more cosmopolitan one. Poole succeeded. Eighteen months later, on 8 July 1887, the trustees held a meeting at Blatchford’s elegant home on LaSalle Street to receive suggestions from invited guests about the library’s location, building plans, and the appointment of a librarian. Praising Poole in his absence for his literary, historical, and architectural knowledge, the two trustees announced plans for the new institution in terms very close to Poole’s: “Chicago now possesses a circulating library . . . destined fully to meet the needs of our large and growing population”; “in the life of our city” there was “a want of a distinctively reference library”; and Chicago’s proximity to “the cities, towns, and country of the interior” would make the new facility an indispensable regional resource.10 In a discussion of possible sites, Dankmar Adler, then president of the Illinois State Association of Architects (which was the local chapter of the Western Association of Architects), and two other guests proposed Lincoln Park. But lawyer Ezra McCagg, an incorporator of the Chicago Historical Society, another of Chicago’s early art collectors, and a founding member of the Union Club, countered that “a public park,” however handsome as the backdrop for a library, was “for Public recreation . . . where people . . . get out of the city and into the country. . . . I do not think that Central Park in New York has been improved by the many constructions they have put into it.” Robert Todd Lincoln, the son of the assassinated president and legal counsel for Pullman’s Palace Car Company, argued that a library on public grounds might suggest “that its future conduct . . .

Cultural Politics and the Newberry Library


be determined by popular election on the North Side” rather than by the trustees themselves.11 Both objections spoke to the contested nature of creating cultural institutions in nineteenth-century American cities, and favored the strict in-house control over budget, books, site, and architect that Poole and the trustees wanted to maintain.12 That is, in building rare or specialized collections, they did not want to deal with the public requests or demands that Poole rightly had to address at the public library, which included acquiring the books most requested by patrons, the bulk of which were what Helen Horowitz has identified as “the novels and romances of the day.” The site chosen for the new library resolved this and other issues. When they named Poole the Newberry librarian three weeks after the meeting, the trustees had already acquired the site bounded by Ontario, Erie, Pine, and Rush Streets, which had been Walter Newberry’s homestead before the fire.13 Besides its memorial fitness, this full square block of private property gave the trustees and Poole the control they sought. It also allowed them to prevent the architectural overreaching that a public site like Lincoln Park was more likely to stimulate. Poole’s 1881 plan, stripped of any spatial acknowledgment of a civic institution, required minimal financing. At the 8 July meeting, Blatchford stated that “there is no subject connected with the founding of a library in which there has been more disaster than from this matter of building,” a view in support of which he cited the Ridgeway Branch of the Philadelphia Public Library: “one of the most palatial [and] magnificent buildings . . . in America,” but “there is scarcely enough money left with which to purchase books.” McCagg put the point more directly: “With the greatest respect to my friend Adler, I should rather the architect be told by the trustees what building they are to put up, than the architect should tell the trustees.”14 Although Blatchford had initially thought about hiring such established firms as McKim, Mead & White, Burnham & Root, Adler & Sullivan, William Le Baron Jenney, or Peabody & Stearns, his criticism of the Philadelphia library actually favored the selection of a younger architect without firm views. Still, experience was one of the six criteria Blatchford considered in hiring an architect, along with education, specialization, public building commissions, business qualifications, and reliable estimates.15 But on five of the six counts, including that of experience, the youthful Cobb appeared to be a very good choice, a man in Henry Bishop’s “right line” in more ways than patrician ones, as the rest of Bishop’s letter to Blatchford showed. “I am informed,” he wrote, addressing each of Blatchford’s criteria, that the architect’s “important and difficult work” while at Peabody & Stearns quickly made him “one of the leading assistants of that firm.” After only six years in Chicago “the volume of the business of his office is, I think, second to but one other in this city.” Moreover, “all of the designing . . . is done by him personally,” work for which “he possesses a wonderful facility and genius.” In business dealings “I have found him to be exceedingly accurate in his estimates of the expenses of build94

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ing,” the work on the Union Club yielding “a surplus [of ] about $1500.” Franklin MacVeagh also wrote on Cobb’s behalf. An Ivy League graduate (Yale) and Union Club member like Bishop and Cobb, and the lumber merchant who had commissioned H. H. Richardson for his home on Lake Shore Drive immediately north of the Palmer estate, MacVeagh echoed points Bishop had made, adding that after their work together on the Union Club, Mr. Bishop “remains a very firm friend of Mr. Cobb, which is not always the issue of relations with an architect, as you know by common report.”16 In other words, in addition to an architectural education considered by many to be the best in the country, and to outstanding work at a New England firm Blatchford had already considered, Cobb could fix and hold to a budget, deliver multiple buildings on time, and handle technical complexities, and Cobb himself, not assistants or partners, dealt directly with clients on matters of design. The Union Club, the Chicago Opera House, and the Owings Building made Cobb’s experience exceptional in the one sense that might have mattered most to Blatchford: diverse work on homes, mansions, a clubhouse, and two large office buildings showed that Cobb could probably meet the challenges of a library. At the same time, Cobb’s youth made it unlikely that he would do what Blatchford feared and McCagg had warned against, namely insist on his own ideas against the will of the trustees. That he was willing to take direction was clear in the last clause of Cobb’s contract, a codicil that also indicated Blatchford’s concern that “the volume of business” done by Cobb’s firm might force the trustees to compete for the architect’s time with other clients, another factor that may have ruled out the older firms, especially the out-of-town ones. Signed on 26 July 1888, the contract carried the remarkable stipulation that from the first of January 1889 to the first of January 1890 the architect “will give up all other practice except said Library building, unless said Trustees give their consent otherwise,” and he was to do so with no compensation beyond what the contract identified as the standard “Schedule of Charges” fixed by the Western Association of Architects.17 With this commission Cobb dissolved his partnership with Charles Frost.

Civic Discourse and Metropolitan Ambition The contract concluded an extraordinary episode in Chicago’s history. Along with the ad hoc initiatives of Bertha Palmer on behalf of workers and women, and the cultural institutions initiated by Peck and Hutchinson, Poole’s and Blatchford’s public reference library expressed Chicago’s postfire civic humanism at its most ambitious. But for historian Donald L. Miller, the project was noteworthy because it represented a “social defense of caste.” To be sure, Blatchford, Bradley, and Poole conceived the library and chose its architect in line with their conservative view of culture. All four men were also well-to-do native-born northeasterners who took

Cultural Politics and the Newberry Library


for granted their standing among Chicago’s self-appointed elite. And Poole’s assertion in his 1886 article—“There is a feeling on the part of the public that the library will meet the higher wants of scholars, literary and scientific students”—did not refer to workers. Yet to argue, as Miller has done, that the Newberry Library constituted the rearguard action of conservatives up against “unseemly public pressures,” of cultural guardians who wanted “to seal themselves off from the oppressive industrial metropolis,” undercuts their real achievements: a library for scholars in a metropolitan region without one; the legitimate public interest such a library served; the institutional creativity in altering Newberry’s will; and the sophisticated sense of urban development behind the alteration.18 When Walter Newberry willed the city a “free public library” on the North Side in 1868, Chicago had no public library at all. However, it took seventeen years to meet the conditions imposed by his will. In 1873, only five years after Newberry died, Chicago established a tax-supported public library, and for its first fifteen years chief librarian Poole had purchased many of the foreign-language publications desired by the city’s quickly expanding ethnic groups, responded to other requests from an ethnically diverse board of directors appointed by the mayor, organized book-delivery stations throughout Chicago, and stocked the library’s shelves with “the novels and romances of the day” that constituted much of its circulation.19 Under these circumstances, and in a city ambitious to make itself a cultural capital, changing the terms of Newberry’s will to establish a reference library that was still free and still public but focused on the interests of amateur and professional students of literature, history, and science made great sense, especially since the public library had from the start explicitly rejected a focus on this particular portion of the public.20 Moreover, because there was already a consensus in the 1880s to erect a new public library and move the existing one out of its rented quarters, the trustees exercised the discretionary power Newberry’s will gave them to establish “such rules and regulations . . . as they may judge fit and best, having in view the growth, preservation, permanence and general usefulness of such library.” Further, the will did not specify whether the library was to lend books. So they judged it “fit and best” and of “general usefulness” to fill a cultural gap, to serve people in the city and the region whose interests the public library did not serve. They did so carefully, binding Cobb to a year’s work on the library and little else, researching not only the architecture but the budgets of the country’s best known public and reference libraries, and avoiding mishaps like that of the Philadelphia branch library. They did so in the spirit of Walter Newberry’s own interests in book and art collection; of Newberry’s friend William B. Astor, who funded the Astor Library (1849), a wellknown public reference institution in New York; and of the Young Men’s Association, Newberry’s prefire subscription “reading room,” which supplied its largely native-born members with the kinds of books that the public library was likely to slight.21 96

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Despite Poole’s declared aim “to satisfy the wants of scholars,” Miller, who quotes Poole in this regard, concludes that since there were few real scholars in Chicago at the time, Poole “was probably referring to amateur gentlemen historians, history buffs from Old Settler families, and sons of the newly rich with a passion for genealogy.” But no one with Poole’s plans to build up “a collection of books . . . complete in all . . . departments,” and “to provide for . . . professional men who want to . . . inquire into the origin and history of ideas and . . . who read and seek books in many languages” was thinking of mere “history buffs” and dilettante genealogists.22 The issue was not whether Chicago lacked scholars, or who might actually use the library initially, but the intentions of Poole and Blatchford for the institution’s ultimate development. Miller also overlooks who Blatchford really was. That he manufactured lead products and helped found the Chicago Manual Training School were hardly the acts of someone in retreat from the industrial metropolis or unsympathetic to the needs of workers. His private library was the largest room in a Ruskinian house designed by progressive architect Peter B. Wight. President of the Chicago Theological Seminary for three decades, Blatchford also founded four missionary organizations besides working for the Relief and Aid Society. His wife Mary conducted in their home the city’s first kindergarten organized according to the educational philosophy of Frederick Froebel.23 Like William Ogden, Blatchford was an ideal trustee for a public reference library precisely because his educational, civic, and cultural zeal, which had both elite and egalitarian outlets, engaged him with the heterogeneous life of the city. For example, in the detailed knowledge of the Astor Library that his remarks at the 8 July meeting demonstrated, Blatchford referred to that institution’s “special relation to the wants of the ordinary part of the community. In mechanics and physics it is resorted to much more frequently than you would suppose it to be,” a remark suggesting that the Newberry Library was to serve this purpose too. Although a second critic of the Newberry’s formative period has argued that the trustees might instead have established a library for apprentices or immigrants or social researchers serving the interests of workers and the poor, such an institution made little sense on the wealthy, largely native-born North Side, which is where Newberry’s will required it to be. More importantly, Blatchford’s Manual Training School and other institutions had already begun to address these needs.24 The debate Blatchford’s guests had over the library site is also instructive in this regard. Miller dismisses, for example, Robert Todd Lincoln’s opposition to the Lincoln Park location as an elitist’s wish to avoid popular pressures on library policies. But the dismissal does not address the substance of Lincoln’s point and related issues. Lincoln agreed with two other guests who objected to taking as many as twenty-five acres of the park’s one hundred fifty because the park was “already too small.” Lincoln also agreed with McCagg, whose arguments Miller does not mention, that all the intrusions into New York’s Central Park “have been . . . outside of the idea of the founders and the gentlemen who planned it. . . . I think there is

Cultural Politics and the Newberry Library


a breach of faith in taking such an institution as this into a public park—I mean a breach toward a public at large.” The prospect of “trenching . . . on the rights of the common people in the use of the Park,” as another speaker put it, ended the debate.25 The class interests of Blatchford’s guests and their unapologetic identification of themselves as apart from or above “ordinary” or “common people” did not make their arguments to keep the library out of the park any less cogent or democratic.26 This is still to say too little of Blatchford’s and Poole’s joint ambitions for Chicago. These northeasterners had become sufficiently imbued with the striving that had given Chicago its characteristic energy that they were able to recognize and seize a unique opportunity. Their desire to make the Newberry the best reference library in the Midwest if not the nation reflected a more encompassing view of urban development than the one implicit in Miller’s caste criticism. Human settlements from nomadic encampments to villages and towns always produce culture of both the anthropological and creative sorts, but only individual brilliance and elite institutions in highly developed cities generate culture of the most complex, profound, and self-aware kind. In launching an institution to provide forms of edification and types and degrees of knowledge that circulating libraries could not, the trustees and Poole, the man who in Cincinnati and Chicago had already superintended city libraries in a publicly responsive manner for more than two decades, demonstrated the kind of entrepreneurial creativity that distinguished metropolitan incubators of culture. While Poole emphasized its national and Blatchford its regional scope, both men had in mind nothing less than a new kind of cultural institution, an endowed reference library open to the public that would draw its users not just from Chicago but from towns and cities far enough away that only the railroads of Ogden, Cable, and others made it feasible so to centralize knowledge. At a single repository scholars would assess from multiplying, unpredictable points of view the significance of constantly expanding collections in order to produce more precise, specialized, and professionalized knowledge. Poole’s and Blatchford’s civic humanism was of the most modern, ambitious, and creative kind. The Newberry Library was thus part of an exceptional moment in urban development, one that Chicago historians have taken too much for granted. In the threshold decade of the 1880s, the city’s elites created an unexampled range of new institutions based on the power of culture. Several of these projects sought not just to elevate mind and spirit but to alter human behavior, and to do so in putatively egalitarian ways. Ferdinand Peck attempted to check the anarchist and socialist tilt of Chicago’s workers through the transformative medium of opera. George Pullman sought through planning and architecture to reform industrial environments and markedly change his employees in both benign and coercive ways. Likewise, those who backed the Art Institute in 1887 thought that art, in what Charles Hutchinson described as culturally “one of the most barren cities,” would help businessmen lead more balanced lives, improve public taste and comportment, 98

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and enrich the democratic life of the city, since Sunday hours enabled workers to visit the new institution on their day off, an opportunity that New York laborers and their families did not have because of the deliberately restricted hours at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.27 These and other cultural institutions were often democratic, creative, or experimental in ways that comparable institutions in other cities were not. Unusually various and ambitious for a city so young, they included a public library that even New York City did not yet have. At the same time they were part of a nationwide movement among urban elites to formalize cultural distinctions. The Newberry and the Chicago Public Libraries respectively institutionalized high and popular culture in the realms of reading, knowledge, and research. Peck’s project for the Auditorium effectively ended the heterogeneous mix of opera and Henderson’s spectacles at the Chicago Opera House, a heterogeneity that had been typical of theaters since the 1830s. Institutions increasingly were either exclusive venues for popular culture or, like the Newberry Library, were identified with higher standards of cultural enrichment. But just this kind of differentiation helped make what was already an urban dynamo into a different and still more dynamic kind of city. Cultural entrepreneurs could take unusual institutional risks because the city in a mere four decades had reached a critical mass of population, industry, and commerce, had accumulated the substantial patrimony of Chicago’s first generation, and had already exploited many of the new technological and organizational systems that leapfrogged over the centuries of development that cities had previously required to reach their creative peak. Cobb’s and Poole’s appointments are instructive here. They clearly demonstrated Chicago’s attractions for those who wished to rise faster than even a wellconnected patrician like Cobb could do in Boston or New York, cities in which he might quickly become the “leading assistant” he was at Peabody & Stearns, but where a Robert Peabody or a Charles McKim would always be ahead of him. Even Poole, one of the three most influential librarians in the profession, would have had more difficulty landing a position as head of a reference library in the late 1880s in a major eastern city.28 Having succeeded in Chicago, Poole and Cobb then bet everything on the opportunity of their lifetimes, the experienced librarian that he could acquire the collections that would distinguish the institution nationally, the youthful architect that he could design a library commensurate in quality with spending a full year pondering a type of building that he had never designed before. Both men, however, were entering a highly charged arena. The common struggle of librarians and architects to establish professional identities for themselves, and their common but conflicting claims to rationalized expertise often caused heated disagreements between the two groups over the design of libraries, a type of building still architecturally in embryo that had nevertheless already acquired powerful civic associations.29 These factors made the Newberry Library Poole’s and Cobb’s riskiest venture yet.

Cultural Politics and the Newberry Library


Library Plans and the Civic Realm Poole immediately proved that he was not a librarian for gentlemen genealogists or dilettante scholars. In 1889 he acquired the collection of musical manuscripts assembled by Florentine Count Pio Resse, instantly making the Newberry a leading American repository in the history and theory of music. In 1890 he tapped his Cincinnati connections to secure the rare book collection of Henry Probasco, which included Shakespeare folios, rare Bibles, and early editions of works by Homer, Horace, and Dante.30 Cobb, understandably, produced nothing as fast as Poole. In the fall of 1888 he toured libraries in the eastern United States to educate himself about the disagreements that planning large libraries provoked among librarians and architects. Many of the former backed the utilitarian plan Poole had advanced at the 1881 meeting of American Library Association (fig. 4.1). In this scheme, each subject area had its own room, a plan that directly reflected the rapidly increasing specialization of knowledge. Each room was sixteen feet high with free-standing bookshelves placed between the windows and the reading tables. The shelving rose only eight feet to eliminate stairs or ladders, lessen the fatigue in retrieving books by keeping them within arm’s reach, and dissipate upward the excessive heat that often damaged books and tired librarians. Since one attendant supervised each room, and all books for any one subject were to occupy the same floor, the energy attendants spent to retrieve books was, in Poole’s view, considerably lessened. In the middle of his quadrangle of discrete disciplinary libraries and one slightly larger room of general reference works was a four-story courtyard, a light well surrounded by a corridor glazed on both sides to light the inner portions of each reading room.31 The opposite pole in the debate involved the novel stack plan and the explicitly civic nature of the architecture that encased it. The stack itself was a skyscraper for books. Just as the metal columns and beams of tall office buildings like the Opera House or the Owings Building greatly increased the density of people on a small plot of land, the stack, the first modern system of book storage to respond to the expansion of knowledge and the proliferation of books, was a multistory metal frame of shelves and narrow aisles that maximized the number of volumes stored in a compact area. Attendants at the main desk in a large reading room retrieved books for patrons from the nearby stack, whose central location purported to decrease losses from fire and theft, allow easy expansion, and permit quicker retrieval and more accurate reshelving of books than a compartmentalized scheme like Poole’s.32 The stack plan arrived in America in 1879, just after Cobb graduated from Harvard, where its chief librarian, Justin Winsor, Poole’s archrival in library circles, added a wing onto the rear of Gore Hall, Harvard’s neo-Gothic library. In it he encased a metal stack that stood independently of the surrounding masonry walls. The stack thus freed up the space in Gore Hall that Henry James, a Harvard gradu100 Chapter 4

ate, admired: “This edifice, a diminished copy of the chapel at King’s College at the greater Cambridge, is a rich and impressive institution,” one whose “high, light vaults . . . hung over quiet book-laden galleries, alcoves, and tables.”33 Transforming a religious space into a “temple” of knowledge was one way to affirm a library’s institutional importance. So were the introductory spaces that Gore Hall did not have, but that two new stack-plan libraries did: John L. Smithmeyer’s and Paul Peltz’s Library of Congress (1873–1897), and McKim, Mead & White’s Boston Public Library (1887–1890). Their entrance sequences moved patrons through vestibules, up the multiple flights of a monumental staircase, and into a vaulted reading room where large windows flooded it with natural light. Vestibule, staircase, other transitional spaces, and the changes they enforced in direction and elevation heightened anticipation and the impression made by “high, light vaults” sprung over the reading room’s “book-laden galleries.” These two libraries thereby brought to a head nearly fifty years of experiment with a new institution and a new type of building. In spatially exalting access to sources and materials not available anywhere else, the reading room climaxed a discourse at once civic and architectural, a discourse that identified the privileged place a library occupied in the public realm because of its communitarian services. When Cobb started his work on the Newberry Library the stack plan and spatial sequences of the Boston and Washington libraries were receiving a great deal of attention. Poole, despite his intellectual and institutional sophistication, saw no civic realities whatsoever in two buildings “devised for show rather than for legitimate and convenient library use,” in facilities bound to incur high ventilating, heating, and maintenance costs, and in stacks with insufficient light. On these and other issues he claimed that “the architect is the natural enemy of the ibrarian,” a widespread attitude in his profession. Although influential in the early eighties, some of Poole’s views fell into disfavor at decade’s end. He ignored, for example, the existence of new ventilating systems that could move air in and out of large spaces, the new incandescent light bulb that helped illuminate them, and the slotted or glazed walkways that passed natural and artificial light down through a stack’s multiple floors.34 Poole also denied weaknesses in his own scheme. The tables closest to his glazed corridor were likely to receive insufficient natural light. Many librarians by 1887 recognized that nine feet between the top of the bookshelves and the ceiling actually wasted space, that a lesser height could still cool the air around the top shelves. In addition, attendants often had to walk more in libraries with a separate reading room for each subject area because patrons often drew on sources from multiple departments on the same or different floors. Moreover, as J. N. Larned, the chief librarian of the Buffalo Public Library and a regular contributor to the Library Journal, put it in a letter to Blatchford: “The books of a library will not break up into so many really insulated classes or groups of subjects.”35 Finally, Poole’s utilitarian plan, a kind of military barracks for books, suppressed a library’s civic dimension in its blinkered pursuit of modern planning

Cultural Politics and the Newberry Library


and bureaucratic efficiency.36 Only a monumental space approached through a modulated sequence of transitional areas and a formal staircase acknowledged and celebrated the paradoxically public nature of the intensely private acts of reading, research, and reflection by patrons seated next to one another in the kind of “rich and impressive” room that James admired at Harvard. Premised on an unrealistic compartmentalization of culture, Poole’s plan for a public reference library was actually antipublic in nature. Poole did in fact encounter resistance from the trustees. Cobb, in a letter to Blatchford and Bradley a year into the project, reminded them that “you told me that Dr. Poole had some very decided ideas about the proper way of building a library, but you were not prepared to accept them unless upon careful investigation we found they were best.” Cobb also stated that Poole had made Cobb’s fall tour of libraries on the East Coast less than satisfactory. “I was much hampered in getting honest opinions from the different men I interviewed, since most of them were personal friends of Dr. Poole, and they all knew of his standing in the profession and that he specially wanted to build the Newberry Library according to [his] theories.”37 Cobb and Blatchford had by then gone to Europe, where, from February through early May 1889 they studied many libraries, including examples of Poole’s bête noire, the stack plan in the kinds of spatially ceremonial buildings that would compel the attention of any ambitious architect.38 By April, having sketched tentative schemes while visiting libraries in Paris, Madrid, Florence, Dresden, Berlin, Leipzig, London, Liverpool, and Dublin, Cobb settled on an arrangement that became the basis for his final plans (fig. 4.2). As he later wrote the trustees, “I drew a sketch plan that I presented to Mr. Blatchford in London,” and “during the months” this plan and subsequent sketches “were in your hands . . . no radical modifications have occurred to either of us.” Behind a five-part façade and aligned on a north-south axis, Cobb placed a semicircular reading room to the rear and the center of the site. The sketch plan almost certainly borrowed the five-part division of the main façade, the atrium-staircase, and the form and placement of the semicircular reading room from architect Arved Rossbach’s University Library at Leipzig (1888–1891) (fig. 4.3).39 Cobb’s final plans, which refined the London scheme and simplified the entrance sequence at Leipzig, do not survive, but Blatchford’s copies of three of Cobb’s sketches, probably done in April, do. Using ruler, pencil, compass, and the dimensions of the Newberry homestead site, the trustee outlined, however awkwardly and incompletely, several key features, including a book stack in the east wing, and an auditorium in the northwest corner (fig. 4.4). Broad exterior stairs in the central bay lead to a vestibule focused on a modest version of a grand staircase, whose first steps flare slightly. Without Leipzig’s arcaded columns to frame it, Cobb’s stair hall nonetheless embodied the same intent: a ceremonial ascent to the reading room as the flights doubled back and up through a lofty atrium. Radiating into the rear of the site on the second and third floors, the reading room was a high 102 Chapter 4

4.2  Henry Ives Cobb, the London Plan (sketch), April 1889. Eliphalet Blatchford Papers. Courtesy the Newberry Library. 4.3  University Library, Leipzig, 1888–1891. Arved Rossbach, architect. Ground-floor plan. Frank James Burgoyne, Library Construction— Architecture, Fittings, and Furniture (Allen, 1897), 304.

half-cylinder of space presumably lit by clerestory windows above the bookshelves. Like the one at Leipzig, Cobb’s room was modestly monumental, smaller than and without the full radial envelopment of the domed rotundas he had seen at the British Museum and the Library of Congress. Since the Newberry Library was not to house their encyclopedic collections, its scaled-down grandeur made Leipzig much the more fitting model. In reworking it, Cobb for the first time put institutional Chicago in a Renaissance line of descent. He transposed spatial conceits originating in European palaces and aristocratic opera houses to a modern institution serving a newly literate and democratic public. In this, Cobb aspired to do what Charles McKim had already done at the Boston Public Library. In The American Scene, Henry James praised McKim’s work in terms of the spatial experience encoded in Blatchford’s

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4.4  Blatchford’s versions of Cobb’s first-, second-, and third-floor plans for the Newberry Library, August 1889. Eliphalet Blatchford Papers. Courtesy the Newberry Library.

homely tracings of Cobb’s lost plans. Just as size, site, and external treatment conveyed a building’s importance in the life of the community, so the sequence of vestibule, stair hall and reading room, or what James called a building’s “penetralia,” made it impossible internally to escape “the visible scale and scheme of the building,” the scope and import of the institution’s civic speech. Like McKim’s staircase returns, Cobb’s doubled-back flights promised an “amplitude of wing,” “a high and luxurious beauty,” and a sense of space “expanding . . . monumentally” as one turned right or left off the first landing. As with McKim’s reading room, Cobb’s was “sufficiently within” the building, “sufficiently withdrawn and consecrated” as “a place of study and meditation,” that patrons would enjoy an elevated remoteness from everyday life—a public “benefit” bestowed just where such a beneficence was “of the essence.” In their use of the same planning tradition, in their “wealth of science and art,” of steel stacks and spatial sophistication, McKim and Cobb pursued the same secular grail: to house the modern accumulation of knowledge in “a temple without altars.”40 Cobb got closer to this elusive goal when he helped the trustees acquire a new site that matched the enviable position of Boston’s library on Copley Square with a still more commanding position for the Newberry Library on Washington Square (fig. 1.1, B). In Blatchford’s drawing, Cobb’s scheme crowded the north lot line of the homestead property, but it comfortably fit within the larger block occupied by the Mahlon Ogden estate. The trustees had actually looked at this site in July 1888, and rejected it because of cost. However, when Cobb and Blatch

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ford returned from Europe ten months later, Cobb wrote both trustees that he had learned that “the owner of the Ogden Block” might “meet your views with reference to . . . the purchase of that . . . property.” Cobb emphasized that the best libraries he and Blatchford had studied had “ample space . . . on all sides,” a feature that not only allowed for “architectural effect” and the provision of a “suitable foreground,” but also provided the “more important” elements of “proper light, air and quiet for the intensive workings of the library.” Pointing out that a new ten-story apartment house under construction close by the homestead site covered a quarter block and might soon double in size, he warned that in “other cities” such projects “invariably” precipitated the replacement of homes by “lofty apartment houses.” In contrast, the Ogden block would forever enjoy the “several hundred feet” of Washington Square’s open space to the south.41 The “most important” advantage of the Ogden estate, Cobb emphasized, was direct access to public transport on Clark Street on the estate’s west side. “The great mass of the people for whom the library is to be built will live west of State Street,” and “owing to the great future size of our city most of the visitors to the library will depend upon . . . public conveyance to reach it.” Clark Street “is now and always will be the main artery of communication not only between different portions of the North Side but connecting the North with the South and West sides.” In sum, the Ogden block seamlessly integrated civic and architectural advantages on the “most desirable lot” in the whole neighborhood, a block that “in every way [is] admirably adapted for the site of a great reference library.”42 Although the purchase of the site returned Cobb to the scene of his first Chicago success, when the Union Club briefly occupied Ogden’s estate and then moved to the south side of the square, his floor plans soon joined a battle between architect and librarian. Right after Cobb’s formal presentation to the trustees in mid-August, the antagonists wrote three long acrimonious letters to the trustees. In responding to Poole’s first criticisms, Cobb noted that his four-story building was to start with six hundred ten thousand volumes and expand perhaps to three million. With stairs and elevators at its core, the east wing’s six-story stack, framed in iron and floored in hammered glass, was to hold four hundred eighty thousand volumes and serve a two-story reading room with thirty thousand reference works on its shelves. Cobb also included something that for stack-plan libraries was novel: twelve smaller reading rooms dedicated to single subjects like music, law, or the mechanical arts for the “convenience of the technical student,” a term Cobb seemed to apply to more specialized or vocational research than a general reading room commonly served. Why did he provide them? Except for librarians like Poole, who favored only decentralized departments, and those like Justin Winsor, who favored only the centralized stack, “all other men” whom Cobb had interviewed “advocate a combination of the two.”43 Predictably, Poole objected to Cobb’s combination of stack, reading room, and twelve departments because they joined together “in one scheme two incongruous methods which never ought to be united.” Although he denied that Cobb 106 Chapter 4

had discerned an emerging consensus among librarians in favor of a more functional middle ground between Winsor and Poole for large reference and circulating libraries, advocates of this view had in fact written about it as early as 1887 in the pages of the Library Journal. They maintained, convincingly, that individual departments in libraries with no storage capacity in stacks often filled up fast with books, were difficult or impossible to expand in size, required more space from the outset, duplicated staff, increased time and effort to retrieve books, and thus raised costs.44 Less predictably, Poole claimed that Cobb’s spaces were too large for the collections likely to accrue over the next twenty-five years.45 More tellingly, the librarian criticized the architect’s failure to explain how he chose the subject matter for each of twelve departments.46 Their only significant agreement was the need for security. Although Cobb wrote of a public broad enough to include the “ex-convict” and the “citizen of highest standing,” and Poole referred mainly to scholars, both men recognized that free access to library bookshelves had amply furnished what Cobb called “distressing proof of the dishonesty of humanity” in the forms of book theft and mutilation.47 Yet despite Poole’s critical onslaught, Cobb’s plans had distinct advantages. The librarian’s courtyard scheme, Cobb rightly noted, was not as “practical” as Poole claimed: it could not “properly light all the rooms from both [interior and exterior] sides. . . . A hollow court building is never as good as one with [light entirely from the] outside, and is much more expensive to gain the same amount of usefull space.”48 Unlike most architects, who consulted only with the library trustees who hired them, Cobb held extensive conversations with librarians. As a result, his plans were likely to be more functional than libraries often were, as with the generous north light of the reading room absent the glare of a southern exposure.49 Finally, Cobb’s scheme incorporated the sense of occasion appropriate for a library that was to be Chicago’s first cultural institution housed in a permanent, monumental, single-purpose building. In moving from Washington Square to the semicylindrical reading room, the changes in direction and elevation, the rhythmic constriction and dilation of spaces, and the vertical and horizontal counterpoint of atrium and corridor intensified the impact of the library’s innermost sanctum. Although Poole objected to the “bustle” and “noise” of reading rooms, these features confirmed the public nature of the institution and facilitated potentially fruitful contacts between strangers.50 Poole’s two letters were merely the opening salvos in an all-out war he waged for four more months. He had an architect prepare plans based on his 1881 Washington scheme, presented these to Blatchford as an alternative to Cobb’s, and ensured that the Library Journal republished an article that had already appeared in the Chicago Tribune on 29 December 1889. This lengthy editorial praised the principles of Poole’s scheme, urged the trustees to adopt it, and chastised them for their unnecessary “secrecy” about “a serious problem,” doubtlessly a veiled refer

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ence to the standoff between Cobb and Poole. The campaign produced results. On 13 January 1890 Poole wrote to a colleague that the “plans for the permanent library are coming on well. Mr. Cobb . . . has surrendered, and I am likely to have my ideas carried out.”51 Indeed, nine months later the trustees approved floor plans that incorporated many of the librarian’s ideas and few of the architect’s. In revising the plans Cobb had to be both executioner and victim at his own beheading (fig. 4.5). His revisions reduced the size of his spaces by nearly 50 percent and eliminated entirely the stack, the main reading room, the broad exterior steps, the multistory atrium, and what Poole called Cobb’s “grand stair case.”52 For the avowed functionalist this was just as it should have been: only after the librarian has thoroughly planned the facility, Poole wrote another colleague, is “the architect brought in to give the creature an artistic dress.”53 Poole thus dealt Cobb two of an architect’s hardest blows: rejection of his plans for a building of great civic and cultural import, and confinement to what his contemporaries called “façadism.”54 What remained for Cobb to do after Poole’s scorched-earth campaign concerned only the exterior’s “artistic dress.” A limitation architects took for granted in the design of tall office buildings, façadism for a cultural institution was an obloquy, a forced submission to the judgment of someone who, a philistine in nothing else, was blind to the functional advantages of the stack plan, and tone-deaf to the spatial and symbolic sophistication of libraries as

4.5  Newberry Library, final plans, first and second floors. Henry Ives Cobb, architect, and William Frederick Poole, Librarian. Chicago Sunday Tribune (12 November 1893), 33.

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public institutions. In one of his letters to the trustees Cobb clearly stated what he stood to lose: During the last eighteen months I have traveled over 15,000 miles, visiting almost every library of note in the world, and interviewing the Librarians and Officers in charge of them: taking sketches and notes of all, and of many secured actual plans. I have devoted almost my entire attention for the last year, and several thousand dollars of my own money, in trying to get for you the most advanced ideas on library architecture.55

Although his original plans were too naïve or ambitious, and older men overruled the youthful architect, what Cobb called Poole’s “pet scheme” was a clear example of an idée fixe, its sardonic author impossible to budge. Cobb’s authoritative air and the real knowledge he had accumulated could not stand up to Poole’s take-no-prisoners argumentation, and what may have been Blatchford’s unwillingness to alienate his librarian. If the trustee knew everything that Cobb knew by virtue of their grand tour of European libraries, if he appreciated Cobb’s plans out of his own architectural sophistication, this financially cautious individual may nonetheless have recognized Cobb’s unrealistic assumptions about the library’s size for the present, and calculated that Poole was the only man in Chicago, and one of the few individuals in the nation, who could actually assemble a reference library of regional or national standing.56 Cobb’s gathered injuries were not lesser wounds for being publicly invisible. His plans, the prodigy of a full year’s study, had allowed for the perfectionist caution evident when he wrote the trustees that “I don’t claim novelty or originality—two very dangerous elements in my profession,” but he did claim that he had undertaken “the hardest study,” that he was “working for a reputation” which he would only gain “by excellence and never by experiment.”57 Walled up inside another’s will, Cobb may not have realized that his immurement was in part the product of the inevitably confused transition between premodern libraries predicated on the human scale and the browsing ideal—two of Poole’s unacknowledged points of departure—and emerging institutional needs to store the Niagara of books produced by the proliferation of knowledge, and by the accumulation of rare collections increasingly available if the buyers were cultural entrepreneurs as well funded, discerning, persuasive, and ambitious as Poole.

The Civic Realm and the Neo-Romanesque Still, Cobb managed to shoulder his way out by composing façades for the library that were a notable addition to the rapidly increasing number and quality of Chicago’s neo-Romanesque buildings. Between 1887 and 1890, several commercial structures improved on the first cohort of Romanesque office buildings, advanced

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Chicago’s cultural renaissance, and contextualized Cobb’s distinct approach to the Newberry façade. On Michigan Avenue, Adler & Sullivan’s Auditorium (1889), with its cyclopean arcades and massive blocks of rusticated granite, encased operatic and symphonic performances inside hotel and office space of a size and architectural sophistication that drew international acclaim. Four blocks west, directly across LaSalle Street from the Mallers Tower, Root’s Rookery Building (1888), occupying a full quarter block, was at once his rawest and most refined contribution to the city’s newly rebuilt financial district. The rusticated heft of the Rookery’s piers and arched portal, like those of his Woman’s Temple nearly three years later, expressed the immense weight concentrated in the lowest portions of the wall. These and other features powerfully articulated a key transition in the history of building construction, a brief but highly creative period when modern metal frames carried internal floor loads and traditional masonry walls carried their own weight. Between 1888 and 1890 the arcaded windows of these and other buildings propagated lessons learned from the formidable arcades of Richardson’s Marshall Field Wholesale Store (1887), built for the entrepreneur who had taken over and expanded to its full metropolitan potential Potter Palmer’s dry-goods empire. Here Richardson conferred on the commercial Romanesque a new gravity and chthonic might. But these qualities had nearly as much to do with local factors as they did with the several extralocal sources Richardson consulted. He may have seen, for example, the suggestive arcades in the preliminary design Root worked up for the McCormick Building. But even if he didn’t, he may well have absorbed something of the Loop’s distinct character when he inspected Marshall Field’s site. 58 That is, when Montgomery Schuyler praised the Rookery’s “Roman largeness of . . . plan” he inadvertently identified a condition newly characteristic of Loop properties. In addition to broad streets that provided unobstructed views of entire façades, the much ampler sites for the latest cohort of neo-Romanesque buildings gave greater scope and visual drama to the powerful walls and rhythmic window arcades that had been signature motifs in the first cohort.59 In brick, granite, or brownstone grandeur set off by arcaded windows, the new cohort revealed more fully than Blackall’s walk among the “giants” of the Loop the truly Brobdingnagian scale of Chicago’s commercial enterprise. In the complementary views of two historians, Romanesque sobriety nakedly expressed Chicago’s harddriving entrepreneurial climate, while Romanesque robustness “was emblematic of Chicago bravado” during an expansionist period.60 In other cities, buildings in this idiom did not so directly, vividly, and numerously convey the spirit of a place. Richardson’s incontestable influence on Chicago architects has thus obscured what may well have been Chicago’s influence on Richardson—the impact of the genius loci on Richardson’s individual genius. Elaine Harrington has noted that Burnham “observed that in Chicago the great Boston architect took new departures and did his most successful work.”61 Only on Chicago’s grid, with a site more amply Roman than the Rookery’s, did Richardson most effectively juxtapose 110

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lithic power with reposeful masses, weighty stone with weightless windows, and constructional clarity with arcading as grand and mesmerizing as Roman aqueducts. Sullivan’s famous description of the Marshall Field store—“four-square and brown it stands, a monument to trade, to the organized commercial spirit, to the power and progress of the age”—invoked a Hegelian zeitgeist less than it did Chicago’s own “elemental” character. His adjective precisely characterized the nation’s most intensely commercial downtown. So did an economist’s phrase. Whichever functional and financial needs determined the Field Store’s extraordinary horizontal expanse, or made the twenty-two-story Masonic Temple the tallest skyscraper in the world, exceptional size and Romanesque heft conveyed with uncommon force just how large and systematized the “large-scale interrelated units” of modern entrepreneurial capitalism actually were.62 Cobb’s site, which stretched across the north side of Washington Square, was even ampler than Root’s and Richardson’s. Yet the brute force and economizing features of the Loop’s newest group of Romanesque buildings were hardly suitable for a public research library in a residential district. Cobb’s commission required an institutional restraint and a civic formality not necessary or desirable in a wholesale store or office buildings. Similarly, while the site was among the few in Chicago able to confer an isolated grandeur on an institution, the design ought not be too grand in a neighborhood of homes. Cobb met these imperatives by integrating the Romanesque power of downtown buildings with a Romanesque variation on the restrained façades of Italian Renaissance palaces. While their first floors of rock-faced masonry were laid up in a single plane, Cobb’s was inclined, more emphatically so than any other battered wall in Chicago (fig. 4.6). This feature emphasized wall thickness to a greater degree than the Renaissance model, as did the deeply inset windows. Loadbearing, structurally apart from the internal steel members that were to carry the exceptional weight of hundreds of thousands of books, the first floor possessed that Romanesque mural power “which has for its first object,” Schuyler wrote of the library, “to break in upon the spectator’s apathy.” On the second and third floors Cobb substituted for the Italian palace’s pedimented windows two-story Romanesque surrounds with framing colonnettes, again emphasizing wall thickness in a piano nobile as imposing as the palace model. At the same time, the flat, hard precision of the smooth granite blocks in the upper stories tempered the power of the first-floor wall. Arcaded windows for the fourth floor completed the Romanesque fenestration, while the deeply overhanging cornice was classical. The entrance, however, was not: a trio of concentric receding arches on piers, like those Richardson had used on the City Hall in Albany, New York, echoed the triplet of arches on clustered columns for Cobb’s Union Club across the square (fig. 4.7). Unlike either the Field Store or the Renaissance palace, whose long walls in single planes created a powerful compact unity, the Newberry’s façade was divided into the classical five-part composition of the Leipzig library. The composition at

Cultural Politics and the Newberry Library


4.6  The Newberry Library, north side of Washington Square, 1891. Henry Ives Cobb, architect. View from the southeast. Photo © Patricia Evans. 4.7  Newberry Library entrance. Photo © Patricia Evans.


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once retained an important feature from Cobb’s original plan, addressed Poole’s demand to compartmentalize the collections, tamed the more unbridled expressions of Romanesque power downtown, and better adjusted the library’s scale to the residential neighborhood. If Richardson sought an imposing vigor rather than elegance per se, Cobb tried to marry the two, which is what Schuyler saw in a library that was a “very large, very simple, very massive and dignified building of which the simplicity is enriched by a sparing introduction of few features, all the more effective by their fewness.”63 The enrichment was ornamental. In contrast to the bold masonry work, naturalistic and geometric motifs spread over the shadowed and sunlit surfaces of the entrance arches as so many lively, intricate, and delicate counterpoints in incised and projected relief, in symmetrical and asymmetrical swirls of rolled or flat moldings, in the curving leaves and semi-pendent spheres of the staggered column capitals. For Schuyler each floor of the building was “very effectively detailed” at the same time as all four stories were “especially well adjusted in relation to each other.”64 Yet Schuyler’s judgment of the Newberry as Cobb’s “most extensive and conspicuous work” in “the Richardsonian Romanesque” was a rare example in his essays of an insufficiently nuanced critique, since the library, while certainly extensive, conspicuous, and Romanesque, was not Cobb’s most Richardsonian design. Like the runs of ornament and the five-part façade, the deep, classically serrated cornice checked the power of the first floor’s rock-faced masonry. It helped domesticate what Sullivan admired in the undomesticated Field Store, which he described as “a whelm of energy” and “an elemental urge,” descriptions much less apt for the library.65 Its great height and the three upper stories of precisely squared granite blocks were also antithetical to the earthbound sense conveyed by many of Richardson’s works. In short, the library classicized the Romanesque, as Richardson himself had done in planning Pittsburgh’s Alleghany County Courthouse, his largest, most prominent, and least elemental civic commission. Between March 1891, when he finished the design, and November 1893, when the new building opened, strikes at granite quarries and steel mills slowed construction, but Poole and the trustees accelerated institutional development while lodged in the temporary quarters Cobb designed on North State and Oak Streets, one block from the Ogden site. Poole continued to buy bibliographies, journals, and private collections in music, medicine, early American history, and science. The trustees accommodated day-shift workers by keeping the library open until 10 p.m., increased the number of readers by 60 percent, planned a public lecture series, and helped establish a second reference library endowed by John Crerar, another of Chicago’s early settlers and one of the guests at Blatchford’s house for the meeting that launched the Newberry. Named a trustee for the Crerar Library, Blatchford, perhaps assisted by Poole, played a key role in the decision that, by converting the financial capital of two early settlers into the cultural capital of a new generation, divided the intellectual labor of the two institutions and thus

Cultural Politics and the Newberry Library


4.8  Newberry Library, lobby perspective. Chicago Sunday Tribune (12 November 1893), 33. 4.9  Newberry Library from Washington Square. Courtesy Chicago History Museum, i19099.

further compartmentalized knowledge: the Crerar was to specialize in the social and physical sciences while the Newberry focused on the humanities and fine arts.66 But specialization had its limits. Shortly after it opened, the Newberry Library exposed the inadequacies of Poole’s plan. Patrons often did need to use more than one of his reading rooms; the rooms could not easily take on more books; and each department required at least one attendant. Having initially opposed it, the creator of Poole’s Index also had to surrender his opposition to Melvin Dewey’s decimal system of access to the ongoing expansion of knowledge.67 Although the library’s interior was not the grand, civically eloquent space Cobb originally intended, the architect acquitted himself well. The entrance sequence was ampler and more ceremonial, the compartmentalized lobby vaults were more expansive, and the flared staircase anchored by a life-size statue of Walter Newberry was more prominent than Poole’s penultimate plans had allowed (fig. 4.8). If there was a certain stiffness in the upper portions of the south wall when viewed in its entirety, it probably derived from the librarian’s insistence on unusually high floors. Most important, the library powerfully framed Washington Square, conveying that sense of monumental civic dignity that Poole had largely excised from the interior, and that the Union Club had given early promise the architect could carry out with assurance at an institutional scale (fig. 4.9). Together with Ransom Cable’s residence and more than thirty other neo-Romanesque houses he and Frost had designed in this and the adjacent Lake Shore neighborhood, Cobb’s two institutions fronting this public park added greatly to the North Side’s urbanity and made substantial contributions to Chicago’s maturing metropolitan identity. The institutional and architectural success of the Newberry Library and the commercial success of the Owings Building, which opened shortly after Cobb and Blatchford came back from Europe, were turning points for Cobb. The two commissions confronted him with technical and architectural challenges that seasoned him, enabled him to reduce the residential portion of his practice, inaugurated the most prolific and entrepreneurial phase of his career, and set him on the path to become the architect of choice for the city’s highly ambitious builders of cultural institutions.

Cultural Politics and the Newberry Library


5 Cobb’s Varieties of the Romanesque


n 1877 Isaac Arnold, president of the Chicago Historical Society, echoed William Ogden’s concern about Chicago becoming a money-grubber’s town: “We have boasted long enough of our grain elevators, our railroads, our trade in wheat and

lumber, our business palaces; let us have libraries, galleries of art, scientific museums, noble architecture, and public parks, specimens of landscape gardening, and a local literature; otherwise there is danger that Chicago will become merely a place where ambitious young men will come to make money and achieve a fortune and then go elsewhere to enjoy it.”1 Unknowingly, Arnold spoke on the eve of a renaissance in every one of the

cultural pursuits he named, a creative unfolding that fifteen years later included a set of building commissions whose import, volume, and functional variety propelled Henry Ives Cobb’s sudden ascent as the metropolitan region’s preeminent architect of cultural institutions. In just the three years between 1890 and 1893 he designed the new Historical Society, the University of Chicago, the Chicago Athletic Association, the Columbian Exposition’s Fisheries Building, and the Durand Art Institute in suburban Lake Forest. Architects showed him a commensurate respect. Along with Adler & Sullivan, Cobb’s was one of only two Chicago firms that Burnham, chief of construction for the exposition, commissioned to design major pavilions. For four consecutive years, Adler and Cobb juried the prestigious Robert Clark Competition, an annual drawing contest sponsored by the recently formed Chicago Architectural Sketch Club


(1889), another instance of the professionalization of architects as artists distinct from skilled laborers.2 Cobb’s extraordinary success depended not simply on persuasive skills and design talent. Timing and place were all. Capitalist enterprise, modern technology and organization, Chicago’s biggest building boom yet, the cultural and financial patrimony of the city’s prefire builders, the demand for professionally educated architects, ambitions for metropolitan greatness, and an intensified civic activism produced exceptional opportunities and created institutions with astonishing speed. These factors and an architectural culture at a distance from eastern orthodoxies propagated varieties of the Romanesque as distinct as Richardson’s, Beman’s, Root’s, Sullivan’s, and Cobb’s. Yet perhaps because he designed cultural institutions and they for the most part did not, Cobb varied his Romanesque designs more than each of his colleagues, and more than he himself had previously done. His major work in this idiom—the Newberry Library, the Durand Art Institute, the Fisheries Building, and the Historical Society—stressed the sensual appeal of unusual building materials, and exploited the entire expressive continuum from raw to refined, from fortresslike inwardness to lyrical extroversion, and from archaeological quotation to the creatively Richardsonian. Cobb thus brought to a full institutional fruition Chicago’s previously residential and commercial identification with this form of expression.

The Durand Art Institute and Cobb’s Lake Forest (1886–1895) “Studies of urban culture,” Thomas Bender has observed, tend “to emphasize the center of the metropolis, but . . . the whole of a highly differentiated metropolitan region is important.”3 Cobb’s Chicago career enforces just this perspective. Although it was small, affluent, exclusive, and isolated from the city’s social problems and pollution, Lake Forest, thirty miles north of Chicago, was hardly a complacent suburban community in its first thirty-five years of growth. Innovative town planning, educational ambition, religious conviction, a scaled-down version of Chicago’s civic humanism, and the unique attractions of a bucolic lakeside settlement distinguished it from other suburbs and brought Cobb opportunities other architects did not have. But even as his realization of them marked the high point in Lake Forest’s institutional history, a new generation, unlike other scions of Chicago’s self-made men, substituted status enhancement for the civic and religious commitments of the town’s founders. By the late 1890s Lake Forest relapsed into a more conventional community for the rich. Cobb played instrumental roles on both sides of this shift through his designs for the community’s principal church, his own summer estate, and a half dozen facilities for Lake Forest University, the most creative of which was the Durand Art Institute. Located at the bottom of one of the hills that made this the region’s most 120 Chapter 5

topographically varied and attractive suburb, the First Presbyterian Church (1886–1887) was the commission that introduced Cobb to the lakeside enclave. Since the town’s founding in 1857 the church had been its physical, spiritual, social, and cultural center. Trailing historical associations to Richard and Cotton Mather, to their Calvinist heir Lyman Beecher, to Chicago’s early settlers, and to the abolitionist movement, the church’s founders, in the project that most directly transferred to the Chicago region what William Poole called “New England thought,” made the town an idealized midwestern version of a New England village. The new community was to be a refuge from the dubious moral climate of Chicago in whose business life more than a few congregants were nonetheless leaders.4 The church was one of two centers in the novel town plan (fig. 5.1). The founders named Lake Forest for the body of water and the wooded hills, bluffs,

5.1  Plan for the Town of Lake Forest, 1857. Almerin Hotchkiss, landscape architect. Courtesy Lake Forest College, Archives and Special Collections.

Cobb’s Varieties of the Romanesque


and moraines that lay between the lake and the Chicago & Milwaukee Railroad, the community’s vital link to the city. In 1857 the founders took the recommendation of Olmsted, Vaux and Company, then at work on Manhattan’s Central Park, to hire Almerin Hotchkiss, a landscape architect from St. Louis who in the 1840s had helped architect Richard Upjohn design the second phase of the much praised Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York.5 Hotchkiss subdivided the thirteen hundred acres between the railroad and the lake with streets which, unlike those in Chicago’s flatland grid, followed the curving declivities between the hills that ended in steep bluffs ninety feet above the lake. Hotchkiss pruned, contoured, and enhanced a unique topography in an otherwise uninflected prairie vastness. Like Olmsted’s picturesque landscapes, this scheme—described in one publication as “a town originally laid out as a park”— was one of the nation’s first two organically planned suburbs, and the only one in America that gave pride of place not just to religion but also to education, since Hotchkiss nestled the contiguous plots for the church, an academy, and a university in the center of the plan.6 As with Central Park or Pullman, Hotchkiss’s Lake Forest was another midcentury incursion of modern systems into human settlements. At the scale of hundreds of acres, on a site that only a railroad could tie to the city, a novel union between landscape architecture and town planning rationalized hills, woods, and a lake for financial, social, educational, spiritual, and aesthetic profit. In its hilly and secluded refinement, it exemplified the systematic urban vision every bit as much as the more overtly speculative grid laid over Chicago’s level expanses. At the intersection of Deerpath Road and University Avenue, the town founders sited the First Presbyterian Church. In a measure of the more ambitious community Lake Forest had become by the mid-1880s, Reverend James Gore King McClure raised enough money to replace the carpenter Gothic building erected in 1862 with a much larger church. In 1886, while Cobb was still in practice with Charles Frost, the report of the building committee on its invited architectural competition noted that the estimates of “the several well known [but unidentified] architects exceeded the limit of [the stipulated] cost . . . with the exception of that presented by . . . Cobb & Frost,” and “many of our members” preferred their plans as well.7 There were good historical and architectural reasons to do so. For the first story, Cobb employed a material as distinctive in its own way as the Kasota stone he had used on the Cable House: black-spotted blocks of randomly coursed Niagara limestone salvaged from Chicago’s Second Presbyterian Church (fig. 5.2). Before the 1871 fire, Second Presbyterian housed the most prestigious congregation along the “Church Row” of Washington Street in downtown Chicago, and was the original pastorate of Lake Forest founder Reverend Samuel Patterson. Chicagoans had called it the “Spotted Church” or the “Church of the Holy Zebra” because of the unique stone. The gift of journalist, early settler, and metropolitan parks promoter John S. Wright, the original black-spotted rock derived not from the fire 122

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that destroyed the church’s wooden interior but from the petrified decomposition

5.2  First Presbyterian Church of Lake

of ancient marine life encased in a limestone formation stretching from the quarry

Forest, IL, 1887. 700 North Sheridan Road,

in western Chicago all the way to Niagara Falls. Sold to the Lake Forest congregation by Cobb’s fellow Union Club member R. Hall McCormick, who had stored sanctified blocks of stone linked Chicago’s past to its metropolitan and suburban expansion.8 Over the limestone of the first floor rose walls and an all-encompassing roof covered entirely in shingles. This wholly American form of architecture developed in the early and mid-1880s, and Cobb’s was one of the first adaptations to a church of what had been a purely domestic idiom. Identified with the informal summer life of affluent and socially prominent families in East Coast resorts, and with a conscious rejection of ostentation, the idiom’s shingled and picturesque massing suited a prominent Presbyterian congregation and Lake Forest’s beautiful summers. Cobb’s Varieties of the Romanesque

Taylor, photographer, ca. 1890s. Digital file 2492 © The Art Institute of Chicago.

them on the grounds of his father’s property at Lake Forest after the fire, the twice

1886. Cobb & Frost, architects. J. W.


Like the sense of domestic shelter communicated by the spreading triangular gable on McKim, Mead & White’s shingled summer home for Cyrus Hall McCormick in Richfield Springs, New York, the church’s even more dominant gable conveyed through its breadth, slope, and shingled surfaces a sense of spiritual refuge. The offset bell tower, its spire topped by a Celtic cross, reinforced the association and sounded the requisite picturesque note. The slight seamless swelling of the tower balconies and the arched openings above them accentuated the light wood frame even as the limestone base, stepping halfway up the tower’s northeastern corner, firmly tied the belfry to the earth. Long associated with Anglican churches in England and colonial America, and an ideal triadic form to center the triangular gable, the Palladian window, fashioned by the Chicago firm of McCully & Miles, checked the roofline’s sweeping power. In the left light, among white lilies signifying purity, was the Beatitude, “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). In the right light, twined among roses symbolizing gladness, appeared the words “Precious in the Sight of the Lord is the Death of His Saints” (Psalms 116:15). Inscribed in a circle in the center light, a red art-glass crucifix and the gold coronet that encircled it represented “the Crown of Life secured to the pure in heart that die in the Lord through the Cross of Christ’s passion.”9 When the morning sun penetrated the stained glass, the window’s interior radiance animated professions of faith during services. So did the five pairs of rafters high over the pews. Rising from hammer-beams carved with swept-back angel wings, the rafters kept the entire gabled space free of columns. Rafters, beams, art-glass window, and the visibly steep pitch of the roof thus created inside the sanctuary a wood-frame analogue to the spiritual ambience and aspiration previously associated with the taut verticality of Gothic windows and vaults. Lake Forest’s attractions induced Cobb in 1890 to design a shingled summer home and expansive grounds for his family of six children (fig. 5.3). Well before the lots east of the railroad filled with large estates capitalizing on sunrise views over the lake, Cobb moved south and west of Hotchkiss’s plat to purchase one hundred seventy-five acres that sloped down to the Skokie River, a long prominence from which sunsets and moonlit views over the bottomland’s misty woods were just as fetching. Cobb’s generally unexceptional design for the house did have several noteworthy features. The wraparound veranda framed the down-slope views. In the library, the home’s largest room, Cobb kept much of his growing collection of architectural books, photographs, and prints. Cobb also persuaded Frederick Law Olmsted, at the time the nation’s preeminent landscape architect, to reconfigure some of the grounds on the trips Olmsted made to Chicago to supervise the landscaping of Jackson Park, where the Columbian Exposition opened in the same year Cobb’s family moved into their new house.10 And in the outbuildings Cobb

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kenneled the dogs that he showed with the Mascoutah Kennel Club of Chicago, of

5.3  Cobb residence, Lake Forest, 1890.

which he was president in 1891. In sum, the estate was no less lordly for its relaxed

Henry Ives Cobb, architect. No longer


architecture and informal landscaping, for the circumspect expression of social and professional status on which Boston’s First Families prided themselves. Even the rolling hills of this suburban community recalled those of Brookline, a resemblance that Cobb could not have failed to note. The success of the First Presbyterian Church resulted in six commissions for Cobb on the sparsely built campus of Lake Forest University. Two of them came from the Reverend William C. Roberts, a member of the congregation, a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary, and the university’s third president (1886–1891). Aware of the growing specialization of knowledge, and of the scientific method recently developed in German graduate schools, Roberts, another professional man from the East inspired by midwestern opportunity, had extraordinary ambitions. Undaunted by the prospect that a university was unlikely to flourish in a location well removed from the cultural incubator of a city, Roberts modeled his on research universities in Germany, authorizing graduate programs in philology, a doctorate in philosophy, and a natural science curriculum that included Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species and The Descent of Man, texts often proscribed at sectarian institutions.12

Cobb’s Varieties of the Romanesque


standing. Inland Architect 25 (May 1895): plate. Courtesy Art Institute of Chicago.

Cobb’s first commission from Roberts was for a gymnasium (1889) on the eastern edge of campus, not far from the lake and the estate of the facility’s donor, Charles B. Farwell. One of Lake Forest’s leaders, Farwell was the self-made head of Chicago’s leading warehouse for dry goods, Marshall Field’s first employer, Ulysses S. Grant’s supplier in the western campaigns of the Civil War, Cook County’s first political boss, founder and trustee of the university (1864–1896), Union Club member and North Side resident, builder of Lake Forest’s first country house (1870), U.S. congressman (1871–1876), U.S. senator (1887–1891), and husband of Mary Eveline Smith Farwell, an educational reformer who advocated coeducation at his new university.13 While it is unclear whether Roberts and Farwell wanted the gymnasium to enforce what were then the popular ideals of muscular Christianity, their project certainly addressed recreation needs during formidable lakeside winters. Farwell funded not only a swimming pool in the basement, a rare indoor athletic facility at the time, but also a court for basketball, a sport invented in the same year that the building opened (1891). Another novelty was the running track that circled the main floor on a narrow balcony (fig. 5.4). Cobb’s charming fortress-like design was as exceptional as the facilities themselves (fig. 5.5). In addition to the dormers with their high, narrow gables and the battered stair towers with rifle-slot windows and flared conical roofs, the rock-faced random courses of a ruddy sandstone again showed Cobb’s preference for and sensitive use of striking materials.14

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5.4  Main floor, gymnasium, Lake Forest University, 1889–1891. Henry Ives Cobb, architect. Courtesy Lake Forest College, Archives and Special Collections. 5.5  Gymnasium exterior looking southeast. Courtesy Lake Forest College, Archives and Special Collections.

Together with the church, the gym’s compact tour de force—Loire chateaux meets miniature armory—initiated a new chapter in Lake Forest’s architectural, institutional, and developmental history.15 That history climaxed with the Henry C. Durand Art Institute (1890), Cobb’s second commission from Roberts. Its namesake was another kingpin in Chicago’s wholesale empires, Durand having made his fortune in groceries. As chairman of the building committee for the First Presbyterian Church, Durand had been a donor in McClure’s campaign to fund their new house of worship. When McClure became a university trustee in 1889, Durand, once more the object of the pastor’s solicitations, agreed to give most of the money for the institute. Originally intended to provide the community and the Lake Forest Art Institute with spaces for public lectures, social events, and art exhibits, including ones loaned from Chicago’s own Art Institute, it was soon used by the university for classrooms, studios, and an art and archaeological library.16 Though a long stretch of green lawn separated the two buildings, Cobb acknowledged the First Presbyterian Church’s central role in the community by facing the institute’s entrance toward the church’s eastern façade (fig. 5.6). Because he used the same stone that he had for the gym, and because of the institute’s more advantageous orientation, its sun-struck western wall acquires a stunning red radiance in late summer and autumn afternoons. Irregular flecks of shadow in the rock-faced random courses, radial shadows between the voussoirs of the entrance arch and those of the window arcade above it, and the deeply shadowed void of

Cobb’s Varieties of the Romanesque


the portal mark shifting plays of light and shade on soft sandstone surfaces. More

5.6  Henry C. Durand Art Institute, Lake

intricate shadows spot the low-relief band over the entrance, where intertwined

Forest University, 1890. Henry Ives Cobb,

tendrils and leaves are a filigree enhancement of the donor’s name carved in capital letters in a slightly curved script (fig. 5.7). For the corbels at the angles of the broken pediment Cobb’s owls open their eyes wide and spread their wings as they stand atop palettes and paint brushes to signify the community’s and the univer-

architect. Inland Architect 38 (November 1901): plate. Courtesy Art Institute of Chicago. 5.7  Durand Art Institute, portal detail. Photo © Patricia Evans.

sity’s complementary pursuits of wisdom and art. For a small building the atrium had an unexpected power (figs. 5.8). Cobb monumentalized a relatively tight space by opening it up through two stories. On the east side a central staircase originally split left and right to ascend to a wooden gallery carried on slender superimposed wood columns. The skylight and the varnished sheen on all wood members, including the exposed flooring on the underside of the gallery as well as the principal and common rafters for the coved ceiling, imparted a spatial drama to the atrium, as well as a soft, glowing warmth that matched in wood the ruddy warm hue of the sandstone outside. This was also true of the raftered ceilings for the original auditorium, a two-story space in the north wing, and the large studio on the south end of the second floor. A professor at the university in 1890 later recalled that Cobb was “said to have followed rather closely the design . . . of H. H. Richardson’s . . . Billings

5.8  Durand Art Institute, atrium. Photo ©

Library [1883–1886], at the University of Vermont.” At the request of donor

Patricia Evans.

Cobb’s Varieties of the Romanesque 129

Frederick Billings, who like William Ogden backed the Union Pacific Railroad, Richardson designed the Vermont facility as a variation on his earlier Winn Library at Woburn, Massachusetts.17 But these three works all drew on the plan of a High Victorian Gothic building both Richardson and Cobb knew very well: Ware & Van Brunt’s Memorial Hall at Harvard (1870–1878). Despite Memorial Hall’s very different architectural language, it employed the ecclesiastical plan of nave, apse, and compact transept that both Richardson and Cobb used.18 Cobb placed his auditorium in the “nave,” the stage in the “apse,” the atrium in the “transept,” and a small library and the large studio above it in the squared off extension to the south (fig. 5.6). While Cobb borrowed Richardson’s ruddy sandstone and an arched entrance under an arcade of windows surmounted by a gable, the differences between the buildings were pronounced. Cobb lopped off Richardson’s towers, introduced intricate nature ornament around the portal, fixed stone scuppers onto the angles of the building, buttressed the walls against the steep roof pitches, and replaced Richardson’s single arch embedded in the wall with four concentric arches springing from short, inset columns. Richardson’s was the more monumental building, but Cobb’s compact facility was more sensual. If the institute helped fulfill the community’s and university’s cultural ambitions, two of Cobb’s later residential commissions in Lake Forest accelerated a turn away from the spiritual purposes of its founders, which had been evident, for example, in the university’s motto “Christo et Ecclesiae.” Cobb’s estate just off Green Bay Road prompted one local historian not long after the architect’s family settled there to credit the architect with the “charming discovery” of an area ripe for further development. In 1894 Chicagoan William Henry Smith, the general manager of the Associated Press, asked Cobb to design Lost Rock, a neo-Georgian red-brick estate house adjacent to Cobb’s property. On a contiguous lot the following year David B. Jones, a real estate developer and zinc-mining entrepreneur, commissioned Pembroke Lodge, another neo-Georgian mansion that Cobb worked up in Wisconsin granite. Like two neo-Georgian houses that Cobb had already designed on the South Side, the pair of Lake Forest estates furthered the nascent vogue for classical styles inspired by the fair.19 The increasingly materialist and conservative turn in Lake Forest’s politics and social aspirations was demographically clear. Among its twelve hundred residents were the largest number of millionaires of any small town in the Midwest, many of them the scions of Chicago’s self-made men, the socially and educationally well-groomed sons and daughters of self-taught entrepreneurs like Armour and McCormick. When the Haymarket demonstrators targeted the McCormick Reaper Works in 1886, Charles Farwell and Cyrus Hall McCormick, Jr., who had taken over his father’s seat on Lake Forest University’s board of trustees, not only called on the federal government to defend business interests against those of labor but also helped arrange the transfer of eighteen acres just south of Lake Forest to the 130 Chapter 5

federal government for billeting troops in what became Fort Sheridan (1888–1892), a formidable barricade of military buildings that reinforced Lake Forest’s socioeconomic exclusivity.20 The institutional climax of status aspirations in Lake Forest was the Onwentsia Club. Cobb’s central role in its founding in 1895, like his initiation of the Chicago Athletic Association in 1890, confirmed his standing as an entrepreneur as well as an architect of elite men’s organizations. A Native American word meaning “country,” Onwentsia was an apt name for a club dedicated to the very recent fashion for golf. Perhaps inspired by Farwell, who had a seven-hole course laid out on his estate in 1892, and by Cyrus McCormick’s brother Leander, who started a small golf club three years later, Cobb sold his estate to a group dominated by Lake Forest’s new generation.21 Perched on a ridge, Cobb’s rambling home of twenty-four rooms, seven bathrooms, and a long western verandah overlooking future fields of sport was a readymade clubhouse (fig. 5.9). Its shingled surfaces resembled those of Shinnecock Hills, a more elegant facility on Long Island designed by McKim, Mead & White in 1891 for the nation’s first high-style country club. The Onwentsia grounds, however, were unique. Manicured in the Olmsted fashion with what the Tribune described as “beautiful winding drives, walks, and other park attractions,” they were a golf course in waiting. Not content to import a Scottish game, the

Cobb’s Varieties of the Romanesque

5.9  Onwentsia Club, Lake Forest, 1895. Henry Ives Cobb, architect. Courtesy Lake Forest College, Archives and Special Collections.


club’s Anglophile founders laid on all of Britain’s aristocratic sporting life: lawn tennis, fox hunting, and polo played on a field close by the lake; steeple-chasing was also under consideration. As if to prepare for such competitions, Cobb, a breeder of horses as well as dogs, had already built “large and commodious stables,” twenty-six open ones and twenty-four boxed stalls. In their possession of “buildings and grounds . . . said to be so nearly perfection,” and in their ambition “to outclass all Eastern clubs,” the founders showed no sign of booster envy or insecurity. Since they included Owen Aldis, Franklin MacVeagh, the Farwell brothers, and Cobb himself, the project suggested a bucolic fair-weather retreat for the Union Club. Socialite Hobart Chatfield-Taylor also played a leading role, and his and Bertha Palmer’s memberships added to the club’s exclusive appeal.22 The Onwentsia and Shinnecock clubs thus concluded a decade-long transformation in the meaning of the Shingle Style. Relying on flexible principles rather than a rigorous or exclusive theory like Beaux-Arts neoclassicism, this American idiom grew from pluralistic historical roots, from common or vernacular prototypes built with ordinary materials at an unpretentious scale in direct response to an often hostile nature.23 The shift from a domestic to an institutional idiom, from an upper-middle-class clientele to a very wealthy one, confirmed Lake Forest’s own transformation from exurban land reconfigured as an idealized New England village to the most exclusive of Chicago’s modern suburbs; from the spiritual and educational aims imprinted on Hotchkiss’s plat to the increasing use of large properties to emphasize status, a movement accelerated by Cobb’s purchase and sale of his own estate; from a Calvinist work ethic and the inward-looking domestic life of Victorians to social display and recreation; and from a town dominated by educated easterners and ministers who tempered their wealth and New England backgrounds with a sense of Presbyterian social mission to a leisure class dominated by descendants of Chicago’s self-made men.

The Fisheries Building (1891–1893) Downtown, however, the city’s self-makers were anything but complacent. To celebrate the four-hundredth anniversary of the voyages of Christopher Columbus, they waged a campaign in 1889 to wrest from New York, Boston, and other cities the right to hold the 1893 Columbian Exposition. Among the backers, the most prominent of several of Cobb’s former clients and fellow Union Club members were Potter Palmer, Bertha Palmer, and Lyman Gage. Cobb’s uncle, John Candler, helped insure their success. As Boston’s congressman for the Ninth District and House chairman of the world’s fair committee, Candler played a central role in passing the act that authorized the event that the Chicago men and women hoped would put their city on the nation’s cultural map.24 Cobb’s appointment in early January 1891 to the board of architects for the fair confirmed his status as a peer of more experienced Chicago firms like Adler & 132

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Sullivan, who had been practicing twice as long as he had. It confirmed as well the dominance of architects with formal training and regional or national reputations over strictly local practitioners like John Van Osdel. Although his standing was subordinate to that of eastern architects like Richard Morris Hunt and McKim, Mead & White, Cobb’s Fisheries Building and his Street in Cairo became two of the most popular attractions in one of the more remarkable public events in American history. As the occasion for world congresses on religion, history, and other subjects that a rapidly changing modern world profoundly affected, and as an encyclopedic display of the world’s scientific, technological, artistic, and architectural achievements, the fair electrified the nation and climaxed two generations of Chicago’s entrepreneurial initiatives and civic humanism (fig. 5.10). But rather than the congresses and exhibits, it was the design of the Court of Honor and four exposition halls that vaulted Chicago into the cultural empyrean: Adler & Sullivan’s Transportation Building, Charles Atwood’s Palace of Fine Arts, Sophia Hayden’s Women’s Building, and Cobb’s Fisheries Building. The charged responses to these buildings, which ranged from helpless exclamations about the fair’s architectural sublimity and its auguries of a transformed America to controversies over women’s roles in a modernizing America, only deepened the pleasure fairgoers took in the architecture and the exhibits of the fisheries complex. The unities of color, cornice height, and neoclassical style at the colossal scale of the five white halls framing the Court of Honor caused nearly everyone to rhapsodize about the “fairyland” or the “dream city,” to exclaim that the court was “a foretaste of heaven,” or heralded the coming of an American “Arcadia.” Nearby, Louis Sullivan’s Golden Door, the main entrance to the Transportation Building, was so stunning a polychromatic abstraction of Romanesque concentric arches, larger in scale by far than any Romanesque portal, that France’s Société des Arts Decoratif awarded Sullivan a medal. And many architects and fairgoers were as struck with Atwood’s Palace of Fine Arts as George Warrington Stevens, who wrote that it was “surely as divinely proportioned an edifice as ever filled and satisfied the eye of man.”25 Bertha Palmer, among the very few Americans collecting modern art, lent the palace Impressionist paintings she bought in the early nineties and housed in her mansion’s picture gallery, which she also opened for visits during the fair. As the president of the exposition’s Board of Lady Managers, Palmer made the Women’s Building possible. It exhibited thousands of artworks, handicrafts, and other products of women’s industry from around the world, including a controversial mural by Mary Cassatt, some of whose paintings were in Palmer’s collection. But the Women’s Building was much more than the fair’s second center of art. Since in no previous international exposition had there been such a facility, let alone one designed by a woman chosen through a competition with other women in a profession in which there were no more than a handful of females, it elicited unusually emphatic responses from fairgoers, whether they judged its artwork and architec

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ture favorably or not, whether they approved or criticized the isolation of women’s achievements from those of men.26 Palmer was a fearless advocate. Addressing the thousands assembled under opening, she reminded her audience that nothing less than an act of Congress had put women on the fair boards of every state and territory, and of many foreign nations. “Even more important than the discovery of Columbus,” she declared at a time when Columbus’s reputation was at an all-time American high, and in an era that required more circumspect speech from females, “is the fact that the . . . government has just discovered woman.”27 At the dedication of the Women’s Building she was no less forthright about women’s perennial subjugation, if less than fully aware of African American and Native American immiseration: “Of all existing forms of injustice, there is none so cruel and inconsistent as . . . the calm ignoring of [women’s] rights and responsibilities, which has gone on for centuries.” At the Congress of Women she organized, the disproportionate number of Chicagoans— poet Harriet Monroe, settlement house leader Jane Addams, temperance advocate Frances Willard, suffragist Susan B. Anthony, muckraker Ida B. Wells, and Palmer herself—testified to women’s and the city’s central roles in seeding a variety of reform movements in Chicago and the nation.28 In such charged contexts, the apolitical appeals of Cobb’s Fisheries Building were that much greater. Free of the court’s sublimity, the colored brilliance of Sullivan’s Golden Door, the daunting galleries in the sprawling Palace of Fine Arts, the controversies ignited by the Women’s Building, and the didactic overreaching in acres of exhibits under sweeping vaults, the architecture and captivating displays in the fisheries complex made it the fair’s most popular destination. Despite the white color, arcading, and axial alignment that it shared with the court buildings, the complex was a fairyland of a much different sort (fig. 5.11). Approached by gondola from the lagoon and framed by water, sky, trees, and shrubs, the three pavilions of different heights melded their individual symmetries into a picturesque, asymmetrical silhouette of towers, belvederes, and sprightly flags that counterpointed the imposing neoclassical formality of the fair’s center-stage buildings. Architect Henry Van Brunt noted that Cobb’s separate pavilions for fish, for the fishing industry, and for angling equipment rather than one huge hall better adjusted the complex “to the shape and limited area of the irregular stretch of shore” that the pavilions occupied, and were thus “in more natural relations with their environment.” The landscaping irregularities were the product of conscious design. Like the deceptive naturalism of Hotchkiss’s Lake Forest, they were a calculated part of Olmsted’s and Chicago’s systematic urban vision: Jackson Park was one of the five bucolic landscapes in the metropolitan system of parks first conceived by John S. Wright in 1848, adopted by the municipal government in 1868 to meet the recreational needs of Chicagoans on the city’s North, West, and South Sides, and used as a model for park systems in other cities.

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5.10  Columbian Exposition, 1893. Plan of the fairgrounds. Shepp’s World’s Fair

the immense steel arches in the vast Manufacturers Building at the fair’s official


Photographed, 17.

Although they were typological opposites, the Court of Honor and the fisheries complex had one principle and one effect in common: that rationalized land and buildings produced romance results. Because Cobb’s site plan capitalized on “natural relations,” or what appeared to be nature in the raw, and because his were the only major fair buildings not modeled on “the conventional idea of the palace or the office of state,” the complex and its setting inspired thoughts, Van Brunt wrote, “of a ‘stately pleasure house,’ decreed by some Kubla Khan of oriental romance.”29 Cobb’s ephemeral White City Romanesque was markedly different from the ruddy permanence of the Durand Art Institute, and not just in color, material, and longevity. While the institute’s plan was that of a secularized parish church, Cobb amplified his picturesque setting at the fair by employing the armature of an entire Romanesque monastery: cloister arcade, polygonal chapter house, cathedral nave, bell and crossing towers, variegated roofs, and ornamental vivacity. The result was the spatial logic, serene proportions, and stepped massing that underlay Van Brunt’s “oriental romance.” To discipline in space the great range and number of exhibits for the fishing industry in the central building, a twenty-foot-square module governed, as if to replicate the square schematism of the original Romanesque: 136

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5.11  Fisheries Building, 1891. Henry Ives Cobb, architect. View from the lagoon. No longer standing. Shepp’s World’s Fair Photographed, 287.

5.12  Fisheries Building, south elevation and plans of ground floor and gallery. Inland Architect 17 (May 1891): plate. Courtesy Chicago History Museum, i59835.

the hall’s width was four modules, the length fourteen, and exhibit spaces generally occupied two (fig. 5.12). Maximizing natural light in all three pavilions resulted in a clear hierarchy of ascending forms: arcades, arcaded clerestories, and pitched, hipped, and conical roofs. The central pavilion’s exhibits on the science and commerce of fishing in rivers, lakes, and oceans emphasized the quest, capture, and harvesting of all usable and edible waterborne creatures and plants, “a crop,” The Book of the Fair intoned, “that is neither sown nor tended.” Joined to the central hall by a curving arcade, the western Angling Pavilion displayed centuries of refinement in rods, reels, flies,

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tackle, and angler’s outfits. The eastern aquarium, also served by a curved arcade, exhibited a nearly unprecedented diversity of waterborne life.30 It was this pavilion, and the stuccoed creatures that adorned the porches and the two arcades of the complex, that most delighted visitors (fig. 5.13). Balusters of sculpted fish interlaced their tails. Columns sported lizards, eels, starfish, tortoises, sea horses, and other saltwater life in vertical or spiral arrangements. Moldings, brackets, and capitals teemed with crabs, lobsters, water snakes, shells, octopi, and species of algae. Frogs had a starring role: they croaked and tongued the air, clung to walls with aplomb, and danced hand in hand over one of the doors.31

5.13  Fisheries Building, arcade columns and balusters. American Architect and Building News 39 (11 February 1893), plate.


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The figures exercised a recuperative charm. As Montgomery Schuyler put it, “After the holiday makers had exhausted all the sensations that they were capable of receiving from the Court of Honor and the Art Palace, they found their sated interest renewed and . . . quickened in a study of the detail of the Fisheries Building,” in figures that represented “the most elaborate and the most successful application ever made of marine motives in architectural decoration.” For Van Brunt, these forms emphasized rather than obscured the structural role of the architectural members on, over, or under which Cobb placed them. He added that since the Romanesque of southern France and northern Spain was “distinguished by a semibarbaric humor expressed in grotesque and caricature,” the sculpture was not only in “harmony with the spirit of the style, but serves to make it joyous and festive without a loss of dignity, grace, and fitness.”32 This was to say nothing of the aquarium that the sculpted figures introduced. Centering the rotunda was a fountain tiered in mossy rocks and stalactites. From crevices rose jets of water that descended in spray to the basin below, where goldfish and other brightly colored species mingled with aquatic plants. Radial walkways led to two concentric rings of aquaria surrounding the rotunda. Since Cobb glazed those portions of the roof directly over the fish tanks, and since water filled them to several feet above the spectator’s head, the top lighting mimicked the sun’s penetration of lake or ocean, and amply illuminated the fish and their grottoes (fig. 5.14). At the same time, Van Brunt noted, “the only light” to reach the

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5.14  Fisheries Building, aquarium aisle. Harper’s Weekly 37 (9 September 1893): 861.

vaulted aisle passed through “the glazed walls of the tanks, and the visitor, in making the circuit of the building,” seemed “to be walking dry beneath the water, with all the secrets of the deep betrayed to him on each hand.”33 The grottoes themselves were meticulous simulations of fish habitats that included miniature mountains, coral reefs, tufa caves, and even aquatic plants in native beds retrieved by ocean divers. Tank dimensions ranged from six to seventy feet in length and twelve feet in depth, and in capacity from seven thousand to twenty-seven thousand gallons of water. About fifteen salt and thirty-five freshwater aquaria displayed the largest collection of specimens in the world west of England’s Brighton Aquarium. Tongued cod, spotted croaker, pompano, tautog, sheeps-head, toad fish, sea robins, sharks, skate, porgies, mummichogs, terrapins, and whelks were among the more exotic species, some of which had never been successfully kept in an aquarium. “To young and old,” The Book of the Fair averred, the pavilion “has proved a delight, and is studied by thousands who have never been within sight of ocean, and to whom the stories of the great deep are as the marvels of tradition.” Joseph and Caroline Kirkland wrote that the aquarium was “always thronged, and no wonder. Here was life in strangest forms, motion in most unending activity.” Whether “grotesque” or “graceful,” the creatures displayed “tints, hues, and lustres” as though they were “the orchids of the deep—the lights of sunset and the shades of moonrise.”34 Popular and professional observers showered Cobb with praise. The Kirklands saluted his “genius,” which had “softened the outlines, twisted the galleries, rounded the annexes and turrets, multiplied the arches and, to finish all, added an exterior decoration of . . . fishy forms, half buried in the masses of the structure and half writhing and wriggling out of them.” Schuyler hailed the recasting of originally blunter medieval forms: the “refined and delicate beauty” of the Fisheries Building constituted “an elegant Romanesque.”35 Foreign observers were enthralled, too. La Construction moderne, a leading French architectural journal, remarked on the complex’s “masterly and most original treatment,” one that “we think . . . attracted the attention of Europeans more than any other structure in that splendid . . . exhibition.”36 Cobb’s cruciform and radial plans translated the stony severity of the monumental Romanesque into the smooth white walls of more humanly scaled pavilions. Unlike many contemporary buildings, the complex’s exterior silhouettes telegraphed interior volumes of space, and the square module and lucid geometries harmonized proportions. With its live exhibits and sculpted charms, the Fisheries Building, on fairgrounds otherwise saturated with objects and architecture that never ceased to portend or instruct, was one of Cobb’s best designs, a temporary construction of lathe, plaster, and steel that equaled in quality the finest of his permanent stone buildings. The three pavilions and the fair as a whole would not have been possible without a prodigious division of labor. Cobb’s role in it was larger than that of all but two other architects. For the aquarium’s technical complexities Cobb had to 140 Chapter 5

consult with Captain Joseph W. Collins, chief of the fish and fisheries department at the fair.37 While he required assistance to create the diverse “fishy forms” of the arcades and columns, all assistants worked under what Van Brunt called Cobb’s “immediate direction.” One architect later noted that Louis Christian Mullgardt, perhaps the best designer Cobb ever hired, “did the detailing.”38 This imprecise phrase might have meant that Mullgardt, a talented ornamentalist, originated designs under Cobb’s supervision, or fleshed out suggestive but incomplete forms in the few or many sketches Cobb himself may have provided, or that Mullgardt followed both courses of action. But however Cobb divided the labor, sculptor Joseph Richter had to convert the two-dimensional drawings by Cobb and/or Mullgardt into the three-dimensional stuccoed forms, comprising, Van Brunt noted, as many as “eighty [distinct] models of capitals, corbels, and shaft ornaments.” Though Cobb’s part in the fair’s divided labor also included the design of five other pavilions, his were only six of the several hundred halls serving sixty thousand exhibitors on roughly seven hundred acres of originally swampy land. A project of immense scope and scale, the fair testified to the modern organization necessary to produce both the Court of Honor’s “fairyland” sublimity and the many charms of the fisheries complex, the kind of novel organization that French journalist and novelist Paul Bourget saw at work in Chicago’s stockyards, factories, office buildings, and the fair itself. In them he observed the same “constant, minute, ever-watchful adoption of new means,” the same “enormous range of invention,” the same “colossal effort of the imagination [served by] a clear and carefully estimated understanding of the encompassing reality.”39 This was as good a definition of entrepreneurial and organizational creativity as the nineteenth century was likely to furnish, and it defined the characteristic energies of Ogden, McCormick, Palmer, Studebaker, Pullman, and other systematizers across two generations of the city’s development. While the fair included exhibits from the industries built by each of these men, the “colossal effort of the imagination” embodied in the exposition was Daniel Burnham’s. In his greatly expanded version of George Fuller’s single-contract system, Burnham assigned the design of exhibit halls to individual architects, supervised site selection, oversaw site planning, critiqued designs, worked out construction schedules, ordered materials, received and stored shipments, and commanded the legions of sculptors, painters, architects, draftsmen, subcontractors, and building crews. In their testimonial to him, the fair’s architects agreed that his choice of “designers and artists,” his “rare knowledge of men and their capabilities,” his “breadth of mind to blend their creations into a harmonious whole,” and his “energy and force to carry the work to an end so glorious and successful” were exceptional.40 These were precisely the entrepreneurial talents that Henry Strong had extolled in William Ogden and that Bourget witnessed in contemporary Chicago enterprise. Like the planning behind the Court of Honor, the very newness, efficiency, and systematic reach of these projects induced in more than a few observers an experience of the organizational sublime.

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Burnham’s determined grasp of how to realize a project of daunting complexity in a period of time so compressed that many people initially thought it was impossible appeared in a daily cascade of letters, including several to Cobb. In February 1891, addressing “My dear Henry,” Burnham, in just one of myriad examples of his “constant, minute ever-watchful adoption of new means,” urged Cobb to move his pavilions back from the water to preserve views of another building along the canal and the vista “from the Women’s Building towards the lake. . . . These little refinements will be most telling things, and in them more than in any other will perfection come or fail.” But he solicited advice, too: “Am working around the great open [the lagoon?], trying to improve every part. Come over if you can, and help me scheme on this line.”41 Divided labor, however, required schedules that Cobb’s office did not always observe. In the summer, work on the “fishy forms” fell behind, almost certainly due to the multiple major commissions the office had underway, including at least two skyscrapers, a competition design for Milwaukee’s new city hall, and several dormitories, classroom facilities, and the campus plan for the new University of Chicago. Hence, in early August, Burnham wrote Cobb that Joseph Richter “notifies us . . . he is unable to progress with his work, owing to his not being able to get more drawings.” He then ordered Cobb to furnish them “at once, and unless you can furnish him with same by 1 o’clock, Monday, we shall be compelled to make them ourselves.” Burnham had to threaten Cobb again two weeks later, after “repeated calls from Mr. Richter.”42 But by early September, Cobb’s office had evidently made good: he was again “My dear Harry” when Burnham offered advice on a different set of sculptures.


If Burnham was the fair’s deus ex machina, Cobb, even when tardy, was not far behind him in executive abilities. He was expanding his office into one of the two or three largest firms in the country and handling a functional variety of major commissions that no other Chicago firm had in hand. Only one architect designed more buildings for the fair than Cobb’s half dozen. The six would have been seven had he not lost the competition for the Massachusetts Building to his former employer Peabody & Stearns. The number and variety of Cobb’s pavilions spoke to Burnham’s managerial as well as his architectural respect for Cobb, to Cobb’s codified knowledge of architecture within and outside the West, and, delays notwithstanding, to his firm’s ability to get the fair work, and all the work outside the fair, done on time and within budgets. Even Cobb’s single-minded focus on the picturesque, the one aesthetic principle that underlay the formally varied pavilions and Cobb’s other work at the time, contributed to the firm’s efficiency. 142 Chapter 5

5.15  Indiana Pavilion, 1893. Henry Ives Cobb, architect. No longer standing. Shepp’s World’s Fair Photographed, 381. 5.16  Entry, Milwaukee City Hall Competition, 1891. Henry Ives Cobb, architect. Inland Architect 20 (November 1892): plate. Courtesy Art Institute of Chicago.

Three of his other fair commissions were particularly instructive. Cobb may have been able to design the Indiana Building through the intervention of former client Clement Studebaker (fig. 5.15).44 The pavilion plied the Gothic forms—towers, steep roofs, pinnacles, ogee arches, and stone-mullion windows—that his firm was simultaneously employing on two mansions, the university buildings, and the firm’s elegant but second-place entry in the national competition for Milwaukee’s City Hall (fig. 5.16). Despite minor criticisms, Schuyler judged the pavilion, outside and in, to be “one of the most extensive . . . and one of the most interesting” of the state buildings.45

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In contrast to such freely synthesized Gothic elements, the India Pavilion was archaeologically exact, complete with the cusped arches and towering entrance frame of Mughal forts, tombs, and palaces in the imperial cities of Agra and Delhi (fig. 5.17). The richly appointed interior extended this exactitude with detailed models of Hindu and Muslim monuments like the Taj Mahal. According to several guidebooks, the Street in Cairo, which evoked the “most picturesque city in the world,” was “the greatest attraction” on the Midway Plaisance, the boulevard that joined Washington and Jackson Parks.46 It was not, Schuyler emphasized, “a reproduction of the Mahometan architecture of Egypt,” but “a very successful example of scene-setting on a large scale.”47 The scene was a staggered streetscape of shops, flats, a merchant’s house, and imported Cairene shutters and filigreed wood panels for the balconies that projected into the forced perspective of a narrow street that debouched into a small square (fig. 5.18). Cobb’s scenographic Cairo and the India Pavilion more directly evoked Van Brunt’s “Oriental romance” than the Fisheries Building. Fair publications abounded in such references, romanticizing, in often invidious ways, Near Eastern and South Asian cultures touted for their sensual exoticism. Van Brunt alluded to “hidden luxuries” and “Kubla Khan’s pleasure house,” a guidebook spoke of a “peace 144 Chapter 5

5.17  India Pavilion, 1893. Henry Ives Cobb, architect. No longer standing. Courtesy Chicago History Museum i59834.

5.18  Street in Cairo, Midway Plaisance, 1893. Henry Ives Cobb, architect. No longer standing. Shepp’s World’s Fair Photographed, 507.

and lethargy . . . distinctly Oriental,” and another said of a replicated Damascus palace that “everything bespoke thought for the comfort of the body, if starvation for the mind.”48 The fair’s pageant of historical progress, the modern technology in awe-inspiring evidence in the main exposition halls, and the prodigal results of a “colossal effort of the imagination” served by “a clear and carefully estimated understanding of the encompassing reality” reinforced the alluring but “heathen,” “pagan,” and “backward” Orientalized stereotypes that for most Americans made theirs the superior culture.

The Chicago Historical Society (1886–1893) In 1892, after he completed work on the fair, Cobb drew up plans to house the Chicago Historical Society within his most original Romanesque building. The design

Cobb’s Varieties of the Romanesque 145

was a fortress-like summa of what Cobb had learned in this idiom, expressed the insular nature of a nonetheless invaluable institution, and gave it an architectural identity that for the first time in the institution’s history was wholly in keeping with the identity and culturally metropolitan character of Chicago. The new building marked how far the society had come since the temporary facilities first arranged by Reverend William Barry, a New Englander who did not move to Chicago until he retired to pursue philanthropic interests and found this organization in 1856. His was an unusually ambitious instance of frontier civic humanism. Recognizing Chicago’s position as the dominant city north of St. Louis, Barry envisioned a repository for historical materials about the city’s development and that of the entire Northwest Territory. A graduate of Brown University and a Unitarian minister, Barry enlisted the support of four early settlers who had worked together on railroad and civic promotions: Walter Newberry was a charter member, William Ogden and J. Young Scammon served as vice presidents, and William Hubbard Brown, a well-known abolitionist, was its first president.49 Between its founding and the fire, the society assembled materials commensurate with Barry’s ambition: some 20,000 volumes, 1,738 files of early newspapers, 4,689 manuscripts and political broadsides, and a few objects of immeasurable value like the original draft of the Emancipation Proclamation. In 1868 the society moved into new quarters at the northwest corner of Dearborn and Ontario Streets. The 1871 fire, however, destroyed the building and its collections, many of them already rare when the society acquired them. Irreplaceable materials included the broadsides and documents filed under such categories as “Aboriginal History and Monuments,” “Missions and Settlements,” and “Newspaper, Periodical and General Literature.”50 After a slow recovery, the society erected a small, one-story brick structure on the Dearborn site in 1877. Between 1886 and 1892, members raised funds for a larger facility, and obtained bequests from Historical Society stalwart John Crerar ($25,000), and Philadelphia banker and lawyer Henry D. Gilpin ($50,000). Gilpin’s investments in Chicago and his interest in the city’s past led him to fund the society’s library, making him the second nonresident compelled enough by Chicago’s history to aid its recovery.51 Privately funded, the Historical Society acted on its own view of the public interest. Thus, the Victorian notions of cultural stewardship held by Ogden, Arnold, and their successors precluded the open access that the Art Institute, the Auditorium, and the Newberry Library provided. In historian Byron York’s summary, these self-appointed custodians of culture assumed that only a select membership could collect, maintain, and disseminate knowledge about the city’s history, that the very presence in Chicago of a historical society “would steadily, if indirectly, elevate the population as a whole,” and that by means of “cultural percolation” the refinement entailed in this kind of civic humanism would somehow “seep down to the lowest ranks.” Such naïve assumptions, which accounted for the society’s

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high dues, black-ball admissions policy, and public access during only a few hours a week or through written permission from a member to study the more valuable holdings, nonetheless produced an organization whose discussion topics were wide-ranging (e.g., the Jewish community in Chicago or the languages of Indians), whose collections acquired inestimable value, and whose officers began to address public criticism of its exclusivity in the years Cobb worked on the new building.52 In March 1888, the society’s building committee invited Cobb, Jenney, Lyman Silsbee, and Francis Whitehouse to submit designs. But inadequate funds delayed action until late in 1891, when the society “resolved that none of [the plans] be accepted.” Without explanation, the committee then authorized Jenney to draw up “a preliminary plan” at his own expense and on “the express understanding that it does not commit the Society in the matter of choice of an architect for its new building.” But a year later, in October 1892, when the necessary funds were in hand, contracts were let “for the completion of the society’s new building substantially in accordance with the plans prepared by Henry Ives Cobb.”53 The society’s minutes are silent on the reasons for these decisions, but Union Club members like Gage, Kerfoot, Palmer, Porter, McCagg, and Farwell also belonged to the society. So did Eliphalet Blatchford, Charles Hutchinson, and Marshall Field, all of whom were working with Cobb either on the Newberry Library, the university, or the Chicago Athletic Association. Any or all of them might have spoken on Cobb’s behalf. But however he finally got the commission, two other decisions had a major impact on the design and the institutional identity it conveyed. In April 1893 the society, mindful of its catastrophic losses in 1871, resolved to make the new building “absolutely fireproof.”54 The same concern may have led to the change in building materials from the brick and terra cotta specified for Jenney’s “preliminary plan” to Cobb’s granite. Unlike the Durand Institute or the Fisheries Building, the Historical Society excluded ecclesiastical plans, bold colors, and archaeological motifs. Its asymmetries were more pronounced and dynamic on a building of greater monumentality and heft. Walled in big blocks of rock-faced rose-gray Wisconsin granite, the four-story building dominated its immediate neighborhood (fig. 5.19). The broadhipped roof, low chimney, and horizontal runs of windows set deeply within thick walls reinforced the sense of an earthbound edifice of unusual structural clarity. The walls dramatized how blocks of granite bear weight and bridge voids. Even without much to support, the elongated slab spanning the two balcony columns on the second floor seems to try the tensile strength of stone. Carrying a great deal of weight, the long, low arc of oversized voussoirs above the entrance appears to test the arch’s capacity to resist collapse. In the best Richardsonian manner, the building’s major features fold compactly into one another. The entrance arch springs almost seamlessly from its anchorage in the façade’s only vertical elements, the two towers and conical roofs framing the entrance. The arch binds the towers to one another, the towers tightly engage the wall as half cylinders, and the roof cones smoothly fold into the gable

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above. Set off by the delicate incised triangles on the tower friezes, this compressed

5.19  Chicago Historical Society, north-

composition is a much more powerful and chthonic version of the segmental arch

west corner of Dearborn and Ontario

and towers Cobb and his former partner Charles Frost had employed on earlier and smaller buildings.55 Unlike the rows of windows isolated from one another on the different floors of the Newberry Library, the society’s fenestration ties the building’s four stories into a larger whole. The small arched openings over the second-floor windows counterpoint both the flat ones over the first-story sashes and the nine lights in the gable. All are elegant turns on the stone-mullion window so much favored by Cobb throughout the 1880s. Between the raised basement and the first floor, immense horizontal blocks of stone are at once lintels for the windows below, sills for those above, and a horizontal datum that wraps around and unifies the entire building, as do the windows on the building’s south side, which continue the patterns on the Dearborn frontage (fig. 5.20). In this rockbound archive of local and regional history, the appeals made by Ogden and Arnold for a distinct local culture received an especially apt response. The society’s lithic unity, arched entrance, and formidable walls forcefully ex148 Chapter 5

Streets, Dearborn Street Façade, 1891–1893. Henry Ives Cobb, architect. Photo © Patricia Evans.

5.20  Chicago Historical Society, Ontario Street Façade. Photo © Patricia Evans.

pressed the elemental energy of the nation’s fastest-growing city. That it belonged among the buildings most characteristic of Chicago’s neo-Romanesque was evident in the reactions of visitors thunderstruck by the Loop’s many examples. Like Clarence Blackall’s response to LaSalle Street’s “giants,” Paul Bourget’s reaction to the Loop owed more to the primal power of neo-Romanesque work than the inevitable citations of his justly famous hymn to its tall office buildings have acknowledged. “Their portals, usually arched as if crushed beneath the weight of the mountains which they support, look like dens of a primitive race” (emphasis

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added). His characterization of the Auditorium, “a cyclopean structure which connects a colossal hotel with a colossal theater,” likewise sought to capture in words the visual and emotional wallop of neo-Romanesque titans like the Field Store, the Rookery, and the Masonic and Woman’s Temples.56 Although not nearly as tall or large, Cobb’s Historical Society hardly lacked a primeval punch, and its entrance arch was by any measure Bourget’s portal to a cyclopean den. As a kind of North Side fastness, the insular building inadvertently expressed the institution’s restricted public access, which loosened only in the decade after it opened. Mural insularity did, though, directly reflect the structurally transitional arrangements of the neo-Romanesque, and the need to protect archives once destroyed by fire. Stone blocks dressed by individual masons bore their own weight in the exterior walls, while modern, mechanically rolled steel beams carried the floor loads within. The mix of metal and masonry evocatively linked the city’s two periods of growth as well. The stones for the large memorial fireplace in the Crerar Lecture Room came from the Illinois Central Depot and John Van Osdel’s County Courthouse, both destroyed in the great fire, and from the Nixon Building, the only structure in the business district that the conflagration did not consume, but which was replaced in 1893 by a larger building. Steel beams and the exceptionally thick blocks of granite resisted very high temperatures in fires, even as the Wisconsin stone, in use before 1871, and iron ore from the upper Great Lakes, in increasing demand as architects learned how to frame buildings in steel from 1884 onward, expanded Chicago’s resource hinterland. Further, Cobb encased the beams in terra cotta, an age-old material refashioned after the city’s destruction as another way to fireproof its buildings. Finally, the architect shut the Gilpin Library off from the society’s other rooms with sliding iron doors, and placed the library’s books in iron cases with movable stone shelves.57 The tall twinned windows on the library’s south façade, a Romanesque motif that Cobb had employed on the second floor of the Newberry Library’s projecting bays, announced on the exterior the two-story space within (fig. 5.21). With the Newberry, Crerar, and Chicago Public Libraries in planning or construction, the Gilpin Library further expanded Chicago’s range of institutionalized cultural resources. A grander room than any Poole allowed at the Newberry, it made visible the scale and scope of the collections, and the aggregated public value of the cultural pioneering previously evident only in the private libraries of Ogden, Scammon, McCagg, Arnold, and Blatchford. Together with archival space on the third floor, and along with lecture, exhibit, and workshop rooms elsewhere, the library’s southern light, vaulted space, and galleried walls ennobled maps, letters, manuscripts, newspapers, and books as irreplaceable instruments of culture in a city that many still criticized as raw or unrefined.58 Relief sculpture over the main door memorialized Chicago’s beginnings in the figures of Jesuit priest Jacques Marquette and Jesuit trainee Louis Joliet (fig. 5.22). Their explorations and conversion campaigns as the French began to 150 Chapter 5

colonize the Illinois and Mississippi River basins impressed on the building the

5.21  Chicago Historical Society,

triumphalist historical narrative that Chicago’s leaders had already constructed

Gilpin Library. Courtesy Chicago History Museum, i59723.

for the city, and that was fully detailed in the sculptural program of Holabird & Roche’s Marquette Building downtown (1895). Completed at the same time as the Historical Society, the Marquette’s solemn exterior reliefs and resplendent lobby mosaics, in Robert Bruegmann’s summary, highlighted “the discovery of a new land, the development of commerce, and the transformation of wilderness into a wealth-producing city.”59 Chicago’s self-makers had already named their principal financial artery after Marquette’s compatriot Robert de LaSalle, who transcended plebeian origins by making himself over in the Mississippi wilderness that he claimed as New France. The French colonizer was thus the prototype of the midwestern self-made man. Although the society did not exclude other versions of the city’s history, it was the Chicago of the pre- and postfire enterprises of self-made men descended from La

Cobb’s Varieties of the Romanesque


5.22  Chicago Historical Society, entrance panel. Photo © Patricia Evans.

Salle, Marquette, and Joliet that it enshrined above them all. The colonizer-entrepreneurial line of descent was clearly evident in the speech that hymned William Ogden as “The Man Who Made Chicago” at the society’s cornerstone ceremony in November 1892.60 In the middle of Chicago’s technological and organizational advances, the building threw into high historical relief how premodern Chicago laid the groundwork for the economic and cultural conquests of the city’s modern period. The coveted life membership the society awarded Cobb in 1895 capped off the years in which he had designed his best set of neo-Romanesque buildings. Bolder than the Durand Art Institute and the Newberry Library, and necessarily less fanciful than the Fisheries Building, the Historical Society synthesized some of Cobb’s preferred motifs: the segmental arch, the stone-mullion and arcaded windows, and the rock-faced blocks of stone intensified the building’s mural power and communicated an urban energy both modern and primal. The Historical Society emphasized the uncommon variety in a quartet of buildings sharing the same architectural language, and unified a group of institutions and cultural initiatives that made some of the most substantial contributions to Chicago’s maturing metropolitan status.


Chapter 5

6 Skyscrapers and Rationalized Work II


etween 1890 and 1893 commercial as well as institutional and residential work put Cobb’s firm at a full metropolitan stretch. At the same time as he continued to develop the North Side’s Newberry Library and Histori-

cal Society, Jackson Park’s fair pavilions, and the first eleven buildings for the new university in Hyde Park, Cobb also had on hand five downtown skyscrapers and a large hotel. While three of the skyscrapers were notable for their designs, their developers, or the public attention they garnered, it was their higher degree of rationalized planning and their accommodation of exceptionally various functions—the two common attributes underlying otherwise very different projects— that distinguished them from the tall office buildings of the 1880s. The Chicago Athletic Association (1890) was not only the best designed and most elaborate of the nation’s first generation of sports clubhouses, but also a skyscraper at a time when explorations of the publicity potential of this new type of building peaked, and when sport itself became more organizationally complex. The clubhouse also posed a new design problem: how to design a skyscraper for a nonprofit institution so that it did not look like a commercial office building. The Chicago Title and Trust Building (1891) was one of the city’s three tallest skyscrapers, a telling instance of the limits of the neo-Romanesque on tall structures, and a fuller demonstration of the new conditions of white-collar work than the Owings Building and the office wings of the Chicago Opera House had been. The Hartford Building (1891), which demonstrated the same conditions in a lower


key, inadvertently exposed the inefficiencies that often frustrated attempts to rationalize the construction of skyscrapers and enforce public oversight of contractor delinquencies in the private sector. The new conditions of work also prompted Cobb to reorganize his office in order to handle the exceptional number, variety, and complexity of his commissions. By early 1893, having moved from the Owings to the Title and Trust Building, he had made his one of the country’s three largest firms, helped change the nature of professional practice, and again demonstrated the impact of entrepreneurial Chicago on ambitious young professionals like himself.

The Chicago Athletic Association (1890–1893) Cobb, in fact, was the pivotal figure among the founders of the CAA, a group that included Art Institute president Charles Hutchinson and baseball entrepreneur A. G. Spalding. In addition to originating the project and leading the membership drive, Cobb may also have broached the entirely novel idea of a skyscraper athletic club. Despite his experience with skyscrapers, this one posed unusual challenges as he and the founders strove to meet the requirements for newly rationalized planning and newly rationalized play. On the planning side, the club’s incorporators, unlike investors in conventional skyscrapers, sought social and civic profit alone, not monetary gain. Yet they still had to do what any profit-seeking developer had to: acquire a prime downtown site and recruit a sufficient number of “tenants” or club members to secure construction loans, pay the ground rent, and amortize these costs. Moreover, Cobb had to provide spaces for the nation’s most comprehensive array of indoor sports (tennis, squash, swimming, boxing, running, gymnastics, body building, bowling, billiards, and rooms for a bicycle club and bike storage); design a complete set of social spaces at a grander scale than those in the conventional men’s club (café, library, large and small lounges, main and private dining rooms, and a hotel capacity of sixty-one bedrooms); make apparently incompatible social, athletic, and residential uses compatible with one another by rationally sorting them onto different floors and opening up two stories of space for some of them; compose a façade that identified this particular skyscraper as a social and cultural institution divorced from the commercial taint of ordinary skyscrapers; develop an iconography more elaborate than the decorative schemes for conventional office buildings and able to unite many of the club’s floors; and divide and coordinate this labor among the architects, technical consultants, decorators, designers, and craftsmen who worked with or under him. In sum, Cobb had to disassociate the skyscraper from its utilitarian purposes and profit motives but simultaneously enhance the rhetorical power and social

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status that only a very tall building and large-scale, elaborate interiors could confer. He also had to meet the challenge of Chicago’s cultural bluff. The imperative behind the imperative for the rationalized coordination of function and formal expression in an institutional rather than a commercial skyscraper was the expectation inspired by the World’s Fair that Chicago would show the nation a distinctive urban culture, and that the Chicago Athletic Association would be among the urbane institutions born of this civic ambition. A project this large, complex, and ambitious was inconceivable apart from forms of play almost as rationalized as blue- and white-collar work. The club’s organizers intended to sponsor some of the city’s finest athletes in the new metropolitan and interurban competitions then proliferating in America’s major cities, and to offer their own membership a single highly urbanized venue for exercising, competing, socializing, dining, and sleeping—the unique convenience of all the satisfactions of sporting life within walking distance of work. In other words, they sought to capitalize on the new popularity of games and an elaborately organized sports culture. In the 1870s and 1880s this culture arose from many sources and affected all socioeconomic classes. Urban reformers in New York and Chicago championed athletics as ways to improve health, reduce crime, create community, socialize immigrants, reinvigorate frontier self-reliance, combat betting and blood-letting amusements in bachelor and immigrant subcultures, and inculcate the virtues of self-control, self-sacrifice, and loyalty. Professional and amateur associations sprang up to promote and regulate football, rowing, tennis, boxing, cycling, bowling, and track and field. With their gyms, baths, bowling alleys, and billiard tables, the new buildings of the Young Men’s Christian Association became the most popular and visible form of muscular Christianity in this period. New parks, playgrounds, and forms of mass transportation also spawned a wide variety of sports clubs.1 But few of them had buildings of their own, and their social status was well below that of select men’s clubs. This changed, however, as the social structure of modernizing cities became more elaborate and competitive, as the increasing number of elite organizations gave rise to such buildings as Cobb’s Union Club and Burnham & Root’s Calumet Club, and as these clubs multiplied in number and became more specialized in purpose and memberships. The CAA’s project, and the slightly earlier New York Athletic Club (1885) and Boston Athletic Association (1888), were one result. All three organizations erected buildings that not only aspired to the architectural sophistication of earlier social and political clubs but for the first time linked the period’s pronounced emphasis on sport with socially prominent men through the potent medium of downtown clubhouses. The culture of sports thrived on urban rivalries, and in the upstart city of Chicago they were especially intense. In touting what they called the nation’s “finest athletic club,” the CAA’s founders participated in a brief but spectacular movement that the widening competition for social and athletic prestige did not precipitate in other cities: in Chicago the competition drew the skyscraper into

Skyscrapers and Rationalized Work


the fray. At the same time as the CAA launched its campaign, the Masons and the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, the dominant groups in the nation’s burgeoning fraternal movement, initiated skyscraper projects to publicize their organizations and heighten their social status by erecting the world’s tallest office buildings, and by enacting the very first competition for this new kind of urban and metropolitan dominance.2 Just as the Chicago Opera House and the Auditorium leased office wings to help fund opera productions, the two fraternities proposed to finance munificent ritual rooms through leasing most floors in their buildings to companies needing retail or office space. For groups like the CAA’s wealthy founders, who already enjoyed a prestige the Masons and Odd Fellows could never hope to attain, such projects and secret societies were déclassé. Their emphasis on skyscraper size and their use of passwords, handgrips, and mystifying rituals helped relieve routine or increasingly rationalized work for their middle- and working-class members, a kind of relief that the men at the CAA, who in many cases commanded the new divisions of labor, did not require or seek. Instead, they were both more circumspect and more daring. Their skyscraper was to be only half as high as the Masonic Temple, but that height would be much more imposing than the four or five stories of the New York and Boston clubhouses, and, like the campaign to secure Chicago as the site for the World’s Fair, would exhibit Chicago’s superior athletic, organizational, and cultural resources. The CAA’s functions were as varied as and spatially more complex than those for the temple, but since none of them generated income, this itself silently advertised the founders’ financial and social clout. At the start, it may have been the Boston facility that catalyzed the Chicago club. According to William Henry Burke, a CAA board member in the mid-1890s, several of the founders thought “that Chicago ought not to be behind the Eastern city in the possession of such an institution.” According to the Tribune, Cobb was the pivotal figure, the man who originally proposed “a first-class athletic club” to Roland Nickerson, son of banker Samuel Nickerson. Both men then “conferred with a number of wealthy Chicagoans, all of whom entered heartily into the spirit of the movement.”3 Union Club members dominated this group. Besides Cobb and Nickerson, the roster included Marshall Field, Owen Aldis, Cyrus Hall McCormick, Jr., Henry Bishop, A. G. Spalding, and Lyman Gage. Spalding’s company dominated the manufacture of baseballs in a sport that was already the national pastime, and Gage was vice president of Samuel Nickerson’s bank, trustee of the Art Institute, president of the board of directors of the World’s Columbian Exposition, and the fair’s chief fund-raiser.4 In an unusual demonstration of how elite men’s clubs were “powerful levers for moving events along,” well-known members of the uptown club founded a downtown club whose location and distinct purpose promised a prestige that the Union Club’s neighborhood identity could not by itself confer. The Union Club roster also showed that Cobb had come into his own as a social figure as well as an architect. No longer the neophyte beholden to prominent 156

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clients, some of the city’s most powerful men affirmed the leading role he took. The CAA’s earliest meetings often took place in Cobb’s office in the Owings Building, with Cobb as one of the rotating chairmen.5 And Cobb, along with Nickerson and Aldis, organized the club’s membership drive in March 1890.6 Only thirtyone years old, Cobb, now a fully fledged institutional entrepreneur in the city of self-makers, occupied a position that in Boston or New York would have required more time to achieve. That Cobb’s was no ordinary skyscraper was apparent in the quasi-civic associations that the founders attached to their project. Under the front-page headline, “Chicago to Have the Finest Athletic Club in the Country,” Gage called the clubhouse “a grand idea.” Hutchinson spoke glowingly of its prospects: “I don’t know of anything that would do Chicago more good. A wealthy and reputable athletic club is exactly what is needed in this city.”7 Certainly, wealthy, reputable men like Gage and Hutchinson were just what the new organization required to attract members, but why was a private clubhouse for the privileged “a grand idea” or “exactly what the city needed”? The appeals of swimming, rowing, yachting, cycling, and racquet sports were less than citywide; the evident motives of status and self-interest were less than grand; and the club required a dominantly affluent membership despite its intention also to welcome “men of moderate incomes who are interested in athletics.”8 Moreover, status concerns rhetorically cloaked in “grand” projects were not infrequent at a time when competition for higher social standing in Chicago was heated enough to generate the skyscraper projects of the Masons and the Odd Fellows. But the very fact that the CAA’s founders, some of the hardest bargainers among the city’s business elite, proposed to exploit expensive downtown land with little return on investment, a financial risk that no prudent skyscraper developer would have taken, was itself evidence that Gage’s “grand idea” was not merely rhetorical camouflage, that social self-interest did not fully explain the exceptional optimism surrounding an athletic club the size of a skyscraper. Nor one headed by a figure of Hutchinson’s civic stature. Like Ferdinand Peck at the Auditorium, Bertha Palmer in political reform, and Jane Addams in the nascent settlement house movement, Hutchinson was a distinct Chicago type who represented democratic as well as elite interests in several of the city’s key cultural institutions, in none more so than the Art Institute. The president of the Corn Exchange Bank, the financially cautious scion of a buccaneering self-made man who read Shakespeare and had recently cornered the market in wheat (1888), a supporter of Peck’s Auditorium and the recently formed Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and one of the fair’s key supporters, Hutchinson single-handedly shaped how Chicagoans experienced museum-going. His policy of free admission on Sundays enabled workers and their families to visit the institute’s galleries on their one day off, and his lecture series of popular speakers also drew them there. However naïve his cultural assumptions were by later standards, Hutchinson was a civic humanist who believed that art would elevate people’s taste, improve public behavior, and

Skyscrapers and Rationalized Work


make the Art Institute “a Community House for all Chicago”—that a “Democracy of Art” would counter eastern museums that catered only to “the carriage class.”9 Given such initiatives, Hutchinson’s view of the club as “exactly what the city needed,” and his opinion of Chicago as too “coarse” by far, make it likely that he thought of the CAA in a larger context, as part of the cultural remaking of an overly materialistic town. For him, the remaking required a panoply of social and cultural institutions as public as the Art Institute and the Newberry Library and as private as the athletic club housed in a new type of building replete with sports facilities and equipment. Hutchinson addressed the need for metropolitan institutional development in a speech at the Art Institute in 1888: “The real work of this world is done,” he said, not by isolated entrepreneurs but “by organized effort, by working through institutions” put together by “hard-headed businessmen.”10 Yet this apparent rejection of the modus operandi of self-made men like his father belied Hutchinson’s own entrepreneurial prowess in the realm of culture. Though tempered by teamwork and the divided labor of modern organizations, building institutions still required leadership, the kind of individual initiative that was not totally divorced from that of his “hard-headed” father. Hutchinson, Peck, and several other Chicago businessmen formed a distinct group in this regard: scions of the city’s self-made men who built elite or democratic cultural institutions and other organizations like the Art Institute that combined both elite and democratic features. They did so with much of the entrepreneurial drive that enabled their fathers to accrue individual fortunes and organize embryonic versions of the cultural resources Hutchinson’s generation sought to bring up to metropolitan standards. Their sense of individual agency was as central to their patrimony as the family fortunes they inherited. And unlike many nineteenth-century scions who unmade the work of their fathers through various forms of self-indulgence, these men, steeped in the city’s ethos of self-making, seized modern technological and organizational opportunities to shape such institutions as a skyscraper athletic club. An organizer as well as a designer of institutions, Cobb, too, was a scion, the son of an established family who eschewed a conventional life of leisure. These circumstances, and a euphoria about Chicago’s increasing cultural sophistication, contributed to the energy and the sense of public import attached to the Athletic Association. Burke noted that “the World’s Fair was germinating and great were the expectations of what it would do for the city. Everything was booming, skyscraping office buildings were going up with lightning speed, others were being projected” (emphasis added). To him, the club’s founders were exemplary citizens or “loyal sons of Chicago.”11 This apparently absurd assertion, that they were all high-minded urban patriots out solely for the city’s public glory, was not, however, altogether wide of the mark. An outsider, an Anglo-Irish Londoner who had worked on and off for a dozen years in Chicago, Burke saw something more than self-serving rhetoric in how Chicago’s leaders boosted the city. For him, as for Gage and Hutchinson, the Athletic Association’s public dimension had to do with how individual ambition, the establishment of Chi158

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cago’s cultural institutions, and the transformation of the city’s reputation were all inextricably tied to each other. In building an athletic club of unrivaled facilities; in pioneering such democratic institutions as settlement houses, the Art Institute, a chain of public parks, two public research libraries, and an opera house for both laborers and socialites; and in designing homes, office buildings, and institutions in a reinvented Romanesque that reflected the distinct character of Chicago, many of the city’s leaders shared the conviction that Chicago was finally coming into its own, that its nascent cultural organizations could rival or outdo the achievements of their eastern counterparts, that through their own institutional creativity they could make Chicago one of the world’s great cities at a time when its sense of urban rivalry was keenest. Such an outlook in a striver’s city par excellence gave to even so private and privileged an institution as the Chicago Athletic Association a legitimate if limited civic character. For the Tribune, status ambitions, class solidarity, and public disinterestedness worked handsomely together in the club’s attempt to “outrival the east” and “ornament the central district of the town.”12 This private-sector organization maintained a toehold in the public realm as it sought to redeem Hutchinson’s coarse Chicago, and to play its part in building a city that in its very brief history had repeatedly achieved what Burke described as “success even when success seemed beyond the range of the possible.”13 So “loyal son” Marshall Field leased to the club for $9,000 a year, without revaluation, a prime site on Michigan Avenue, an area then taking shape as the city’s locus of culture, the avenue of the newly completed Auditorium, the first Art Institute, the new one Hutchinson was about to build across the street from the club, and the new Chicago Public Library a few blocks north (fig. 3.1, A). The site thus called for a design as refined, distinct, even as civic in character as these other institutions required. This was challenging under normal circumstances, but the CAA’s skyscraper put it in a class of buildings not known for civic refinement in design. Moreover, as Montgomery Schuyler noted, the architect had to take into account an “adventitious” factor that was “rare in any modern city, and especially infrequent in Chicago,” namely the “foreground” created by the narrow park across Michigan Avenue.14 This open space, like Washington Square’s exposure of the block-long façade of the Newberry Library, made the club highly visible, a feature that Cobb and the founders surely realized would invite visitors to judge Chicago’s urbanity in part by the quality of the clubhouse design. These and several other conditions help explain the Venetian Gothic of the CAA façade (figs. 6.1 and 6.2). Cobb was well aware of the recent shift away from the Victorian eclecticism of the Union and Calumet Clubs to variations on Italian Gothic and Renaissance palaces for elite men’s clubs. From visits to Manhattan and Brookline, he knew that the Boston clubhouse was recognizably Venetian only in the diagonal brickwork of its top floor, a motif borrowed from the upper wall of the Doge’s Palace in Venice, and that the New York Athletic Club, a stolid version of stolid Renaissance palaces on the Grand Canal, was not much better.15 Not only

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6.1  Chicago Athletic Association, 1890–1893, 21 S. Michigan Avenue. Henry Ives Cobb, architect. American Architect and Building News (16 May 1896), plate. 6.2  Chicago Athletic Association as it appeared after removal of the balconies. Photo © Patricia Evans.

would it be easy to outdo the eastern clubs in their own architectural terms, but Cobb, the engineer as well as the architect behind the bold structural and functional expression of the Chicago Opera House, probably also realized what Schuyler did, that the thin vertical lines in the palace Gothic of Venice, rather than the heavier horizontal ones of the Venetian Renaissance, were “especially adaptable” to steel-framed skyscrapers. The CAA thus became the first skyscraper framed in steel to employ Venetian Gothic in a highly rationalized façade composition that revealed the building’s

Skyscrapers and Rationalized Work


structure and suggested significant functional and spatial variations behind the façade.16 This was one of several reasons why Schuyler praised the building. The architect treated the unusually open but enriched “interval” between the structural piers “as a mere grill.” In the grill’s midsection, alternating two- and three-story columns carried an overlapped pair of ogee arcades. The thin columns and arcade perforations created a delicate screen that clearly revealed the façade’s dependence on a steel frame. The arcades and high windows immediately below them also called out the novel two-story space for the gymnasium within. Similarly, the unenriched colonnade linking the sixth and seventh floors corresponded to the simple treatment of the overnight rooms behind it, an amenity that the Boston facility lacked. Another two-story arcade at the eighth-floor, a lighter, more open version of the piano nobile of the Doge’s Palace, fronted the double-height dining room. “Lightened and enriched to the utmost without compromising the apparent stability of the building,” the façade for Schuyler actually “improved upon” Venetian prototypes like the Ca’ d’Oro. The improvements included proportional relations. With “a height only half as much again as the width,” the club did not possess the “inordinate altitude” of the tallest office buildings. From the principal cornice downward, the façade was not so vertically emphatic that it failed to approximate a serene, nine-square classical scheme divided into three horizontal and three vertical zones by the brick-faced piers and the projecting balconies. The architect was also “at liberty to give more mass to [the first two floors] . . . than if he had been doing an office building” because there were no shops and show windows to accommodate. The Palladian entrance arch, its artful moldings, and the ornamental filigree in the panels of its pilasters exemplified the building’s “greater enrichment” vis-à-vis the Venetian models. Enrichments higher on the building included the friezes that framed two pairs of porthole windows above the dining room arcade. Balls, paddles, tennis nets, bowling pins, racquets, and other sports paraphernalia announced clubhouse functions. Over them rose the redbrick wall fronting the squash and tennis courts. More skillfully than the Boston clubhouse, the deeper red brick in the diagonal courses translated the polychromatic marble inlay on the upper portion of the Doge’s Palace into a patterned, solid, two-story wall in balance with the solid, enriched two-story base. For Schuyler, enrichments, comely proportions, and a sense of solidity that balanced the club’s open middle zones constituted more than an elegant interlude in the midst of the multiplying number and blunter design of many of Chicago’s commercial buildings. Functionally and structurally articulate, the clubhouse façade “must be included in any collection, no matter how small, of examples to show what our architects have made of the architectural problem presented by the tall building.” Intricate but easily readable, open but stable, refined but carefully rationalized, free of commercial taint, and satisfying from up close or across the street in the heightened visibility it gained from the park, the design was not only credibly institutional but, in the exemplary status Schuyler assigned it, civic as well. 162 Chapter 6

An athletic club the size of a skyscraper required divided labor for its design. Cobb’s assistant Louis Mullgardt probably designed much of the façade. In a letter to architectural historian Robert J. Clark, Oscar Mullgardt recalled how adamant his brother was about this assignment: “Louis would have wanted to make sitting uncomfortable if I said Cobb did it.” Moreover, anyone who kept on his fireplace mantel the heliochrome photograph of the club published in the American Architect and Building News was likely to have done much of the work (fig. 6.1).17 But for a commission this important, and for a club that Cobb himself helped organize, Cobb’s part in the divided labor would have been far from negligible. For these two reasons, and the civic and site conditions noted above, Cobb, historically much more knowledgeable than Mullgardt, was likely to have chosen Venetian Gothic himself and almost certainly would have identified specific palace models for Mullgardt to study from his extensive collection of architectural books and photographs. Adroit at adapting multiple or space-consuming functions to small sites, Cobb may have drawn up the floor plans as well. Allotting two-story spaces to the gym, dining room, and racquet courts would then have suggested twostory unities in those portions of the façade. Having had the project in hand since March 1890, months before Mullgardt arrived in Chicago, Cobb might even have sketched the façade himself, perhaps as an aid in the membership drive. A guiding sketch would also have been consistent with why he took on no partners: they insist, he once wrote, on “inserting antagonistic ideas.”18 Mullgardt would then have fleshed out Cobb’s sketch by choosing materials, adjusting arcades and proportions, detailing door and window frames, designing ornament, or refining and otherwise improving the sketched design. If, however, Cobb did not sketch the façade, Mullgardt was still likely to have followed Cobb’s plans and studied the prototypes he furnished. Moreover, in late 1890, when much of the work was done, Cobb had time to supervise and critique Mullgardt’s work closely, since the commissions for the fair and university buildings were still in the future; he had made progress on the façade for the Newberry Library; and he had finished designing the Durand Art Institute in April, and the Lake Forest gymnasium in June of that year.19 Typical of the back-and-forth creativity entailed by divided labor among newly professionalized architects, the façade maintained Cobb’s allegiance to Ruskin’s functional, structural, and sensual imperatives. The firm of Healy & Millet detailed the interiors. Among other spaces Schuyler praised was the balconied room for the swimming pool, “the most original” in the country (fig. 6.3). “Lining the walls with mirrors,” he noted, redeemed this otherwise “common device” by expanding the pool “to the apparent dimensions of a very respectable body of water.” With tables, lounge chairs, and luncheons at water’s edge, this white marbled room, its Ionic order echoing that of the lobby, was a social as well as an athletic space. The second-floor lounge was all dark Gothic trim (fig. 6.4). Windows framed in ogee arches were a more elaborate version in wood of the same motif for the outside frames in stone. This and the flame-like tracery in the wood arcade screen

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6.3  Chicago Athletic Association, swimming pool, first floor. Architectural Record (February 1896): plate. 6.4  Chicago Athletic Association, second-floor lounge. Architectural Record (February 1896): plate.

ing a subordinate space amplified the lounge’s masculine ambience. A churchlike calm pervaded a room in which members could read, talk, play cards, or take in the streetside bustle from the built-in bench that ran the length of the wall of windows. On the fourth and fifth floors the gymnasium compensated for the narrow site by shoehorning several athletic functions into a single two-story space shaped as an elongated oval by the curves of the overhead running track. Uniquely for a 164 Chapter 6

gym, wood covered all surfaces: floor-to-ceiling wainscot, wood-paneled coffers, and a wooden handrail and spindled railing posts for the balustrade bordering the track again underscored the gentleman’s ethos. Placing the dining room on the eighth floor high above the city was not a novel idea, but a balcony able to accommodate tables and chairs and afford fresh air to diners was. Inside, the unusual two-story wall of French and art-glass windows flooded the space with light and stunning views of Lake Michigan flecked with an ever changing variety of yawls, yachts, racing craft, and commercial vessels (fig. 6.5). Close by the windows on the north and south walls, wood craftsmen in the firm of Joseph Dux carved high-relief figures into the paneled oak cupboards above the hearths and below the high ceiling’s pseudo-pendent vaults. The figured panels memorably linked two kinds of hunting and dining. In the southern set of colonial American panels, a man on foot and a woman on horseback shoulder muskets to hunt boar, men and women feast in a dining room, a convivial group dines al fresco, servants work in a kitchen, a delighted cook savors a dish on the stove, and a beaming waiter balances a tray piled high with food. In the northern panels (fig. 6.6), which commemorate the corresponding ways of Plains Indians, an archer hits a flying duck, men mount an equestrian buffalo hunt, others track bear and birds, women prepare a carcass to roast, seated men eat while a standing brave gives thanks, and four others smoke pipes after the feast. The Indians thus do what Indians did in white men’s views of them at the turn of the century.20 But to club members the stereotypes were invisible as such, so the carving and compositions may well have charmed. Confronting one another across the space of the dining room, the two peoples, their “civilized” and “savage” states deliberately opposed to one another, underscored the links between hunting and sporting life, and the universal pleasures of cooking and sharing food after the hunt. Unlike the conventional skyscraper’s identical tiers of offices, the club’s neo-Venetian mixture of Renaissance and Gothic motifs for the dining room, gym, lounge, pool, and other spaces underlined a newfound capacity to enfold within a single tower diverse worlds, moods, and functions. Cobb’s organizational and architectural initiatives, Mullgardt’s assistance on the façade, Healy & Millet’s decorative schemes, the Dux friezes, and the club’s array of social, residential, and athletic facilities easily fulfilled the ambitions of the city’s “loyal sons” to “outrival the east.” Their triumph was complete in 1893, when the club hosted the awards ceremony for the International Games of the World’s Columbian Exposition.21 Proto-hotel, palace of sport, and skyscraper social club: in yoking the design of Venetian palazzi to the still novel publicity power inherent in the systematized resources and the imposing height of steel-framed buildings, Cobb’s division of labor produced a new, nonprofit wholly institutional variation on the mixed-use commercial skyscraper, heightened the social standing of the CAA’s members in Chicago’s intensified status competitions, and advanced the city’s cultural and civic renaissance.

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6.5  Chicago Athletic Association, northeast corner of the eighth-floor dining room. Courtesy of Ron White. 6.6  Chicago Athletic Association dining room, cupboard detail. Photo © Patricia Evans.

The Hartford Building (1891–1893) Because of its rapid development, the skyscraper was subject to serious accidents and the object of public fears. In early 1889, in a late stage of construction, a falling water tank destroyed several upper floors of the Owings Building. In the winter of 166 Chapter 6

1892, a fire damaged the Athletic Association’s still incomplete interiors.22 These were not exceptional events. In 1891, when the word “skyscraper” and the phrases “Chicago style of architecture” and “the commercial style of architecture” came into common use, the building boom so heightened public concerns about skyscraper safety, and about streets and offices shadowed by ever taller buildings, that the City Council imposed a height limit of twelve stories. Located at the southwest corner of Madison and Dearborn Streets, the Hartford Safety and Deposit Company, in the midst of the ongoing rationalization of all facets of skyscraper production, actually dramatized the inefficiencies of modern technology and organization. Imperfect machines, faulty construction procedures, a threatened public, willful contractors, and a sustained newspaper campaign failed to elicit timely enforcement by the municipal bureaucracy of a building code written to address such problems. The project started auspiciously enough. The Hartford’s financing arrangements marked another of the many recent uses of the legal fiction of the safety deposit company, a fiction that rationalized skyscraper finance by limiting the liability of individual investors, thus permitting them to raise the large amounts of capital that office-building construction in Chicago’s modernizing downtown required, especially when a building was as high as the Hartford’s original sixteen stories. The investors, who included Cobb, had applied for a building permit just after the new height limit took effect. But since the Office of the Building Commissioner was “favorably impressed with the plans and specifications,” and the application came in so close to the deadline imposed by the new regulation on building height, city officials allowed the syndicate fourteen stories.23 Unusually open façades may have created the favorable impression (fig. 6.7). Single sheets of glass filled out nearly the entire area between the structural columns on the first floor. Windows on the next three floors were almost as large. All four stories addressed the need to maximize natural light in the lowest portion of a skyscraper likely in the near future to be shadowed on all four sides by twelve-story buildings. Similarly, in the Hartford’s middle zone, bay windows, by now a common feature on Chicago office buildings, not only better ventilated an increased amount of rentable space but also improved natural lighting for the paperwork handled by the banks, financial firms, and real estate companies that filled the Hartford’s two hundred sixty offices.24 Compositionally, the vertical bays balanced the horizontal zones above and below. Another experiment in skyscraper design that employed the column analogy of base, shaft and capital, this neoclassical building exemplified the fair’s early influence. Along with the Athletic Association’s Venetian Gothic and Cobb’s neoGeorgian and neo-Gothic houses, the Hartford marked Cobb’s increasing eclecticism even as his firm’s neo-Romanesque work continued apace. Yet despite the Hartford Building’s rationalized plans and fenestration, its actual construction threatened and outraged the public enough that between June 1892 and March 1893 the Tribune repeatedly reported on the dangers created in the

Skyscrapers and Rationalized Work 167

6.7  Hartford Building, Chicago, IL, 1893, southwest corner of Dearborn and Monroe Streets. Henry Ives Cobb, architect. No longer standing. J. W. Taylor, photographer, ca. 1895–1915. Digital file 16577 © The Art Institute of Chicago.

unsettled working conditions of the skyscraper’s first boom period. In the early evening of 25 June 1892, two stone blocks fell from the top of a building adjacent to the Hartford’s foundation pit, and by “some remarkably lucky chance” they missed everyone in a “greatly crowded street.” Although speculation about the cause of the accident at first centered on how the Hartford excavations might have cracked and undermined the walls of the building in question, Cobb’s professional judgment, rendered the next day from the distance of his Lake Forest estate, was credible but not necessarily reassuring. He had, he said, immediately sent his general superintendent to investigate, and “as I have not seen him or heard from him since I judge nothing very serious could have occurred.”25 He further stated that “as far as he could learn . . . some careless workmen . . . on the roof had knocked off ” some coping stones; denied that excavations “had anything to do with the cracking” in the adjacent building and everything to do with the rain-swollen timbers temporarily supporting it; referred to some fifteen other buildings whose foundations “at the present time” he had “jacked up in the same way”; and noted that unlike them, the “central location [of this one] naturally attracted every one’s attention and to the uninformed might appear dangerous.” Even the one building of his whose walls were “cracked twenty times worse” was “most assuredly safe.” Here rational expertise sought to counter irrational public fears. They did not go away. While the adjacent building did remain stable, the Hartford’s construction barrier, which the contractor placed four feet further into Dearborn Street than the law allowed, posed very real dangers. “Crowded by a fence into the street, spattered by mud from passing wagons . . . jostled by the crowd trying to walk six abreast on a walk three feet wide,” and “forced against the fence” when streetcars approached from the north, “thousands of persons daily” experience this “aggravated instance” of a scene “repeated all over the downtown district.”26 In emphasizing how typical the Hartford was of construction sites and contractor dereliction throughout the Loop, the newspaper clearly sought to spark remedial action. At least one public official and several proprietors of nearby shops asked for and thanked the Tribune for its “crusade” to remedy a situation worsened by recent strikes in the steel industry, which had kept the fence in place longer than anticipated. Despite the successful pleas of businessmen like Cobb’s friend A. G. Spalding, who was one of the merchants who persuaded the contractor to pull the fence on Madison Street back within the legal limit, the fence on Dearborn Street remained in illegal territory. In that position it provided more space to store the large quantities of stone and steel that construction required. Since the contractor thereby avoided storage costs elsewhere, “a private concern,” as one merchant put it, “profit[s] by a public misfortune.” The contractor’s rational arrangements disrupted and endangered passersby. For two weeks the Tribune repeatedly cited existing laws, the fence’s threats “to life and limb,” and the “broken promises” of the Department of Public Works.

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Only then did the building commissioner force the contractor to move the fence back. Yet there were other dangers. Due to inadequate scaffolding, “dangerous missiles” like “a pile of falling boards” injured people and damaged nearby property. A mid-December article illustrated how the overhead construction shed at the Columbus Memorial Building protected pedestrians, and how the shallow scaffolds and construction fence at the Hartford did not (fig. 6.8). But this article also failed to provoke change: the following March the police were still reporting an average of “three accidents a day from falling material [at] the Hartford Building.”27 The building boom may well have prevented city officials from dealing with all the infractions. Crowds riveted by the more spectacular forms of danger also made the Hartford a sensationalist vehicle for selling newspapers. In the first episode of falling stones, “an immense throng quickly gathered opposite the . . . building, expecting it to collapse any instant” (emphasis added). Horror comingled with fascination, bringing to the surface the destructive instincts normally hidden or suppressed in crowds. Two weeks later, the Tribune capitalized in bold print a headline able to attract a metropolitan readership: “death lurks near this building” introduced the “Hairbreadth Escape of a Man Passing by the New Hartford Block.” The article’s telling details and visceral language evoked a sense of queasy intoxication by placing readers vicariously in the middle of the event at the moment of greatest danger: “A piece of brick weighing over a pound came tumbling down and struck the ground with tremendous force within a foot of a man who was turning the corner. . . . An ashen pallor came over his features . . . and he was noticed to tremble violently by the passing

6.8  Hartford Building, construction fence and


Columbus Memorial Building construction shed.


Five months later, the Hartford Building demonstrated how the elevator was both prime mover and nemesis of the skyscraper. Insufficient water pressure in the hydraulic mechanism caused one cab holding fourteen people to plunge seven stories down a shaft. “The Hair-Lifting Descent” halted “a Yard Above the Cement Floor.” The four injured passengers, rather than fourteen dead ones, did little to allay public fears about the reliability of emergency brakes.29 A different, more innocent, but no less sensationalist narrative celebrated skyscraper daring as workers conquered nature at wholly manmade altitudes, and admiring bystanders indulged a vicarious sense of personal danger. In November weather “not of the kind that made . . . loitering on sidewalks a pleasure. . . . many people stood at the corner of Madison and Dearborn streets” to watch a steel setter “perched on top of a column” at the Hartford’s fourteenth floor. In a series of tropes that became common in articles about such irresistibly watchable work, the reporter noted that though “the wind had a pretty good chance at him,” and there was “nothing whatever to grasp in case he became dizzy,” the setter nonetheless “wriggled around” with the “agility” of a “monkey,” assumed “a variety of postures” as if he were “utterly 170 Chapter 6

Chicago Tribune, 11 December 1892, 1.

reckless,” and then lay along a beam “on his stomach with legs extended spreadeagle fashion and hammer[ed] away.”30 But a year and a half later, the Hartford Building demonstrated that skyscrapers were not free of threats once tenants moved in. After glaziers replaced “heavy plate” glass in the window frame of an eighth-floor office, an open hall door caused “an extra strong current of wind” to sweep in and pop the glass out. It sailed “through the air as if going on a kite-flying expedition,” suddenly “took a turn, flopped back and forth like a sheet of paper, then . . . with the swiftness of an arrow descended.” As the glass “cut downward” through six inches of a pedestrian’s right calf, “blood spurted in every direction over the sidewalk.” However, since the normally “thronged” corner was “comparatively deserted,” this man was the only victim and even he did not lose his leg.31 The accident thus mixed the spectacular and the gruesome with anticlimax, for the glass guillotine did not behead or amputate but instead only scarred. Nonetheless, it showed how newly tall buildings, whose malfunctions could maim or kill scores or hundreds of people in downtowns of skyscraper density, only made fears of the random urban event, long a staple of city lore, that much more horrific, and all the more fascinating. The glass sheet, the steel setter’s performance, the falling stones, the illegal fence, the negligent contractor, inadequate scaffolds, the dropped elevator, the newspaper crusade, and lax municipal enforcement catalogued most of the early skyscraper’s dangers. The mix of reporting to precipitate reform and sensationalist writing to increase circulation documented and dramatized how imperfectly rationalized the organization of skyscraper construction and maintenance could be in this period. The Hartford Building was thus yet another exhibit in the unusually representative nature of Cobb’s career.

The Chicago Title and Trust Company Building (1891–1893) Still more representative, however, was the seventeen-story corporate headquarters for the Chicago Title and Trust Company at 100 West Washington Street. Although it opened in late 1892 as the city’s third tallest office building, Cobb and the Trust Company planned it shortly before the City Council enacted the height limit. Its first representative feature had to do with Cobb himself. As with the Hartford, how Cobb got the commission is not clear, but his reputation as one of the city’s leading architects and his ties to Chicago’s elites certainly coincided with the intentions of the company organizers “to have the tone of the very highest,” and a “directory . . . chosen from acknowledged leaders in . . . law and real-estate circles.”32 But however he secured the job, the Trust Building climaxed the twoyear cluster of commercial commissions that included the Hartford Building, the twelve-story Boyce Building (1892), the six-story Wellington Hotel (1890), and the twelve-story Medinah Temple (fig. 3.1, nos. 3–7). Cobb was now handling more

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major residential, institutional, and commercial work throughout the metropolitan area than the city’s other firms. Another representative feature of the Title and Trust Company was a history that recapitulated the modern reorganization of work. A small firm founded in 1847 by an individual who developed a system for recording every legal instrument connected with the sale and purchase of Chicago property, the company soon spawned two others. Their records of title abstracts became invaluable when they survived the 1871 fire and Cook County’s records did not. In 1887 the State of Illinois authorized the merged firms, then known as the Title Guarantee and Trust Company, to act as guardian, executor, administrator, and trustee of the city’s properties and estates, and to issue title insurance to property owners to protect against title invalidation. By mid-March 1891 the reorganized and expanded Chicago Title and Trust Company had taken on all the functions authorized in the 1887 law, amassed $1,500,000 in capital, and was about to construct what the Tribune called “a great office building.”33 The firm’s multiplied functions, economies of scale, and divided labor were no less representative. A pointed example of the skyscraper as the site for the rationalized production and storage of paperwork, the company’s unusually open floor plan accommodated the clerks, secretaries, and middle managers necessary to process abstracts and other documents for land titles (fig. 6.9). Such a plan also admitted more natural light and allowed closer employee supervision than subdividing the space into separate offices.34 The company chose a site less than a block away from the Cook County Courthouse to maximize efficient communication with government offices. Also representative was the company’s meticulous record of one of Chicago’s greatest sources of wealth: property in its multiple forms as plots for homes, businesses, and industries, as productive crop fields and extractive sites, and as the speculative ground in and around the central business district that had fueled the individual fortunes of Ogden, Newberry, Peck, Palmer, Kerfoot, and many others. A last representative feature how the building’s exceptional number of floors both reflected and stimulated the growing demand for downtown office space, demand that not only increased land values and building heights but also corporate income: the Trust Company occupied only a few floors while collecting rents from firms like Cobb’s that leased office space elsewhere in the building. Premodern corporate headquarters without elevators had also included speculative office space, but the jump in scale effected by metal frames and elevators made this form of corporate investment that much more attractive. That the union of skyscraper technologies 172

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6.9  Office, Chicago Title and Trust Company, 60 West Washington Street, 1891–1892. Henry Ives Cobb, architect. No longer standing. Reproduced with permission of Chicago Title Insurance Company. © Chicago Title Insurance Company. All rights reserved.

and rationalized work made land more profitable and fueled speculation was also evident when Leander McCormick, another scion of the reaper magnate, a Union Club member, and a Lake Forest resident like Cobb, paid the highest price for any Chicago property in 1891 when he purchased the lot under the Trust Building for $625,000. McCormick clearly anticipated still higher land values to come, since the sale price was 20 percent higher than a year earlier.35 Its design made the new tower another of Chicago’s Romanesque skyscrapers (fig. 6.10). Following the cohort comprised of the Studebaker Building, the Chicago Opera House, the Auditorium, and the Rookery in the mid-1880s, the Title and Trust, like the Masonic and Woman’s Temples, was part of a second wave of office buildings done in the early 1890s that dramatically confirmed the Loop’s and Chicago’s identification with the primal power of the Romanesque. But for Paul Bourget, their arched entrances and arcaded upper floors were much more than the cyclopean “dens of a primitive race” or mountain-like forms. Their towering heights paradoxically transformed the traditional arch and traditional stonework into signs of a city stripped of tradition. In analyzing his initial responses, which, like those of Clarence Blackall, were “overpowering” and “completely annihilated criticism,” Bourget became one of the city’s very few commentators to understand that the sheer visual power of these buildings tended to obscure their origins in the rationalized rigor of their design, financing, and technology. Architects, he wrote, made such buildings “by machinery,” by giving up “all thought of colonnades, moldings, classical decorations,” by “ruthlessly” accepting “the speculator’s inspired conditions—to multiply as much as possible the value of the bit of earth at the base by multiplying the superimposed ‘offices.’” Yet such was the power of these buildings that even Bourget’s astute analysis was not free of an awestruck hyperbole arising from his view of the early skyscraper’s mix of organizational and technological sublimities. As the Trust Company, the Opera House, and other skyscrapers clearly showed, architects had not given up moldings or other forms of surface enrichment. But compared to the premodern Parisian buildings with which Bourget was familiar, or to premodern American ones, the height, heft, and simplified decorative schemes of Chicago’s skyscrapers—their visual thunder for their first observers—made it seem as though all ornament had been excised in a city that was uniquely modern in its organization and technology. The adverb “ruthlessly” telegraphed Bourget’s awareness of modern systems, of the kind of “clear and carefully estimated understanding of the encompassing reality” that led to the Trust Company’s mergers, expanded functions, and the integration of the financial, mechanical, and architectural arrangements necessary to erect at maximum speed a centrally located corporate skyscraper of exceptional height. The result, in Bourget’s famous formulation, was a kind of capitalist sublime: Chicago skyscrapers elevated the “simple power of necessity” into “a principle of beauty.” Many other visitors were just as impressed with the spectacles created by the tightly rationalized systems they did not perceive. In Arnold Lewis’s summary,

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6.10  Chicago Title and Trust Company, Chicago, IL, 1892, southeastern view. J. W. Taylor, photographer, ca. 1910. Digital file 16436 © The Art Institute of Chicago.

the Loop’s skyscrapers, at once artful, economical, and awesome, made Chicago “the shock city of the day,” the American metropolis most intensely caught up in an “early encounter with tomorrow.”36 But despite its trademark Romanesque features the Trust Building’s power to shock was less than that of megalithic masses like the Auditorium and the Rookery. The short length of its arcades and the portal arch shadowed by a broken pediment gave insufficient play to the expressive horizontality of earlier buildings on large corner lots, which reinforced the trajectory of Chicago’s streets. Faced in smooth rather than rusticated stone, the Trust Building lacked the neo-Romanesque’s primordial punch. This was partly due to an interior lot only sixty feet wide. But the building’s steel frame was also a contributing factor. The neo-Romanesque was most powerful when metal framing was structurally transitional, when thick, battered, rockfaced masonry walls still supported themselves, and metal beams and columns carried internal floor loads. A skyscraper as tall as the Trust Building on so narrow a lot was impossible without a full steel frame to cantilever the bay windows and carry the façade’s pared-down stonework on shallow metal shelves. Full metal framing inevitably reduced lithic heft. Although steel frames led architects to explore and developers to demand more open skyscraper façades and better lit interiors like those of the Hartford Building, the neo-Romanesque still remained in use while the implications of full framing for design were incompletely understood. Hence, the façade deployed two arcades, seven string courses, and two cornices, as if to counter the building’s tall, narrow proportions with the neo-Romanesque’s horizontal emphasis. The result was a somewhat awkward design. While not among the best of Chicago’s Romanesque skyscrapers, the design was nonetheless representative in another way. The steel frame and Bourget’s financial “necessity” had started to curtail richly designed façades almost two years earlier, when some architects criticized developers for disregarding “exterior effect” and erecting “severely plain” structures.37 Their “architect’s ideal” was the Owings Building (fig. 3.7), the first of the gabled skyscrapers that were “among the few exceptions to the general rule.” The Trust Building was a somewhat later exception as well, one of the decreasing number of skyscrapers to attempt heftier forms of enrichment, however compromised by the narrow site and the steel frame. The Owings and Trust Buildings thus respectively marked the start of what Montgomery Schuyler had recognized as a highly experimental period in skyscraper design, and the anticlimactic denouement of Chicago’s Romanesque office buildings. When Cobb moved his firm from the Owings Building to the front half of the Trust Building’s top two floors in late 1892, he devised office plans that were much more representative of the future than the building’s façade, for they documented Cobb’s leading role in reorganizing architectural practice, and displayed as clearly as the open space for the Chicago Title and Trust Company the changed nature of modern work.

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At the same time that Cobb recognized its newly rationalized character in floor plans Louis Sullivan recognized it in words. For him the skyscraper was “an indefinite number of . . . offices piled tier on tier . . . one office just like all other offices—an office being similar to a cell in a honeycomb, merely a compartment, nothing more.”38 No matter how many different companies occupied an office building, the work done behind the skyscraper’s myriad windows was in essence the same—cellular, compartmentalized white-collar labor dependent on various forms of abstraction recorded on paper. The paperwork included the exponential increase in the number of technical and other drawings architects now had to create for any one project. To address the unprecedented structural, functional, mechanical, and organizational complexities in skyscrapers, Cobb and a few other firms abandoned the studio model of practice, which, as in Richardson’s atelier, had emphasized architecture as an art, and which required a limited amount of work space and only a few designers. Instead, Cobb substituted a more corporate or bureaucratic model, hiring the bookkeepers, secretaries, draftsmen, engineers, and architects essential to the increasingly specialized labor of architectural production.39 Between 1891 and 1895 he employed 100–130 men, making his and McKim, Mead & White’s the two largest firms in the country. “Unlike most offices,” the Inland Architect and News Record noted of Cobb’s, “there is no one . . . head man . . . but . . . four separate departments—business, construction, drafting and superintending,” each with its own chief to further subdivide the work (fig. 6.11). In the construction department on the sixteenth floor, for example, engineering, specifications, and general construction were the subdivisions. For the drafting department, a spare room on the seventeenth floor allowed the office during “extra busy times when work has to be gotten out rapidly. . . . to take on a large number of extra men . . . without disturbing the regular force in the office.”40 A kind of modern contingency planning, this standby space recognized fluctuations in building cycles and the amount of work on hand. Supervision and lines of authority were clear. It did not matter whether the superintendents for individual buildings worked within or outside Chicago—they all reported to the head man of the relevant department. The foreman’s office for the drafting department had transparent partitions, “enabling” him to watch over “the drafting room” and be consulted “without disturbing the men.” “The chief designers and head man have offices of their own.” Architects directly under them had “stalls that are large enough to work a man and his assistant,” while the lower grade of architects “are at tables in the drafting room.” The floor plans thus recognized the greater prestige of creative architects vis-à-vis the draftsmen who possessed technical competence only. But whether creative or technical, each worker “is required to keep an accurate account of his time, enabling the bookkeepers to figure up the exact cost of each piece of work.” In another economizing move, copies of drafting work and blueprints “are never made in the office, but [are reproduced] entirely by outside people,” a procedure that saves “a great deal of space and time.” 176

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Yet another unique feature was that Cobb had two private offices, permitting him to conduct “short interviews [in one] even though a committee may be in session [in the other].” Also maximizing efficiency was a private office “finished in a very individual manner,” the “entire walls . . . covered with California red-

of sixteenth and seventeenth floors. Inland Architect (May 1895), 39. i59837.

client or a committee to have all “the plans of their building before them for discussion.” The system was evidently a novel one, for the reporter noted that “those who have seen drawings displayed in this manner will appreciate the great value of this arrangement.” If the floor plans and division of labor suggested an early version of the time-motion studies done in the next decade by management theorist Frederick Taylor, the public area was a case study in modern image management. In the vestibule the mosaic floor displayed “a cobweb with a fly . . . and a big spider in one corner.” What this symbolized the reporter did not say, though the web perhaps punned on Cobb’s last name. The very frankness of the spider-and-fly motif, at first glance somewhat sinister, may actually have poked fun at the architect’s need to land clients, something that was less than pressing for Cobb, given his then abundant commissions. Certainly the mosaic floor in the reception room, which carried “a most ingenious and attractive border . . . of corn cobs,” punned on the easterner’s surname, conveyed Cobb’s midwestern sympathies, and again displayed Skyscrapers and Rationalized Work

office of Henry Ives Cobb, plans

Courtesy Chicago History Museum

wood panels.” This allowed architects to pin multiple drawings in place and a

6.11  Chicago Title and Trust Building,


the architect’s wit. Larger and more elaborate than such areas for Chicago’s other leading firms, the reception room communicated both expertise and prestige (fig. 6.12). Glass cases held samples of building materials, while on the walls above hung “perspectives . . . of the Fisheries Building . . . the University of Chicago, the Newberry Library and many . . . of the prominent buildings in Chicago and elsewhere designed by Mr. Cobb.” The reporter noted another “peculiarity of the office,” that “no one is to be seen except a colored boy in livery, and no idea at all of the number of men or the extent of the offices can be surmised unless beyond the limits . . . open to the public.” The casual reference to the “colored boy” marked the largely unquestioned racism of a period when uncounted “Negro” adults and adolescents worked as uniformed servants in the homes and offices of Chicagoans.41 Indeed, the rendering of the reception room Cobb provided to the reporter included a liveried man whose bent posture and jacket lined with regimental buttons contrasted with the upright gentleman’s caped overcoat and top hat, thus codifying the most subordinate position in the office hierarchy, and underlining how this proper Bostonian’s firm catered to an exclusive clientele. A liveried servant to receive guests may well

6.12  Reception room, office of Henry Ives

have been another of Cobb’s office innovations.

Cobb. Inland Architect (May 1895): plate


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That the “colored boy” was the only employee in sight, as if to hide all the labor in building production, added to the reception room’s mystification of professional work. So did the top lighting, the highly polished floor, the variety of exhibits, and the gothic ornament of table, chairs, andirons, and mantled fireplace, all of which made the space a kind of sanctum. For Cobb, the historicized room discretely functioned as modern publicity: clients were likely to convey to others their impressions of a high-end practice in uniquely elegant quarters, and an article in the Inland Architect surely advanced Cobb’s standing in the profession. Cobb probably arrived at the rationalized scheme for his unusual office out of ad hoc attempts to handle the overload of major residential, institutional, and commercial commissions his firm took on from January 1891 onward, and from the criticisms of clients whose plans arrived late. But once Cobb’s new regimen was in place, his productivity impressed visitors in a position to know. A New Yorker who took large-scale enterprise for granted, Montgomery Schuyler was nevertheless taken aback by the firm’s output: “In extent [it] has been as remarkable as in diversification, and, considering that during his busiest years he has had no partner, the amount of work that he has accomplished, quite apart from its artistic quality, is very impressive. It argues not merely on unremitting application, but the establishment of a very rigid and effective method of work.”42 Schuyler’s remarks were all the more noteworthy in a long essay focused entirely on Cobb’s Chicago work, for it did not mention his commissions in Kansas, Colorado, Tennessee, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and California.43 Louis Sullivan therefore overlooked Cobb when he identified Daniel Burnham as “the only architect in Chicago to catch the significance of the movement . . . toward organization, delegation, and intense commercialism” (emphasis added). Although in the late 1880s Burnham & Root did more business than Cobb’s office, their firm marked time early in the next decade as Cobb hired as many as 130 employees, Burnham focused all his energy on the fair, and Root died at the start of site preparations in Jackson Park in January 1891. To be sure, Burnham’s organizational achievements at the fair were exceptional. In the same month, Robert Peabody had stood on a pier overlooking the sand dunes of the yet to be developed fair grounds and declared of the exposition, “It can’t be done.” The Boston realist was unacquainted with Chicago mettle, for Burnham countered, “That point is settled.”44 Cobb did not possess Burnham’s determination and ability to inspire, and Peabody & Stearns were arguably more creative architects, but Cobb’s firm between 1891 and 1894 excelled theirs in size, geographical range, organizational originality, and job diversity. In Schuyler’s admiring assessment of Cobb’s “unremitting application” and his “rigid and effective method of work” there were trace amounts of Bourget’s organizational sublime. In rationalizing his firm so thoroughly, from back rooms to front ones, Cobb showed that “clear and carefully estimated understanding of the encompassing reality” that the machinery of business and the impersonal forces of modern civilization increasingly required. And just as his catalytic roles in found

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ing the Chicago Athletic Association and the Onwentsia Club gave the city’s upper classes two more claims on metropolitan status, so Cobb’s reorganization of his office, and his use of Chicago’s central location to mount a continental practice, once again demonstrated the impact of the city’s entrepreneurial climate on ambitious young professionals.

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7 Self-Made Men, Civic Culture, and the University of Chicago (1889–1893)


f all his high-profile commercial and cultural commissions in a period packed with them, the University of Chicago demanded the most from Cobb as he began to enlarge and rationalize his office in 1891. In size,

functional complexity, and metropolitan import, the new university had more at stake than the city’s other cultural institutions. None of them promised to further Chicago’s ambitions for greatness as much as this one. None more fully and deliberately linked Chicago’s two generations of development through the self-made men, women, and scions who were its patrons. None more completely embodied the specialization then affecting most professions. In none was the impact of easterners on the city’s cultural life as rich, or the impact of Chicago’s ethos of selfmaking on those with eastern educations as great. None catalyzed so many larger and smaller acts of philanthropy and civic humanism. None approached it in the scope and scale of its architectural ambition . In all these ways, the university and its Chicago backers risked more for the city’s reputation in the realms of culture and intellect than any of the nation’s other new universities and their supporters. Well aware of the stakes, the university’s Buildings and Grounds Committee in April 1891 invited Cobb and five other Chicago firms to participate in a limited competition. To conceive and build an entire campus on a twenty-four-acre site was not simply an architect’s opportunity of a lifetime. Among the daunting practical challenges was the university’s deadline to complete several dormitories and a classroom building in time to open the institution a scant eighteen months


later, and the imperative to avoid the overreaching that had bankrupted the first University of Chicago just five years earlier. In short, building a second university required all the entrepreneurial drive and the intensified sense of civic identity that had characterized the city’s history, a drive and an identity summed up in the motto the city’s leaders chose for Chicago in the year of the university’s architectural competition: “I Will.” To mount a second, much more ambitious institution of higher education on the heels of the one that failed gave some point to the motto. Despite its bankruptcy, however, the first university conditioned the second more profoundly than the institution’s several historians have suggested.

The First and Second Universities of Chicago In 1856, Stephen A. Douglas, Illinois’s second-term United States senator, donated ten acres of land near Cottage Grove Avenue and Thirty-Fifth Street to be the site for a university in Chicago. Instruction began in 1859 in a partially completed fourstory castellated Gothic building named for Douglas and designed by architect William Boyington (fig. 7.1). When Douglas died in the spring of 1861 William Ogden took over as president of the board of trustees. Although he intended to build a new wing for Douglas Hall if the university freed itself of debt, its failure to do so convinced Ogden not to go ahead. The financial panics of 1857 and 1873, the Civil War, the great fire in 1871, another fire in 1874, and an overly ambitious build-

7.1  Douglas Hall, University of Chicago, near Thirty-Fifth Street and the Illinois Central Railroad Tracks, ca. 1863. William Boyington, architect. No longer standing. The drum for the Dearborn Observatory is visible behind the building. Archival Photographic Files, apf 2-05358, Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library.

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ing program that left Douglas Hall incomplete so hobbled finances and tied the university up in litigation that it had to shut down in 1886.1 However, this beleaguered history, and the small number of graduates—312 in little more than a quarter century—belied real achievements. Alumnus Thomas W. Goodspeed, the university’s first historian, emphasized that “from among [the graduates] rose capitalists, bankers, editors, ministers, missionaries, lawyers, professors, judges, presidents of colleges, men and women successful, some of them eminent, in all the activities of life.” Even in the face of its forced closing, of what for an upstart city was a major failure, Goodspeed maintained that the university’s uncompromised legacy was the “profound conviction that Chicago was the predestined seat of a great institution of learning and the inextinguishable desire and unalterable purpose that a new university, built on more secure foundations and offering greater and better facilities, should succeed the old one.”2 In addition to a credible pool of graduates, events at the first university buttressed Goodspeed’s conviction. During Ogden’s tenure, for example, the amateur humanists behind the Chicago Astronomical Society purchased a telescopic lens forfeited by the University of Mississippi at the onset of the Civil War. Eighteen and a half inches in diameter, the lens was then the world’s largest, thus promising to put the fledgling university in the forefront of the swiftly advancing science of astronomy. In fact, the prompt payment of the first installment on the lens— made by a member of the society who traveled to the Boston office of lens maker Alvan Clark to do so—persuaded Clark to release it to the society rather than to the nearby Cambridge Observatory that Clark had favored at first. The society then mounted the lens and housed the telescope behind Douglas Hall in a tower capped by a revolving drum ninety feet in diameter and paid for by J. Young Scammon (fig. 7.1). A member of the society and one of Ogden’s city-building allies, Scammon named the new facility the Dearborn Observatory, at once honoring with her maiden name his deceased wife and recalling what for Chicagoans was a storied frontier history, since Scammon’s spouse was a relative of the Henry Dearborn from whom Fort Dearborn, the outpost that preceded Chicago, took its name.3 Contemporary events reinforced Goodspeed’s “inextinguishable desire” as well. A sense of “unalterable purpose,” of coming great things, mantled enterprises like the Newberry Library, the World’s Fair, and the Chicago Athletic Association. Moreover, from the start the new university enjoyed the institutional continuity provided by Goodspeed and two other men who had been central to the Baptist Union Theological Seminary, a Chicago institution founded in 1867, located in suburban Morgan Park, and associated with the old university.4 Before he became a trustee of the new university in 1889, Goodspeed had taught some of his theology courses in Douglas Hall. So had William Rainey Harper, a nationally recognized professor of Hebrew, and the man the board of trustees of the new university nominated for its president in 1890. The third individual was John D. Rockefeller, who, despite the robber-baron publicity that made him what one associate called

Self-Made Men, Civic Culture, and the University of Chicago


a “national storm center,” had been the unpublicized vice president and financial patron of the seminary for nine years. Institutional continuity also encompassed Baptist educational zeal, still an underappreciated factor in the new university’s early success. Although Goodspeed was hardly an impartial witness, it is difficult not to credit his claim that the catalytic event in founding the university was a document in which the Reverend Frederick T. Gates, corresponding secretary of the American Baptist Education Society, an organization that Goodspeed helped start in 1887 to reform “the feeble and chaotic condition of Baptist education,” addressed the question of how and where in the country Baptists, who comprised the nation’s third largest Christian denomination, might best focus their educational efforts.5 After five months of study Gates concluded in a speech he gave in Chicago in late October 1888, just when Cobb had started work on the Newberry Library, that no other city, not Washington, D.C., or New York, offered advantages equal to Chicago’s for a new college. With a battery of statistics, Gates underscored the “terrible truths” of Baptist education between the Appalachians and the Rockies: compared to those of the Methodists and the Congregationalists, Baptist colleges were not only isolated but small in number, enrollments, endowments, facilities, and resources. Hence, most Baptist youth either did not go to college at all or attended non-Baptist Christian colleges or “State Higher Schools of Irreligion.” But a Baptist college in Chicago could solve these problems through the metropolitan advantages that made the city “the fountain of western life”: it possessed a highly central location, superb rail and road connections, an immense region of influence, the large population needed to sustain enrollments in an era when colleges and universities matriculated mostly local residents, and the individuals required for the “wise management” that the first university—launched in a much smaller and more inexperienced Chicago—lacked. In sum, no other city would “at once remove so many difficulties, restore so many disaffections, reduce to harmony and order so many chaotic elements, meet needs . . . so immediate, or confer so large a boon on the cause of Christ in the west.”6 Pressing the case in a letter he wrote to Rockefeller a few months later, Gates emphasized another of Chicago’s advantages: “Citizens of wealth and local pride will assist in founding favorite departments” (emphasis added). Both documents convinced Rockefeller to back the Chicago project rather than a much more expensive proposal aggressively advanced by another Baptist minister to establish a graduate university in New York City. In this head-to-head metropolitan competition, Rockefeller, who had offices and warehouses in Manhattan, nonetheless favored the upstart city, but not without attaching strings. Based on an institutional plan worked out by Gates, Goodspeed, and a few others, the oil magnate tested Gates’s certainty about Chicago’s civic pride by funding operating expenses for the new institution with an endowment of six hundred thousand dollars provided that Goodspeed and his Chicago allies raise an additional four hundred thousand 184 Chapter 7

for the buildings and grounds. Goodspeed and fellow trustees Martin Ryerson and Charles Hutchinson quickly secured a large site in Hyde Park just west of Jackson Park, and the money from a broad assortment of Chicago Protestants, Baptists throughout the country, and several of Chicago’s Jewish groups, for the college could not afford any public perception that it was narrowly sectarian. From the beginning these men emphasized secular scholarly research in addressing what Ryerson called “the great social and industrial problems of the day”; through its research, the university, in historian Robin Bachin’s assessment, was to provide “a new model of civic culture in Chicago.”7 Rockefeller, working through Goodspeed and Gates, then tried to convince Harper, who had been teaching ancient Hebrew and cognate languages at Yale since the first university closed, to take over the new college. Having worked with Harper at the seminary, Rockefeller surely recognized a fellow midwestern self-made man of great organizational and intellectual talents. Raised in rural Ohio and educated as an undergraduate in Michigan, Harper was, like Rockefeller, free of eastern snobbery about businessmen and Chicago’s “merely” industrial and commercial power. Yet Harper was also cosmopolitan in ways most midwesterners were not. As an eighteen-year-old prodigy he had earned his doctorate in 1875 from Yale University. The first American university to confer doctoral degrees (1861), Yale put Harper on the front lines of advancing professionalization, as Harvard and MIT had done for Cobb.8 And since his Yale professorship kept him current with developments in contemporary American and European scholarship, Harper was a rara avis, at once a midwestern self-maker and an eastern sophisticate. Both aspects of the man showed up in Harper’s audacious response to Rockefeller, a gambit that became one of the few instances in which a businessman known for driving the hardest of bargains acceded to the terms of another entrepreneur, albeit of a very different kind. Harper agreed to become president only after he secured Rockefeller’s pledge for an additional one million dollars to replace the modest college with Harper’s own plan for a university unlike any other. Eight hundred thousand dollars were to fund a graduate school organized according to Harper’s knowledge of German scholarship and graduate work. The two hundred thousand dollars for theological studies resurrected and transformed the earlier tie between the first university and the seminary by moving the divinity school from Morgan Park to the new campus.9 In addition, the size and complexity of Harper’s university presupposed a much more densely populated and built-up campus, a distinctly urban thrust into what until recently had been Hyde Park’s suburban idyll. Harper’s project also presupposed a degree of engagement with the city no other American university equaled. Prepared by his own work at Morgan Park and influenced by the outreach programs pioneered in England by Cambridge University, Harper planned an extension division to provide public lectures in and around Chicago, evening courses for men and women who had to work, correspondence courses for anyone in the country unable to attend college full time, scholarly study of the Bible in its origi

Self-Made Men, Civic Culture, and the University of Chicago


nal languages, and the books required for these programs. Harper also planned one of the nation’s first university presses to publish the journals and books that would disseminate the work of the accomplished scholars he intended to lure away from the nation’s top universities.10 The extension division was the most pointed example of how much the second university continued the work of the first one in the person of Harper himself. From 1881 through 1890, while he was teaching at Douglas Hall and the Morgan Park Theological Seminary, he organized thirty summer schools around the country for the study of the Bible in its ancient languages, developed a correspondence course in Hebrew when correspondence courses were a novel educational medium, wrote the necessary manuals, established the printing operation necessary to publish them, launched two periodicals, and organized a joint stock company to finance the whole venture. In shaping a nationwide Chautauqua movement in Hebrew and Biblical studies, Harper pioneered adult education outside traditional university settings, and challenged orthodox theology with a critical or rationalist approach to Biblical language.11 This work rehearsed exactly the sort of egalitarian enterprise Harper made out of the second university’s extension division. Apart from Goodspeed’s, histories of the university’s founding magnify Rockefeller’s munificence and underplay the roles of civic pride and Harper’s initiative. But only through Harper did Chicago get a university of a truly original metropolitan character, and only in the open field of metropolitan Chicago did Harper—like Cobb, Poole, Blatchford, Burnham, and many others—acquire so free a hand as a cultural entrepreneur. Twice in a dozen years Chicago gave a zealous teacher and creative administrator the latitude to pursue extraordinary educational ambitions. Put another way, Harper’s experience at the seminary told him that Chicago was an ideal setting for a university at once elite in its college and graduate divisions, and democratic in the type and variety of programs that were to engage the life of the city. In historian Ellen Fitzpatrick’s formulation, “Harper preached an intellectual’s social gospel.”12 In fact, his educational evangelizing, his novel program to serve the public outside a campus that was a private institution, did not take place in an institutional vacuum. Among other initiatives, Chicago’s burgeoning reform movements included the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, Addams’s settlement houses, Pullman’s attempt to improve morals through the architecture and city planning of his factory town, and the Young Men’s Christian Association, with its branch buildings around the city for railroad workers, college students, and the general population.13 Chicago’s many roads to reform in the late 1880s and early 1890s also coincided with a cresting wave of changes in higher education. Since the Civil War the spread of books, newspapers, and libraries, and rising rates of literacy, had greatly expanded enrollments in high schools and colleges, and the 1862 Morrill Land Grant Act promoted the founding of many new universities. These factors and a new emphasis on graduate study at Lake Forest, Johns Hopkins, and Clark Univer186 Chapter 7

sities not only brought to the forefront educational innovators like Andrew White at Cornell University, Charles Eliot Norton at Harvard, Seth Low at Columbia, and Harper at Chicago, but also opened a new chapter in campus planning and architecture, one in which Chicago’s institutional freedom, the city’s climate of reform, Harper’s novel plans, and the educational and architectural ambitions of his trustees enabled the new university to play a leading role.14

The Site, the Competition, and the Campus Plan (1890–1892) The university site addressed by Cobb and the other five architects came from Marshall Field, who donated one portion and sold another contiguous section of the land he owned in the Hyde Park suburb that Chicago had recently annexed (fig. 7.2). Bounded by Fifty-Seventh and Fifty-Ninth Streets, and University (Lexington) and Ellis Avenues, this tract bolstered the university’s early fortunes almost as much as Rockefeller’s gift. Goodspeed wrote that it “was at once recognized as the ideal site,” though no one spelled out why. Despite its scrub growth and undrained land, Field’s property possessed unusual attractions. Removed by prevailing winds from the pollution of the Loop and the city’s industrial neighborhoods, and flanked by five railroad and cable-car lines that connected it to the city, the site

Self-Made Men, Civic Culture, and the University of Chicago 187

7.2  Map of Hyde Park, Chicago, ca. 1893. Archival Photographic Files, apf2-04073, Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library.

offered salubrious air, open space, access to the social and educational advantages of Chicago, and a location between bucolic Washington Park not far to the west and Jackson Park and Lake Michigan to the east.15 But as with the parks and the clean lake water about to result from the city’s reversal of the flow of the Chicago River, which daily dumped tons of sewage and industrial effluents into the lake, the site’s apparently natural attractions were all manmade, the result of systematic planning on the large scale of the nation’s most modern city, and of projects in Chicago’s first generation that seeded larger ones in the second. Begun in 1889, the Sanitary and Ship Canal not only reversed the river’s current but detoxified its pollutants and replaced Ogden’s now obsolete Illinois and Michigan Canal with one suitable for modern barge traffic shipping goods to the rest of the world via the Mississippi River. Washington Park was one of the six large parks engirdling the city, a green belt that Chicagoan John S. Wright first proposed in 1848, that Olmsted and Calvert Vaux designed in 1869, well before other American cities planned their own metropolitan park systems, and that Chicago’s three independent park districts built up over the next twenty years.16 Although one of the six parks remained undeveloped, it, too, was to enhance the university site. Backed by Chicagoans like Ryerson, Hutchinson, and Burnham, Olmsted in the early 1890s transformed sand dunes and marshland into the Columbian Exposition’s Jackson Park, the last in the archipelago of pastoral landscapes connected to each other on the city’s South, West, and North Sides by tree-lined boulevards. The most elaborate of these arteries became the broad allée of the Midway Plaisance on the southern edge of the new campus. Bordered by a boulevard and flanked by two Olmsted parks and the lake, the site for the new university—the beneficiary of forty years of accumulating civic assets—was to enjoy a mix of urban, suburban, manmade, and natural advantages unequaled by any other American campus. As for the campus design itself, the trustees, wrote Goodspeed, “believed in the cultural influence of architecture.” Like many others in this period, they hoped that “the passing of the years among beautiful structures might increase intelligence, refine taste, and develop character, and thus minister to the highest culture.” Attributing so much agency to design also fit hand in glove with the high ambition Hutchinson expressed in a letter he wrote to Harper while traveling in Egypt. At “overwhelming” monuments like Abu Simbel, he reflected that “we must build well . . . if we hope to leave as enduring evidences of our work behind.”17 To build well, and to avoid the haphazard layouts of many American campuses, the Committee on Buildings and Grounds on 25 April 1891 instructed Martin Ryerson to invite the firms of Adler & Sullivan, Burlington & Whitehouse, Flanders & Zimmerman, Patton & Fisher, Solon S. Beman, and Henry Ives Cobb “to furnish to the Committee plans showing how the site should be covered, and the buildings be arranged and distributed, and also sketches of a recitation building and dormitory, and the divinity dormitory. . . .” The committee invited only Chicago firms because they planned to break ground in July and open the university 188 Chapter 7

on 1 October 1892, a deadline that called for closer supervision of design development and building construction than an out-of-town architect could provide.18 The committee gave the six firms barely three weeks to meet a 15 May deadline. Besides the campus plan, the competitors had to stay within a tight budget of $125,000 in their designs for a functionally complex recitation building.19 Five neoRomanesque entries, unaccompanied by campus or building plans, appeared in the Chicago Tribune and Harper’s Weekly in late May (figs. 7.3 and 7.4). Although Harper’s recognized the “variable quality in point of artistic design,” it deemed Cobb’s recitation hall “the largest and most picturesque of the sketches.”20 This was a surprising judgment, since the recitation halls of two other firms displayed more skillfully developed façades, ornament, and rooflines than Cobb’s, whose design merely simplified the Newberry Library’s south front. Patton & Fisher’s dormitory was clearly a more advanced design than Cobb’s plain barracks of a building.21 Despite this, however, the committee’s first or informal ballot “showed four votes for Henry Ives Cobb, two for Patton & Fisher and one for Adler and Sullivan.” More surprisingly, on the second and final ballot the committee unanimously agreed on Cobb. A summary letter from Goodspeed to Harper explained the three changed votes. In the “free expression of opinion” that followed the first ballot, “several” members said “that Patton & Fisher had furnished the best plans, tho’ none was satisfactory.—that none of Cobb’s plans could be accepted. but that he was the most prominent & on the whole the best & ablest architect.”22 Despite unworkable plans and façades that hardly approached Hutchinson’s ambitions, Cobb’s prominence was in fact difficult to ignore. In their invalidation of their own competition, all eight committee members were aware of his near monopoly on the city’s prestigious institutional commissions, and of his professional associations with university trustees. For more than a year Cobb had been working with trustee Charles Hutchinson on the Chicago Athletic Association. Two committee members, Martin Ryerson and George C. Walker, knew Cobb’s work at close hand. Ryerson, also a trustee, was on the board of directors for the World’s Fair, for which Cobb was designing six facilities. Walker—another trustee, a prominent real estate developer, a generous contributor to the first university, and civically much involved in Morgan Park—owned Point Comfort, a vacation home on Lake Geneva in southeastern Wisconsin designed by Cobb & Frost (1884). No other architect in the running matched Cobb in these ways.23 All the competition designs employed the neo-Romanesque idiom. Soon after his appointment as the university’s architect, however, Cobb switched to an eclectic fusion of English Gothic motifs. Goodspeed, Ryerson, Hutchinson, and Harper were well aware of Victorian Gothic buildings at Yale University and of the Gothic quadrangles planned for Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut.24 Yet Cobb seems independently to have preferred Gothic himself, as a letter written on 12 June 1891, and which Goodspeed quotes in his history of the university, clearly shows:

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7.3  Competition designs for the University of Chicago’s recitation hall, 1891. Henry Ives Cobb (top), Adler & Sullivan (middle), architects. The bottom drawing is unattributed. “The University of Chicago and Its President,” Chicago Tribune, 24 May 1891, 1; Harper’s Weekly 35 (30 May 1891): 410.

7.4  Competition designs for the first dormitory, 1891. Henry Ives Cobb (top), Patton & Fisher (bottom). “The University of Chicago and Its President,” Chicago Tribune, 24 May 1891, 1.

The buildings designed by Mr. Cobb in the original competition were very plain Romanesque. Mr. Ryerson and Mr. Hutchinson did not think this the appropriate style. They, therefore, went to Mr. Cobb after he was nominated [university] architect . . . and said to him, “If you were to make an absolutely independent choice as to the style of the buildings what would it be?” “Oh,” said Mr. Cobb, “I should prefer the very latest English Gothic.” “Well,” said Mr. Hutchinson, “I guess our mission is accomplished.” They had gone over to advise that very style.25

But why were they all so committed to Gothic? Cobb had almost certainly visited Oxford and Cambridge, and as a student had become familiar with Harvard’s two variations on neo-Gothic architecture, Gore and Memorial Halls. Back in the 1820s and 1830s Gothic’s pious intimations were inescapable for sectarian colleges, but, with the midcentury proliferation of secular colleges, associations to age and permanence came to the fore. While Greek or Roman classicism might have served equally well in this regard, only medieval Europe’s first institutions of higher education, as one writer put it in 1853, communicated the “substantial, venerable air” of an “old and honored university.” In a young country of accelerating rates of change, Gothic’s repertoire of forms, asymmetrical massing, and arresting rooflines—its picturesque variety within an overall unity—sustained the conceit of a solid, permanent, and historically rich institution much better than the many campuses of plain red brick classical buildings and wood columns.26 Then, too, Harper’s own brief for the spiritual, conserving, idealizing, and creative elements in secular higher education comported well with Gothic. For him the university was the “mediator between . . . mankind and that ideal inner self of mankind. . . . the university is the keeper, for the church of democracy, of holy mysteries, of sacred and significant traditions.”27 Only Gothic made such associations at all credible in stone. Less than a month after Ryerson and Hutchinson had spoken to him Cobb worked up a preliminary campus plan organized around seven quadrangles and sketched an aerial perspective for it.28 Over the next year, he revised and polished the scheme (fig. 7.5). Given the large size of the campus, Cobb sensibly placed the classroom buildings in the central east-west quadrangle, a circuit of buildings that included those for chemistry, physics, and natural science. Terminating the eastern and western ends of this axis were a chapel and the university hall. The plan had three unusual features. First, the seven quadrangles, which constituted one great quadrangle, powerfully conveyed a sense of the cloistered withdrawal from a commonplace into a contemplative world. Second, Cobb opened each quadrangle at different points to link one into the next, improve the circulation of air, define clear lines of movement in what otherwise might have been a quadrangular maze, and orient everyone to the plan’s larger central space. Third, a fountain marked the crossing of the north-south and east-west axes, thus

Self-Made Men, Civic Culture, and the University of Chicago


completing a scheme probably influenced by the cross-axiality of many pavilions at

7.5  “Study for University of Chicago,”

the World’s Fair, including Cobb’s own Fisheries Building.

1893. Henry Ives Cobb, architect.

There were also two infelicities. The north central portion of the site crowded four buildings too closely together, which may have been partly the result of Harper’s ambitious program for a site not quite large enough to contain it. But it was Cobb alone who, in the center quadrangle, planted east-west rows of trees that cut off views from the north and south, thus weakening the cross-axial or centralized emphasis. Cobb’s plan nevertheless lucidly diagrammed fundamental shifts in the organization of knowledge during the late nineteenth century, and brought order to campus facilities housing an increasing number and variety of modern intellectual disciplines. Professionalized research and publications inaccessible to most people had replaced the Enlightenment ideal of universal knowledge and universal access to it. Professional associations and doctoral requirements regulated specialized fields; university departments represented those fields on campus; each department now occupied an entire building rather than a portion of it; and the science buildings in particular required the architect to consult with that field’s experts to accommodate the most modern technology for laboratory research.

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Inland Architect 22 (August 1893): plate. Courtesy Art Institute of Chicago.

The contrasts between Chicago’s first and second universities could hardly have been more striking: the homely Gothic battlements of Boyington, whose recognition was strictly local, replaced by the “very latest Gothic” of a highly educated, well traveled, nationally recognized architect; the small size and limited constituency of the first university eclipsed by the comprehensive program and much wider recognition of the importance of higher education in the second one. Indeed, despite the minor liabilities, Cobb had created something remarkable in the history of campus design. His four corner quadrangles more closely approached the spatial serenity of the Oxbridge ideal of a cloistered island of green than the four proposed for Stanford University (1888), which were longer, narrower, and more directional (fig. 7.6). In the medieval English university, the sense of calm enclosure created by nearly square proportions in residential quadrangles set off the creative tension between withdrawal into individual cells for study and contemplation on the one hand, and participation in the larger spiritual and intellectual community on the other. This same tension marked the relations of engagement and withdrawal the university was to sustain with the larger city. Although several historians have claimed that Cobb’s emphatically walled precincts divorced the university from the neighborhood or the city as a whole, they actually provided the distinctly urban setting needed to research, discuss, and address the problems and opportunities Harper and many faculty saw in the university’s programmatic embrace of Chicago through the extension division, the social sciences, and the education school.29 Certainly Cobb’s quadrangles were not the wholly quiescent ones that in 1899 Woodrow Wilson envisioned for Princeton University: “a place full of quiet chambers, secluded . . . courts, and gardens shut away from intrusion.”30 In contrast, Cobb’s were monumental units in the definition of urban space. That is, the

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7.6  Aerial perspective, Stanford University, Palo Alto, California, 1888. Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge, architects. Architectural Record, Great American Architects Series 3 (July 1896): 49.

quadrangles were not completely or half hidden behind a street wall of nonuniversity buildings like many of the Oxbridge colleges, a defensive measure taken in the early centuries of their history because of town-gown antagonisms involving fights, murders, and even war.31 Nor was the university on an isolated site or in much smaller towns, like Johns Hopkins, Stanford, Trinity, Yale, or Princeton—all of them to one degree or another the product of America’s long-standing antiurban ideology, which stretched back to Thomas Jefferson’s “academical village” at the University of Virginia. If the two inherently urban advantages of quadrangles were high density in the perimeter buildings and open space in the courtyard, then Cobb’s scheme more fully exploited them than other quadrangular plans. Even the flat, plain façades of the two-story dormitories framing the Great Quadrangle at Christ Church, the largest of the associated Oxford colleges, retained the medieval scale of monk’s cells. In contrast, the four, five and six stories of Cobb’s quadrangles were at a consistently monumental or urbanized scale, which Cobb mediated by the smaller size of doors and windows, advancing and receding walls, ornamented and unornamented surfaces, asymmetrical inflections, and varied rooflines, all features that helped check any sense of institutional impersonality. Given Harper’s program and Hyde Park’s rapid urbanization, Cobb’s quadrangles helped transform a suburban idyll into an integral part of a modern city. Architect William Burges’s design for Trinity College was the nation’s first and only other ensemble of linked Gothic quadrangles, but Cobb’s plan was distinct from his in several ways (fig. 7.7). Cobb employed more asymmetrical modulations, a spatially more dominant center, and a more eclectic fusion of Gothic vocabularies and building types for a university at once more picturesque and monumental than Burges’s axial alignment of four courtyards and the strict bilateral symmetry of each of them. In mixing unbuttressed and heavily buttressed walls, walls of stone and walls of sheeted glass, flat façades and turreted ones, gabled and hipped roofs, and rectangular building plans with apsidal, octagonal, or cross-axial ones, Cobb more fully exploited the possibilities in the Gothic repertoire than anyone else. But taken together, Cobb’s varied quadrangles and the polished Burges plan—French parterre meets cloister garth meets quadrangles en suite—were far more coherent, sophisticated, and ornamentally rich than any other collegiate Gothic of the time, whether compared to Yale’s loose, slowly developing quadrangle of separate buildings in the 1890s or the three Gothic keeps erected at Princeton University late in the decade.32 Moreover, a larger scale, a higher density, a more urban character, and a unique fusion of cross-axial and quadrangular planning set Cobb’s plan apart from other campus designs, including McKim, Mead & White’s neoclassical Columbia University (1894). If Columbia, Stanford, Trinity, and other institutions turned to master planning because the increasing size and complexity of modernizing universities required it, this was truer of Harper’s project and Cobb’s campus than of the others. Besides the undergraduate college, a research library, a gymnasium, 194 Chapter 7

graduate and divinity schools, two science museums, and a full complement of

7.7  Aerial perspective, Trinity College,

buildings for the humanities and for the social, physical, and natural sciences,

Harford, Connecticut, 1873, William

it also included separate graduate and undergraduate dormitories for men and women in an era when few students lived on campus and even fewer colleges and universities were coeducational. With the dormitories, Harper intended to immerse students in a total university experience.

Donors and Buildings (1891–1893) Soon after Rockefeller pledged his first six hundred thousand dollars, the new university, free of the debt that had prevented William Ogden from acting on his “generous intentions,” received an endowment from Ogden’s widow, Marianna Arnot Ogden. To institute what Goodspeed called William Ogden’s commitment to “the upbuilding of a university for Chicago,” she and the lawyer for her late husband’s estate enabled the trustees in July 1891 to fund operating expenses for the new Ogden Graduate School of Science. The prospect of this gift seven months earlier had helped persuade Harper to accept the university’s presidency in the first place.33 Because Chicago was “the most commanding social, financial, literary and religious eminence in the west,” Frederick Gates in 1888 had pressed the case for a college in the city because he thought its “citizens of wealth and local pride” would

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Burges, architect. New England Magazine (1897): 517.

fund the departments that interested them. Although Marianna Ogden’s gift seemed to confirm this, Gates’s conviction was much tested in the thirteen months between Cobb’s appointment as university architect and August 1892. For both operating and capital budgets, Harper’s plans turned out to be much more costly than anyone had anticipated. Hence, in early February 1892, Gates, now Rockefeller’s personal secretary and the man who oversaw all his philanthropic interests, urged the philanthropist to give what a few weeks later became a million dollars in interest-bearing bonds not only because the university needed money to hire faculty and meet other mounting expenses but because neither Gates nor the trustees “dreamed at the first of the magnitude of the opportunities, the promise, the occasion.” As the Cerberus for Rockefeller’s philanthropy, Gates was hardly trying to sell his boss an illusion. Moreover, Rockefeller’s second gift again called the city to account, as when the Post headlined an editorial “Chicago’s Turn Next.” Harper’s plans meant that Chicagoans had to raise far more than the four hundred thousand dollars they had pledged for a small college. Quoting the Post’s headline to Goodspeed, Marshall Field stated that “now Chicago must put a million dollars into the buildings of the University,” and promptly pledged a hundred thousand dollars on the locally unheard-of condition that the remaining nine hundred thousand be raised in ninety days.34 Although the campaign took longer than the stipulated three months, Chicagoans met Field’s challenge in the first half of 1892, a response that induced in the trustees a kindred version of Gates’s sense of the institution’s great moment: the unfolding reality and accelerating development of a novel kind of university was, Goodspeed wrote, growing on “our wondering eyes month by month.”35 Cobb, though, was hardly in a state of wonderment. At least eleven university buildings were now on his drafting table, and his firm was still handling the Historical Society, the Chicago Athletic Association, the Durand Art Institute, the fair buildings, and several major commercial commissions downtown, all of which were in various stages of design and construction. Inundated by an unusually varied set of complex buildings, Cobb brought down on himself criticism like that which Burnham had leveled at him ten months earlier. On 25 May 1892, in the midst of Field’s campaign, the Buildings and Grounds Committee, after looking at some of Cobb’s revisions, declared themselves “disappointed with the progress made on the plans,” and warned that “unless the work of the University can receive more attention and go forward more rapidly, the Committee will feel compelled to ask for the assistance of another architect.”36 Cobb replied to this stinging criticism in a letter to Goodspeed a week later. “If the committee will take the trouble to run over with me the amount of work I have done for the university during the last 12 months I am satisfied that they will see that there is no possible ground for criticizing the amount of attention I am giving their work.” Claiming that he had “never on any occasion raised the slightest objection” about producing and handing over “any drawings . . . for any building, whether the building might be built or not, whether I have even hoped to get any 196 Chapter 7

compensation for the drawings or not,” Cobb intended “to have nothing as far as I am concerned stand in the way of making the University as nearly pe[r]fect as I can [despite] an expense to me of thousands more than I have received.” This did not mean, he emphasized, that he wanted “to have the question of dollars and cents enter into my conduct relative to this work, as I realize that so far as the buildings are concerned I have more at stake in [the] University than any one else connected with it.” He then invited board members to his office, where “I should be pleased to show them [around] and give them some idea of the organization I have for getting out work properly and promptly.”37 Cobb was not at all the contrite or abject architect bowing before a powerful client. On the contrary, with a serene confidence, a man who was still a neophyte in institutional architecture stood up to sharply critical Chicago potentates. With the prose equivalent of a straight face he claimed he was giving them the attention they claimed he was not. In a kind of silent temerity, he refused to say he would push the work along as rapidly as the committee wished, as though he judged the promptness and productivity of his office by other standards. To make the buildings “as nearly perfect as” he could because of what he had “at stake” clearly showed him to be a perfectionist. If Cobb’s letter temporarily quelled the committee’s doubts, four and a half months later the situation had worsened. On 12 October, Goodspeed, in a very rare moment of exasperation, wrote Harper that “we have found it simply impossible to hurry Mr. Cobb. We have haunted his office. . . . We have urged, exhorted, entreated.—in short we have exhausted all the resources of pressure on him in vain. It has been found impossible to hasten his pace by the fractional part of a second.”38 The university had just opened at the beginning of the month, and the committee’s earlier marveling mood had vanished. The trustees were under enormous pressure to deliver over the course of the next year the necessary additional facilities, faculty, salaries, and equipment, pressures all the more real because the financial collapse of the first university six years earlier was still in the minds of everyone. Moreover, the first buildings were running over budget despite the combined scrutiny of Cobb, the trustees, and the Buildings and Grounds Committee. Harper was either very anxious or very depressed about commitments that he thought might be impossible to meet.39 Yet, while these pressures surely accounted for much of the committee’s exasperation, its futile exhortations for nearly half a year suggest that Cobb’s inexperience and the rapid accumulation of new commissions, not just his perfectionism, slowed his production enough to cause them, and other clients, much of their anxiety. While the volume of work represented by his number of institutional commissions was not exceptional compared to the workload of the largest firms, Cobb’s youth was. Thirty-three years old, and only in the second year of handling multiple large-scale projects, he was much younger than Jenney, Adler, and Burnham. Unlike these and other seasoned professionals, who had practiced much longer and had already geared their firms for the efficient production of complex

Self-Made Men, Civic Culture, and the University of Chicago


buildings, Cobb was doing so on the run in the middle of Chicago’s boom years.40 The move to the Trust Building was still six months in the future, and Cobb had received all his high-profile commissions during the eighteen months since January 1890, when his contract with the Newberry trustees to focus almost entirely on the library no longer bound him. The sudden influx of residential, commercial, and institutional work required him to reorganize his practice, hire many more architects and draftsmen, produce thousands of technically complex drawings, and do all this at an increasingly rapid pace. When in 1895 the Inland Architect reported that Cobb’s office had as many as 130 employees, that would almost certainly have been right before the financial depression ended the building boom. At that time, the office may well have “properly and promptly” turned out work.41 But getting to that point required Cobb to accelerate up a steep organizational slope, starting in the summer of 1891. While he may have scrambled up most of it when he confidently replied to the committee in early June 1892, getting there was likely to have involved the kind of delay that prompted the committee to suggest “another architect.” There was one other reason why Cobb may have thrown sand in the gears as the steely perfectionist who, despite badgering by powerful clients for months, let nothing out of his office until by his own lights he had done the very best he could. In one important sense Cobb did have “more at stake” in the university’s architecture “than any one else.” Few people were going to criticize Harper and the trustees if their buildings did not rise to the immortal standard Hutchinson had glimpsed at Abu Simbel, but if they did not impress architects and critics, then the lost opportunity on a project of this magnitude would have permanently marked Cobb’s career. Although in the eyes of the committee Cobb faltered on the threshold of an extraordinary success, nothing untoward came of it. By the end of 1893 nearly all of the first group of university buildings were complete or nearing completion, and the trustees had begun to plan the second building campaign. While professional publications favorably reviewed Cobb’s university work in architectural terms, Goodspeed, the trustees, and many Chicagoans viewed the campus buildings in the larger context of institutional patronage and Chicago’s two generations of growth.42 Goodspeed’s role in constructing that context was crucial. As a theologian, teacher, fundraiser, trustee, and secretary to both the board and the Committee on Buildings and Grounds, no one knew more about Chicago’s two universities and, through them, the city’s history. He was compelled enough by how frontier humanists like Ogden and other self-made men, women, and their offspring seeded the university’s development that he wrote not just two histories of the university, but also two substantial volumes of biographical portraits of the individuals who made significant contributions. The portraits and the buildings that bore their subject’s names rippled through public awareness in the 1890s in the abbreviated form of dedication ceremonies for the university’s new buildings and in newspaper coverage of these 198 Chapter 7

rituals. While the portraits uncritically employ the inescapable nineteenth-century trope of self-making, their historical significance pivots on that very narrative construct, for Goodspeed placed self-made individuals at the center of the cluster of meanings that he, Harper, and the trustees conferred on Cobb’s buildings. In aligning their own institutional project with those of the city’s first builders they saw their new facilities as the cultural outgrowth and culmination of Chicago’s prodigious enterprise. More fully researched, and at once more soberly written and vivid in detail than earlier biographical sketches of the same individuals, Goodspeed’s portraits also recognized two fundamental conditions of Chicago’s entirely transitional history: in a village always in the process of becoming a city, in a city always in the process of becoming the nation’s second largest and most important metropolis, the pursuit of private gain often served public ends, and the institution-building vital for a metropolitan identity required the collaboration of Hutchinson’s “hard-headed businessmen.” In June 1892, Silas B. Cobb, one of the few early settlers still living, wrote to Harper that “there is no more important public enterprise than the University of Chicago.” He then pledged $150,000 for the multipurpose hall in which the university was to open in October (fig. 7.8). In Goodspeed’s account, Silas Cobb, after

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7.8  Silas B. Cobb Hall from the southeast, University of Chicago, 1892. Henry Ives Cobb architect. Photo © Patricia Evans.

apprenticeships in Vermont that amounted to little more than terms of indentured servitude, arrived penniless in the recently incorporated village of Chicago in 1833. Over the next five decades he transformed himself and much of the city. As with Clement Studebaker’s wagons, the saddles, harnesses, and bridles with which Cobb made his prefire fortune helped Chicago exploit “20,000,000 acres of the richest land in the world.”43 Along the way, Cobb invested in Ogden’s Galena and Chicago Union Railroad, organized the Pioneer Hook and Ladder Company with Ferdinand Peck’s father, and armed and supplied a force of forty thousand men in the Civil War. After the fire he earned a second fortune by developing the “indispensable” public utility of street railways. But like Ogden, Cobb did not neglect altruistic work or boast of his “altruism”; both men made “good investments for themselves [and] promoted at the same time the public welfare.” Inscribed in stone over the door to the new building, “Cobb Lecture Hall” was not the university’s only tribute to this urban pioneer. A bust of Silas B. Cobb perched above the row of windows inside the main entrance in full view of anyone ascending or descending the switchback stairs. Located on the west central edge of campus, and a kind of modernized Old Manse compressing most of the university’s functions into a single facility, Cobb Hall housed classrooms, offices, and small departmental libraries on the upper floors, while the first story contained a large lecture room, a chapel and assembly space, and offices for the registrar, the university press, the extension division, five deans, and various other functions. Architecturally, the building introduced elements that Cobb employed for all campus buildings: projecting and receding walls that broke up long façades into five bays and were pierced by large stone-mullion windows; towers and ornament concentrated around the entrance to save money and enliven utilitarian facilities; a stair hall in the building’s midsection; a double-loaded corridor along its length; load-bearing buttressed walls of blue-gray Bedford stone that weathered quickly and “aged” the neo-Gothic trim; red tile roofs that brightened the exterior; interior walls of yellow brick that reflected natural light; metal columns for long spans and freed-up space where necessary; wood for the beams, floors, and wall paneling that visually warmed up otherwise plain rooms; windows that were single and grouped, arcaded and flat, pointed and Tudor, wide and narrow; deep reveals and pronounced shadows produced by the self-supporting masonry walls; sharply profiled gable fronts that helped unify buildings with varied silhouettes; and roofline ornaments like crenellations, cruciform finials, and curled-back crockets that gracefully addressed the sky. In June 1892 trustee Martin A. Ryerson donated the money for the physics building, selected one of the most central sites on campus for it, and named it for his father, Martin Ryerson. In Goodspeed’s portrait, Martin Ryerson was not a man with the civic stature of an Ogden or a Silas Cobb, but this millionaire of the same generation began his self-made ascent by trading furs with Michigan Indians before he moved to Chicago in its takeoff year of 1848, when Ogden launched the city’s first railroad. Like Ogden, Ryerson accrued fortunes in real estate and 200 Chapter 7

lumber, the latter the business his son took over.44 “Ryerson Physical Laboratory” appeared in stone over the door; a plaque in the stair hall profiled the man. Since the labs had to be technically advanced to attract first-rate faculty to a fledgling institution, Cobb consulted with physicists on requirements like maintaining constant air temperatures.45 Elsewhere he improved on the design of Cobb Lecture Hall. While an undeviating symmetry stiffened that building, Ryerson’s single tower asymmetrically slotted into the right side of the entrance sounded Gothic’s more picturesque note, as did the salient gargoyles that ringed the top of the tower (figs. 7.9 and 7.10). Where Cobb Hall’s staircase was conventional in size and plan, Ryerson’s was ampler and more original (fig. 7.11). On the first floor two lateral flights lead to a wider central one that doubles back. Another half story up, this central flight redivides into doubled-back lateral flights, establishing a rhythmic alternation that continues through four stories. On the landing between the first and second floors, a stone window frame of five foliated Gothic arches and column capitals of delicate vegetal ornament invites closer inspection both inside and outside the building. The plan, and the spiky, hard-edged, almost industrial nature of the railing ornament gives the stair hall exceptional power. At the top floor, space opens up, southern light pours in, a door off the landing leads into the tower, and a tightly turned spiral staircase ascends to a small observatory whose tall, narrow windows offer panoramic views of the southern half of the campus. Also in July 1892, trustee George C. Walker donated one hundred thousand dollars for a museum of natural history on the south edge of the central quadrangle. As recounted by Goodspeed at the dedication ceremony, Walker’s lifelong interest in geography, geology, and paleontology began with his father’s address at the opening of Ogden’s Illinois and Michigan Canal, a speech that impressed the boy with its vivid picture of the extent and richness of the Mississippi watershed. Among Walker’s like-minded friends was Robert Kennicott, Smithsonian naturalist, Arctic explorer, and the scientist on the Western Union expedition that routed the first telegraph line between North America and Russia. Capitalist geography in the form of real estate development had made Walker rich enough to help build civic institutions that brought suburb and city into more meaningful metropolitan relations. He gave money to the first and second universities, and funded Morgan Park’s George C. Walker Library, the Chicago Female College, and an academy that became a coeducational preparatory school for the university.46 The museum’s most notable architectural feature was the octagonal stair tower on the museum’s south side, whose ascending windows were the building’s single instance of asymmetry (fig. 7.12). To a greater degree than in other campus buildings, the tower projected beyond the wall to expand the museum’s interior space, admit abundant light, provide full views of the southeastern or women’s quadrangle, and highlight how each of Cobb’s buildings both met internal requirements and addressed the larger campus. Some weeks earlier Walker had helped persuade Sidney A. Kent to pay for the chemistry building. Kent was another self-made millionaire who, like Ryerson’s

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7.9  Ryerson Physical Laboratory from the southwest, University of Chicago, 1893. Henry Ives Cobb, architect. Photo © Patricia Evans. 7.10  Ryerson Physical Laboratory, tower details. Photo © Patricia Evans.

7.11  Ryerson Physical Laboratory, first (bottom), second (middle), and third (top) floor plans. Archival Photographic Files, asas-01935, Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library.

7.12  Walker Museum, stair hall, ca. 1893. Archival Photographic Files, asas-01930, Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library.

father, began by trading in furs, hides, and grains. At midcentury he made a fortune in the packing and provision business. One of the incorporators of the Chicago Union Stock Yard Company in 1865, he was among the rare capitalists who in the 1880s favored an eight-hour day for workers. As Ryerson had leveraged his father’s fortune to advance the Art Institute and the university and thus counter the city’s materialist reputation, Kent’s gift helped counter Chicago’s repute as Porkopolis, the sobriquet that referred to the Stock Yards’ notorious smells, its modern scale, and the worldwide markets served by its mechanized slaughter and refrigerated shipment of beef.47 On the lab requirements for Kent Chemical Laboratory Cobb consulted with Ira Remsen, a noted chemist at the new Johns Hopkins University 48 The result, in part, was the building’s unusual breadth, anchored by another octagonal 204 Chapter 7

stair tower to the right of the entrance. Inside it, above the tower’s third-floor landing, twelve tall windows illuminated a two-story space. The wood-paneled conical ceiling reflected the conical roof outside, and climaxed a spatial sequence introduced by the wrought-iron intricacy of the curvilinear strapwork on the entrance doors of tawny wood, one of the best examples on campus of ornament concentrated at the most trafficked points (fig. 7.13). Cobb’s Gothic was not archaeological or copyist. His adaptations and transformations ranged through all the major medieval English periods even as he favored the Tudor phase. Proportions varied. The Walker Museum was unusually tall, Kent unusually broad, and Ryerson compactly massed, in response to functional requirements and mandates in the campus plan, such as a uniform cornice line and properly framed quadrangles. Ornament for rooftops and staircase grills could bristle with projecting elements. Although façade motifs were sometimes insufficiently integrated with one another, Cobb’s goal was always a creative synthesis of forms, a synthesis which set his Gothic apart from that of other campuses. A fine example was the lecture hall hitched to Kent’s north side, an octagonal outlier that complemented the stair hall’s geometry on the other side of the

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7.13  Kent Chemical Laboratory, 1893. Henry Ives Cobb, architect. Door detail. Photo © Patricia Evans.

building. Inside, at the angles of the octagon, eight wood ribs spring from corbeled stone blocks set into the walls in unusually low positions, so that the ribs seem more dramatically to soar over the raked seating and converge high above the center of the room (fig. 7.14). Modeled on chapter houses at English cathedrals, the lecture hall creatively transformed an ecclesiastical space. Removing the central stone pillar from which radial vaulting ribs spring in a chapter house, and which confines seating to the octagonal perimeter, Cobb launched his wooden ribs from the edge of the room, thus freeing up space for five hundred seats in the center. He then registered the floor’s downward slope by stepping the windows down as well, something he also did for the windows and sloped floor of a smaller lecture room on the east end of the main building (fig. 7.15). The octagon was thus the only campus building with an inside-outside consonance of Gothic space, structure, and ornament. Sidney Kent picked up the extra cost, and Harper pressed the hall into service for university convocations and chapel services modeled on ones from the Middle Ages, thus mating quasi-religious university ceremonials with an ecclesiastical building type.49 For the men’s and women’s dormitories patronage did not conform to the dominant pattern of funding by Chicago builders and their scions, but it did bring to the fore affluent women and female faculty who in pushing Cobb to be

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7.14  Kent Chemical Laboratory, lecture hall. Archival Photographic Files, asas01931, Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library

as spatially creative as he had been at Kent, helped stabilize coeducation at the university. Just as some critics compared locating a cosmopolitan university in culturally “backward” Chicago “to putting it in the Fiji Islands,” so others believed that admitting women would lower standards.50 After Rockefeller paid for the two divinity dormitories immediately south of Cobb Hall, Chicagoan Henrietta Snell gave a third residence hall—sited just below the northwest corner of the campus and housing undergraduate men—to honor her late husband Amos J. Snell. In May and June of 1892, Mary Beecher, the twin sister of Silas Cobb’s wife, pledged the money for a woman’s dormitory, following up a gift to the university her husband had previously made. Elizabeth G. Kelly and early settler Nancy S. Foster gave the money for the second and third women’s dorms.51 Foster, Beecher, and Kelly Halls, which lined University Avenue at the southeastern corner of campus, best show how Cobb’s continuous façades shaped and enlivened the space of the street as well as the quadrangle behind the street wall. This was due to Harper’s appointment to the faculty of Alice Freeman Palmer, former president of Wellesley College, and her Wellesley colleague Marion Talbot, both of whom had looked carefully at the residential needs of undergraduate women. Harper asked them to meet with Cobb to go over the dormitory plans.

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7.15  Kent Chemical Laboratory and lecture hall. View from the northeast. Photo © Patricia Evans.

“We found some woeful mistakes,” Talbot wrote her parents, “such as no rooms en suite, no fireplaces, no parlor for the household, no provision for ventilation.”52 Cobb, in fact, had originally planned the women’s bedrooms as he had those for the men—narrow, single rooms flanking wider studies that opened onto a central corridor (fig. 7.16a). He and university officials had overlooked social facilities, so that soon after Snell Hall opened, for example, the men fashioned a club room for themselves in the basement, turned one of the first-floor rooms into a parlor, and welcomed such later gifts as a piano from Mrs. Snell. This experience, and perhaps a Victorian male’s understanding of the distinct requirements of women, may have prompted Cobb to include in the very large women’s dormitory more social amenities. These were not enough for Talbot and Palmer, who appealed to the Committee on Buildings and Grounds to alter the plans.53 Their insistence on

7.16  Men’s graduate dormitory plan (top), 1891, and revised Beecher Hall plan (bottom), 1892. Henry Ives Cobb, architect. “Official Announcement No. 8,” Marion Talbot Papers, box IV, folder 13. Archival Photographic Files, asas-01933 and asas-01934, Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library.

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subdividing the single dorm into several smaller ones, and on fireplaces, parlors, and dining rooms, assured greater sociability. Their recommended single rooms replaced the paired bedrooms and study, though connecting doors allowed easy contact between students if desired (fig. 7.16b). The result was not only a much more congenial environment than the socially null spaces of the men’s dormitories in their original condition, but better, more urban architecture. Bay windows for some of the women’s bedrooms, wider oriels for the dining rooms and upstairs parlors, and their projections into the quadrangle on one side and the street on the other improved ventilation, and gave the walls more variety, vitality, and urbanity than the men’s dorms on the west side of campus. Anchoring the university’s southeastern corner, the four upper floors of Foster Hall were especially good (fig. 7.17). The varied size and shape of the bedrooms, especially the two on the quad-side corner, countered any sense of institutional monotony. Two rectangular parlors and an octagonal one offered fireplaces and sweeping views over Hyde Park and the Midway Plaisance, diagonal prospects that were inherently more dynamic and varied than the frontal views from the bedroom windows. Outside, looking north toward Foster Hall’s octagonal bay, Cobb’s circuit of city walls took to a higher density and a greater liveliness the elements commonly used to vary the contiguous façades of row or townhouses: gables and cross-gables, pitched and hipped roofs, recessed and projecting bays, and towers and turrets that rippled walls and smoothly turned corners (fig. 7.18). Inside the quadrangle, the same liveliness prevailed, punctuated by the Walker Museum’s stair tower and ascending windows, which gave the enclosed space its most pronounced picturesque accent (figs. 7.19 and 7.20). Foster Hall’s spatial amenities cost $23,000 more than Foster’s original $50,000 donation, but despite her Unitarian beliefs, she contributed the extra money to a Baptist institution in order to advance the position of women.54 For Talbot and Palmer this meant using dormitory design to strike a balance between “individual liberty and organic union,” between the greater independence possible at coeducational institutions on the one hand, and the greater social cohesion at women’s colleges on the other. In responding to their ideas about female social preferences, the revised dormitory plans helped give women an equal footing with men at the university, and their attractive social spaces soon became the settings of choice for campuswide receptions.55 Both the women’s and the men’s quadrangles belie Robin Bachin’s view that “the intellectual and physical barriers the university erected” shut it off “from the outside world.”56 True, no entrances faced the street, and the stone panels bearing building names were visible only within the campus. But the continuous building walls, rather than blocking the neighborhood out, counter her argument. Cobb’s articulate walls raised row house urbanity to an institutional scale. That factor reinforced the consonance between the university’s urban density and Hyde Park’s own urbanization. And Harper’s programmatic ambitions—his social gospel for

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7.17  Foster Hall, plan, 1892. Henry Ives Cobb, architect. “Official Announcement No. 8,” Talbot Papers. Archival Photographic Files, asas-01932, Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library 7.18  Women’s dormitories from the southeast. Foster (center), Kelly (right), and Beecher (far right). Cobb added the five-story Green Hall between Kelly and Beecher in 1897. Photo © Patricia Evans. 7.19  Women’s quadrangle. View from the northwest. Photo © Patricia Evans. 7.20  Walker Museum stair tower, Women’s quadrangle. View from the southeast. Photo © Patricia Evans.

intellectuals—ensured that the life of the city would significantly affect the life of the mind. Indeed, the plan’s inward turn actually helped balance or accommodate complementary tensions: just as the residential quadrangles expressed the tension between individual contemplation in single rooms and the social and intellectual life of the larger university, so too the campus as a whole embodied the fruitful tension between the urban problems and conditions that intellectuals, particularly the university’s social scientists and their students, were deliberately to encounter in the city, and the cloistered withdrawal necessary for analyzing and creatively mediating them. Moreover, compared to other American universities, Chicago was exceptional in its engagement with the city. Only Columbia under president Seth Low in the 1890s approached Harper’s ambitious urban agenda, but Low, despite his experience in urban politics, did not mount an extension division, and Columbia failed to become the center for urban studies that Chicago did.57 In addition, while the small number of residential colleges and universities in America were certainly communities in ways that nonresidential universities in Europe could not be, they were not the cities in microcosm that Paul Venable Turner, the otherwise redoubtable analyst of American campuses, has maintained.58 Elite institutions especially, with their concentrations of white, Anglo-Saxon Protestant men or women, did not reflect the modern city’s heterogeneous mix of people. Chicago, too, was imperfect in this regard, but with its access to an ethnically diverse population, Harper’s university and Cobb’s plan transformed higher education in urban terms, in Harper’s off- and on-campus courses for such different groups as railway employees, Sunday school teachers, and social workers; in a student body of men and women with mixed religious, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds; and in Cobb’s urbane high-density quadrangles, which spread the vogue for such urban arrangements on many campuses in the late 1890s.59 By December 1893, when the first building campaign was complete, Cobb as an architect, the university as an institution, and Chicago’s civic culture had all come of age. Cobb had fused Gothic forms, spatial conceits, and ornament into new combinations, exploited the building walls of urban streets to an extent no previous campus architect had, and placed the quadrangle as a unit of space and a communal form on a more prestigious American footing. Fusing neoclassical cross-axiality with the medieval cloister, freely mixing the vocabularies of the Early, Decorated, and Tudor phases of English Gothic architecture, Cobb gave the university a building and spatial identity as sophisticated as the intellectual life that Harper intended for it. That the city’s self-makers, their scions, and their spouses funded most of Cobb’s first buildings once again testified to the civic pride and entrepreneurial initiative that the city’s upstart mentality—at once brash and eager to refine—had consistently favored. Professionalization, modern technology and organization, the civic humanism of men like Ryerson and Walker, the links between the first and 212

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second universities, the administrative creativity of the second university’s young president, and the creative site planning of its slightly younger architect made the institution once identified with Douglas, Ogden, and Boyington every bit as much the achievement of Chicagoans as Rockefeller’s money made it his. Completing a campus plan and architectural forms that were to govern the university’s development over the next four decades, Cobb saw 1893 become his and Chicago’s annus mirabilis. The cornerstone ceremony for the Chicago Historical Society took place in November; Poole and Cobb finished their transformation of Walter Newberry’s bequest into a rare-book Romanesque palazzo; Cobb completed most of his institutional work in Lake Forest; and the Chicago Athletic Association, the fair, and the Fisheries Building opened as well. The issue of two generations of urban development, these institutions finally conferred on metropolitan Chicago the national attention in the realm of culture for which Ogden, Arnold, and other city leaders had hoped.

Self-Made Men, Civic Culture, and the University of Chicago


8 Science, Self-Makers, and the University’s Second Building Campaign (1893–1897)


hree major acts of local patronage in this period advanced the fortunes of science at the university despite the recession that ended Chicago’s building boom. The first was the gift from Marianna Ogden that honored

her late husband William Ogden, president of the board of trustees of the first University of Chicago. Received in July 1891 but not fully mature until late 1893, the endowment funded professorships in the Ogden Graduate School of Science, a unit which, according to Goodspeed, enabled the university “within a few years” to enroll “annually more than five hundred students.”1 Ogden’s gift spearheaded the university’s second building campaign, which focused on science facilities for biology and astronomy. The next two gifts added to the variety of self-makers with whom Cobb was associated. Funded by real estate investors and educational pioneers Charles Jerold Hull and Helen Culver, the four biological laboratories Cobb designed for the north central quadrangle strengthened the linkage between Chicago’s first generation of entrepreneurs and its second generation of development. Although the events that led to funding the university’s astronomical observatory also linked Chicago’s educational pioneering across two generations, Charles Tyson Yerkes, the ruthless businessman who paid for it, was a very different kind of self-made individual, as well as a pointed example of the socially redemptive power of money used to fund unique cultural resources.


As acts of civic humanism and architectural challenges, the two sets of science facilities were a perfect jigsaw fit with one another. The biology labs donated by two self-effacing individuals required unusually disciplined design because their budgets were more restricted than those for Ryerson and Kent, while Yerkes’s munificent funding for the observatory demanded the kind of discipline that architects working with Gilded Age pots of money were often unable to sustain. While Cobb did not know Hull or Culver, his acquaintance with Yerkes and his preliminary design for the observatory probably coaxed the street-car monopolist to fund a much larger off-campus complex than he had originally pledged to build, a development that again demonstrated Cobb’s entrepreneurial initiative and Chicago’s metropolitan reach. As with the university’s first campaign, planning and building the observatory, the labs, and an additional building for the study of comparative religions depended on modern technology and the ongoing professionalization of knowledge, especially within the embryonic science of astronomy. The second campaign concluded with Cobb’s designs for a chapel, a campus gate, another women’s dormitory, and two satellite technical institutes that were part of Harper’s outreach program and Chicago’s civic culture.

The Hull Biological Laboratories (1895–1897) The two self-made patrons behind the Hull Biological Laboratories connected the university with some of the most strikingly democratic episodes in Chicago’s history, as Goodspeed’s portraits of Charles Jerold Hull and Helen Culver clearly show. Arriving in Chicago in 1846, Hull, as much the poor orphan and Christian gentleman as William Ogden, was in some ways more remarkable. Within five years he suffered business reverses but nonetheless taught himself law, started a practice, attended Ogden’s Rush Medical College to treat the illnesses of his five children, and gave what Goodspeed described as “systematic moral and religious instruction to the inmates” of the log house jail in Courthouse Square, something Hull began to do in his very first week in the city, when he was “without means and without employment.”2 After graduating in only two years from the Harvard Law School in 1853, Hull focused his near and distant philanthropic projects on people in need. He bankrolled them by means of the multimillion-dollar fortune he accrued from astute real estate investments in Chicago, Atlanta, Baltimore and several other cities, a fortune he continued to augment after incurring losses in the financial panic of 1857 and then spending ten years to repay debts. Weekly throughout his life he counseled prisoners and helped them find jobs after they served their terms. In his real estate office in downtown Chicago he taught newsboys and bootblacks arithmetic and singing and helped the homeless among them find lodgings and loans, thereby laying the foundations for the Chicago Newsboys’ Home. 216 Chapter 8

Few Americans did more in the postbellum period to counter the effects of slavery than Hull. After 1869 he worked for several years in Savannah buying up tracts of land, loaning “emancipated colored men” enough money to purchase and build their own homes, and increasing the number of black householders to the point that some years later one of Savannah’s newspapers reported that homeownership in that city was higher among blacks than whites, and higher there than in black communities elsewhere in the South. In Chicago and several other cities Hull redistributed land by helping farmers and laborers buy property and build homes because, as he put it, it was not “safe for a nation to allow the masses of people to remain non-landholders” during a period when “comparatively few families” were concentrating more and more wealth in their own hands. To prevent “discontent and revolution,” and to give the landless a chance to exercise the rights of citizenship associated with owning property, Hull sought “to level up from the bottom” by bringing “a slice of the earth within the reach of the poorest family.” An early prohibitionist, suffragist, and abolitionist, he was equally zealous about education. While in Savannah he taught five nights a week in the first free schools for blacks in Georgia, all three of which he built and equipped himself. Back in Chicago he became a trustee and vice president of the board of the first University of Chicago, from which one of his sons graduated in 1873. Although he intended a generous bequest, the university’s foreclosure in 1886 forced him to change his plans. By his own admission Hull could not have sustained this pace in the last twenty-one years of his life without his cousin Helen Culver, an easterner who in 1854 came to Chicago to teach in and administer several primary and secondary schools. Six years later, when Hull’s wife died, Culver resigned to raise Hull’s children in the spacious home he had built at Polk and South Halsted Streets in the middle of an immigrant neighborhood. After 1868, however, she quickly rose in the ranks of Hull’s metropolitan real estate empire. At first an informal adviser, then an assistant, and finally the manager of the Chicago office, Culver “controlled,” Goodspeed noted, all the firm’s property transactions in other cities, thus becoming Chicago’s first businesswoman “in charge of very large affairs.”3 Culver’s responsibilities did not prevent her, however, from holding night classes for newsboys in the Lake Street office or teaching for several years in Hull’s Savannah schools. Known among associates for her fairness, command of detail, and for being “firm but not aggressive in business, a leader rather than a driver,” Culver was most valued by Hull for her dedication and zeal. In their joint campaign to distribute land equitably, a campaign that Hull called “our idea” of homeownership for “paupers” and “landless people,” he emphasized to her that “the great success of the undertaking is largely due to your energy, your steady, persistent labor, and your never-failing faith.” When Hull died in 1889 he willed his fortune to Culver, who quickly used it to aid two Chicago institutions whose educational and democratic aims reflected

Science, Self-Makers, and the Second Building Campaign


hers and Hull’s. In 1890 she supported the settlement-house work begun by Jane Addams a year earlier by giving her, rent-free for thirty years, Hull’s family home. As Addams recalled in Twenty Years at Hull House, she had already noticed the residence. “Surrounded on three sides by a broad piazza . . . supported by wooden pillars of exceptionally fine Corinthian design and proportion,” this building was where Addams developed her programs and curriculum for working-class people.4 Five years later, having searched for an allied institution on which to settle a large portion of her estate “in perpetuity for the benefit of humanity,” Culver, in a letter she wrote to Harper and the trustees on 19 December 1895, gave the University of Chicago “property valued at $1,000,000.” Affirming the progress the university had made since 1891 by making the only other single donation to rival Rockefeller’s generosity, Culver dedicated the sum “to the increase and spread of knowledge within the field of the biological sciences,” the field in which Harper had told her the university was in direst need of facilities. Noting Hull’s tenure as a trustee of the “Old University of Chicago,” Culver stipulated that “the name of Mr. Hull shall be used in designation of the buildings erected and of the endowments set apart in accordance with the terms of this gift.”5 Thus a singular array of educational initiatives by Hull, Culver, Addams, and Harper, all of them aimed at groups otherwise without such opportunities, came to a head in the bequest. Cobb began work on the buildings immediately. Since everyone had underestimated the costs for the specialized spaces, environmental controls, and construction problems posed by the Ryerson and Kent laboratories, the trustees asked Cobb to simplify the treatment of the new buildings.6 The first casualty was the Biological Lecture Hall, a much more elaborate octagon than Kent’s lecture hall in the middle of the north central quadrangle (fig. 7.5). But its loss liberated an overcrowded space, and Harper’s subdivision of biology into the new specializations of botany, anatomy, zoology, and physiology gave Cobb an unusual opportunity. He sited the buildings for anatomy and zoology on the quadrangle’s north side, with botany and physiology at right angles to them, thus forming three sides of a square, and placed cloisterlike arcades between them, keeping the fourth side open to strengthen the north-south axis of the campus (fig. 8.1, nos. 13–16). Budget constraints forced Cobb to excise such picturesque accents as the asymmetrical towers and spacious stair halls that distinguished Ryerson, Kent, and Walker. He did, though, continue to ornament dormers and central bays, and in response to functional requirements he developed more complex roofscapes, most notably in the skylights that lit the spaces for the dissection of corpses in the Anatomy Building, and the double-tiered glazed vaults for the greenhouse atop the Botany Building (fig. 8.2 and 8.3). Dormer façades carried sharpened profiles. For Botany and Physiology, Cobb pushed the central bays up through cornice lines to emphasize the center of the façades, thus creating steeper proportions than the lateral emphasis of Ryerson and Kent.

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8.1  Campus plan showing locations of Cobb’s buildings. Drawn by Paul Laseau, after Beatrix Ferrand’s landscape plan for the campus, 1934. 1 = Silas Cobb Hall

14 = Physiology Building

2–5 = Men’s Dormitories

15 = Anatomy Building

6 = Ryerson Physical Laboratory

16 = Zoology Building

7 = Kent Chemical Laboratory

17 = Cobb Gate

8 = Walker Museum

18 = Haskell Oriental Museum

9–12 = Women’s Dormitories

19 = University Hall and Library

13 = Botany Building

20 = Chapel

8.2  Botany Building, Hull Court, 1897. Henry Ives Cobb, architect. View from the east. Archival Photographic Files, apf2-01053, Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library. 8.3  Botany Building, greenhouse. No longer extant. Archival Photographic Files, apf2-01084, Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library.

The Haskell Oriental Museum (1895–1897) Funded at the same time as the Hull Biological Laboratories, the building for the study of comparative religions was the gift of Mrs. Caroline E. Haskell. Having already endowed two lectureships, she gave an additional one hundred thousand dollars to honor her late husband Frederick Haskell, another prominent Chicago businessman, with a facility devoted to the historical roots of Judaism and Christianity.7 One of the lectureships carried the name of the Reverend Dr. John Henry Barrows, the pastor of Chicago’s First Presbyterian Church, the organizer of the Parliament of Religions at the World’s Fair, and the man who inspired Mrs. Haskell to fund a museum in which public exhibitions and comparative religious studies were to bring to the campus the ecumenical energies released by the fair. Of the exposition’s many world congresses, the Parliament of Religions was, in one historian’s summary, “the longest, most ambitious, most visited [and] most admired” conclave, and the one that “evoked the most extensive comments in books, newspapers and magazines.”8 Attended by Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, Jews, and Christians, the monthlong event brought together in the rooms of the newly completed Art Institute many well-known religious leaders and thinkers from around the world. In a city where the contrasts between wealth and poverty, idealism and materialism, planned and laissez-faire development were especially sharp, and where the antagonisms between Protestant and Catholics, and Christians and Jews were pronounced, speaker after speaker invoked the social gospel, the civic church, the rights of women, an end to war, and the convergent moralities of different faiths. Harper’s outreach programs were entirely consistent with these views, and the three inscriptions incised into the Haskell Museum’s cornerstone affirmed the university’s ecumenism through biblical references to light. Laid on 1 July 1895, the cornerstone carried a Greek profession of faith (“He was the true light, that, coming into the world, enlighteneth every man”); a Latin one (“Light out of the East”); and one in Hebrew (“The entrance of thy words giveth light”). In the address he gave at the cornerstone ceremony, Barrows used this doxology in stone to encompass the spiritual enlightenments of Siddhartha, Saul, Socrates, the Hebrew prophets, and Christ, as well as similar moments of illumination in Egyptian, Assyrian, Babylonian, and Hindu literatures.9 Because of its large size the trustees sited the new facility where the original campus plan had called for a dormitory on the east side of the men’s quadrangle (fig. 8.4). The Haskell Oriental Museum retained a pronounced lateral emphasis because it flanked both the southwest and south central quadrangles, the latter on the north-south axis of the campus (fig. 8.1, no. 18). The museum was a particularly good example of the discipline campus planning required in the design of individual buildings. In a letter to Harper about the Haskell Museum’s preliminary scheme, for which he solicited “any criticisms” the president or anyone else might

Science, Self-Makers, and the Second Building Campaign 221

have, Cobb stated that he had “made the heights of the stories” to match those of

8.4  Haskell Oriental Museum,

the Walker Museum on the eastern edge of that axis. Unlike the future gateway

1895–1896. Henry Ives Cobb, archi-

building to the south, which “should be . . . very ornamental . . . as it is one of those to flank the main entrance,” the Haskell Museum should not be “ornate . . . owing to [its] position” to one side of the central axis. The future building immediately to its north, on the other hand, “should be . . . equally conspicuous with Kent and Ryerson,” hence “the end view of [Haskell] will be comparatively unimportant . . . as you cannot get a distant view of [it], and the most important part of the building will . . . be the close view of the main entrance, which I have endeavored to make attractive.”10 He did so with a gabled entrance bay that projected from the museum’s east side and countered the plain appearance of the other walls. With buttresses turned out at forty-five degrees and the tall traceried windows on the third floor, the bay’s verticality checked the museum’s north-south elongation, as did the fourteen other stepped buttresses that opened the walls for the many large windows lighting the exhibit and classroom spaces inside.

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tect. Archival Photographic Files, apf2-03434, Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library.

Barrows asserted that the museum and Cobb’s other buildings were going to make the campus “the most magnificent university pile on the continent.” As expressions of civic patriotism he compared them to the stained glass at Chartres hymned in James Russell Lowell’s poem “Cathedral” (1870): “I looked round on the windows, pride of France / Each the bright gift of some mechanic guild / Who loved their city and thought gold well spent / To make her beautiful with piety.” So, too, with each of the campus buildings: “Foster, Kelly, Beecher, Walker, Cobb, Kent, Snell, and Haskell” were the gifts of individual Chicagoans whose “religion and learning and civic pride and the natural desire for a splendid earthly immortality” has given “our [city], already honored as representing material masteries, a purer and more lasting luster.”11 Barrows certainly overextended his rhetoric: Chartres glass was artistically superior to Cobb’s ornament, and Lowell’s poetry lacked a deeper resonance. But the preacher’s language was nonetheless too earnest to dismiss as a pastor’s counterfeit sincerity. Despite Victorian and booster hyperbole, Barrows affirmed a public realm that for many of the individuals who listened to him was an irreducible reality. If his rhetoric glossed over instances of Chicago’s entrepreneurial rapacity, or paid insufficient attention to the problems addressed by individuals like Jane Addams, or promoted the social, economic, and political interests of the university’s patrons—or if Barrows sidestepped Lowell’s denunciation in the same poem of revivalist architecture’s “Gothic contract-shams”—his emphasis on the remarkable nature of Chicago’s civic activism was the more important point.

The Yerkes Observatory (1892–1897) In the first week of October 1892, a meeting between Harper, astronomer George E. Hale, and streetcar financier Charles Yerkes set the scene for Cobb to design a very different kind of university building. The pivotal figure in arranging the meeting was not Harper or Yerkes but Hale, the twenty-four-year-old director of the Kenwood Observatory in the neighborhood immediately north of Hyde Park. Hale’s distinguished career in astronomy began as another instance of Chicago’s first generation seeding its second. In the late 1860s Hale’s self-made father, William, had been the Chicago agent for the Rock River Paper Company of Beloit, but after the 1871 fire he became a rich man perfecting and marketing the Hale hydraulic elevator, which so dominated the booming American and European markets in the 1880s and 1890s that Louis Sullivan later named Hale and realtor Owen F. Aldis as the two men “responsible for the development of the modern office building.” Aldis’s favorite architects were Burnham & Root, and since Hale was an investor in several of the skyscrapers they designed, including the Rookery, he naturally turned to this firm to plan his spacious Kenwood home on fashionable Drexel Avenue in 1886.12

Science, Self-Makers, and the Second Building Campaign 223

Hale also commissioned an unusual structure behind his house in order to accommodate the singular object he had just purchased: a large telescope made to his son’s specifications. A graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he had gone to study on Burnham’s recommendation, the younger Hale was already a technically accomplished astronomer because of the weekends he had spent as a volunteer assistant at the Harvard College Observatory, then a part of the Lawrence Institute, where Cobb had studied engineering. The astronomer had just returned to Chicago to live in his parents’ home with his wife. His father’s generosity—in the costly forms of the telescope, the cylindrical brick chamber that housed it, a dome that rotated horizontally and opened to the skies, and an adjoining laboratory—enabled his son to do what no other astronomer on earth could: study the sun and the stars in his own backyard. And like the fortune Martin Ryerson inherited from his father’s lumber business, George Hale’s patrimony soon benefited the university, for in 1891, when Harper appointed him associate professor, the backyard facility became the fledgling institution’s default observatory.13 George Hale also linked the first and second universities. In January 1883 Hale, then fifteen years old, deepened his interest in astronomy by visiting the first university’s Dearborn Observatory (fig. 7.1), where he helped rotate the drum and used the telescope that housed what was then the country’s largest lens, the eighteen-and-a-half-inch glass disc that the University of Alabama had forfeited. Although the university’s trustees had viewed the construction of the observatory as “indispensable,” its cost accelerated the financial crisis that forced the institution to shut down three years after Hale’s visit.14 But in 1897, only a decade later, Harper, Hale, and Yerkes dedicated the much larger and far better equipped observatory designed by Cobb and planned by Hale. This happened because the astronomer, another unspoiled scion like Ryerson and Hutchinson, possessed the entrepreneurial bent that his father had exercised amidst Chicago’s postfire opportunities. In a series of forceful letters to Harper and trustee Charles Hutchinson in the winter of 1891–1892, Hale successfully pressed for higher salaries for those professors who, in the words of one of Hale’s allies in this campaign, were “masters” in their fields and could therefore make the University of Chicago “as distinct a power in the country as Harvard or Yale.” As a condition of his own appointment, Hale persuaded his father, who possessed the same religious and educational zeal that Gates, Goodspeed, and Harper did, to write a letter to the president in which he agreed to donate to the university the Kenwood Observatory if Harper could raise within two years much or all of the $250,000 that the astronomer estimated a fully equipped modern observatory would cost.15 That is, telescopes with larger diameters could do much more than Hale’s twelve-inch refracting lens, and research in the embryonic field of astrophysics, in which Hale was already a leader for having invented the spectroheliograph that enabled him to take the world’s first photograph of solar flares at the Kenwood Observatory in May 1891, required the greatest possible magnification. In the summer of 1892, when he learned that plans for the University of Southern California’s 224 Chapter 8

Spence Observatory on Mount Wilson had fallen through—that the backers had defaulted on the payment for two forty-inch glass blanks that had yet to undergo the three years of grinding and figuring that would fit them for use in a giant telescope of unprecedented magnifying power—Hale immediately let Harper know.16 Thus, in the form of other institutions unable to complete ambitious observatories, opportunity and individual initiative had twice favored the university’s astronomy program. A letter from Hale and Harper set up the early October meeting with Yerkes in his office at 444 North Clark Street. A robber baron who was exactly that, Yerkes had served seven months of a thirty-three-month term in a Pennsylvania penitentiary for embezzlement before he was pardoned by the governor at the behest of prominent Philadelphia businessmen. In 1881, the same year that Cobb moved to town, Yerkes arrived in Chicago, the city of self-made and remade men in abundance. Over the next ten years he gained control of yet another early modern technology—the city’s street railway companies on the North and West Sides— through native acumen, bond issues, back-room deals, bribes, watered stock, and other legally dubious or fraudulent means.17 To an arriviste who prided himself on the size of his mansions and the cost of his art collection, funding what Hale intended to be the world’s largest telescope was a much more alluring prospect than paying for the university’s biology facilities, a project Harper had unsuccessfully tried to get Yerkes to finance in the summer of 1892 and that Helen Culver rescued three years later. The inherently spectacular appeal of the telescope could generate much more favorable publicity, especially when Chicagoans like Mayor Carter Harrison, the owner of the Chicago Times, were criticizing Yerkes for having introduced Chicago, in at least one way still a neophyte metropolis, to big-city bribery: “Trained in the public utility school he saw a roseate future ahead for the man who would apply eastern methods of official corruption to the crude halfway measures so far practiced by the novices in Chicago’s best financial circles.”18 When word leaked out that Yerkes had agreed to fund what he called “the finest and largest telescope in the world and . . . every adjunct needed to make the observatory the most complete anywhere,” newspaper headlines bestowed on him the public laurels he coveted. While the Tribune called his a “princely donation,” the most fulsome praise came from the Daily Inter Ocean, which extolled not only Yerkes but also Sidney Kent, the donor for the chemistry building Cobb was then designing. Just as Kent’s gift helped mute the notoriety of Chicago’s slaughterhouses by emphasizing the city’s cultural attainments, so Yerkes’s boon momentarily checked Chicago’s reputation for the greed that Yerkes himself symbolized. Hence, the Inter Ocean’s hyperbole: “What Lorenzo the Magnificent did for art in Florence, Kent and Yerkes are doing for science in Chicago.”19 The reciprocal relation between munificent donors and the extravagant praise that Chicagoans conferred on them described, in fact, an informal social contract, one that was possible only in a young city free of the more rigid social

Science, Self-Makers, and the Second Building Campaign 225

conventions of proper Bostonians and Philadelphia bluebloods, and free as well of the multiple elites, the pretence of lost illusions, and the savoir faire that abolished boosting or confined it to the social margins in New York. Lavish praise was the correlate of the booster ambition that in Chicago actually produced results, often extraordinary ones. Kent was obviously not a Renaissance humanist, nor were Ryerson or Walker or Marshall Field. But if none of these men were cultural paragons like Lorenzo, lauding them as though they were gave them a status that simultaneously sustained civic ambitions and called their bluff. Moreover, the comparison between Kent, Yerkes, and Lorenzo was not without a grain of truth. Florentine patronage did, after all, include such unlearned but ambitious merchants as Giovanni Rucellai. Like many of Chicago’s hard-driving businessmen, Giovanni, as he wrote in his autobiography, had “done nothing for the last fifty years but earn and spend.” Lavishing money on his palazzo, his villa, his tomb, his parish church, and a son’s wedding to a Medici daughter, he embraced the new convention by which donors inscribed their names on the buildings they funded.20 Chicago’s elites could not share his satisfaction in the international eminence of Florentine painters, sculptors, and architects, but the similar expenditures, ambitions, inscriptions, and status competitions among Chicago patrons were just as essential to the city’s own efflorescence in architecture, literature, and cultural institutions. In addition, analogies like the Inter Ocean’s were not unique to Chicago. They appeared in other cities where the recently renewed relationship with the Italian Renaissance was evident in the Boston Public Library and mansions on Manhattan’s Fifth and Park Avenues. But while such works may have indicated a search for a new national identity, as one architectural historian has argued, a headline like the one for Kent and Yerkes had a distinctly local import.21 It identified Chicago as the locus for the urban rivalry, individual competition, and institutional creativity that recalled the Italian Renaissance but that was taking place in the modern American equivalent of Italian city-states: a metropolis whose second university, the site for newly professionalized and specialized learning, replaced the courts whose princes patronized humanist scholars. Yerkes himself behaved like a prince when he chose his own architect, as Cobb informed Harper on the sixth of December: “Yesterday afternoon Mr. Charles T. Yerkes appointed me architect for the observatory. . . . He requested that I communicate with you and collect all the information I could respecting the requirements of such a building as he proposes to erect.”22 Although it is not clear how the patron selected the architect, Cobb’s social connections for a social climber like Yerkes may well have played a role. That Harper and Hale landed Yerkes was a patronage coup, and their assessment of Yerkes’s gift in the train of other donations could only cause envy in scientists outside Chicago, as the Tribune implied: “With the Kent chemical laboratory . . . the Ryerson physical laboratory, and the Walker Museum, the Yerkes observatory would make the scientific equipment of the university the fin226 Chapter 8

est in the country.” Together with the talented faculty Harper recruited with the increased salaries for which Hale had lobbied, the facilities, all of them on or soon to be on Cobb’s drafting table, undercut Yerkes’s critics, even those like Harrison who denounced the new power of philanthropy to redeem disreputable philanthropists: “The astronomical beneficence of Mr. Yerkes does not excuse his street railway’s shortcomings any more than the educational liberality of Mr. Rockefeller justifies the methods of the Standard Oil Company. It begins to look as if President Harper’s success as a money raiser was due to his having shrewdly represented the Chicago university to diverse men of wealth as a sort of conscience fund.”23 No representation of any kind was necessary, though, when it came to the observatory site. The need for a location removed from the haze that often gathered on Chicago’s low-lying land, and beyond areas of the city often enveloped in smoke and light pollution, brought offers from nearly two dozen communities to obtain what Goodspeed called “the prize” of the largest telescope in the world. Their wish to profit from the tourists the observatory would bring, or to share in the university’s prestige or Chicago’s metropolitan clout, required Harper, Hale, Ryerson, and others to spend months sorting through the advantages and drawbacks of the numerous offers. Finally, in consultation with professional astronomers, they selected the fifty-five acres of elevated land in Williams Bay, Wisconsin, donated by John J. Johnson, Jr., a wealthy Chicago real estate speculator and, like George Walker, a summer resident on Lake Geneva.24 It also took time to get Yerkes to ante up. Despite his published promise to pay for “every adjunct needed to make the observatory the most complete anywhere,” Yerkes balked at bankrolling anything beyond the telescope and perhaps the domed chamber to house it. Chicago poet Harriet Monroe described him as an elusive “man of might then at the beginning of his high-handed reign over city politics and his vain efforts to reign also, with his wife, in ‘society’; but always a strange combination of guile and glamour.”25 Yet the financier’s backtracking on the observatory may have had less to do with guile and elusiveness than with his losses in the panic of 1893, and his need to check competition from a new West Side traction company. In any event, in Hale’s account, it was Cobb who finally broke the deadlock. Because the astronomer knew the architect was “close to Mr. Yerkes,” Hale asked Cobb to let him know “if he saw the least hopeful sign” from the streetcar magnate during the time Hale spent studying at the University of Berlin in the fall and winter of 1893. In December, Hale received a letter from Cobb saying that he thought “an interesting design might make some appeal.” Although Hale and Harper at that point “entertained not even a distant hope of securing . . . from Mr. Yerkes” anything beyond the telescope and perhaps the domed chamber, Cobb’s suggestion prompted Hale “to make a bold stroke for an adequate building.” The boldness lay in the “comprehensive plan” he prepared for Cobb, in specifications that Hale based on what he had found lacking or desirable during visits to many observatories in America and Europe.

Science, Self-Makers, and the Second Building Campaign 227

He thus specified not one but three telescopes in order to pursue the fullest possible range of subjects in astronomy and astrophysical research. The first was to hold Yerkes’s forty-inch refracting lens; the second was the twelve-inch telescope then in the Kenwood Observatory, William Hale’s gift to the university according to Hale’s early agreement with Harper; and the third was another twelve-inch lens. These and Hale’s other requirements made up what he called an “astronomical establishment” more complete than any other in the world: library, offices, instrument shops, and a set of laboratories for the “spectroscopic, bolometric, photographic and other optical work” that were more limited or nonexistent elsewhere, and that were essential to Hale’s pioneering integration of chemistry, astronomy, and physics. Hale’s plan depended not only on modern technology and systematic organization, but also on a specialization that he had created himself (fig. 8.5).26 This complex formally ended the amateur civic humanism in the sciences that Scammon’s prefire Astronomical Society had exemplified. Professionalization had even absorbed the society’s and the first university’s telescope. After that institution bankrupted itself in 1886, Northwestern University advanced its own

8.5  Yerkes Observatory, Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, 1894–1897. Henry Ives Cobb, architect. Ground-floor (bottom) and main-floor (top) plans, George E. Hale consultant. Archival Photographic Files,

science curriculum when it emptied the Dearborn Observatory of its eighteen-

apf6-000076 and apf6-000077, Special

and-a-half-inch telescope and rehoused it in a small, simple Romanesque facility

Collections Research Center, University

designed by Cobb & Frost.27 Eight years later Cobb again employed the Romanesque idiom for the Yerkes Observatory. Perhaps the Wisconsin site, far removed from Hyde Park’s Gothic campus, and a more generous budget than Harper had for other university buildings, prompted Cobb’s return to an architectural language he loved. Whatever his reasons, he surely knew that Yerkes, who had recently bought the first sculpture by Rodin to come to America, was hardly insensitive to the fine arts, thus his surmise that a skillful design for a comprehensive array of astronomical facilities might tempt Yerkes with a statelier immortality than the world’s largest telescope in a single domed chamber could confer. Cobb’s gambit succeeded, for Hale reported that after seeing it, Yerkes demanded only that the university “guarantee to maintain the observatory on an adequate scale.”28 Yerkes had much to appreciate in Cobb’s design (fig. 8.6). The ornament for the triumphal arches that bisect the long building and define the identical north and south porches was especially good. On either side of the central arch Cobb diagonally paired terra-cotta columns scored with lively zigzag lines. Impressed into the surface of two other diagonal pairs are the ancient Greek signs of the zodiac, animal and human symbols for the constellations that over millennia were used to site buildings, navigate on land or sea, predict the future, fix myths in heaven, and provoke fear and wonder. Since lenses and laboratories were to make the constellations and other heavenly bodies objects of scientific scrutiny, Cobb playfully demystified these traditionally exalted symbols by conferring on them the charm of the miniature. Arranged in vertical groups interspersed with leafy forms and tiny sleigh bells,

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of Chicago Library.

8.6  Yerkes Observatory. View from the south. Photo © Patricia Evans.

and full of movement despite their cameo size, his figures animate the column shafts (fig. 8.7). Among others are a trotting Nemean lion (Leo), a prancing ram (Aries), two fish locked head-to-tail (Pisces), a horizontal scorpion (Scorpio), and a vertical crab (Cancer). Threaded through them and other tiny figures of fun is a crescent man in the moon who calmly eyes an oversized star immediately to the left of his nose. Like the intricate drawings wrapped around capital letters in illuminated Bibles, these column figures compel attention as a pictured manuscript in the round. With subtler visual wit, Cobb’s column capitals transformed the scrolled forms of the Corinthian order into curled horns of plenty that spill over with fruit, as if alluding to Yerkes’s munificence. Between each cornucopian pair a second allusion literally takes wing: a small phoenix rises from a bed of flames, evoking at once the conflagration that destroyed much of the city in 1871 and

8.7  Yerkes Observatory, column detail, south entrance.

the modern metropolis that arose from the enterprise of a new

Photo © Patricia Evans.

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generation of institution builders (fig. 8.8). Framing all these figures, the three-

8.8  Yerkes Observatory, capital detail

arched portal recalls Cobb’s variations on this theme at the Union Club, the

showing spread-wing phoenix in shadow. Archival Photographic Files, apf2-08731r,

Newberry Library, and the Fisheries Building (fig. 8.9). Above the portal dwarflike niched figures add to the sculpted fun: one holds a sand clock and points to expiring time, while another grips a telescope and shouts out his amazement. The attic story, as in Roman triumphal arches, celebrated the donor in incised capital letters. That “yerkes observatory” is much more prominent than the names on Cobb’s other university buildings suggests, along with several other allusions to the donor, that the architect used it as a selling point for what became a triple triumph: Hale got his fully equipped facility, Harper sealed the university’s scientific eminence, and Cobb helped persuade Yerkes not only to fund the object of the architect’s, the astronomer’s, and the president’s ambitions, but also to underwrite Cobb’s love of ornament. Even so, the small size, discrete position, and neutral color of the lettering do not upstage the astronomical iconography. Its most elegant conception is the arched relief over the north and south doors (fig. 8.10). The relief depicts four horses and Helios, the ancient Greek god of the sun whom Hale acknowledged when he named the instrument he invented to study the sun’s flares the spectroheliograph. Because the composition of rearing horses and of Helios radiating divine light nearly duplicated the god and the horses on the fragment of a frieze that archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann discovered in 1872 in the ruins of what he thought was the Temple of Athena in the ancient city of Troy, Cobb’s relief

Science, Self-Makers, and the Second Building Campaign


Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library.

clearly linked study of the sun at the observatory with the ancient Greek concep-

8.9  Yerkes Observatory, south porch.

tion of that heavenly body. That is, by the 1890s Schliemann’s fragment had been

Photo © Patricia Evans.

widely illustrated in magazines and was one of the most visually arresting objects in a series of excavations and self-promotions that made the archaeologist and his work internationally famous because he claimed to have unearthed the site contested by the heroes of The Iliad. Cobb tightened the link between the ancient apprehension of solar power and the modern quest to understand it by arcing over this panel a molding of spread-wing owls, the bird identified with the wisdom of Athena, and a form that Schliemann himself saw in the “owl-faced” idols and urns he discovered in the same and an earlier dig.29 Cobb’s quotation of Schliemann’s extraordinary find is a clue to the meaning of the otherwise baffling presence of the two satyr heads that help support the Helios panel, of two larger satyr heads corbeled into the wall to the left and right of the door, and the much smaller smiling satyrs dispersed among the cameo figures on the zodiac columns. Placed so that visitors could not miss them, these figures recall the satyr’s mythological career as a creature of merriment who delights in subverting ideas of decorum. The association suggests that the architect 232 Chapter 8

deployed the column satyrs at once to honor and gently mock the outdated signs

8.10  Yerkes Observatory, Helios tympa-

of the zodiac; the satyrs under the Helios panel to do the same for a deified sun dis-

num, south door. Photo © Patricia Evans.

placed by science; and all the corbeled versions of this high-spirited figure to wink at Yerkes’s satyr-like pursuit of the sensual life. If only some of Cobb’s other portal figures were as readable. The rotund face that appears repeatedly on the zodiac columns suggests a caricature of Harper, but the absence of a high hairline and his characteristic oval spectacles cast some doubt on the supposition. Who or what does a second face grimacing in fright represent? And what of the profiled man with a long nose, in the middle of which a hornet sting has raised a swollen bump? And why, as historic photographs and trace marks on the columns demonstrate, did someone lop off the hornets?30 Although Cobb’s ornamental wit largely succeeded, there were a few lapses. High on the wall of the east pavilion, for example, is a frieze of animal and human symbols of stellar phenomena. These vary from the sensitive scale and elegant design of dragons eating the sun, the Chinese representation of an eclipse, to the awkward size and crude carving of the oversized bear representing Ursa Major. Equally high on the pavilion walls, five seated and winged lions hold shields in

Science, Self-Makers, and the Second Building Campaign 233

scribed with a capital Y. Their homely faces undercut the leonine majesty appropriate for an escutcheon, and one of the pairs is too large for nearby windows and colonnettes. A more serious disjunction occurs between the largest domed chamber and the rest of the building. Although each of the three telescopes required cylindrical walling to support a turning hemispherical dome, the rotunda for Yerkes’s telescope had to be much wider and taller than the other two because of the fifty-foot length of the instrument and the great height of the metal tower on which it was mounted. The result was a rotunda nearly eighty feet in diameter. Cobb sought to resolve any potential conflict in scale between this chamber and the smaller ones through an elongated variation on cross-axial planning. To avoid jarring contrasts in size, to ensure that the largest dome did not distort the symmetrical balance of the building as a whole, and to highlight the uniqueness of Yerkes’s telescope, the architect sited it well away from the other two domical structures, at the west end of a stretched-out building whose long axis tracks the daily path of the sun. He placed the two smaller chambers at either end of a short axis uniting the pair at the east end of the building. But while in plan and some aerial views the strategy seems to work, it does so only intermittently on the ground, for approaching the entrance across the north or south lawns, the girth and height of the domed rotunda for Yerkes’s telescope at various points dwarfs a linear building barely half as high. Still, the observatory was among Cobb’s most inventive designs. Along with the vivid portal ornament, the facility again demonstrated Cobb’s Ruskinian sensitivity to color, texture, materials, and pattern whenever building budgets allowed, including the beige Roman brick walls and their unusual coursing.31 Wall arcading echoed the fuller roundness of the three domes, the two “celestial” spheres encircled by the signs of the zodiac that Cobb set atop the attic story over each entrance, and the skylit rotunda inside the entrance doors. Hale and Cobb had completed the most architecturally complex and scientifically advanced observatory in the world. On 21 October 1897, five years to the month in which Yerkes first promised his support, seven hundred fifty invited guests traveled by chartered train from Chicago to take part in what the Chicago Tribune called “the gala occasion” of dedicating the observatory. Astronomers had held an international conference there the week before and witnessed the engineering that Cobb and specialists had had to muster in order to support and pivot the telescope (fig. 8.11). The floor had to rise and descend to increase the number of stellar phenomena subject to study at their zenith or on the nocturnal horizon, and an astronomical dome with the unprecedented diameter of ninety feet had to open and close smoothly. A cast-iron column in four sections held the twenty-ton telescope sixty-one feet above the floor. A massive brick pier anchored the column, while a concrete foundation set within gravel anchored the pier. Electric motors moved the telescope but the instrument was so finely balanced on the column that astronomers 234 Chapter 8

could also pivot it by hand. The dome, its wood slatting originally covered by thin sheets of metal, turned horizontally on twenty-six wheels powered by a motor that pulled on a wire rope wound around the dome’s inner circumference. The maximum domical aperture for observing day- and nighttime skies was eleven feet, while its vertical arc was twenty-three feet. The rising floor, which was more than twenty-five yards in diameter and weighed thirty seven and a half tons, depended from cables running over four supports located just below a narrow balcony. Astronomers moved dome or floor either with levers at the telescope’s eye-end, or with gears and levers located on the stationary circumferential edge of the floor.32

8.11  Yerkes Observatory, forty-inch telescope. Archival Photographic Files, apf2-08762r, Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library.

Science, Self-Makers, and the Second Building Campaign 235

Having praised the “splendid” facility that in the Tribune’s summary did so much to promote “knowledge in . . . the sublime science to which it is dedicated,” astronomers and guests seated themselves in Yerkes’s and Cobb’s rotunda before the largest telescope in the world, the “dome room” having been fitted up with seats, flowers, and a large speaker’s stand.33 After string players performed the “Largo” movement from Dvorak’s F-Major String Quartet, Yerkes spoke. “His reception,” the reporter wrote, “was tumultuous. The audience—although it would be counted under ordinary occasions a very quiet and orderly audience—cheered and clapped their hands until the streetcar magnate blushed like a bashful maiden. He bowed and tried to speak but it was no use.” In his remarks on the fabrication of the forty-inch lens and the history of astronomy, Yerkes emphasized the magnitude of the undertaking and the anxiety he, Harper, Hale, and the fabricators shared because “no glass had ever been made of this size.” Calling astronomy both “the oldest” and “the most neglected” of the sciences, Yerkes noted, as if to echo Cobb’s ornamental demystification of the heavens, that “Greek mythology used [it] as a romance, with but little idea of its truthfulness,” and then praised the advances of Galileo and others. Speaking for the trustees, Martin Ryerson termed the observatory and the telescope looming over everyone a “great gift” that had already disclosed “objects beyond the reach of any other telescope,” including solar phenomena documented in Hale’s recent spectroheliographic work. Harper declared that Yerkes had “greatly increased the glory of the university,” and that the observatory by itself would become “one of the institutions of the world.” Yerkes’s “tumultuous reception” gave him the social eminence that he had long coveted, and probably explained the reporter’s remark that “aside from his diffidence, Mr. Yerkes appeared to regard [his reception as] a matter for self-felicitation.” Before 1895 Yerkes represented a still brash, youthful Chicago in which a resourceful entrepreneur could mine and monopolize public utilities like the men who had earlier exploited natural resources. The very image of the rapacious selfmade man, Yerkes brought a metropolitan dimension to corruption in Chicago. Many claimed, for example, that he used unscrupulous methods to assemble the plots of land and the frontage permissions he needed for his last act of empirebuilding: the erection of the elevated tracks to systematize the routing of trains entering the Loop from the city’s North, West, and South Sides.34 But despite his manipulations, a facility that was exceptional in size, cost, function, location, design, and iconography instantly effected what Yerkes’s art collection, showy mansions, and beautiful second wife were powerless to do. Money and Cobb’s transmutation of it into an observatory praised by an international array of scientists and educational leaders not only untarnished but burnished his reputation with the high sheen of the public spirit on which Chicago’s leaders prided themselves. One newspaper expressed the transformation with idiomatic precision: “yerkes breaks into society: Street-Car Boss Uses a Telescope as a Key to the Temple Door: and it fits perfectly.”35 In a city where talented, ambitious 236 Chapter 8

individuals like Hale, Ryerson, and Harper produced results that boosters and civic humanists failed to do in other cities, an exceptional act of institutional patronage was a kind of social alchemy, the catalytic agent in the transubstantiation of the predatory capitalist into the praiseworthy man of social substance, the individual whose name helped fill trains to Lake Geneva with people who wished to see the Yerkes Observatory, each trainload a witness to the forgiving power of money when consecrated by design and an object both spectacular and extraordinarily useful.

A Dormitory, Two Technical Institutes, a Gate, and a Chapel (1895–1899) Six months after the dedication of the Yerkes Observatory, Elizabeth Kelly, the donor for one of the three dormitories in the women’s quadrangle during the first building campaign, funded a fourth when she wrote to the trustees that she would “complete the hall of women between Kelly and Beecher” if the university would name the new facility Green Hall in honor of her parents.36 Erected on foundations paid for in the first campaign by donors such as Martin Ryerson’s wife and mother, Green Hall helped meet the residential needs of women caused by a fivefold increase in their numbers between 1893, when there were fewer than two hundred, and 1898, when more than a thousand enrolled. Housing sixty-seven women, Green Hall’s five stories completed the varied roofline of the four contiguous buildings on the east side of the women’s quadrangle (fig. 7.18). The new dorm rose over its adjacent four-story neighbors to the same height as Foster Hall on the quadrangle’s southeast corner, thus creating a five-four-five-four rhythm in the roofline that magnified a similar variation in the three men’s dorms on the southwest side of campus, where a five-story building rose between a pair of four-story flankers. Atop the rippled walls of the women’s dorms, the pitched, hipped, gabled, and conical roofs united by Green Hall completed the university’s most powerful and picturesque line of buildings. Harper’s ambitions for applied science and educational reform outside the university were almost as impressive as his ambitions for science within the university. These included two technical institutes that united vocational and classical curricula. In 1896, he urged Lydia Moss Bradley, a philanthropist in Peoria, Illinois, whose investments in farming and real estate quadrupled the $500,000 fortune her husband had left her, to proceed with her plans for an academy that would provide “practical knowledge of the useful arts and sciences.” In early 1897 Cobb, whom Harper probably recommended to Bradley, designed two neo-Gothic buildings notable for their abundant natural light in the shops for the industrial arts in Bradley Hall’s two semi-subterranean wings, and in Horology Hall’s second-floor studio for watchmakers-in-training.37

Science, Self-Makers, and the Second Building Campaign 237

Funds for the Lewis Technical Institute, founded in 1895, came from Chicagoan Allen Cleveland Lewis, about whom little is known. His will dedicated a small fortune in railroad bonds and other investments to building and staffing an institution intended to address a remarkable variety of educational needs in a metropolitan setting: lecture halls, study rooms, a “Polytechnic School,” an evening school with practical courses “of a kind and character not generally taught in the public schools of the city,” a “school for respectable females,” and a “free reading room” for the public. The trustees of the estate invited Harper to help flesh out plans of study, and Harper probably brought in Cobb to design the very large facility. The trustees purchased property at the southwest corner of Madison and Robey (now Damen) Streets, where the intersection of two streetcar lines was commercially promising. The site enabled Cobb to include the retail space that Lewis’s will mandated to generate continuous income for the institute.38 Hence, Cobb fully glazed the ground-floor shops and located the educational spaces in the four stories above, behind a street wall done in a plainer version of the classicized Romanesque at the Newberry Library and the Yerkes Observatory. Lewis’s intent, to provide an education to those “unable without aid . . . to obtain instruction and gain access to books and papers of art and science that their future advancement in life requires,” was also Lydia Bradley’s. As a bottom-up kind of civic humanism, their two projects aligned with the educational pioneering of Charles Hull, Helen Culver, Eliphalet Blatchford, and Jane Addams. Both institutes offered secondary education and two years of college, helped the abler students prepare for the University of Chicago, and benefited from the services of one of the city’s best-known architects. The Lewis Institute was a uniquely urban institution; the Bradley Institute extended the university’s metropolitan reach; and both institutes recognized the imperatives and possibilities of occupations and professions newly dependent on modern technologies. The two institutes opened around the time of the dedication of the Yerkes Observatory. At that ceremony, neither Yerkes, Harper, Ryerson, nor any of the other speakers remarked on the distinctive features of Cobb’s design, or if they did, the Tribune did not record what they said. Unlike these dignitaries, who enjoyed widespread public recognition, Cobb, with social connections Yerkes could only envy, was the one unacknowledged agent in the momentary apotheosis of the streetcar king. In this Cobb typified the architect’s usually unsung social position at the turn of the century. Perhaps this fact and the many Chicagoans who funded university facilities in the two building campaigns spurred Cobb to donate a building of his own in 1897 (figs. 8.1, no. 17; 8.12). Sited at the head of the north-south axis on Fifty-Seventh Street, Cobb Gate not only framed the entrance to the university in a more formal manner than did many of the porters’ lodges at the colleges of Oxford and Cambridge, but also, on the gate’s east and west sides, connected the respective arcades to the Zoology and Anatomy buildings forming the northern edge of Hull Court.

238 Chapter 8

Cobb freely populated the gate with the striking forms of eighteen gargoyles

8.12  Cobb Gate, University of Chicago,

perched on its two gables and four buttresses.

Fifty-Seventh Street, 1897. Henry Ives

The gargoyle peering over the southwest buttress has the facial fur of an overgrown but still friendly terrier (fig. 8.13). More ominously, it flexes wings as though to rear or pounce, its curved neck ripples with wildcat muscles, and the row of bumps down the middle of its chest suggest uncanny front-side vertebrae. But if its feral demeanor mixes canine charm and a mild spookiness, its counterpart on the southeast buttress is more threatening despite comelier more relazed wings feathered in soft concave folds. Its bigger head, popped-out eyes, curled-back tongue, and thick fangs give it a ferocity none of the other figures possess. Even so, smaller creatures rapidly dispel any sense of threat as they enact the gate’s most charming conceit: six gargoyle pups shimmy up each gable, some looking ahead and some turning in earnest but vain attempts to menace the viewer. Above them, erectly seated on its hindquarters like the proudest of dogs, a winged gargoyle with a puffed-up chest surveys the north-south walkway from its lordly gable-top roost.

Science, Self-Makers, and the Second Building Campaign 239

Cobb, architect. View from the south. Photo © Patricia Evans.

These figures could not be more distinct from the grotesques on such medieval churches as St. Urbain at Troyes, France. There, lithe gargoyles leap off the walls in demonically supple arcs, their smoothly torqued figures and horrifying faces still able to convey the chill of an unhallowed preternatural world. Although the religious origins of medieval universities repeated themselves in America in the nineteenth century in the founding of many colleges by Catholics, Baptists, Methodists, and Presbyterians, the very different treatment of modern and medieval gargoyles encapsulated the epistemological shift on which Harper premised his university. The spiritualized Gothic associated with the Scholastic summa, the sectarian and dialectical ordering of all human knowledge to amplify or accord with Biblical revelation, became the eclectic Gothic of Cobb and other creative revivalists who shunned archaeological exactitude. This secular treatment of an idiom that was religious in origin paralleled the intellectual credo of Harper and Goodspeed. Otherwise devout Christians, they subjected the Bible to rigorous scientific and historical scrutiny in an avowedly nonsectarian university, scrutiny that reversed the deductive methods of medieval schoolmen. If Harper and Goodspeed wished 240 Chapter 8

8.13  Cobb Gate, gargoyle detail from the southwest. Photo © Patricia Evans.

to spread a social gospel through outreach programs and the Christian Gospels through a new divinity school, in their own research these Baptists, along with Rockefeller and the religious leaders behind many midwestern colleges, were unwitting agents in the era’s secularization of Christianity.39 The completion of Harper’s second building campaign demonstrated a will, at once institutional and civic, that officials at many colleges and universities from midcentury onward failed to muster. Three of the four quadrangles proposed for both Trinity College and Stanford University, to cite only the prominent examples, were never built.40 In contrast, the donations of Culver and Yerkes enabled the university to continue building well, and Cobb to relieve the overcrowded northcentral quadrangle in the original plan by means of Hull Court’s open space and Cobb Gate’s arched framing of the north-south campus axis. Still, the university did not build Cobb’s two centrally placed buildings: the chapel and the university hall facing one another on the east-west axis (figs. 7.5 and 8.1, nos. 19, 20). No rendering of the hall survives, but Cobb’s watercolor study for the chapel shows it to be one of his best designs. The tension between its earthbound and skyward emphases is notable (fig. 8.14). Towers and pinnacles counteract the low spring line of the arches on the flying buttresses and the lateral spread of the main façade, now much wider than the chapel in the original plan. Heavy portals and towers no higher than the nave also hold the building down, but the emphatic vertical and diagonal lines in the fliers, pinnacles, roof pitches, and the Perpendicular windows over doors and transepts evoke Gothic’s spiritual aspiration. The crossing tower has the lithic heft and some of the visual thunder of the Norman Romanesque, while the traceried spire conveys a late Gothic delicacy. Still, had it been built, this tour de force might have been too good. On the east end of the central quadrangle it would have upstaged, if not crowded, the nearby buildings, a tuxedo among tailored but plainer suits. If, historically, college and university chapels, even those for sectarian institutions, were not that much larger than the buildings around them, then the size and elaborate design of Cobb’s chapel might have sent symbolically mixed messages as a Christian colossus dominating one of the two major axes and looming over an otherwise secular campus. Although the university did not get the architecture for the ages that Charles Hutchinson had pondered at Abu Simbel, Cobb’s campus was nonetheless a remarkable achievement. In Montgomery Schuyler’s view, the new buildings did not consistently attain so high a standard as the Fisheries complex, which was “one of the chief triumphs of the Fair.” Still, at their best, they were “at once romantic and refined,” a convincing mix of classic order and “picturesque” appeals. The Yerkes Observatory was “a very successful work” and, like the skyscraper, all the better for being one of the modern period’s new types of building: “Although observatories are common, an architectural observatory, to the best of my knowledge, had not before been attempted.” Schuyler evidently was not familiar with Richard Morris

Science, Self-Makers, and the Second Building Campaign 241

8.14  Design for a chapel, University of Chicago, ca. 1896. Henry Ives Cobb, architect. Inland Architect 28 (August 1896), plate. Courtesy Art Institute of Chicago.

Hunt’s Naval Observatory (1887), but that work did not approach the scale and complexity of the Yerkes Observatory.41 On the whole, Cobb made Harper’s institution what a university should be, “an ornament and chief possession of the city to which it belongs,” an achievement due to “the unity of impression” made by the plan, a single architectural language, and a uniform cornice line, features “worth far more” than the charmless “higgledy-piggledy of the ordinary American ‘college yard.’”42 Schuyler might have added that Cobb’s campus more eloquently updated the association between the medieval cloister and education in turn-of-the-century America than the proliferation of collegiate Gothic that Cobb’s work did much to inspire elsewhere. The shift from the earnest battlements of the first university to the sophisticated Gothic of the much larger second one should not obscure how Cobb’s buildings embodied the histories of both institutions, the complementary educational enterprises of Hull, Culver, Walker, Bradley, Lewis, and Harper, and the prominence of Chicago scions and diverse self-makers alongside one another on the university’s and the city’s expanding philanthropic stage. As Hutchinson’s collaborating group of “hard-headed businessmen,” these individuals authored some of Chicago’s more reverberant acts of civic humanism. Whether from self-interested or disinterested motives, they created the rapidly unfolding, unpredictable mix of means and events that Goodspeed and the other trustees, for all their worldliness and prior institutional experience, felt deeply. The university’s “early years,” Goodspeed wrote in a passage that captured some sense of their naïve surprise over the mounting successes of an enterprise fraught with risk, were “a period of extraordinary interest to those who had charge of its affairs. One manifestation of enlightened liberality was followed by another until they were well nigh bewildered by these exhibitions of public favor. Something new, unexpected, surprising, was almost continually coming up.”43 Harper’s ideas for the college, the graduate and divinity schools, and the extension division—yet another example of the systematic urban vision of reorganized institutional life in the modern world—resulted in the great university that he, the trustees, and the university’s backers sought. They put these units in place and recruited faculty for them with the speed, entrepreneurial freedom, and human and material resources that only boomtown Chicago made possible. As Harper programmed the quadrangles and Cobb designed them, they expressed the productive tensions between intellectual solitude and community, between the university and the modern city, that Harper hoped the institution’s different divisions would engage on a variety of meaningful fronts. If Frederick Gates’s study for a midwestern Baptist college initiated the cascading contributions that made up the university’s first two building campaigns, then Cobb’s plan did far more than simply make sense of these gifts on the ground. Harper’s educational trailblazing and Cobb’s cautious creativity made a reality of a metropolitan condition that Gates actually foresaw in 1888. In his view

Science, Self-Makers, and the Second Building Campaign 243

of newly professionalized knowledge, and of how cities and universities at their best engaged one another, the corresponding secretary of the American Baptist Education Society maintained that the new institution, to a greater degree than other colleges west of the Allegheny Mountains, would “create the demand for the higher culture” it helped “supply,” that its “creative power” would “retain supremacy” in proportion to “its commanding location” and “the services of the ablest specialists in every department,” among whom he counted those who would provide the university with “buildings . . . equal to any on the continent.”44 In the end, Gates’s metropolitan prescience required only one qualification. As functionally up-to-date facilities supported by local patrons, the university’s buildings may well have equaled the best ones anywhere, but a few other campus plans and buildings surpassed Cobb’s, notably Jefferson’s “academical village.” Even so, the architect’s university work took pride of place in the rank just below Gates’s standard.

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9 Design, Civic Discourse, and Rationalized Government


n late August 1894, shortly after he started to design the Yerkes Observatory, Cobb and the George A. Fuller Company proposed a novel government complex to replace Chicago’s dilapidated City and County Building, a formidable

but decrepit neo-Renaissance pile that had occupied the Public Square since 1873, replacing Ogden recruit John Van Osdel’s City Hall and County Building (1851), which was destroyed in the 1871 fire. The project returned Cobb to a part of the business district with which he was very familiar and reunited two men who had taken full advantage of entrepreneurial Chicago in the 1880s. After their work together on the Union Club and the Chicago Opera House, Fuller’s single-contract system made him as prominent a contractor in Chicago as Cobb was as an architect. What caused Cobb to propose such a high-profile project without a formal competition or a commission from the municipal government? Like many people at the time, he was surely looking for work. The fair had ended ten months earlier; a nationwide recession had taken hold; Chicago’s building boom was over; Cobb had finished all his major commissions except for those in the university’s second building campaign; and the number of jobs for architects and contractors was decreasing fast enough to affect major firms like Adler & Sullivan, which Adler dissolved in 1895.1 But Cobb was hardly trolling for ordinary work. In moving into the civic

arena from the cultural realm he had come to dominate, Cobb proposed a project


that typified the outsized ambition Chicago tended to inspire. In one sense, the proposal was more ambitious than Potter Palmer’s herculean creation of State Street. A naïve venture into a particularly sensitive realm of building rhetoric, Cobb’s scheme fundamentally altered the symbolic language of Chicago’s most important public institution. It sought to transform the skyscraper, then wholly identified with commerce and speculation, into a viable civic entity; to marry the symbolic resonance previously associated with domed and pillared city halls and county courthouses to the efficiencies of the modern office building and expanding government bureaucracies; and to convince voters to fund the project through little more than the force of design and the report he and Fuller prepared. About a year later Cobb showed the same temerity in pursuing the commission for an immense project funded by the United States Department of the Treasury. Like the city and county complex, the Chicago Post Office and Customs Building was to occupy an entire downtown city block and serve the accelerating rationalization of government work. To be the single largest federal facility ever constructed outside Washington, D.C., this commission increased Chicago’s metropolitan centrality in the area of government services, required all of Cobb’s persuasive skills to secure, and reversed what he had tried to do with civic imagery on the city-county project.

The City Hall–County Building Project (1894) Bounded by LaSalle, Randolph, Clark, and Washington Streets, the City-County Building on Public Square was one of only two blocks in the Loop not given over to commerce (fig. 3.1, B). According to the report Cobb and Fuller presented to the Board of County Commissioners, the facility’s condition was appalling. One of its ceilings had caved in, other ceilings threatened to fall, several stone copings had recently dropped off, and the southern wall had settled enough to crack the masonry from bottom to top. The “water, gas, and plumbing pipes” were in “an abominable condition,” and the “foul and unhealthy air,” polluted by the “constant escape of poisonous gases and no ventilation to counteract or even modify their effect,” sickened employees in the building.2 Because Cobb’s proposal for a replacement was novel in funding as well as form, it required two building campaigns. In the first, a fourteen-story skyscraper would replace the County Building adjacent to the existing City Hall. While the skyscraper was to house the expected array of government offices and courtrooms on the first eight floors, Cobb unexpectedly proposed offices for commercial tenants on the remaining six. The rents they paid were to service the debt incurred when the county sold five million dollars in bonds to finance construction. As Cobb explained it, “The great advantage of the whole scheme is . . . that it will not cost the taxpayers one cent. A good deal of the space can be rented until it is 246 Chapter 9

needed for county and city purposes, and these rents, it is calculated, will pay for the building.”3 In the second campaign, a twin of the county building was to replace the City Hall. A twenty-eight-story tower would then rise between the two skyscrapers and connect them via hallways and elevators (fig. 9.1). Cobb modeled the setback spire and the tower walls of diapered brick on La Giralda, the campanile for Seville Cathedral. Because this Muslim and Spanish Renaissance structure dominated the skyline and symbolized first Almohad and then Christian Seville after the reconquest of Muslim Spain by the Spaniards, it had recently inspired McKim, Mead & White’s wholly secular observation tower for Madison Square Garden (1890). Its instant success on Manhattan’s midtown skyline and its publication in newspapers and magazines across the country gave a pleasure palace for the rich the appearance of a civic landmark.

9.1  “Proposal for a Skyscraper City Hall–County Courthouse, Public Square,” 1894. Henry Ives Cobb, architect. Chicago Tribune, 26 August 1894, 12.

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Cobb probably used La Giralda for just this reason. To imbue his complex with the public resonance required of a government building, he surmounted the two skyscrapers with a tower higher and more vertically emphatic than any other building in the Loop. While it exceeded the height limit, the elevator tower contained no office space, suggesting that Cobb thought the city would approve an exception that reclaimed through its dominating height and civic silhouette what the recent skyscraper building boom had obscured, the primacy of public over private interests. In discussing the proposal, one architect stated that it was “Cobb who drew the plans and then induced Mr. Fuller to join with him in springing them on the public,” thereby demonstrating Cobb’s “forethought and industry.”4 This time, however, his entrepreneurial initiative backfired. In employing a simplified version of the classicized Romanesque he had used for the Newberry Library, Cobb stripped from an honorific complex many of the traditional elements he used on equally honorific buildings like the Yerkes Observatory and the library itself. Spare surface articulation, visible only in the cornice, the window arcades, and the triple-arched entrances, ignited controversy because it violated the conventions for public buildings, or so more than a few architects argued. For them, Cobb’s eight-story arcades too closely resembled such commercial structures as the plain arcaded shaft of the Masonic Temple or the stripped-down treatment of the Chicago Opera House. So prominent were Cobb’s twinned skyscrapers in the eyes of the architects quoted in the Tribune that they said nothing at all about the central tower, as though it had no civic resonance whatsoever. In their view, the design failed to project any of the premodern majesty associated with public buildings, an association made that much stronger by the spectacular success of the neoclassical halls grouped around the fair’s Court of Honor. Even a progressive architect like William Le Baron Jenney asserted that Cobb’s sparely treated skyscrapers would “rob the city of the privilege of securing a handsome monumental building—something superior in design and equal to any of the artistic works seen at the World’s Fair.”5 This was just one of the criticisms leveled at the project, for Chicago’s image in the eyes of Chicagoans and the rest of the country was also at stake. The Tribune’s editors fulminated against a skyscraper whose office floors would be packed with milliners, tailors, realtors, and dentists—tenants as antithetical to a dignified public building as the architecture itself seemed to be, tenants who would be so many walking advertisements for the financial prostration of a government that did not, in fact, lack resources: “Surely the people would rather pay for a new building outright than to adopt a method of paying for it which might suit an impecunious town but not a wealthy county like Cook.” One realtor was still more emphatic: since it appeared to be “a monument to greed,” it would underscore “the idea long prevalent in other cities that Chicago worships at the Shrine of Mammon only.” Although architect Fritz Foltz, of the well-established firm of Treat & Foltz, admitted that the financing and other 248 Chapter 9

arrangements were “practical,” he insisted that the proposed design was not “in keeping with the importance and dignity of a great city. Saying nothing of the present, we won’t relish the thought ten years hence that we are represented by a Court-House stuck up over a lot of law offices.” The Chicago Real Estate Board, after noting that the tower violated “the ordinance limiting the height of buildings,” was even blunter: the erection of such a high building “on the east half of the court-house square, the present City Hall remaining, would give the public a monstrosity dominating a freak.”6 To be sure, real estate agents and developers did not want to compete with the county for tenants, and some architects coveted this plum commission for themselves. Several criticized the Cook County Commissioners for giving Cobb and Fuller an unfair advantage, since in response to the heated public debate the commission thoughtlessly offered to accept competing proposals within twenty days, which did not allow enough time to prepare the detailed plans that Cobb already had in hand.7 But self-interest alone could not explain the vehemence behind many objections. Although praise for the project had not been lacking, it only added fuel to one architect’s ire. Dewitt Taylor Kennard expressed shock that at an early September meeting, eleven of thirteen Cook County commissioners “seemed favorable to the enterprise,” and that several articles in local papers had extolled Cobb as “the most prominent, successful figure in the architectural world,” and his design as equal to “the most beautiful examples of the World’s Fair.” Kennard would have none of it. Denouncing an “enormous office building” that “can only bring ridicule to our city,” and any county officials, newspapers, and city residents in favor of it for their “credulity,” he fired off a volley of rhetorical questions: “Are we going to build our churches in factories, our art museums in railroad depots, our parks in beer gardens? Why do we build public buildings if it is not to . . . raise to a higher plane the hearts and minds of the people,” to inspire “a higher regard for their country and respect for its laws?”8 Cobb’s response to Kennard’s philippic was a kind of utilitarian myopia: “In my judgment the proposition under consideration is the best thing ever offered to any community,” a claim Cobb tried to back up by listing irrefutable practicalities. The project was “a simple, straightforward office building” that unlike many government projects, anticipated the space that county functions of a judicial or bureaucratic nature would require in the future. Its “complete ventilating and heating arrangements” would be an immense advance on the present complex and “cost . . . less than some of our first-class office buildings.” Hence, “Cook County will get the best Court-House in the world without paying out any money for it.”9 That he failed to explain in other than practical terms so pronounced a departure from the conventions of public architecture and relied on simple booster rhetoric indicates that Cobb did not realize how radical his project was in contemporary eyes, or how thoroughly he had redefined a public complex in modern architectural, functional, and financial terms. Still, it was easy enough to underes

Design, Civic Discourse, and Rationalized Government 249

timate just how challenging a problem the skyscraper’s civic expression posed. In New York, between 1888 and 1903, at least four proposals for a civic center with a tower or a skyscraper failed for similar reasons. Even the later success of McKim, Mead & White’s thirty-story Municipal Building (1907–1913), whose emphatically classical motifs clothed the reality of bureaucratized work in recognizably public garb, depended on a site outside the city hall park, whereas Cobb naïvely dared to propose two skyscrapers and a taller central tower that took over the entire Public Square.10 Thickening the all too slender tower might have given the complex the requisite civic heft. But even without such an adjustment, the project did have merits that neither Cobb nor anyone else mentioned: the well-adjusted proportions of the twinned skyscrapers, the mural power of arcaded walls filling out a whole city block, and the integrated modern and traditional forms able to invest civic imagery with the force of skyscraper monumentality. Cobb’s own evocations of the public realm included two imposing pairs of tripled entrance arches and the civic sculpture over them and on the tower, but these were clearly not enough to appease critics. Still, Cobb deftly extrapolated his project from social and economic changes in the Loop. His pairing of profitable and nonprofit functions brought to the public realm mixed uses similar to those in quasi-public buildings in the private sector. The Auditorium depended on hotel and office space to finance an opera house. Chicago Masons paid for their fraternal parlors under the dormers of the Masonic Temple with shops, stores, and office space on the eighteen floors below them, and an observation deck open to the public above them. The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union financed its national headquarters with ten floors of office space in the Woman’s Temple.11 In each case, property owners exploited the skyscraper’s capacity to generate income in order to finance institutions for which their architects provided attenuated civic inflections like the Auditorium’s tower and the gables on the Masonic and Woman’s Temples. In this sense, then, Cobb’s proposal was a logical extension of the real estate pressures that since the advent of the steel frame and the elevator had pushed homes, churches, and other less profitable uses of land out of the Loop to make more room for taller or larger commercial buildings. The rapid transformation of Chicago’s central business district was an unusually ruthless instance of the new dominance of business values in the downtowns of America’s largest cities. But if transferring developer’s logic from semipublic institutions like opera to fully public ones like municipal and county government shocked too many people, in the long term Cobb’s project would have been a modern antidote to the ongoing diminishment of the public domain in downtown Chicago. Unlike such exiled institutions as Washington Street’s Second Presbyterian Church, which became Lake Forest’s First Presbyterian, Cobb’s proposal, in which “space can be rented until it is needed for county and city purposes,” put to work for the public benefit some five million dollars of profit from a highly valuable site, profits that were otherwise unrecoverable by taxpayers. 250 Chapter 9

Further, the bond issue backed by those dollars was a transparent and easily administered way to finance a scheme that in the end would not have been a mongrel mix of commerce and government but a wholly public complex presumably free of the graft that tainted the dilapidated facility Cobb was trying to replace. As architect Francis Norton reminded Tribune readers, the present building was Chicago’s version of Boss Tweed’s infamous courthouse in New York: “the monstrous pile of iniquity and corruption now covering the Court-House square” was a project so rife with graft that in 1894, twenty years after it was begun, money was still owed on its construction.12 Still further, Cobb’s bifurcated plan—one building for the county and an identical twin for the city—retained the architectural mirroring employed in the dilapidated building, in Van Osdel’s earlier City Hall and County Building, and in the 1868 additions to it. By yoking the twinned skyscrapers to one another, Cobb’s tower resurrected in a different form Van Osdel’s cupola, the domical signifier of the public sphere that, along with the Loop’s midcentury church spires, dominated the surrounding buildings. Cobb had thus reworked a form of civic identity that was distinctly Chicago’s.13 Just as important, the twenty-eight-story tower, higher and more fully civic in form than any other building in the Loop, would have restored the earlier primacy of the public realm on Chicago’s modernizing skyline. None of this mattered to the Cook County voters who in a referendum in early November rejected the proposed bond issue. That they retained a hazardous building measured the degree of antagonism to a “simple, straightforward office building” that violated the honorific space of Public Square. Behind their voiced objections was an unvoiced one. Unlike the voters, Cobb, who had reorganized his own practice along modern managerial lines, had recognized the implications for the public realm of the recent shifts in the organization of work in the private sector. The modernized firms of Cobb and Fuller were a perfect fit for the design and construction of a complex to serve the new reality of bureaucratized government work. Jurisdictions as large and fast-growing as Chicago and Cook County had to generate and maintain records at a modern rate and scale. So Cobb’s scheme, for example, gave over the entire basement for a county records vault, and all of the third floor for the County Treasurer’s Office.14 Each floor occupied an area nearly half of a large city block in size. Twenty-eight stories in two skyscrapers measured how much space city and county governments would eventually need. Since the drawing made the complex look deceptively compact, the project’s immense scale is more accurately given by an equivalence: private developers on a block this size could have built as many as twelve office buildings, each of them fourteen stories tall, a cluster unequaled in height and density elsewhere in the Loop. The nation’s only proposal in the nineteenth century for a civic center made up entirely of skyscrapers, Cobb’s project was the very image of modern management in government. The implicit contrast it posed between the anonymous organizational machinery for an increasingly centralized municipal government, and the neigh

Design, Civic Discourse, and Rationalized Government


borhood and ethnic realities of Chicago’s “machine” politics could not have been starker. Despite the fact that the two skyscrapers paid for themselves and were an appropriate vessel for the expanding scope and changing nature of government work in one of the world’s largest and densest cities, Cobb’s critics saw in their utilitarian form yet another manifestation of the rationalization of modern life, the all too pervasive functionalism ridiculed by Kennard as “churches in factories” and “art museums in railroad depots.” Cobb’s project disenchanted the public realm. Kennard saw in it nothing of the inspiriting “higher plane” where “the hearts and minds of the people” would acquire a newfound “regard for their country and respect for its laws.” Around this time, Louis Sullivan confronted a related problem as he tried to reenchant the “sterile pile” of the commercial skyscraper: “How shall we impart to . . . this crude, harsh, brutal agglomeration . . . the graciousness of [those] higher forms of sensibility and culture that rest on the lower and fiercer passions?” His answer was to drape skyscrapers with a compositional and an ornamental lyricism that emphasized their “loftiness,” that instilled the “force and power of altitude” in “every inch” of “a proud and soaring thing.”15 Although Cobb’s version of the Giralda tower sought to exalt the civic realm through “the force and power of altitude” as well, it was not nearly powerful enough to counter the more dominant image of public work as mere paperwork.

The Chicago Post Office and Customs Building (1896) In January 1895, just two months after Cook County voters killed the bond issue, a similar controversy arose around the proposal to replace the old Post Office and Customs Building, which occupied the full block bounded by Clark, Adams, Dearborn, and Jackson Streets (fig. 3.1, C). This United States government facility was designed between 1873 and 1880 by Alfred Mullet, William A. Potter, and James B. Hill, successive heads of the Office of Supervising Architect in the Treasury Department in Washington, D.C. This facility, too, had fallen into serious disrepair. Settlement had cracked the foundation and superstructure, causing pipes to leak and water to ruin or flood walls, ceilings, and other parts. As Cobb and Fuller had done earlier, some of those who called the damaged facility “a disgraceful old rattletrap” urged its replacement with a steel-framed building.16 Once more, however, tradition and modernity collided. Jeremiah O’Rourke, then head of the Supervising Architect’s Office, rejected the steel-frame designs submitted by a number of Chicago architects apparently for the same reason that Cook County voters had rejected Cobb’s earlier scheme: “It would not be dignified to erect a steel-frame building. The government puts up heavy masonry structures and puts them up to stay.” But the steel-frame proponents rounded on him and his architects as “fossilized bureaucrats.”17 252 Chapter 9

The disagreement had partially to do with the time required for demolition, design, fabrication, and construction. While Congress deliberated on an appropriation for Chicago’s new Federal Building, the Supervising Architect’s Office announced in late January that completing it would take four years. Jenney, Cobb, and Adler immediately spoke out against what Cobb called the “utter nonsense” of taking so long to erect something that a Tribune reporter described as “one of those granite temples the government delights in.” “Take the case of this building,” Cobb said of his Title and Trust skyscraper. “In exactly nine months from the time the owner first came to me the old building was torn down and this new one erected. This building cost about $1,000,000, and one costing $4,000,000 ought not to take much longer.” Jenney and Adler made the same point about two tall office buildings their firms had recently completed. In their view Chicago methods meant faster planning, quicker construction, lower costs, and superior adaptation of form to function—results that, in Jenney’s words, “would probably be a revelation to the Washington Architectural Bureau.” O’Rourke supervised nearly one hundred fifty employees. Since this was only twenty more than Cobb’s staff at its largest, it was not surprising that many architects outside Washington thought their undertalented federal counterparts were overworked in the design, administration, and technical work for some thirty to fifty buildings a year.18 The disagreement between Chicago and Washington thus pointed up the diametrically opposed results of rationalized work in private and public sectors. For the former, architects like Cobb streamlined the production of buildings for businesses exploiting profit-driven efficiencies. In their view, government bureaucrats—hampered by subpar talent, the slow pace of Congressional appropriations, and the mounting workload generated by the nation’s rapidly increasing population and the large number of states admitted to the union after the Civil War— took far too long to design and build facilities for federal agencies whose architectural expression had to communicate anything but bureaucratic values. For such reasons Cobb did not think “the new postoffice should be planned in Washington,” a view shared by Adler and Jenney, all three of whom favored a national competition “so that,” in the reporter’s words, “the best architects in the country may have a chance at the plans.” That is, they wanted secretary of the treasury John G. Carlisle, under whom the supervising architect worked, to implement the Tarsney Act (1893), which gave the secretary the discretion to conduct competitions or to solicit plans from architects outside those employed by the federal government, and to pay the winning architect to oversee construction under the administrative authority of the supervising architect.19 Their criticism came a year after Daniel Burnham’s blunter attack on the secretary’s failure to employ the Tarsney Act. Fresh from the triumph of the fair and his election as president of the American Institute of Architects, Burnham in 1894 led the AIA’s protest against the mediocre design for a federal building in Buffalo, New York, one that the supervising architect had approved without a competition.

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Frustrated after getting only what he thought were evasive replies, Burnham bluntly told the New York Times: “Secretary Carlisle has lied and juggled with the facts. He furnishes a striking example of the result of installing a small man in a large place. It is most unfortunate for the country that he should have under his direction all the architectural work of the government.” In the ensuing public outcry, this statement appeared in newspapers and magazines across the country, with editorials generally supporting Burnham and the AIA.20 Much of Burnham’s anger derived from what the Tarsney Act itself represented. It codified an ultimate step in the professionalization of architecture that Burnham and the AIA had advocated for at least a decade: recognition of merit not by local or parochial standards and groups but by the judgment of peers whose work had given them extralocal or national standing. U.S. government commissions awarded through open competitions undermined local, state, and federal spoils and favoritism, and provided opportunities for even the youngest architects who were willing to take the risks of anonymous submissions, unforgiving deadlines, and a limited but uniform set of requirements for all competitors. But a year later, in the middle of the disagreement over Chicago’s new Federal Building, Carlisle had still not used the Tarsney Act, and Cobb adduced another reason why Burnham’s view of small talent in a large place was accurate: the position of supervising architect “is worth only $4,500 a year. Now, there is not a first-class architect in the country who makes less than $50,000 annually, consequently . . . the government cannot command first-rate talent. I have men in my office to whom I pay more than double the salary received by the government’s Supervising Architect.”21 Yet on the question of what form the Federal Building ought to take, Cobb was less categorical, even as the Tribune reporter claimed that “Chicago architects” wanted “a building in the Chicago [skyscraper] style.” While he did think “it should be decidedly modern,” Cobb, no doubt chastened by public rejection of his project for a pair of city-county skyscrapers , added, “I do not mean an office building necessarily, but a building of strictly modern construction and yet ornamental.” “Ornamental” for Cobb and many other architects at the time meant dressing a building’s steel frame in historical garb. Although he did not favor “a Greek temple,” he also added that a steel frame was not absolutely necessary, a view not so far from O’Rourke’s: “Unless the building is going to be more than ten stories high the steel frame plan need not be adopted.”22 Over the next months, the accumulating criticisms of Burnham, Cobb, and their colleagues had an effect. The Tribune’s Washington correspondent reported on 1 August 1895 that the secretary of the treasury was shortly to visit Chicago to confer “with some of its representative people” and to consider the “wishes of the people most interested . . . in the matter” of the Federal Building. His visit, which the supervising architect could have made instead, was clearly a conciliatory gesture. Since he intended to examine “all the papers of the various applicants,” and since “that list is growing daily,” Carlisle, without instituting a formal competition, 254 Chapter 9

had opened the project up to whomever wished to apply. Cobb, Jenney, Peter B. Wight, Solon Beman, and Frederick Baumann were the prominent Chicago architects among a pool of applicants from as far afield as Boston. All of them had either submitted their “papers” and were waiting to hear from Washington, or their friends had “put their names before the Secretary . . . and supplemented this action with the strongest kind of indorsements.”23 Cobb, however, was more insistent. He arrived by train at the Treasury Department early on the morning of 11 September “bearing letters to Assistant Secretary Hamlin, who introduced him to Secretary Carlisle.” Cobb had probably tapped well-connected colleagues or friends for the letters of introduction, and the result, according to the Tribune, “was quite a long conference in the Secretary’s private office, but he was non-committal as to his intentions in the matter, stating he preferred to consult with the Supervising Architect before agreeing on an appointment.” Shortly thereafter Congress passed legislation that supplemented the Tarsney Act by allowing the secretary to appoint and pay a “special architect” for at least some federal projects, the new Chicago Federal Building among them.24 Despite the inconclusive interview, Cobb must have made a favorable impression. Five months later he again traveled to Washington, this time in response to what the Tribune described as “a message sent him through a friend of Secretary Carlisle.” Up to that point, the secretary had been inclined to award the commission for the Federal Building to Charles A. Coolidge, of Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge, H. H. Richardson’s successor firm in Boston.25 Coolidge had designed the Chicago Public Library and the Chicago Art Institute, the only two major cultural institutions in Chicago that Cobb did not. Coolidge was thus familiar with downtown Chicago and headed a firm as well equipped as Cobb’s to undertake a project of the Federal Building’s magnitude and civic significance. In their own minds, the competition between the two men must have been all the more intense since Coolidge, nearly Cobb’s age, was also a Boston Brahmin: scion of one of the city’s First Families, a graduate of Harvard and MIT, and a principal in a nationally reputable firm.26 In the Tribune’s account, Secretary Carlisle was “induced to defer making the appointment [of Coolidge] until Mr. Cobb could be heard in . . . the matter.” The inducement may have come not only from the secretary’s “friend” but also from Henry Aiken, the supervising architect who had replaced O’Rourke a year earlier. Cobb’s good fortune in this changing of the guard was that Aiken was Cobb’s friend. As the Tribune reported on 20 February, Aiken “would like nothing better than to have Mr. Cobb associated with him as the first of the special architects under the recent act of Congress.”27 On the 21 February, however, Cobb denied that his friendship with Aiken had any bearing. “I had an interview with Supervising Architect Aiken today which was of the pleasantest description, inasmuch as we are old friends. But it is not the desire of Mr. Aiken to mix up in this matter at all, and he proposes to keep his hands off until Secretary Carlisle makes a selection. Naturally enough this subject

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has been discussed between the Secretary of the Treasury and the Supervising Architect, but no indication has been given how the case will be settled.”28 While it is difficult to believe that Aiken exercised no influence at all, Cobb spoke with his usual diplomatic polish. Yet his visit with the supervising architect was unlikely to have been motivated solely by friendship or professional courtesy. If Carlisle was following the Tribune articles on this delicate public matter, then Cobb’s emphasis on his amicable meeting with Aiken and their status as “old friends” might have augured well in the secretary’s mind for the prolonged cooperation required between the Supervising Architect’s Office and the special architect for a project the size of the Federal Building, and for how Cobb might handle any public controversies that federal buildings often precipitated. While diplomatic, Cobb did not hesitate to make one argument in his own favor. “It looked like plain sailing for Mr. Coolidge until recently, when the point was made against him that he was not a citizen of Chicago, but a member of a Boston firm of architects.”29 Here Cobb referred to the architect’s need to supervise construction. Commuting by train from Boston to Chicago would, of course, have made supervision more difficult for Coolidge than for a Chicago architect. Even if Coolidge had an assistant run an office in Chicago for the project, he could not avoid frequent commuting. In addition, his distance from the site might have made it easier for contractors to cheat on the cost or quality of building materials, or otherwise manipulate for their own profit the specifications for construction. Chicago’s first Federal Building was an egregious example of such manipulations. A subsequent Tribune article revealed that this point against Coolidge first arose when Carlisle telegraphed the Boston architect to come to Washington to sign the contract. “Thereupon Mr. Cobb’s friends renewed the battle and rained in letters and telegrams on the Secretary.” Cobb’s desire for what the Tribune characterized as “that special architect plum” probably prompted him to alert his allies to write Carlisle, since it is unlikely they would have written without his permission. Their campaign of letters and telegraphs changed Cobb’s status from rejected suitor to candidate-in-waiting, an advance that he took care to recognize publicly: “Had it been the intention of Secretary Carlisle to designate [Coolidge] for this place it would probably have been settled ere this. While no assurances have been given me in connection with the position, I am inclined to think my chances have improved considerably within the last few days.”30 By 13 March the “contest,” as the Tribune put it, was over. If Cobb’s friendship with Aiken and Coolidge’s residence in Boston had not tipped the balance, certainly Coolidge’s unwillingness “to bind himself ” both to design and supervise the building throughout its construction for the onetime fee of $25,000 did. Cobb did exactly this as one of the “offers to the Secretary which could not be ignored.” Cobb not only “guaranteed that the building should be kept within the appropriation” but also “bound himself to oversee the work to any extent that might be necessary, explaining that he wished to make the Chicago Federal Building his professional monument.”31 256 Chapter 9

The secretary could not have been more reassured about the extent of Cobb’s personal investment in the project, a highly desirable quality in the first architect to design a federal building independently of the Treasury Department. At the same time, the unembarrassed proclamation to both the secretary and the Tribune that he intended to erect “his professional monument” showed how much Cobb, a man raised in Brahmin Boston’s self-effacing culture, had imbibed of the ambition and the promotional forwardness of Chicagoans like Daniel Burnham, who aspired to be “the greatest architect in the world.”32 Cobb’s success with this commission also showed how much someone still only thirty-six years old had developed during the great surge in the interconnected frontier, urban, technological, and organizational developments that powered Chicago’s growth. During the years of prodigious building activity, which for the largest Chicago firms included work in midwestern, Great Plains, and western cities, Cobb and others exploited a huge metropolitan territory to whose abundant opportunities eastern architects had more limited access. Some firms even retained “drummers” to solicit business in cities outside Chicago. Nothing favored complacency, and everything promised rapid professional advance to anyone willing to compete in an architectural culture diverse enough to foster professional competence across all traditional and modern types of building.33 Cobb’s upper-class background and his design of the cultural institutions that made Chicago Chicago might suggest that he was the consummate insider, the shoo-in for the job, but contacts only got him through the secretary’s door. Once admitted, as his six-month campaign and his rivalry with Coolidge made clear, he had to deal and persuade to secure “that special architect plum.” In the same way that leaders of the fair lobbied Washington more effectively than representatives of other cities to designate Chicago as its site, the steps Cobb took to convince the secretary and the supervising architect—getting letters of introduction, pushing for interviews, authorizing letters of support from friends, holding the attention of Chicagoans and the secretary through diplomatic talk with Tribune reporters, and outnegotiating his principal rival—illustrated the entrepreneurial skills that Chicago favored, documented the initiatives that front men had to take in the first nationally competitive era of front men running large firms, and constituted as close a look at Cobb’s capacity in this regard as a newspaper record is likely to show. Six months later, on 13 September, both the Tribune and Inland Architect published a line drawing of Cobb’s “United States Government Building, Chicago.” In developing the scheme between March and September Cobb not only rejected the skyscraper alternative that doomed his project for a new City-County Building, but also went out of his way to ensure that his design could not possibly suggest a church in a factory or an art museum in a railroad depot. Not even the bureaucratic realities of postal and customs operations diluted the civic aura of what looked like the quintessence of “those granite temples that the government delights in,” or the “Greek temple” Cobb had initially abjured (fig. 9.2).

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The architect of one of the first major designs in the nascent City Beautiful movement conceived a Beaux-Arts monument of imperial scale to counter the intensely commercial Loop. Cobb framed the entrance on each side of the block that the building was to occupy with a Corinthian portico carried on four colossal columns, each of which was four stories high and five feet in diameter. He extruded the upper six floors from a cross-axial plan, and designed a dome that at two hundred-seventy-two feet in height towered over all but a very few of the Loop’s office buildings. The scheme possessed the civic grandeur that Kennard thought a public building needed in order to “raise to a higher plane the hearts and minds of the people.” The Tribune agreed: this design by the “successful competitor for the honor of drawing up the plans” for the Federal Building met “the requirements of the authorities at Washington,” and simultaneously realized “the popular desire for an imposing and artistic structure.”34 The dome was one of the keys, because it recalled Richard Morris Hunt’s domical enclosure for the Administration Building in the Court of Honor (fig. 9.3). 258 Chapter 9

9.2  Preliminary design, United States Government Building at Chicago, 1896. Henry Ives Cobb, architect. View from the southeast. Inland Architect 28 (September 1896): plate. Courtesy Art Institute of Chicago.

Like Hunt’s, Cobb’s sprang from a drum in two stages, employed porthole win-

9.3  Administration Building, 1893

dows, emphasized major and minor ribs, and terminated in a flattened top outlined

World’s Fair. Richard Morris Hunt,

by a flared corona. Hunt had taken his cues from Filippo Brunelleschi’s octagonal dome for the Florence Cathedral (1420), and from Jules Hardouin-Mansart’s ornamented facets on the dome for the royal chapel at Les Invalides in Paris (1680). In fusing the two models, Hunt replaced the vertically emphatic lanterns rising over each of these domes with the corona’s horizontal stop. Although Cobb’s dome was more derivative, this did not mean he was incapable of Hunt’s type of synthesizing creativity. Cobb adjusted the lines of his dome to make it as majestic as possible not just from the streets but also from the “bird’s eye” perch of skyscraper windows surrounding the site, adjustments Hunt did not have to make.35 The drum under the dome was also very different from Hunt’s: smaller, shorter, fully octagonal, inflected with coupled columns, and pierced with windows to help light an atrium of skyscraper height. Rather than a failure of imagination, Cobb’s dome was almost certainly a deliberate signal that after the resounding defeat of his skyscraper project for Public Square, he had learned lessons about civic expression and the neoclassical orthodoxy promulgated by the court and promoted by Burnham, who two years earlier had reminded Secretary Carlisle of the court’s enchantment for millions of Americans who were “no longer ignorant of architectural matters” because “they have been awakened through the display of the World’s Columbian Exposition.”36 Cobb now counted himself among the awakened, and his design furthered a neoclassical ascendancy that had been gathering momentum since at least the

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architect. No longer standing. Shepp’s World’s Fair Photographed, 33.

eighties. And lest any Chicagoan fail to see the resemblance between his and Hunt’s domes, the Tribune pointed out that Cobb’s was “surmounted by a corona similar to that on the dome of the Administration Building,” and that it was “gilded and trimmed with bronze ornaments” in a manner similar to the ornamental gilding that had made Hunt’s dome that much more festive and commanding.37 Yet there was much more to Cobb’s design than the dome. The planning was the most original aspect of the design (fig. 9.2). Congressional legislation for the building required the architect to extend its walls to the lot line on all four streets, thus prohibiting an approach through a landscaped courtyard, which would have enhanced the public character of the building.38 Since postal operations needed maximum horizontal space, Cobb placed them in a portion of the basement and on the first two floors, all three stories covering the entire block.39 But then he pulled the next six floors back into a cross-axial arrangement that had great functional and symbolic advantages over the simple setback provided by the old Federal Building’s grassy interlude between sidewalk and entrance. Functionally, the four wings gave the offices on both sides of the doubleloaded corridors much more light than if they had been out on the lot line, where eleven- and fourteen-story skyscrapers across the street, including Cobb’s Owings Building, would have cast them into shadow during much of the day. The setback portions also gave each office the unusual amenity of a view along two streets, and allowed more light to reach the sidewalks than did the skyscrapers, whose clifflike walls rose straight up from the lot line. In addition, the plan permitted individual departments to occupy their own suite of rooms in any one wing of the building, whose relative isolation also afforded protection from a fire in another wing. Finally, the location of stairs and elevators at the intersection of the wings made it unnecessary, in the Tribune’s summary, “to walk around a block or more of corridor and through [the] long passages . . . that are usual in such buildings.”40 The cross-axial arms also conferred on the building the most striking kind of rhetorical power. The signature motif in the classical repertoire, the temple front on each wing was a full six stories tall, a height previously reached only in very few Roman temples and Renaissance churches. Projecting forward from the center of the building with great visual and institutional force, they loomed imperiously over the ample entrances and passersby. That two of the temple fronts were simultaneously visible from street corners intensified these effects, especially since observers came upon the building unawares. “That very element of surprise,” wrote Francis W. Fitzpatrick, Cobb’s assistant on the project, heightened appreciation of the building’s distinctness. In contrast to profit-making skyscrapers “snug up to the street, tall and gloomy, every inch of space used and appearing to grudge the very smoke-laden ozone above them,” this civic structure receded from the lot line, gave off an “air of largeness [and] liberality of parts,” ascended to a dome well “away from the streets,” and impressed observers with “an exalted idea” of the public offices within.41 Further, by replacing one dominant façade with four identical ones, Cobb 260 Chapter 9

eliminated any backside to the building, made all approaches to it imposing, and maximized the number of satisfying points of view. To snap the building into civic life he set monumental bronze sculpture groups atop the four corner plinths, marble figures in the four pediments, and other civic symbols around the base of the dome. Finally, Cobb placed the chambers for the federal judiciary—the district, circuit, appellate, and equity courts—behind the four pediments, at once aligning the climactic portion of the temple front, the highest and best lit spaces in the building, and the most honorific functions. Their three-story heights and coved ceilings glorified the circuit courts in particular (fig. 9.2, section). The temple fronts, the monolithic columns, the giant order of pilasters marching along the wing walls, and the superincumbent dome all ensured that the building not only held its own against the neighboring skyscrapers but actually dominated them. In this regard, Cobb’s cross-axial setback did what the plaza prohibited by the enabling legislation would have done: it created a subtle alternative for what historian Daniel Bluestone has called “the conspicuous waste of space central to civic design,” or what Cobb himself had recognized when he recommended the Washington Square site to the trustees of the Newberry Library: a monumental public building, he emphasized, required “a suitable foreground.”42 Cobb’s decision not to bring all eight floors out to the lot line, to give the Federal Building “a suitable foreground” on all four sides, was exactly the reverse of what he had proposed to do in the Public Square project. In removing much of the building from the dirt, noise, and bustle of the street, the setback massing created a spatial opening in the middle of the Loop that in combination with the disciplined neoclassicism conferred the requisite dignity on a public facility taller than most Loop skyscrapers. In a hypermodern business district that for two decades had relentlessly pushed out homes, churches, and small parks, this articulate reassertion of the civic realm provoked headlines like “Cobb’s Design Thought to Be Ideal,” and assessments as emphatic as the Tribune’s: this “public temple” in the “simple Corinthian classic . . . indicates at once that it is a building of extraordinary consequence.”43 Although at midcentury the post office in American towns and cities was a kind of civic commons where people met, corresponded, and retrieved letters, a “public temple” of “extraordinary consequence” in downtown Chicago at the turn of the century signified changes in addition to a rejuvenated civic sphere. After the Civil War, homes and apartments replaced post offices as the sites for mail exchange, making Cobb’s Federal Building, and the one it replaced, the transfer point for mail distribution throughout the region. The sheer size of the new facility signified the shift of the country’s population toward a midwestern center, and denoted the rapid growth of federal services for a metropolis of people, products, and legal documents requiring access to all parts of the nation and many foreign lands.44 In other words, Cobb enveloped an abstract communications network, impersonal government bureaucracies, and an intangible legal system in an architectural language and a kind of massing that communicated the building’s civic

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importance with the formidable power these demographic and organizational developments actually represented. To do so, Cobb studied not only Hunt’s dome and the court’s Corinthian order, but also Charles Atwood’s Palace of Fine Arts, praised by many as the fair’s single most beautiful building (fig. 9.4). Atwood had faced its four perpendicular wings in the temple-front motif, raised a dome over their intersection, and set this cross-axial arrangement within a rectangle—a one-story circuit of smaller art galleries surrounding the two-story galleries in the cruciform middle portions. Cobb probably also knew about the new lakefront proposal published in the Tribune in June 1895. Jointly authored by Daniel Burnham and Charles Atwood, the scheme resurrected in a downtown park the Palace of Fine Arts itself.45 Still, despite a conceptually identical plan and the temple fronts, Cobb used Atwood’s palace only as a point of departure, since the Federal Building was much taller and larger in scale, and far more complicated in function, structure, and context. Less certainly, Cobb may have read Louis Sullivan’s essay, “The High Building Question,” published in the Graphic in 1891.46 The architect who first conceived setback skyscrapers, Sullivan argued for their civic and their business necessity because they guaranteed both unshadowed streets and abundant light inside office buildings whose upper portions were sufficiently removed from one another. His and Adler’s unbuilt Odd Fellows project of the same year was a cruciform setback skyscraper with its first two floors built out to the lot line. But whether or not Sullivan’s work was an influence, Cobb so integrated, altered, or amplified his sources that his design did what few civic buildings could,

9.4  Palace of Fine Arts, 1893 World’s Fair. Charles Atwood, architect. No longer standing. Shepp’s World’s Fair Photographed, 293.

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serenely dominate an entire city block through elegant planning and the disciplined mediation of scale for both immense and more intimate interiors. None of his sources possessed a soaring, galleried rotunda crowned by a dome higher than that of the U.S. Capitol and greater in diameter than its one hundred feet. Nor did any of Cobb’s sources have to deal with a large number of complex, incompatible functions. Around and below the rotunda, mail wagons were to circulate, clerks to process myriad letters and packages, customs officials to handle the growing number of international transactions, officers in the War Department to oversee the army’s regional operations, Subtreasury employees to manage public revenues, auditors to administer tariffs and sales taxes, and judges, in their own version of the era’s divided labor, to adjudicate cases sorted among several jurisdictions. That in the middle of the Loop Cobb harmonized dissimilar functions and endowed them all with an uncompromised civic gravity was a high enough order of achievement that praise for the scheme was not limited to American publications. La Construction moderne, a leading French architectural journal, jointly acknowledged Cobb and Chicago’s metropolitan status when it deemed his design “worthy” of the city’s swiftly attained “prominence,” and of the architect whose “masterly” and “original” treatment of the Fisheries Building made it the one pavilion at the fair “Europeans most wanted to see.”47 Political changes in the last weeks of 1896 resulted in another vindication for Cobb, and for Daniel Burnham as well. Newly elected president William McKinley replaced Secretary Carlisle with one of Chicago’s most civically prominent men, Lyman J. Gage. A friend and fellow member of the Union Club now became a professional ally as the two men implemented portions of the Tarsney Act. Fifteen months into Gage’s tenure, the Inland Architect reported that “the profession has certainly benefitted” from the two men working together: Cobb helped block legislative efforts that conflicted with the Tarsney Act, named judges and prepared documents for “recent competitions for government work,” aided in “the selection of a new Supervising Architect,” and persuaded Gage to require at least five architects to compete for those public buildings the secretary deemed subject to competition.48 In the early 1880s Burnham and Dankmar Adler had represented the Western Association of Architects in its unsuccessful attempts to reform federal architecture. A decade later Burnham and William R. Mead, the managing partner in the firm of McKim, Mead & White, coauthored the original draft of the Tarsney Act. Now, after the triumph of the fair, his confrontation with Carlisle, and his and Atwood’s lakefront plan, Burnham’s long campaign for a more professional Office of the Supervising Architect came to fruition in the work of Cobb and Gage.49 The Federal Building, Cobb’s “professional monument,” also ratified the shift to neoclassicism about which Burnham had chastised Carlisle. In Chicago its major phase had begun with imports from Boston, with Charles Coolidge’s neoRenaissance Public Library and Art Institute, the two Michigan Avenue spawns of McKim’s library monument on Copley Square. If, as Richard Guy Wilson has

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argued, the American Renaissance, germinating since midcentury and culminating in the mid-1890s, represented a search for national identity and public order, then it may have been one of the factors that diverted the expression of Chicago’s local identity away from the neo-Romanesque, the language with which the city had achieved much of its first metropolitan maturity in the architecture of homes, skyscrapers, warehouses, armories, and Cobb’s institutions.50 This is not to argue for a fictional lost cause. The neo-Romanesque in Chicago was a transitional movement in skyscrapers and institutional buildings. Architects plumbed it until, as with Cobb’s Title and Trust Building, skyscrapers revealed the limits of the idiom’s inherent horizontality, and steel frames necessarily thinned out the robust stonework of façades that were no longer load-bearing. The self-supporting walls of Cobb’s cultural institutions were equally transitional. In a structure as high and huge as the Federal Building, a more skeletal Romanesque was still possible, but when Cobb tried this approach in his City Hall–County Building project, it failed in the wake of the fair. Yet as the language for public institutions and commercial buildings in the next phase of Chicago’s metropolitan maturity, neoclassicism was not the placeless language hostile to the genius loci that it could easily appear to be. Unlike Coolidge’s Michigan Avenue work, both Cobb’s and Burnham’s versions had a distinct Chicago cast. As with the sheer heft of Burnham’s many neoclassical office buildings, Cobb’s integration of civic expression and efficiently arranged functions in the Federal Building, the government’s biggest project outside Washington, D.C., met the challenges of a site far more Roman in amplitude than the Rookery’s or those of Burnham’s First National Bank and Railway Exchange Buildings (1903). So, too, the Court of Honor, the fair’s integrated landscapes and buildings, and Burnham’s nascent urban design and city planning projects in the middle and late 1890s were Chicagoan in scale, direct expressions of a physically vast city. The exceptional diversity of the building types Cobb designed, and the exceptional size of his and Burnham’s firms, embodied the organizational mastery fostered in the midwestern metropolis. Burnham’s and Cobb’s rationalization of the new scope, scale, and complexity of architectural work was the invisible hand behind both the fair’s unities and the Federal Building’s design. Each project confirmed Bourget’s notion of Chicago’s organizational modernity as a “colossal effort of the imagination . . . at the service of a clear and carefully estimated understanding of the encompassing reality.” Thus the Federal Building altered Cobb’s standing in the eyes of the public and the profession. As one of the city’s cultural entrepreneurs, as the Treasury Department’s first private architect to exercise independent design authority since the Civil War, as Secretary Gage’s advisor in the professionalization of federal architecture, and as the ambitious individual who kept his eyes on the main chance, Cobb, Chicago’s dominant institutional architect, now had a hold on the national eminence he ardently desired.

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10 Professional Ethics and the Pennsylvania State Capitol


n early 1897, while he was finishing work on Hull Court and the Yerkes Observatory, Cobb did something rare in professional practice. While he kept his office running full-time in the Title and Trust Building, he moved himself and his

family to Washington, D.C., occupied an office suite in the Treasury Department for his work on the Federal Building, opened a separate office a short walk away on Connecticut Avenue to serve as the eastern branch of his private practice, and commuted by train to Chicago to oversee his midwestern projects.1 In architectural firms, subordinates, not principals, usually manned branch

offices. Principals did not commute as much or as far as Cobb, the disadvantages of which he had pointed out in his rivalry with Charles Coolidge only ten months earlier. But there was much more at stake in Cobb’s move. The nation’s capital was the logical place for launching the national practice the Federal Building was likely to catalyze. No event revealed Cobb’s intentions to establish a such a practice sooner or better than the competition to design a new state capitol for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. In inviting “all American architects in good professional standing” to compete, the Capitol Building Commission added to the growing number of nationally open statehouse competitions in the later 1890s.2 It also reinforced Cobb’s and Secretary Gage’s competitions for a select class of federal buildings, and automatically put Cobb up against the standards established by McKim, Mead & White’s Rhode Island State Capitol Building (1891) and Cass Gilbert’s statehouse for Minnesota (1893).


But Cobb’s participation and that of thirteen other architects in a second competition that violated the terms of the first one raised questions of professional ethics, and the blinkered politics that often plagued statehouse construction threatened to make Cobb’s a pyrrhic victory. States licensed a new profession like architecture to police itself because it claimed unique knowledge and skills. The Harrisburg competition directly challenged the AIA’s power to discipline members, enforce criteria for the fair treatment of all competitors, and uphold national standards that would override the concerns, sometimes parochial and sometimes not, of local architects and legislators. Over the next two years Cobb formally distanced himself from the AIA. In a parallel development he distanced himself from Chicago as well. After more than two decades of institutional and architectural creativity, the city’s cultural renaissance and metropolitan ambitions had reached a plateau.

The Pennsylvania State Capitol (1897–1899) In late October 1897, the Capitol Building Commission selected Cobb’s as the winning design. His scheme, a monumental porch and two legislative chambers on either side of a domed rotunda, utilized in an unusual way the spaces, forms, and type of plan that in the nineteenth century had come to symbolize American democracy itself. That is, like other statehouse architects, Cobb employed the principles first used in Stephen Hills’s Pennsylvania State Capitol. Though it burned to the ground in January 1897 and thus set the competition in motion, Hills’s statehouse (1821) established a new type of building for the world’s first country of federated democratic states.3 In an early example of the hustling provoked by imperfectly regulated competitions for government buildings, Hills won a bitterly fought contest in which two of his competitors tried to outnegotiate each other on fees and construction supervision in much the same way that Cobb did with Charles Coolidge on the Federal Building. The competition was keen in part because William Strickland and Robert Mills, like Cobb and Coolidge, were among the nationally ambitious architects of the day. Among Mills’s notable designs, for example, was the Treasury Building (1836), the vast colonnaded structure next to the White House in which Cobb occupied a suite of offices.4 Hustle though he did, Mills, among the very few professionally trained architects of the time, placed second to the autodidactic Hills, who came to architecture after having been a carpenter and housewright. His three-part Palladian scheme echoed the tripartite arrangement for Philadelphia’s Independence Hall, a symbolically apt model since the nation’s founders had written the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution there only forty years earlier. In Hills’s rearrangement, two small freestanding office buildings with porticoes flanked the larger Capitol, itself the prototype for many capitols to come (fig. 10.1). 268 Chapter 10

10.1  Pennsylvania State Capitol, Harrisburg, 1810–1821. Stephen Hills, architect. No longer standing. Analect Magazine (July 1820). 10.2  Pennsylvania State Capitol, plan of first floor (showing later rear wing). Legislative Manual (Harrisburg, 1842).

Its central axis aligned a monumental semicircular porch, a domed rotunda, and a hall artfully formed with two semicircular staircases (fig. 10.2). On either side of these ceremonial spaces were the Senate and Hall of Representatives. The speaker’s walls in both chambers were on elliptical plans, the speaker’s chairs occupied semicircular niches at each end of the Capitol’s cross axis, and the desks for elected officials formed concentric semicircles. A “Ladies Lobby” and a “Gents Lobby” in both houses allowed visitors to observe the legislative proceedings. Hills’s Capitol thus expressed the constitutional authority, stability, and dignity of a people’s government (portico, domed rotunda, stairs), the structural checks and balances among elected officials representing more local (Hall of Representatives) and broader (Senate) interests, the responsibility of the elected to their electors (lobbies), and a government that relied on both centralized (dome) and decentralized (legislative chambers) kinds of power. In 1792 William Thornton, the winner of the competition for the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C., had employed a conceptually identical plan, but construction of the building was so slow that it still lacked the central rotunda when its two legislative wings, only one of which was complete, were burned by the British in the War of 1812. Whether Hills knew of Thornton’s plan is not clear, but even if he did, that would still not lessen his achievement, since during his lifetime, as historians HenryRussell Hitchcock and William Seale have argued, there was “no universally accepted image of what an American state capitol should be.”5 State capitols at the beginning of the century and skyscrapers at century’s end were the two contributions America made to the world’s stock of monumental architecture. In winning the Harrisburg competition Cobb became one of only a handful of architects in his generation to receive commissions for both types of building. If none of his skyscrapers equaled the best office buildings of more talented designers, his Pennsylvania project more closely approached in quality the nineteenth century’s finest statehouses. Those of Cobb, Gilbert, and McKim, Mead & White, all of them neoclassical designs, creatively reworked Hills’s concatenation of spaces into something much grander. Their increased scale and architectural elaboration reflected a country that had greatly expanded in size, wealth, and population since Hills’s lifetime. Domes became the most prominent feature of their enhanced monumentality in part because of the symbolic import of the immense hemisphere rising over architect Thomas U. Walter’s enlargement of the U.S. Capitol in 1855, an expansion necessitated by the admission of more states to the union. Hills’s modest dome had actually been subservient to a grander porch, but Walter’s dome dramatically inverted the relationship, bringing to a midcentury climax the tendency Alexis de Tocqueville had already noticed in the 1830s: in idealizing the civic realm Americans aspired “to gigantic splendor in the erection of their public monuments.” President Abraham Lincoln had compelling reasons to further the idealization. Despite the high wartime cost of materials and delayed legislative appropriations,

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he pushed through the construction of Walter’s dome in the midst of the Civil War as “a sign,” he said, “we intend the Union to go on.”6 Domes as symbols of sovereign states in an indissoluble federation were so indispensable to the following generation that the Capitol Building Commission required all competitors to include one. Cobb’s, like the domes in Providence and St. Paul, transformed Italian Renaissance prototypes into features of the American Renaissance. McKim’s dome for the Rhode Island State Capitol (fig. 10.3) was a smaller, more restrained version of Sir Christopher Wren’s dome for St. Paul’s Cathedral (1675), for which Wren studied a little known Roman Renaissance model. Gilbert’s dome for the Minnesota State Capitol (fig. 10.4) was a slightly more conical version of Michelangelo’s dome for St. Peter’s Basilica (1546), a masterful design that Cobb treated somewhat more freely (fig. 10.5).7 In their lines of descent, in their distance from the republican simplicity of Hills’s dome, and in their domination of capital city skylines, these three domes showed how late nineteenth-century Americans had come to exalt the secular state in ways not far removed from the exaltations of religious architecture. Despite the sometimes unseemly hustle of competing architects, and corruption among contractors and state officials, capitols, as their records for cornerstone and opening ceremonies consistently show, remained the highest built expression of America’s civil religion. Unlike some other capitol architects, Cobb, Gilbert, and McKim did not let such reverence get out of hand. There were, though, significant differences among their schemes. Cobb’s treatment of drum and dome was more restrained than Gilbert’s. While Cobb’s paired columns helped buttress the dome and were recognizably Michelangelo’s, Cobb topped them off with diminutive temple fronts rather than the twelve eagles that encircled Gilbert’s dome; these figures and the gilded quadriga atop a triumphal arch motif flaunted Minnesota’s state patriotism. Cobb’s tiny temple-fronts effectively raised the height of the drum in relation to the dome, making the latter seem smaller and lighter. Cobb also narrowed the space between the coupled columns, deemphasizing the drum’s circumferential girth and accenting its verticality. Unusually tall and slender, the lantern, too, diminished the dome’s relative size and visual weight. Yet Cobb’s dome did not lack the requisite heft or stateliness. And compared to the windowless secondary drum and the lifeless contours of McKim’s dome, several features animated Cobb’s. Emphasizing the rise of his dome were highrelief ribs and frames for the oval windows, in contrast to the nondirectional round openings in Gilbert’s. High drum, tall lantern, vertical accents, and surface animation thus precluded an inert or top-heavy dome, as though Cobb were consciously trying to avoid the disproportion of the U.S. Capitol, whose bulbous centerpiece dwarfed all building elements below it. A long building spread out beneath the dome was the other major challenge capitol architects had to address. The Rhode Island, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania

Ethics and the Pennsylvania State Capitol


statehouses all used a partly or wholly arcaded first floor as a pedestal to elevate

10.3  Rhode Island State Capitol,

and ennoble the upper portions of the building. At Providence and St. Paul the ar-

Providence, 1891, McKim, Mead & White,

chitects enlivened the lengthy walls and gave them serene proportions by dividing them into cubical units composed as variations on the garden and entrance façades of Ange-Jacques Gabriel’s Petit Trianon at Versailles (1762). This was not at all what Cobb did, however. As though recalling the porticoed flankers in Hills’s complex, Cobb brought his two office wings forward, and fronted them with monumental three-story porticoes. Yet he maintained the center’s dominance over the wings with a grander staircase for the middle portico, paired rather than single columns, and a sculpted pediment rather than blank ones. All three capitols enjoyed hilltop locations. But while the Rhode Island Statehouse overlooked downtown Providence, railroad tracks cut the governmental and commercial districts off from one another. The hill occupied by the Minnesota Capitol was actually outside St. Paul. In contrast, Cobb’s hill was in the center of Harrisburg one hundred feet above the broad Susquehanna River, and a full thirty feet above any of the surrounding streets, to which the park surrounding the statehouse site had immediate access.8 With panoramic views over city, river, and

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architects. Wikimedia Commons. 10.4  Minnesota State Capitol, St. Paul, 1895. Cass Gilbert, architect. Wikimedia Commons. 10.5  Pennsylvania State Capitol, Harrisburg, 1897. Henry Ives Cobb, architect. Inland Architect 32 (September 1898), plate. Courtesy Art Institute of Chicago.

countryside, Cobb’s design, spread across the crown of the hill and with a dome much higher than Hills’s, was to occupy an ideal eminence. Cobb, having addressed the tangle of mixed uses and civic imperatives for the Chicago Federal Building, was able to hold his own against Gilbert and McKim in statehouse architecture. If the lateral expanse of his capitol was not as serenely proportioned as theirs, it was serene enough, and his drum and dome were less portentous than Gilbert’s and livelier than McKim’s. But in planning and spatial rhetoric, the Rhode Island Capitol was the gold standard (fig. 10.6). At the north and south entrances, columned vestibules subtly telescoped inward toward a flight of stairs. Each flight then narrowed more emphatically as it ascended to a circular landing directly beneath the dome. Two upper flights diverged at right angles from the lower ones and lead to a vestibule in front of each legislative chamber. Spatially compact without loss of grandeur, ornamentally austere but filled with light, this was first capitol stair hall that was also a domed rotunda, a secular axis mundi that united the citizen on the landing below with the domical exaltation of the state above. The pivot point in the plan, the hall was one of the most original ceremonial and circulatory schemes since Renaissance and Baroque architects first used the staircase to centralize and dramatize space. Cobb’s rotunda was not up to this standard (fig. 10.7). As he had done with the Federal Building, Cobb tucked the staircase into a corner, thereby stripping it of much its ceremonial and rhetorical value. More seriously, unlike Hills and

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10.6  Second-floor plan of Rhode Island State Capitol. A Monograph of the Works of McKim, Mead & White 1879–1915 (New York: Architectural Book Publishing Co., 1915–1920), plate 183.

McKim, who had located their legislative chambers in the normative position to the right and left of the rotunda as one faced the principal entrance, Cobb placed the senate and house in front and to the rear of the domed hall. Gilbert, too, had located one of the legislative chambers behind the rotunda. In both schemes, then, the symbolically and functionally most important spaces did not clearly announce their presence on the outside, or the wings seemed to indicate a lateral location for both chambers, as was the case at the U.S. Capitol, when in fact they were elsewhere. Why did Cobb do this? In his interview with the Capitol Building Commission as one of the five finalists on 7 October, Cobb noted that this arrangement admits “light on three sides, and by carrying them [the legislative chambers] up above [through to the roof ] gets the top light as well.” In other words, had he placed the house and senate to the sides of the rotunda rather than in the front and rear positions, he would have lost one of the three windowed walls in each chamber to the projecting wings that close off the chambers at either end of the building. Among the competition requirements was “the direct admission of light and air from the exterior to the rooms designed for the Senate and House of Representatives.” Because Cobb’s arrangement replicated Hills’s provision of ample light and cross-ventilation from three sides in both the house and the senate, it gave the commission an important reason to favor Cobb, especially since two of the com-

10.7  Pennsylvania State Capitol, plan of

missioners were legislators who knew Hills’s chambers well.9

main floor. Press, 23 October 1897, 5.

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The tension between the need to expand state government facilities and mandatory budget restrictions also contributed to Cobb’s unorthodox alignment for the legislative chambers and to his winning the competition. Within a precisely defined area of the capitol park all proposals for the legislative building had to face west along the same north-south axis that the Hills complex employed. In a striking example of the ongoing bureaucratization of the public realm, all competitors had to fit the capitol into a campus of four additional buildings to house various government agencies, with the state providing funding for each building as revenues became available. The state constitution prohibited bonded and other forms of debt except for unexpected revenue shortfalls and emergencies like war. Governor Daniel H. Hastings, chairman of the Capitol Building Commission, did not want to raise taxes during a business downturn, or decrease expenditures in other areas in order to give the capitol project more money. Although such penury belied a newly powerful modern state known for Andrew Carnegie’s steel and Alexander Cassatt’s Pennsylvania Railroad empire, a recent funding scandal that drove one of the commonwealth’s U.S. senators from office had reinforced a political climate unfavorable to any increase in the state budget.10 The tension between the limited budget and the need to increase government facilities gave Cobb his opening. Unlike the other competitors, all of whom planned separate buildings, Cobb creatively proposed to house each of the bureaucratic functions in one wing of a single but much larger building, with the state constructing each wing independently of the others as future revenues permitted. Cobb maintained from the start of the competition through his final report that five separate structures would be too costly, and would still appear crowded in the space that the commission had deliberately limited in size in order to preserve as much of Capitol Park as possible. By itself, that crowding, Cobb argued, would cause irretrievable damage: “All the money and care that has been expended upon the grounds for generations, making them famous for their charming natural and cultivated beauty, would be utterly thrown away.” Moreover, construction and maintenance of a single building would be, at a “conservative” estimate, “twentyfive per cent” less expensive than five separate buildings because it would not only require less ornament and fewer exterior walls but also allow a “great saving of light, power, fuel, etc.” But more than these practical advantages, Cobb emphasized the scheme’s rhetorical impact. In terms that recalled Dewitt Taylor Kennard’s criticism of his City Hall–County Building proposal, Cobb explained, By concentrating all the buildings in one, a grandeur can be obtained that is impossible in any other way. . . . [t]he people of any State want a State Capitol that all who see it must realize at once that it is a Capitol building, and no one is kept guessing whether it is a college, a hospital or an institution of some kind.11

In his Chicago project, fourteen stories of bureaucratic functions on a full city block overwhelmed the civic imagery of an inconsequential tower. In Harrisburg, 276 Chapter 10

in contrast, the lateral expanse, the vertical reach, and the domed repose of Cobb’s capitol on the crest of the city’s highest hill clothed bureaucratic functions in the neoclassical raiment that gave state residents a persuasive image of the power and authority of the commonwealth, of what Cobb called “the greatness of the State.” The commissioners’ unanimous vote and the praise of two of Cobb’s competitors—Frank Furness, Philadelphia’s leading architect, and George Harding, then a well-known practitioner in New York City—said as much. A Harrisburg newspaper reported that “Mr. Cobb was highly recommended by Mr. Harding . . . and Mr. Furness, and his plans were carefully examined and much admired by the members of the Commission, as he provided for plenty of both light and air in his design.”12 What Cobb won, however, was the second of two competitions staged within three months of one another, a period full of political, legal, and professional conflict over the conduct of the competition. This fact, and a construction budget of little more than half a million dollars, immediately plunged the commission into legal battles, and Cobb into quandaries that made constructing the capitol anything but a triumph. By a vote of four to one, with Governor Hastings dissenting, the commission nullified the first competition on 9 September in part because all but one of the finalists had entombed the house and senate in windowless if skylit chambers, thus depriving them of the cross-ventilation and ample natural light in Hills’s capitol. Although this fault explains the appearance of the requirement in the second competition for “the direct admission of light and air from the exterior” to the house and senate, it was still an insufficient reason for the commission to overturn a competition whose rules and organization many architects thought were exemplary at a time when rules for architectural competitions were often problematic. After all, the first competition program stated that the house and senate chambers “may be lighted from above if desired,” and that the commission could ask the appointed architect “to revise his competitive drawings to meet the further requirements of the Commissioners.”13 In failing to ask the winner to provide more natural light, the commission clearly refused to abide by its own rules and broke its compact with the original competitors. This occurred despite attempts by the competition’s board of experts to maintain its integrity. The three members were New York architect John Carrere, Walter Cook of the New York firm H. B. Marshall, and Warren P. Laird, a professor of architecture at the University of Pennsylvania and the author of the competition program. With a deadline of 24 July 1897, the program required all entrants to submit their designs anonymously to insure the board’s impartial evaluation, the board to rank and supply the commission with reasons for its selection of the eight best designs, and the commissioners to select the winner from among the final eight. When on 13 August the commission asked to review the other twenty-three entries, including three that the board of experts had disqualified for clear violations of the program requirements, Laird reminded the commissioners of the rules and they backed off.14

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But by the end of the third week in August, unauthorized newspaper publication of the designs of two unidentified finalists, the commission’s repeated delays in announcing a winner, and adverse publicity from the leaks, the delays, and the protests of some competitors tainted the competition. Furness hired a lawyer who asked the commission to invalidate the competition, and Furness himself wrote to apply for the position of capitol architect in that eventuality. These factors, and the failure of all but one finalist to provide the legislative chambers with more natural light, led the commission to disallow the first competition and institute the second.15 Previous protests then became a September storm of accusation and litigation. Governor Hastings immediately resigned from the commission. One competitor served an injunction on it and two others quickly filed suits. Meanwhile, Laird and the AIA sought to enforce their view of professional ethics. On 16 September the Philadelphia chapter of the AIA forwarded to Governor Hastings its resolution condemning the commission for an “outrageous act,” Furness and his firm for “urging the Commission to take this unjustifiable step,” and any architect entering the second competition for making himself “a disreputable member of the architectural profession” and “consummating” the commission’s “dishonorable” course of action. The condemnation was a striking instance of professional impartiality, since Furness, an architect of national standing, had himself been a cofounder of this chapter. Similarly, Philadelphia’s T-Square Club repudiated any architect “who has lent or shall lend himself to the dishonorable action of the Commission.” On 25 September Laird declined to continue as professional advisor for the second competition, writing the commissioners that he would not “countenance or lend aid to any action violating the pledges of the [original] program.”16 On 30 September, at its national meeting in Detroit, the American Institute of Architects unanimously approved the report from a committee that included Dankmar Adler. Although architects were frequently dissatisfied with competition programs, the report praised Laird’s as “approximately ideal,” lauded the board of experts for “faithfully and intelligently” discharging their responsibilities, condemned the decisions of the commission as “high-handed” and a “flagrant breach of contract,” criticized Furness and his firm for the “disgrace” they brought upon the profession in “dishonorable” attempts “to overthrow the dictum of a disinterested Board of Experts to whose judgment they had voluntarily submitted themselves,” and otherwise endorsed the resolution of the Philadelphia chapter.17 In mid-October Carrere wrote Hastings to express his admiration for the governor’s “public spirited stand,” adding that “wherever I go, all of the architects whom I have had occasion to meet, express the same feeling.” On 11 October, in the last of a series of articles on what had become a public controversy in Pennsylvania, a New York Times editorial even suggested that the disqualification of two architects because they had failed to meet the first competition’s drawing requirements had inadvertently foiled a “combine” of at least two commissioners who already knew 278 Chapter 10

which architect they wanted to select. For many of the architects in the AIA’s Philadelphia chapter who read it, the editorial implied that the fix was in for Furness. 18 But despite forceful appeals to ethical and contractual strictures, the profession, newly powerful in other matters, was powerless to rouse public ire, impotent before the law, and compromised by the refusal of commission members to abide by its rulings. A judge lifted the injunction against the second competition, and, in spite of any opprobrium they might face from their colleagues, Cobb, Furness, and twelve other architects from the first competition entered it. On 7 and 21 October the four remaining commissioners conducted individual interviews with five finalists, who included Furness as well as Cobb.19 On the twenty-third the commission announced that Cobb was the winner. His triumph was a perverse measure of Cobb’s desire for national prominence. The architect who appeared to have nothing but the best interests of the profession in mind as he helped the secretary of the treasury institute for federal buildings exactly the kind of competition that Laird superintended at Harrisburg clearly placed his self-interest above the profession’s, and he did so at the very same time as he was assisting Gage. The announcement also measured public indifference to these professional matters in both Chicago and the commonwealth. Without commenting on Cobb’s dereliction, the Tribune summarized the universal praise in Pennsylvania newspapers for the winning scheme: “Viewed from any possible point,” Cobb’s five buildings in one “will be a simple, dignified, and imposing mass, each building helping to produce a grand whole.”20 His victory, which appeared to be as complete as the AIA’s failure, was shortlived, however. Even for a state with statutory and political restrictions on its budget, it is difficult to understand why the commission, repeatedly warned about insufficient funds, did not immediately ask the legislature to increase the appropriation. Cobb told them during his October interview that $550,000 was not enough money to pay for the all-important dome. In the report it submitted for the first competition, the board of experts had stated that none of the twenty-eight designs that met the entry requirements could be built for $550,000, and the competitors surely knew that themselves.21 Since the object of the competition was “the selection of an architect” whose design demonstrated his ability to handle a complex commission, the architects ignored budget constraints. The commission’s failure to pursue more funding, and the deadline to complete construction drawings and erect the building in a mere thirteen months, placed Cobb on a procrustean bed. The enabling legislation required the capitol to be ready for occupancy by January 1899, and the lawsuits, although dismissed by two separate courts, did not permit the commission to sign a contract with Cobb until late November. He then had to hear his first set of modifications roundly criticized by other architects. On 4 February 1898, Pennsylvania’s attorney general sought to enjoin the Capitol Building Commission from awarding the contract for construction. On 9 February seven architects, among them Warren Laird and Pierre LeBrun of New York, were witnesses in court for the attorney general,

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testifying that the building as Cobb had planned it would be incomplete, insufficiently fireproof, and uninhabitable, and that the total cost was more likely to be $1,800,000. In his own defense, the Chicago Tribune reported, Cobb said that he had made “the buildings as nearly fireproof as possible, considering the appropriation, and that he intended to cover the wood with fireproof paint. He admitted the temporary character of some of the work.”22 Since Cobb and the commission promised a complete, fire-resistant building, Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court did not grant the attorney general’s injunction. Cobb then scaled down expectations one more time with a revised set of specifications on 30 March. Noting that “no marble or granite quarry in the country could produce a suitable facing for such a building within the short time left,” Cobb informed the commission of some extraordinary economies: In order to comply with the mandatory instructions of the [legislative] act as to size, cost and time of completion, it will be necessary to construct the building of very inexpensive materials that can be secured in large quantities, immediately, and there can be no ornamentation of any kind. The only building that can be constructed in a good, substantial, fireproof manner . . . that contains sufficient space for the present and future . . . is a plain brick building.23

Time and money were so short that Cobb had to salvage much of the brick he needed from the burned capitol. Even so, Cobb could not have been completely discouraged, for in the midst of making what for any architect would have been abject compromises on a commission of high public prestige, he made two major changes that endowed the crudely walled capitol with more spatial sophistication than his winning design

10.8  Pennsylvania State Capitol, revised plans, first (bottom) and second (top) floors, 1898. Henry Ives Cobb, architect. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Pennsylvania Historical

possessed. First, the grandeur of five buildings in one was impossible to achieve

and Museum Commission, r020-Folder

on a budget that allowed only the legislative chambers; absent the other wings,

#1-Drawings 3 and 4. Courtesy Pennsylva-

Cobb’s capitol was far too narrow, with the senate in front of and the house behind the rotunda. So the architect relocated the former to the rotunda’s left and the latter to the right. In their new alignment, which was that of the destroyed capitol, they read clearly to anyone approaching the building on the brow of the hill as two legislative chambers in architectural and constitutional balance with one another (fig. 10.8). Second, in the rotunda, Cobb pulled the stairs out from behind the piers and reconfigured them on a Baroque imperial plan: the central flight ascended to a minor and then a major landing. Here, at the plan’s circulatory pivot, a mezzanine corridor lead further into the depth of the building, while the staircase arced right and left in two ascending quarter-circles up to the house and senate doors. An unusually dynamic spatial sequence that began with the hill outside, the steps at the entrance, and those in the vestibule, the plan moved the visitor not only forward and up in the manner of a conventional staircase but also around and through a high cylindrical space. Had it been drummed, domed, and ornamented in the neoclas280 Chapter 10

nia State Archives.

sical manner Cobb wished, it would have constituted the measured unfolding, through simultaneous ascension and rotation, of a wraparound interior vista that properly heightened the anticipation of approaching the legislative chambers themselves. In spite of the material compromises and the AIA’s condemnation, Cobb’s work did receive some favorable coverage later that year. In a report about the cornerstone ceremony held on 10 August, the Inland Architect heralded “the Pennsylvania Capitol” for assuming “tangible shape under the energetic direction of . . . Henry Ives Cobb.” Citing an approving editorial in the Philadelphia Daily Times, the article noted that “the storm raised a few months ago . . . seems now to have subsided, and it is conceded . . . that the present plan of progressive building [in five stages] is the only one that could have been adopted and do justice to the state while keeping within the appropriation of $550,000.”24 The AIA’s police powers were so weak in this instance that a professional publication failed to support the professional standards in the AIA’s denunciatory report and the resolution of its Philadelphia chapter. Although the intelligence of Cobb’s scheme temporarily won the day, the unavoidable economies soon took their toll. Rather than floors laid in stone and covered in carpet, pine boards were used. Wood rather than marble steps belied the ceremonial ascent into the building and up the imperial staircase. Fourth-fifths of the interior walls went unplastered, their rough brick and mortar fully exposed. As for Cobb’s plan to join the legislative chambers with a much lower, more mod-

10.9  Pennsylvania State Capitol, 1899. Warren J. Harder Collection, Harrisburg Area, m214-Notebook #13-#1H51. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Courtesy Pennsylvania State Archives.

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est dome of glass framed in common timber, insufficient funds decapitated the conical skylight, giving Pennsylvanians a domeless capitol (fig. 10.9).25 So provisional a structure raised a public outcry at the building’s dedication in January 1899. World’s Work described a “curious spectacle on Capitol Hill. . . . There was a vast barracks of red brick, walls raw within and without, with a hole in the roof for a dome, covered over with rough boards to keep the rain out. The legislative chambers had been hung with burlap, and a tawdry covering of paint and whitewash and gilding was spread on them. It was the mere brick skeleton of a vast and pretentious edifice.”26 Others saw not pretension but abasement, dubbing the capitol a “sugar factory” or worse. Cobb himself called it “a big, rough, ugly building.”27 In addressing the first session of the 1899 General Assembly, Governor Hastings was perhaps the harshest critic: The structure in which you are assembling to-day is unworthy of your honorable bodies and is a disgrace to the Commonwealth. In its present condition it is hardly fit for human habitation. . . . There are scores of farmers’ barns in Pennsylvania more attractive in appearance than this. . . . It . . . looks like a hastily erected factory building, and is repulsive to the eye.28

Cobb, however, was unruffled. For one thing, he knew the situation would have been much worse had it not been for Allen B. Rorke, the contractor who erected the building in only eight months. In his final report to the commission on 16 March, Cobb wrote that “Mr. Rorke took hold at once and responded to the emergency, accomplishing one of the greatest building feats on record.” Cobb’s exaggeration may well have been slight. While it surely reflected the pressure he and Rorke had been under, his tribute was nonetheless that of a Chicagoan, who daily did business with the most modern, efficient construction firms on earth, for the work of a Philadelphian who had risen to the occasion. And given the time limits and his experience with George Fuller, Cobb was certainly right to argue that if Rorke’s company had not done the work, the subcontractors “would probably still be haggling among themselves and the General Assembly meeting in rented quarters.”29 Nor was Cobb exaggerating when he claimed that the “materials and workmanship are the best.” He was not referring to the plasterwork, which was done in two rather than three or more coats, nor to the wood, much of which was an inferior grade of pine, but to the concrete, brickwork, and steel, the underlying materials essential for any future improvements in the building. In his own report to the commission, supervising engineer Philip H. Johnson testified that the concrete used for the footings “overreaches specifications,” the brickwork was “the best obtainable,” and the shaping, quality, and erection of the structural steel from Carnegie’s Pittsburgh factory was “first class in every particular.” Fully aware that an undressed building gave every appearance to the contrary, Cobb nonetheless claimed, correctly, that all the fundamental elements needed to make the capitol

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“grand and beautiful” in the future, including the spatial dynamics of the rotunda’s imperial staircase, were now in place.30 Goaded at last by public criticism, legislators made four attempts between January and April to appropriate more money for the capitol. All failed. Cobb’s estimate of four million dollars, he wrote, would pay for the dome, “an exterior of marble or granite,” a “handsome and durable interior finish,” and “fixtures to be as good in all respects as is customarily used in buildings of this class.” Since it was more than twice the amount Pierre LeBrun had estimated a year earlier, the sum surely did not help Cobb’s chances to continue as the capitol architect, whose offer to do so went unanswered: “Should you desire specifications setting forth the different materials and construction in detail, I will take pleasure in furnishing you them at any time.”31 In the baroque history of graft and funding shortfalls for state capitols, the constricted budget for Pennsylvania’s statehouse represented the oddest sort of standoff. The attorney general, the state’s chief law enforcement official, had been unable to stop a building he rightly feared would be incomplete. Neither the governor’s resignation from the Capitol Building Commission, nor the resolutions of the AIA and its local chapter, nor the suits and injunctions of architects restrained the commission from pushing the project forward, or tempered its official pronouncement that the building was complete within the limits imposed by the authorizing act. If it is difficult to understand why only a few legislators back in 1897 warned that the appropriation was ludicrously small, the failure of the four later attempts to fund the completion of the “brick skeleton” in which legislators made those very attempts further compounds the difficulty, as does the failure of the public to demand completion and the General Assembly to act in the next legislative session, which also took place in Cobb’s capitol.

Cobb’s Chicago at the Turn of the Century Meanwhile, on 28 May 1899, six weeks after Cobb submitted his report to the commission, the editorial page of the Tribune paraphrased, quoted, and commented on a lengthy interview that he, still commuting to Chicago for work on the Federal Building, had given to a reporter for the Detroit Tribune. The Chicago editor assumed, not unreasonably, that having “amassed the bulk of his immense fortune and laid the foundations of his successful business career” in Chicago, Cobb might be more grateful to the metropolis where he had come into his own. But as if casting off any trace of Chicago’s civic patriotism, some of the most meaningful expressions of which were the architect’s designs for leading civic and cultural institutions, Cobb, wrote the editor in a mock-heroic vein, was not only “the satisfied Washingtonian” but the “dissatisfied ex-Chicagoan who has confided to the correspondent of the Detroit paper the Iliad of his woes appertaining to this city.”32

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In Lake Forest, for example, Cobb’s “big . . . house in the middle of a tract of five hundred acres in one of the prettiest of Chicago’s suburbs” at first seemed ideal, but the “horses and traps with which he expected to drive to the [railroad] station” were useless from November to June because “the roads were impassable and Cobb had to walk the mile and a half ” to catch the train. So he remained in his North Side residence during those months, and in both summer and winter homes he pursued several avocations: I have a passion for books, and have one of the finest collections of rare bindings in the country. I spend thousands of dollars a year adding to it. I have also a handsome collection of etchings, and one of the most complete collections of architectural photographs in the world. I am fond of fine hangings, draperies, rugs, lace curtains, unique furniture, and choice bric-a-brac. In my father’s old home in Boston we had many things of this sort, and they are just about the same there now as they were when I was a boy.

As a collector and connoisseur Cobb was unusual. Not rare books, but rare bindings of dyed and tooled leathers. Not simple etchings, a prolific medium in the nineteenth century, but handsome ones, phrasing that probably understated their quality. Not paintings, the newly prestigious form of collecting for wealthy Chicagoans, but architectural photographs, perhaps of the clarity and stillness in the work of such internationally respected studios as Alinari. Not bric-a-brac but choice bric-a-brac, a formulation not lacking in haughty charm. That he surrounded himself everywhere but on the ceiling with beautiful objects appealing to the senses of sight, touch, and smell marked Cobb as a man apart. In Chicago’s second period of growth he collected more specialized books than those in the libraries of self-made settlers like Walter Newberry, William Ogden, or Eliphalet Blatchford. His social world was different as well. Not even Bertha Palmer’s dominance in Chicago allowed her to move easily among the elites in Cobb’s milieus in New York, Boston, Newport, and Washington, D.C., where his wife, for example, attended receptions given by First Lady Ida McKinley.33 Yet Cobb was still profoundly marked by Chicago. Unlike novelist Henry Blake Fuller’s protagonists, enmeshed in a metropolis whose vulgarities crush or constrict the ambitions of poets, painters, and architects, Cobb the Boston Brahmin improbably thrived in Darwinist Chicago as a businessman-artist on a scale he might never have achieved had he stayed with Peabody & Stearns and plied his patrimony back east.34 In some ways Cobb’s Chicago career exactly paralleled Burnham’s: both strove to create enduring monuments, tended clients skillfully, and quickly rationalized architectural production to meet the new demands and potentials of modern technology and organization. But Burnham’s vitality, his gruff heartiness, and the earnestness of a selfmade man gave him powers of persuasion distinct from those conveyed by Cobb’s

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authoritative air, articulate speech, and eastern appeals. That difference, and the often less passionate convictions of an eclectic architect, made Cobb an odd man out among the city’s most prominent architects. Burnham’s deepening civic commitments made him more representative of the best of Chicago in the late nineties. Just so, Sullivan’s commitment to civilize boomtown greed, to impart to the skyscraper’s “brutal agglomeration . . . those higher forms of sensibility and culture that rest on the lower and fiercer passions,” was a civic as well as a cultural quest evident in much of his work and writing. Adler soldiered for years in various campaigns to professionalize architectural practice, but Cobb never did. William Holabird, the front man for his firm as Adler, Burnham, and Cobb were for theirs, worked for causes in the community that Cobb did not, who used Chicago for more strictly personal ends.35 Cobb described his collections and household finery in some detail to the Tribune reporter in part to underscore a more serious problem than slogging through snowdrifts to work. At his North Side residence he encountered some of the city’s deleterious effects: Well, during the . . . years I lived in Chicago I was obliged to refurnish my drawing room three times. The dirt . . . was impossible to keep out. It sifted in everywhere. My etchings and photographs and my fine books were being ruined. Glass cases and covers were no protection.

Washington was much cleaner and more convenient. In his new home and studio at 1759–1761 N Street NW, which were a mere “ten minutes” on foot from his office in the Treasury Building, he reduced the nineteen servants at his Lake Forest estate to twelve, transferring the other seven to his “Newport cottage.”36 But Cobb still had to deal with Chicago’s pollution on his visits to supervise what he now called his “Western Office”: To illustrate the difference in cleanliness I have special clothing which I reserve for my trips to Chicago. I put it on when I start, and put it away when I come home. The Chicago clothing gets so grimy that it soils everything it touches. Here my pictures and house things will keep.

The Tribune editor sneered at this fastidious affront to civic pride: Chicagoans “who see [Cobb] in his flying visits to this city see him only in his grimy Chicago clothes. When he returns to his dustless, smokeless, sootless Washington home presumably he takes a bath, shaves, puts on Washington clothes, and is himself again.” Yet when Cobb linked Chicago dirt to a larger problem the editor did not deny it. Chicago was “growing worse,” the architect said, so much so that capable and wealthy people, groups indispensable to metropolitan clout, choose not to reside in the city.

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Chicago is coming to be regarded by these men as a place in which to do business. It is not seriously considered . . . a place to live in. For this reason less attention is paid to the things which would make the city habitable and pleasant and more to its business facilities. Every year Chicago becomes a place more for business and less for residence.

Cobb was not simply justifying his move to Washington, for the Tribune admitted that despite his having “deserted” Chicago there was “much truth in what Mr. Cobb says.” Foreign and American visitors remarked enough on the city’s soot that it became the “curse of Chicago.” City architects noted that it smudged drawings, soiled shirt cuffs, streaked buildings, and corroded stone, metals, and painted surfaces.37 World’s Fair organizer James W. Ellsworth had to move out of Chicago simply to protect his valuable art collection.38 Cobb’s friends Roland and Samuel Nickerson were among more than a few Chicagoans who decamped every summer to estates in the Northeast. More important, a single-minded focus on commercial gain still haunted Chicago. Materialist ambitions focused several of the Chicago novels of Fuller and Robert Herrick, and preoccupied Sullivan in the portions of Kindergarten Chats he wrote in the nineties. Cobb’s emphasis on making Chicago more livable was important enough that Burnham made it an argument in his plan for a South Shore park (1897).39 This seven-mile reclamation of the lakefront was to include areas where wealthy people could build villas, a proposal to keep prominent Chicagoans and their wealth in the city. Why Cobb gave this interview is not clear, but it leaves no doubt that, having achieved things in Chicago no other architect had, he thought that the city’s era of opportunity had played itself out. The development of suburbs like Lake Forest and satellite towns like Peoria and South Bend had reached their first maturities. Elite social clubs, a superior athletic association, the historical society, a specialized research library, technical institutes, the university, skyscrapers, and homes and mansions for the individuals who created the physical and cultural infrastructure that gave Chicago its distinct identity in the 1880s and 1890s were all in place. The city’s inland empire was complete, and Cobb, the architect whose work and clients so fully represented the metropolitan imperium, wanted to move on. Of the architects in Cobb’s generation, the most talented had done much of their best work, with the major exception of Burnham in his and Edward Bennett’s Plan of Chicago (1909). Culminating with Sister Carrie (1899), the city’s writers had penned their best novels as well. Fuller, the descendant of an early settler family, shifted in the 1890s from Chicago realism to the nostalgic Old World romances that Robert Herrick also took up. A new kind of midwestern architecture had begun to blossom in Frank Lloyd Wright’s suburban houses, inspiring a number of younger architects to follow his lead, but in the central city there was no comparable creative ferment.

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Bertha Palmer had bought her best pictures and reined in her civic and political commitments in Chicago.40 Before he died in 1893 William Poole completed much that was necessary to make the Newberry one of the nation’s finest public reference libraries, and by 1899 Harper had already made Cobb’s campus a great university. Technological and organizational innovations were taken for granted, having lost the shock value analyzed by Paul Bourget. The pioneering cultural practices and programs of Chicago’s more democratic cultural institutions—the Art Institute, settlement houses, and the university’s extension division—had spread in various ways to other cities. The heyday for self-made men like Potter Palmer, who died in 1902, or lesser self-makers like Ransom Cable, was over. In settled middle age, Cable and his wife typified a less rambunctious and open Chicago as they made the predictable rounds in the city’s social scene.41 Among the notable individuals whom Cobb knew, only George Hale and Jane Addams were at the peak of their careers, he an early and she a late bloomer. Yet Hale left Yerkes’s scientifically plush facility only five years after it opened for California’s Mount Wilson Observatory, there to take advantage of the sixty-inch telescope that the University of Chicago failed to fund but which Andrew Carnegie did not, a major lapse in Chicago’s seven decades of civic humanism and cultural philanthropy.42 But even Cobb’s abandonment of Chicago heightened the representative nature of his career. The extralocal standards to which professionals pledged allegiance weakened an earlier identification with localities. The exodus of talent headed by Cobb and Hale made Chicago something of a way-station metropolis, a place to succeed before seeking larger success elsewhere, as in Sister Carrie, whose protagonist attempts to storm New York. Like Charles Yerkes, who moved there in 1900 and then to London to develop its subway system, or Bertha Palmer, who was trying to impress socialites in New York, Newport, and Sarasota, Cobb, who had succeeded so well in the city of self-makers, and whose entrepreneurial instincts metropolitan Chicago had honed, refocused his midwestern experience on an eastern ascent, and timed his departure as well as he had his arrival.

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11 Falls from Grace


espite the tight budget for the Pennsylvania State Capitol and professional denunciations of the competition, Cobb was upbeat in January 1898, when an article in the Washington Post reported that he planned to transfer

“a large force of draftsmen” from Chicago to the nation’s capital to staff the two large rooms he was adding to his home at 1761 N Street, soon to be the “business headquarters” for his national practice, the place “where all his commissions will be executed.” He was also at work on other buildings in the capital and along the East Coast: “a magnificent and costly” neoclassical mansion on Newport’s prestigious Bellevue Avenue; neoclassical banks in Kingston and Albany, New York; a Romanesque city hall for Lancaster, Ohio; and the campus plan and neoclassical buildings for the recently founded American University in Washington.1 But within two years this impressive start on a practice no longer centered in

Chicago stalled because of complications there and elsewhere. His position at the university hung in the balance in a second, veiled rivalry with Charles Coolidge. Late in 1900, fully three years after it had denounced the competition for the Pennsylvania State Capitol, the AIA approved a resolution that threatened Cobb’s reputation. A belated appropriation from the Pennsylvania legislature then allowed his successor as capitol architect to complete a statehouse that both buried and exploited Cobb’s sophisticated interlocking of ceremonial, legislative, and bureaucratic spaces. On 9 October 1899, when Cobb handed a trowel to President McKinley to lay the cornerstone for the Chicago Federal Building, the architect had little reason


to suppose that translating his design into the formidable granite reality it promised to be on paper would involve anything but smooth sailing and professional laurels. But two crippling strikes acquainted Cobb with yet another of Chicago’s modern institutions in the form of militant trade unions. Although the strikes allowed the architect to demonstrate once more his talent for innovative organization, the strikes and other delays, along with increased bureaucratic scrutiny from the Treasury Department, turned Cobb’s earlier estimate to complete the Federal Building in only four years into a Sisyphean eight-year campaign. The architectentrepreneur who seemed effortlessly to ride the swelling tide of organizational, technological, institutional, and metropolitan expansion in the eighties and nineties found himself at the turn of the century caught in an undertow exerted by the very institutions that had raised him to national prominence in the first place.

The University of Chicago (1900–1901) On 23 January 1900, William Rainey Harper received the most unusual letter Cobb had probably ever written. Five pages long, it conveyed how much the architect wished to retain one of the most important commissions of his career despite local criticism that he had abandoned Chicago. Typed on the heavy bond of the azure stationery he favored, the letterhead of which spread the addresses of his eastern, western, and Treasury Department offices across the top of each page, he gave the president an inside look at his working methods, the scope of his ambition, aspects of his home life, and repeated assurances of an undiminished dedication to the university and his unconditional availability.2 “From something you said when we met in New York the other day and from information I get from Chicago,” Cobb began, “I fear that the stories of my having left Chicago being so diligently circulated by people more interested in my abuse than my welfare, have made some impression on you and the Trustees.” Cobb emphasized that his Chicago office had “not been as active in years as it is at the present moment,” nor had its “organization . . . been as good.” Cobb then assured Harper no fewer than four times in the next six lines that he kept “in close touch” with the office, that he was “constantly in Chicago,” that he had “not left Chicago,” and did not “have any intention of doing so.” Whether in or out of town, all Harper had to do was “simply send word to my Chicago office and I will gladly give you the best I can command.” Normally a serene correspondent even when faced with the displeasure of powerful clients, Cobb would not have been so excessively reassuring unless there had been good cause. Although he did not identify the sources for the “stories” against him, at least three influential people favored Cobb’s replacement by Charles Coolidge. As early as 1895, George Ellery Hale had advocated Cobb’s replacement by Coolidge, despite Cobb’s pivotal role in securing Yerkes’s patronage for Hale’s observatory. Coolidge socialized with university trustee Martin Ryerson, 290 Chapter 11

dined regularly at the home of trustee Charles Hutchinson, and knew both men well from having designed the Art Institute.3 For all his savoir faire, Cobb had not developed comparable relations with either trustee. Proper Bostonian, Harvard and MIT graduate, architect for Stanford University and two cultural institutions in Chicago, rival for the Federal Building commission, principal of a large and diversified firm, and skilled courter of clients, Coolidge had become Cobb’s doppelganger. Coolidge’s threat explains the length, the number of arguments, the redundancies, and the pleading, often insecure tone of Cobb’s letter. He first appealed, though, to high ambition, as if to argue that Harper, with his own world-beating aspirations, could easily sympathize with someone who had “struck out for National reputation,” who after three years had had “much greater success than I expected [with] a number of very important and interesting buildings in different parts of the country.” After yet another assurance that he had “the best organization and the most competent men,” Cobb argued that his working methods and relocation to Washington would produce even better university buildings than those he had already designed. “The best professional work of all time has been done by men shutting themselves up with their work,” by architects who like “Hunt, Richardson and others got away from the immediate rough and tumble of general practice.” So, too, “I have never been able to produce anything like as good results . . . as since I established a drafting room in connection with my residence, where I work over the essential parts of a building problem alone with my men and my books, uninterrupted by any one for hours at a time, and the men not interrupted at all.” Surprisingly, Cobb then appealed to Harper as a parent. In Washington winters, “my numerous small children are perfectly well all the time in a mild climate where they can be out of doors, whereas they were constantly under the Doctors [sic] care in Lake Forest and Chicago, and you or any other family man would do as I have done—put yourself to great personal inconvenience to accomplish the same results.” Traveling “two or three thousand miles a month to conduct my practice” was onerous, “but could you see my small boys you would appreciate I am well paid for the extra exertion put upon me.” Cobb felt his jeopardy deeply enough that here he violated the Brahmin proscription against leveraging one’s personal life in a professional matter. There were financial sacrifices, too: “commercial work or public buildings would yield much more pecuniary advantages [sic] than any College Buildings could,” Cobb wrote as he introduced another unusual claim, “but I am too much interested in the University of Chicago not to appreciate that the work could easily be spoiled, and thereby I would lose all the honor I have hoped to gain by producing the most satisfactory group of University buildings that has ever been built.” Obviously meant to impress Harper, who may not have fully appreciated the merits of Jefferson’s and McKim’s universities, this startling remark was Cobb’s clearest statement yet about the scope of his ambition.

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Cobb then found four different ways to say that “at no time during the years I have worked [on] the University of Chicago have I been . . . more anxious to give it my best professional attention,” added three more assurances of his availability, and advised Harper to keep to a single architect and thereby “prevent . . . the failure of every Institution that has introduced different and antagonistic architectural ideas.” “I hear from several sources,” Cobb finally noted, “that some of the Trustees . . . are being strongly urged to give other Architects a chance to show what they can do etc., that I was no longer identified with Chicago and that [the university] was a Chicago institution etc.” After once more assuring Harper that he was “still in Chicago” and still “identified with it,” Cobb, perilously, questioned the taste of the trustees. “I understand perfectly well the many influences and kinds of men that go to make up Boards of Trustees, and no one knows better than I the entire lack of appreciation most men have of the value of good architecture and how to get it.” To lump Martin Ryerson and Charles Hutchinson, two men who prided themselves on their artistic judgments, with the many trustees who were more architecturally illiterate impugned two individuals with whom Harper had the closest of associations. Unlike Coolidge, Cobb had only formal relations with Ryerson and Hutchinson. More at ease with Harper, he concluded his letter by writing, “I am unwilling to have a man whose opinion and friendship I value as I do yours, labor under any misconception of what I am trying to accomplish.” Harper certainly had warm feelings for Cobb. In a letter to the architect five months earlier thanking him for his help on a university exhibit for the Paris Exposition that year, he recalled Cobb’s “magnificent gift” early in the university’s first building campaign: “As long as I live I shall never forget the day when you . . . gave us one hundred and fifty thousand dollars. That was one of the most eventful occurrences in connection with the organization of the University of Chicago.”4 In his brief reply, however, Cobb remarked that in a trip through the Midwest to drum up work he had not found enough “going on in Chicago that would keep me there.”5 If a few months later Harper recalled that passage as he read Cobb’s lengthy apologia, or if he had read and recalled how Cobb disowned Chicago in the “Iliad of his woes” published by the Tribune eight months earlier, either document might have caused the president to doubt the architect’s dedication to the university. In any event, Cobb wrote the January letter too quickly. Its dunning repetitions, self-exculpatory statements, defensive tone, and hasty mix of calm assurance and palpable anxiety could not have set Harper at ease. During the winter and spring, while Cobb continued to work on plans for new university buildings, Coolidge was working with Hutchinson. In March 1900 they met in Oxford for two days to confer on Hutchinson’s plan to donate a commons to the university. They studied at least two of the city’s colleges, and Hutchinson wrote to Harper that “I have men working in Christ Church Hall taking measurements.” Fifteen months later university trustees officially named Shep292 Chapter 11

ley, Rutan & Coolidge the architects for Hutchinson Commons and two adjoining buildings, thus ending Cobb’s campaign to produce “the most satisfactory group of University buildings that has ever been built.”6 His campus plan was still in force, however. On Fifty-Seventh Street and University Avenue, Coolidge’s new building blocked in one side of Cobb’s northeast quadrangle. Coolidge abandoned Cobb’s gables, dormers, crockets, red tile roofs, buttresses, and structural clarity, but retained his gargoyles, griffins, and ornament concentrated at the entrances. Closely modeling his plan on the Christ Church refectory, Coolidge increased the scale of the commons through the new material of steel-reinforced concrete, and furnished it with a small hammer-beam cafe to one side of the monumental hammer-beam dining hall. He anchored that corner of the campus with a slightly modified copy of the Magdalen College bell tower. Although Cobb’s Gothic could be diagrammatic—an assembly of motifs not always fluently integrated with one another—it was usually more creative than Coolidge’s drier archeological historicism. Ironically, Coolidge visited Chicago no more often than Cobb, and his firm was, in Harper’s view, more inefficient. “I must confess,” Harper wrote to Coolidge at his Boston office in July 1902, “that I find ‘Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge’ very slow in getting buildings finished. The Rush Medical and the Press Building, it would seem, will never be completed. I have been trying to stir up Mr. Clark [the firm’s on-site architect] but it seems to accomplish nothing. Can’t you do something?”7

The Pennsylvania State Capitol (1900–1902) A little more than two months after Coolidge and Hutchinson visited Christ Church, the Architectural League of America, meeting at the Art Institute, created more trouble for Cobb in an incident that Harper was also likely to have noticed, and that could not have helped Cobb retain his position as university architect. The league’s president criticized the Judiciary Committee of the American Institute of Architects “for refusing to make a thorough inquiry” into Cobb’s connection with “the Pennsylvania State Capitol scandal.” The following December, at the AIA’s annual meeting, held nearly eleven months after Cobb wrote his letter to Harper, the AIA took action. With AIA president Robert Peabody, Cobb’s former employer, conducting the meeting, all those present resolved that Cobb and two other architects were guilty of “unprofessional conduct . . . prejudicial to the best interests of the profession.” While the resolution allowed them “to remain fellows of the institute in good standing,” the qualification that their “continued membership . . . is repugnant” was a less than subtle hint to resign.8 The Tribune reported that ever since Cobb had won the tainted competition, an unnamed “Philadelphia architect who was [also] a competitor . . . has been trying to make things uncomfortable for his successful rival.” Motivated by “considerable spite,” the rival and his allies secured “the adoption of the resolution” when

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only a few members were present, or so Cobb maintained with his usual aplomb. I knew nothing about the resolution . . . until I saw the evening’s papers, but have since learned that it was run through after most of the architects had left the city and only about a dozen were present. I see no reason why I should pay any attention whatever to the expression of opinion as to what is proper in my profession from the source that this evidently emanated [sic]. I certainly have done nothing that any practitioner would not have been glad to do. . . . Only one of the 100 competitors could get the job. It may be unfortunate that a Philadelphia architect did not get it, but it is three years ago, and I should think it rather late to kick.9 While spite or jealousy may well have been motives in an action strangely delayed by the AIA for more than three years, Cobb was wrong to assert that “any practitioner” would have done what he did, for this is exactly what more than a few of Cobb’s colleagues either did not do or would not have done. As a member of the board of experts, John Carrere supported Governor Hastings’s criticism of the Capitol Building Commission for abrogating the first competition, and as a member of the AIA committee that reviewed the event in December 1897, Dankmar Adler supported the boycott of the second competition initiated by the Philadelphia chapter, a boycott twenty firms from the first competition actually observed. In Pennsylvania the story was front-page news. In the Patriot, for example, Cobb was said to “not regard his expulsion as a detriment to him in any way,” and to claim that Philadelphia architects rushed “the spiteful action” through “a meeting attended by only a few members” because they “resented the contract for the . . . capitol not being given to home talent.” Cobb then affected lofty unconcern in a matter that threatened the reputation he had cultivated in the Chicago press for years: “I take very little interest in the American Institute of Architects.” In noting that “the institute is composed of not more than three percent of the architects of the country,” he derogated an organization whose small numbers nonetheless included nearly all the profession’s best architects, including those in Chicago like Burnham and Adler who had fought for years for exactly the kind of competition that the Capitol Building Commission had overturned.10 In the early spring of 1902 the Pennsylvania legislature, after defeating one bill to demolish Cobb’s “brick factory” and build an entirely new capitol, and voting down another to employ Cobb to finish the building, finally appropriated four million dollars to complete the statehouse, exactly the amount Cobb had recommended three years earlier. Passage of a third bill authorizing a new competition dashed any remaining hope Cobb harbored to continue as capitol architect, since it required all competitors to be Pennsylvanians. Although this rule caused the AIA to condemn the competition, and the Philadelphia chapter criticized its “loosely drawn” rules, it went forward anyway, politics and state loyalties trumping a still fledgling professionalism.11 294 Chapter 11

Whereas thirty-one architects had entered the original competition, no more than ten entered in 1902, a number that at least showed significant support among architects, if among few other groups, for the AIA’s position. The results vindicated Cobb’s design. William Ware, a professor of architecture at Columbia University and the reluctant advisor to the competition, reported that “most of the designs preserve the lines of the present unfinished building.” Most entries also added Cobb’s office wings, while three kept his “arrangements in the centre of the present building, [with] a semicircular staircase under the dome.”12 The winner, Joseph Huston, a Philadelphia architect and one of the eight finalists in the first competition, was the competitor most deeply in debt to Cobb. The later claim by critics that in erecting the building Huston locked an assistant in the attic of his office and told him to copy Cobb’s construction drawings was not so wide of the mark.13 From the capitol’s first architect he pilfered the imperial staircase, columned porches for the office wings, four-story atria where the office and legislative wings intersected, fenestration for the house and senate walls, and a giant order of pilasters between the windows to unify those façades. After the competition Huston reshaped the rotunda’s two semicircular flights of stairs into diagonal returns, but his staircase still depended on Cobb’s conceit of moving visitors forward, up, and around an immense well of space, an ascending and rotational panorama of balconies and arcades set beneath an imposing drum and dome. Above the central flight rose a simplified version of the columns and balconies in Charles Garnier’s stair hall at the Paris Opera (fig. 11.1). Only in using a luxurious stone to do what Cobb had already done in homely wood and raw brick

11.1  Pennsylvania State Capitol, 1902. Joseph Huston, architect. Photo Dennis MacDonald. Courtesy World of Stock.

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was Huston able to create what Hitchcock and Seale have called “a heroic staircase in white marble—perhaps the grandest in America.”14 Along with such spatial spectacles as H. H. Richardson’s western staircase in the New York State Capitol, Huston’s reworking of Cobb’s conceit again underscored Tocqueville’s view that Americans aspired to “gigantic splendor in the erection of public monuments.” So did Huston’s other borrowings. At half the scale, he copied Michelangelo’s drum, dome, and lantern even more closely than Cass Gilbert had. From the Minnesota State Capitol, Huston also lifted the eagles atop the paired columns bracing the drum, the four-horse chariot astride the central portico, and the sculpture that varied the roofline (fig. 11.2). Huston’s catalogue of cribbings also clothed an outsized building. His drum and dome, lower in relation to the rest of the capitol than what Cobb had designed, and his weightier central block and longer wings expunged the lightness and vertical thrust of Cobb’s scheme. It is unclear whether expanding bureaucratic functions were responsible, but the size of Huston’s capitol so overwhelmed the park whose attractions Cobb had sought to preserve that the state later had to appropriate private property to bring statehouse and parkland back into proportional relations with one another. The shallow domes atop the office wings and lavish polychromatic interiors were Huston’s only significant contributions. But these were still more problematic despite the capitol’s largely enthusiastic public reception. The interior design occupied a stylistic limbo somewhere between a stiff version of Belle Époque

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11.2  Pennsylvania State Capitol, ca. 1901. Thomas B. Cochran, Smull’s Legislative Hand Book and Manual of the State of Pennsylvania (Harrisburg: Harrisburg Publishing Co.,1906), frontispiece.

exuberance and a classicized version of heavy Victorian ornament—a florid decorative scheme described by Owen Wister, a Philadelphia novelist, as “a monstrous botch of bad arrangement, bad lighting, bad ventilation, and the most bloated bad tastes.” Immuring Cobb’s spare neoclassicism in ostentation and derivation immured Huston himself in corruption. The interiors aptly memorialized an architect who, having boosted the capitol as the “biggest and best building of its kind in the country or the world,” was convicted of fraud in a 1907 state investigation and sent to prison for having cost taxpayers nearly four million dollars in fraudulent charges, a sum equal to the entire 1902 appropriation.15

The Federal Building (1899–1905) In this same period of time, problems of a very different sort beset Cobb’s other major civic institution. In early September 1899, the powerful Chicago Building Trades Council threatened to disrupt the Fall Festival on 9 October, the twentyeighth anniversary of Chicago’s recovery from the 1871 fire, and the day President McKinley was to lay the cornerstone for the Federal Building.16 The Tribune reported on 2 September that M. J. Sullivan, who ran the Chicago Stonecutters Union, “said he had been informed that President McKinley would refuse to participate . . . in case a non-union stone was used.” A ceremonial block of granite had become the Building Trades Council’s publicity wedge in the larger conflict between John Pierce, the New York contractor on the Federal Building, and the granite stonecutters in Maine who had already struck Pierce’s quarry at Mount Waldo because the contractor was employing nonunion labor to excavate the stone that the stonecutters then had to shape and dress.17 Cobb and Pierce moved quickly to resolve the issue. On 7 September, Cobb released a letter he had just written to Sullivan in response to the union leader’s request for a meeting: “I am informed by [the] general contractor for the new federal building at Chicago, that the corner-stone was cut . . . by stonecutters belonging to the [Maine] Granite Cutters’ Union,” a fact that the Tribune thought would “put an end to the trouble over the ceremonies, leaving the other labor troubles to be settled by the contractor.”18 Not quite. Despite his experience in erecting buildings, Cobb was still a neophyte on labor issues. The possible use of “a non-union stone” seems to have referred to one of the period’s many jurisdictional disputes within the labor movement. For a year and a half, the Chicago Stonecutters Union had demanded that its own Chicago men, not union workers in Maine, shape and dress all the rough stone blocks hewn from Pierce’s quarry, while the Maine Granite Cutters’ Union had demanded that its members do the work. Pierce ruled that stone quarried at Mount Waldo be shaped in Maine. The reporting on this issue was not always clear, but it appears that the use of non-Chicago labor precipitated the cornerstone conflict. Evidently to avert a public relations disaster, Sullivan and officials of the

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Fall Festival agreed to replace the granite cornerstone quarried in Maine with Illinois limestone cut locally under the supervision of the Building Trades Council.19 The compromise ensured McKinley’s participation. The cornerstone ceremony and the Fall Festival endowed the city’s first major public building in three decades with unanticipated associations. Reaffirming Chicago’s metropolitan importance politically, McKinley used this local celebration to help him gauge the country’s mood about his new foreign policy toward the Philippine Islands. Arriving in town from Washington on 6 October to supervise the erection of the derrick for the cornerstone and the dais for the dignitaries, Cobb declared to a Tribune reporter that “the splendid arrangements leave no ground for hitches.”20 Three days later, under a clear late summer sky, in the presence of high-ranking public officials from Canada and Mexico, before members of the Supreme Court, Congress, and President McKinley’s cabinet, and with the full participation of representatives from the Building Trades Council, six hundred thousand Chicagoans used the cornerstone ritual, the ageless act of conquering nature, constructing the future, and laying aside present discontents, to proclaim “victory over the fire which twenty-eight years before, on Oct. 9, 1871, had swathed its path in ashes.”21 Moving through streets lined by skyscrapers, the presidential parade and the setting for the cornerstone ceremony constituted a modern, spectacular version of traditional urban festivals. The crowd, according to the Tribune, tracked McKinley’s movements to the building site with a “bombardment of shouts and . . . handclapping,” and “a floral rain” of carnations and roses fell from the windows of the Great Northern Hotel as the president’s retinue passed by. Cheering “like a fired train of powder . . . ran down the boulevard to the lake front, where . . . throngs blocked the streets.” Spectators filled “every window of the towering buildings” facing the grandstand for five thousand invited guests. Neither men nor women could remove their hats in “the wedging, shoving, scrambling tangle of the crowds.” The reporter then noted that the fire of 1871 had forced the removal of the Federal Building to its present site, that only forty years before the conflagration engulfed the city “the pioneers who built their huts about old Fort Dearborn and laid the foundations for the Chicago of today had hunted wolves on the spot from which President Mckinley . . . directed the climax to the corner-stone rites.” Workers played unusually prominent roles. The head of the Bricklayers’ Union maneuvered the pulley and boom that lowered the cornerstone into place. Three members of the Stone Derrick Men’s Union held the mortar and trowel, while M. J. Sullivan stood with the union man who had cut the limestone. The chief justice of the Supreme Court introduced treasury secretary Lyman Gage, who introduced the president. Rather than hand him “the golden trowel” officials had originally wanted to employ, Cobb, in another gesture to labor, handed McKinley “a sturdy, firmly fashioned implement such as a workman would use.” The president then spread mortar beneath the stone block. In the memorial copper box within the cornerstone were autograph copies of nearly two dozen Chicago news298 Chapter 11

papers with “descriptive articles of the architecture of the new Federal Building,” and a copy of the 1898 “Constitution and Proceedings of [the] American Federation of Labor.” In the early evening McKinley witnessed the Pageant of All Nations, which featured eighteen floats and two thousand people from twelve ethnic neighborhoods, and later spoke at the presidential banquet in the Auditorium.22 With Cobb seated at the speaker’s table, McKinley emphasized the bravery of the men who had recently fought to free Cuba and the Philippine Islands from Spanish rule, and “the signal interpositions of Providence in favor of the American cause.” “Wild applause” greeted his subsequent declamation: “From Plymouth Rock to the Philippines the grand triumphant march of human liberty has never paused.” But still wilder applause erupted when he declared “that the Philippines will be held” as an American protectorate, for the president’s visit to Chicago had already confirmed his earlier sense that public support for making “freedom under the flag” more “universal” was running so high as to be politically irresistible. These affirmations of American exceptionalism aligned official Chicago and the Federal Building with a much-trumpeted harmonizing of past, present, and future: union men momentarily reconciled to capitalists, an outpost of wolf hunters transformed into a “towering” metropolis, and American imperialism promoted in the name of an expanding global freedom. As if to bracket this political shift architecturally, the Federal Building’s neoclassicism, memorialized in the newspapers placed within the cornerstone, echoed the Beaux-Arts design that had celebrated the Columbian Exposition’s imperial view of American history six years previously, and the same architectural principles appeared in Daniel Burnham’s plans for Manila and Baguio, the winter and summer capitols that five years after McKinley’s speech solidified America’s hold on the Philippine protectorate. The resolution of the cornerstone conflict had, however, no impact on the stonecutter’s strike at Mount Waldo, which delayed shipment of squared and dressed blocks of granite to Chicago until the following spring. This strike previewed a more explosive conflict in Chicago in the winter and spring of 1900 between the Building Trades Council and the recently formed Building Contractors’ Council, a conflict that one historian describes as “one of the most bitter labor struggles in the history of Chicago.”23 Although it added another six months to the delays already caused by the stonecutter’s strike and earlier unforeseen complications in demolishing the old post office, the general strike produced a surprising change in Cobb: this novice at dealing with labor conflicts abandoned an initial indifference to union issues and proposed an innovative type of labor arbitration. Formed in 1890, the Building Trades Council had been a progressive body until recently. The only organization able to address the unfair or dangerous working conditions enforced by the efficient and nearly seamless rationalization of corporate finance, architectural design, and building construction was not any one union, but a congress of all labor unions concerned with building production. The Trades Council was exactly that, a modern aggregation with the countervailing

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power necessary to win concessions from employers, deal with the threats that industrial fabrication posed for artisanal work in the transitional period between handcraft and mechanized production, and mediate among a proliferating number of competing unions. By calling sympathy strikes, advocating uniform building codes, and using other means, the council helped individual unions secure better wages, hours, and work rules. Like settlement houses and the university’s extension division, the council initially was another of Chicago’s institutions for democratic reform that no other city possessed. But by century’s end it had also created unfair conditions for contractors. To negotiate these issues they formed their own Building Contractors’ Council in the fall of 1899. After the two councils reached a tentative agreement later that year, the Trades Council failed to take the necessary next steps. The contractors then issued an ultimatum based on the initial agreement. This prompted the Trades Council to call for a general strike in early February 1900. The strike stopped construction on the Federal Building, halted work at many other building sites across the city through the spring, resulted in several assaults, and caused Chicago businessmen to threaten “to have the strike thoroughly investigated and . . . force themselves into the issue as compulsory peace makers if necessary.” As with his insistence the previous year that the stonecutter’s strike would not delay the Federal Building, Cobb in mid-May 1900 was both cautious and militant. The Tribune reported that “he will take no part in any controversy that may arise between the contractors and the unions, it being his duty to see that the work is done according to specifications and completed by Jan. 1, 1902, the date stipulated in the amended contract.” Yet he also announced, in the reporter’s summary, that “work would be resumed at once, and intimated that that the federal government would see that the workmen employed should be protected from assault.” Asked if this meant that city police would protect the men, Cobb replied that “city officials have no jurisdiction over the Postoffice and will not be relied upon for protection.” Pressed on whether federal troops would then be ordered to Chicago, a question that inescapably invoked the specter of federal intervention in the disastrous Pullman strike seven years earlier, Cobb said “he never crossed a bridge until he came to it.”24 The following day the federal government spoke through two voices. While an assistant United States attorney told the Tribune that “federal statutes afford protection for laboring men employed upon the new Postoffice Building against interference by pickets,” Treasury Secretary Gage was more neutral: “It rests with the general contractor to decide as to the means and methods he will employ in executing his contract, and . . . nobody has any right to assume that the government personally will take any hand in a controversy between Mr. Pierce and the labor unions.” Through a spokesman, Pierce passed the buck to W. M. Manson, the subcontractor responsible for setting the Federal Building’s masonry, and the man “entirely responsible as to the character of the labor he will employ.”25

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Surprisingly, Cobb, confronting the city’s most powerful labor group in the midst of the city’s most damaging strike, started to develop a proposal for arbitration, the process for mediation ranking among the most intractable of labor-management problems. On 15 May he stated that he had become “greatly interested’ in the general strike and advanced a novel idea: “I believe the trouble can be settled [by] one man. He must not be a contractor, a material man, or a labor leader. He must act as judge, and everything must be referred to him.”26 By June, Cobb had fleshed out his proposal, perhaps the first such attempt at impartial labor mediation ever undertaken by an architect. In a long letter to both councils, Cobb proposed a joint committee to resolve disputes that would consist of delegates elected by each union in the Trades Council, with “the Building Contractors’ council to select their members in a similar manner. The delegates thus selected [are] to agree upon a chairman not connected with either organization.” However, despite or because of Cobb’s detailed arrangements to ensure fair elections and an unbiased chairman, both councils rejected the scheme. One concerned individual thought it was “too intricate,” while the secretary of the Building Trades Council called it “extremely visionary.”27 The rejection put Cobb in good company, however, for deft, trusted mediators like Samuel Gompers and Mark Hanna also failed to end the strike. But over the summer the strike collapsed, the contractors effectively disempowered the Trades Council, and later successful forms of mediation closely followed those in Cobb’s proposal and the initial agreement between the two councils. Although there was plenty of granite on hand by the fall, too few steelworkers made it impossible to finish framing the Federal Building in time to set the stone blocks as soon as they arrived. The result, Cobb had to admit, was that all the way through October “we have had to sit idly by with $500,000 of material at hand.”28 So many other delays followed this one that they altered Cobb’s standing in public opinion. The slow pace of work in the winter months caused outrage in mid-February 1901. Owners of properties near the site of the Federal Building “declared war” on the contractor, the architect, the government officials, or “whoever may be responsible” for the delays. Citing the same conditions as those at the construction site for the Hartford Building nearly ten years earlier, owners also denounced the “motley array” of advertising billboards posted on the construction fence, the pedestrian congestion caused by a narrow, unsafe wooden sidewalk skirting the site, the decreasing business and declining property values in the immediate vicinity, and the extra costs for the federal government in renting office space in other buildings. Marshall Field and Levi Leiter initiated a petition to Secretary Gage to protest the delay. Leiter singled out the architect: “I have written repeatedly to Mr. Cobb. . . . More than a year ago he assured me the work would be pushed, and since then I have had further promises from him. I hold him equally responsible with the contractor for the delay.”29

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When cold weather halted construction in the same month, public explanations did not help. Neither did Cobb’s response to a reporter’s reminder about the AIA’s censure the previous December: the architect replied with “scornful smiles and the assurance that his name had brought the association into prominence.” His parting comment—“I may say that I had forgotten I belonged to the organization”—insulted AIA leaders like Burnham and Adler.30 Similarly, when the Treasury Department had to rebut rumors of fraud on the price and quality of granite, Cobb, without naming names, claimed that politicians were using such incidents “for the purpose of securing votes.”31 True or not, Cobb looked vulnerable or unconvincing in constant defense of himself. In May he and the Treasury Department launched a counteroffensive. Francis W. Fitzpatrick, Cobb’s chief assistant on the Federal Building, moved to Chicago as one of several superintendents, each to oversee a different category of work. “This is the beginning of the finish of the biggest building the government has ever undertaken to erect,” Fitzpatrick said. “In a few days the people of Chicago will see results that will surprise them. They have failed to appreciate the magnitude of the work, and the difficulties under which it has been going on.”32 A week later, ostensibly to make more room for an expanding clerical force, Secretary Gage asked Cobb to vacate the office he kept on sufferance from the Treasury Department. This was at once a kind of demotion and a signal that the Federal Building would receive closer supervision. In two more such signals, they placed C. Albert Eckstrom, Cobb’s Chicago office manager since 1889, in charge of the building’s several superintendents, and arranged to have a very large model of the building exhibited at the Art Institute. Weighing nearly a ton and minutely detailed, it was said “workmen could construct the building by it without the assistance of plans.”33 Press coverage was favorable through the summer and fall, but when in November a reporter saw only three men at work on the outer walls, Cobb, usually unflappable, admitted to frustration even as he echoed Fitzgerald’s emphasis on the project’s “magnitude”: “I am prodding them all the time and it seems necessary every day. They will not push the work. They are doing a great deal, but there is so much to be done it is hardly possible to detect what progress is being made.”34 The building’s magnitude was in fact a crucial issue, but Cobb’s and Fitzpatrick’s statements about it failed to foster more public patience. An issue of the Inland Architect the previous July had provided exactly the sort of concrete detail that was necessary for the public to grasp the project’s complexities. Off the site, six to eight hundred men “daily and exclusively” quarried and shaped granite, but only a maximum of one hundred fifty workers could set the stone on the building itself, a number that a project this large dwarfed or rendered invisible inside mounting walls. Rather than the usual practice of cutting granite from a single quarry to maintain color consistency, now teams in three different quarries with strata of nearly the same shade expedited work. Even so, unlike the more industrialized production of brick and terra cotta used on the façades for the skyscrapers 302 Chapter 11

“springing up” in the Loop, stonecutting was still an artisanal, not a mechanized operation. Only one man, not a team of masons, could shape each block of granite, an obdurate stone that required several weeks, not a few days, to dress. “Self-appointed critics and experts, losing sight of the [project’s] enormous size,” mistakenly used the Field Building, “rushed up in remarkably short time,” to criticize the Federal Building’s “intolerably slow pace.” Though masons “set in place in the twenty-one good days last April as much granite as in the entire structure of the Field Building, yet it made no great showing” on a facility three hundred feet high and more than a quarter of a mile (1,463 feet) around.35 Prescient in other ways about modern organization, Cobb did not anticipate the need for modern public relations. Getting the word out to a professional publication like Inland Architect, rather than a popular one like the Tribune, was hardly enough. Cobb was losing the battle of public opinion in part because he did not convey more forcefully and frequently in the one newspaper to which he had ready access the telling measures that would have allowed readers to grasp the building’s imponderable size, and to visualize its ponderous mix of modern and premodern construction realities. After delays continued into April 1902, a stinging editorial in the Tribune called for Cobb’s dismissal as special architect, and Illinois congressman James R. Mann introduced a resolution in the House of Representatives to investigate the accumulating setbacks. While a congressional committee looked into the delays, Cobb, inexplicably, did not open bids on interior work until 24 September, six months after he had said he would. By the end of October, Pierce was nine months late finishing the exterior and thus subject to daily fines. In the same month Congressman Mann called for Cobb’s ouster, and Leslie M. Shaw, president Theodore Roosevelt’s new secretary of the treasury, demanded written explanations of the delays from both Cobb and Pierce. Publicly, Cobb affected unconcern, telling the Tribune in early December, just after the congressional committee finished its adverse report, that he had given little thought to Mann’s investigation.36 In 1903 matters came to a head. On 8 March a front-page story reported that Secretary Shaw, offering no explanation, “deprived Henry Ives Cobb of his absolute and independent authority to complete the Chicago building,” returned jurisdiction over the facility to the Treasury Department’s supervising architect, replaced Eckstrom with Francis Fitzpatrick as the sole supervisor of construction, and ordered George O. von Nerta, one of the department’s architects and building inspectors, to examine the project’s finances and the quality of the work done to date.37 Von Nerta’s investigation was impartial and thorough in ways that only a bureaucracy’s comprehensive files, power to summons, and access to all parties can muster. In his report of 28 March, von Nerta stated that all documents he asked for “were freely placed at my disposal,” that the foundation work was “first-class” and the neoclassical design “very successful,” that the framing of the dome was “especially satisfactory,” that strikes, prolonged demolition, transport delays, and bad

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weather had slowed the project nearly as much as Pierce and Cobb had claimed, and that Pierce was therefore responsible for only half the penalties the federal government was otherwise entitled to levy. He criticized, however, Cobb’s “remarkably” low estimate of the savings accrued by eliminating “figures and ornaments” from the pediments above the four entrances to the building, and his “absurd” underestimate of the savings gained from simpler capitals and the substitution of column drums for monolithic columnar shafts. He also criticized the lack of “any direct order or recording” of many changes made on the architect’s authority alone. Still, the estimates and changes were “closed” matters because all of them “were duly authorized by the Department.” Moreover, von Nerta’s estimate of greater savings reduced the budget overrun to $63,540, a very small sum for a multimillion dollar building. His one unqualified criticism—not to countenance from Pierce further slow-downs because “the probabilities are that there will be again delays supported by many plausible excuses”—could have applied to Cobb as well.38 A week later the Tribune claimed knowledge of the confidential report even though the paper had not actually obtained a copy. Oddly, the article’s inaccurate statements included none of von Nerta’s criticisms. For the headline, “Cobb’s Removal May Be Ordered,” it cited no source except the report itself, which did not broach this issue at all.39 Although Cobb had rightly been the object of a federal investigation, this and other inaccurate articles in April and May made the architect something more than a public servant whose questionable performance required the watchdog criticism of Chicago’s leading newspaper. Its shift into journalistic high dudgeon, its breathless but false assertions that von Nerta’s report was “scathing,” full of “startling disclosures,” and “so closely guarded [it] is sure to contain sensational revelations,” locked Cobb into the newspaper’s public pillory.40 Three months later, its crusade abruptly ended. On 13 August, the Tribune accurately reported that the Treasury Department had “charged [Cobb] with dilatoriness, negligence, and unbusinesslike methods,” and that Secretary Shaw had “summarily dismissed Henry Ives Cobb” as special architect and “abolished the office.” The temperature of the newspaper’s earlier sensationalist prose cooled to a telling summary of Cobb’s public disgrace. His removal was “the finale of a program of punishment which has been meted out to him through a succession of reductions, rank by rank, from his position in supreme charge of the building”: first “shorn of his Washington office,” then dispossessed of the decision-making authority for the Federal Building and ordered “to do nothing without first consulting” the supervising architect, then subjected to von Nerta’s investigation, and finally dismissed. The article also referred to the criticisms of Cobb’s two chief assistants, both of whom resigned shortly before Shaw fired Cobb.41 Eckstrom “became so disgusted with the methods of his superior” that he first tendered his resignation in early June, but the Treasury Department persuaded him to stay on. Shortly before 4 304 Chapter 11

August, Fitzpatrick “wrote [Shaw] that Cobb’s acts were so unbusinesslike that he could no longer remain on the work.”42 A week or so later, Eckstrom again submitted his resignation, which the Treasury Department had to accept because he had already moved out of his office in the Title and Trust Building and started his own practice. Cobb appeared all the more derelict for the defection of his two chief subordinates. In its catalogue of Cobb’s failings, the Tribune overlooked another factor. His zealous pursuit of work back east almost certainly compromised his management of the Federal Building. Between 1899 and 1903, Cobb entered two major competitions; for one of them he developed a compact, elegant design for New York’s U.S. Customs House (fig. 11.3). At the same time he built Toronto’s large King Edward Hotel and thrived in Washington’s short-lived building boom. At Eleventh and F Streets NW, he renovated a set of buildings (1898–1902) and wrapped them in neo-Renaissance detailing to reinvigorate the flagship emporium in the East Coast chain of the Woodward & Lothrop department stores. The McKinley Manual Training School (1898)—named for the assassinated president, and a commission

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11.3  U.S. Customs House competition entry, New York City, 1899. Henry Ives Cobb, architect. Inland Architect 34 (November 1899): plate. Courtesy Art Institute of Chicago.

for which Cobb competed against John L. Smithmeyer, one of the architects for

11.4  McKinley Manual Training School,

the Library of Congress—drew on Cobb’s experience with the Bradley and Lewis

Rhode Island Avenue and Seventh Street

Technical Institutes, and the nationwide emphasis on mechanical training. Simple Romanesque arcades powerfully walled two streets and the obliquely angled corner where the diagonal thoroughfare of Rhode Island Avenue cut through the city’s rectangular grid (fig. 11.4).43 Two large civic projects also preoccupied Cobb. The 1900 Centennial Plan reconfigured the Washington, D.C., downtown area to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of the federal government’s move from Philadelphia (fig. 11.5). Sponsored by senator James McMillan of Michigan, Cobb’s plan showed new government buildings lining the mall south of the White House and extending east along a new diagonal avenue that linked the Capitol with a proposed memorial bridge over the Potomac River. But this artery, which was to include a new union railroad station approached by a train trestle thrown across the Capitol mall, so upstaged Pennsylvania Avenue, appropriated so much of the Mall, and so compromised Pierre L’Enfant’s 1791 plan for the triangular core of Washington that the AIA quickly lobbied for proposals to restore and expand the Frenchman’s scheme. It did so at the very same meeting in which it censured Cobb for his part in the Harrisburg competition.44 Despite these setbacks, Cobb continued work he had begun in 1898 on the American University at Nebraska and Massachusetts Avenues. He refined and monumentalized Henry Van Brunt’s earlier L-shaped campus plan, and designed no fewer than twenty-three neoclassical granite and marble buildings to frame the three courts of honor in his white city of higher education on the capital’s outskirts (fig. 11.6). Closing the view of the longest court was an administration building that grandiloquently echoed both Independence Hall and the grandiose patriotic and Protestant ambitions of the project’s backers, who included Presidents McKinley and Roosevelt. In the early years, however, the cash-poor trustees were 306 Chapter 11

NW, Washington, D.C., 1898–1911. Henry Ives Cobb, architect. Washington, D.C. Author’s photo. 11.5  Centennial Avenue plan, Washington, D.C., 1900. Henry Ives Cobb, architect. Inland Architect 35 (March 1900): plate. Courtesy Art Institute of Chicago.

able to build only McKinley Hall (1901), the domed and winged building that an-

11.6  Proposed campus plan for American

chored and turned the inner corner of the L. As if such projects were not enough

University, Nebraska and Massachusetts


to distract him from the Federal Building, Cobb moved himself and his family to New York City in 1902, where he immediately began work on one of Manhattan’s two largest office buildings. Although the Tribune failed to note how all this eastern work kept Cobb out of Chicago, the newspaper could not have known that an unpublished exchange of letters between Secretary Shaw and Congressman Mann showed how close Cobb actually came to avoiding dismissal, and what finally may have forced the secretary to act. On 4 August Mann urged Shaw not to accept the letter of resignation Fitzpatrick had just submitted, because it was “a result most ardently desired by Mr. Cobb. Mr. Cobb does not want Mr. Fitzpatrick on guard.” Cobb had done other things, Mann stated, that to repeat in a letter would require “libelous language.” Fitzpatrick was “the only man” at work on the Federal Building “who had endeavored to protect the government.” Mann then requested a copy of the confidential von Nerta report, and added a politely worded threat: “I do expect [another] Congressional investigation of the Chicago building and of the contracts with Mr. Pierce as an aid to your efforts in the matter.”46 A week later Shaw’s reply actually deferred to Cobb. “Mr. Fitzpatrick is the man selected by Mr. Cobb as his assistant, and of course Mr. Cobb has the absolute right to recommend his discharge.” This was a defense of the architect in a limited way, as was Shaw’s response to Mann’s charge that “Mr. Cobb is not the proper 308 Chapter 11

Avenues, Washington, D.C., 1898. Henry Ives Cobb, architect. Courtesy American University Archives and Special Collections.

man for his position.” The secretary replied that “I have not felt justified in dismissing [him]”—which was to say a great deal, given the unrelieved scrutiny to which Shaw had subjected Cobb in the previous ten months and the Tribune’s prosecution of him in the court of public opinion—“but I have felt justified in taking from him everything except a semblance of authority.” Shaw also parried the congressman’s threatened investigation: “The Department must always be prepared for attacks of this kind . . . but I believe in the end the administration will be sustained.” But in an abrupt about-face the very next day, Shaw sent telegrams to six subcontractors notifying them that “the employment of Henry Ives Cobb as Architect of the United States Post Office Building at Chicago, Illinois, ceases today.”47 The timing strongly suggests that the secretary changed his mind in order to cut losses from the damaging publicity that might result from Mann’s investigation, even if it did eventually exonerate the Treasury Department. None of Cobb’s successes back East could have cushioned this blow of blows. The letters, petitions, and newspaper articles sent, circulated, or published since February 1901 constituted a two-and-a-half-year cascade of threats, denunciations, and criticisms by some of Chicago’s and the country’s more prominent men and institutions: the secretary of the treasury, the Office of the Supervising Architect, a congressman, Cobb’s two principal assistants, Chicago’s leading newspaper, and owners of property adjacent to the largest single downtown construction site and the most prominent public building in Chicago’s history. This defeat, coupled with the excoriation of Cobb’s “brick factory” in Harrisburg in 1899, his virtual expulsion from the AIA in 1900, the rejected Centennial Plan and his dismissal in 1901 by the University of Chicago, constituted a slow excommunication from the profession’s highest circles, and from the city on which his buildings had helped confer a first metropolitan maturity. The Federal Building brought Cobb one other form of banishment. In 1900 Frank Lloyd Wright addressed problems that mechanization posed for ornamental, architectural, and civic design in a lecture he gave at the settlement house Jane Addams had made of the former home of Charles Hull, one of the two patrons for the biology quadrangle Cobb had recently finished at the university. Wright framed his lecture “The Art and Craft of the Machine” with the chapter from Victor Hugo’s Notre-Dame de Paris (1831) which famously maintained that architecture had lost to the medium of literature the power to express the social dimensions and the civic life of communities. The expressive powers of the book, the modern mechanical means of inexpensive widespread reproduction, trumped those of the building. Quoting Archdeacon Frollo, the cleric in the novel who announces that “the book will kill the edifice,” Wright noted that this “was to me as a boy one of the grandest sad things of the world.” After recapitulating Hugo’s criticism of Renaissance and post-Renaissance design as “the setting sun” of Western architecture, and in the midst of a jeremiad about compromised uses of the machine in design, Wright referred to a civic project in downtown Chicago that he did not name but that was clearly the Federal Building (fig. 11.7).48

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Cobb’s project perfectly suited Wright’s polemic. The appeal of the design, Wright declared, was that “we half believe in our artistic greatness ourselves when we . . . pile up a mammoth aggregation of Roman monuments . . . and Greek temples for a post office” (emphasis added). In granting the project a measure of civic eloquence, Wright’s backhand complement made his final judgment all the more damning: since “the machine” was “pitching in with terrible effectiveness to consummate this unhallowed ambition,” the result was a structural masquerade: “granite blocks . . . cunningly arranged about the steel beams and shafts, to look ‘real.’”49 In making the Federal Building his polemical whipping boy and advocating more forthright uses of the machine in design, Wright staked out what was just one of several positions in a larger debate among Chicago architects about how to express the civic realm. All the participants sensed how commercial and industrial cities threatened civic expression, and they all shared in varying degrees the convic310 Chapter 11

11.7  Federal Building and Post Office, Chicago, IL, 1896–1905, as completed, ca. 1910. Henry Ives Cobb (architect). Inland Architect 46 (January 1906): plate. J. W. Taylor, photographer, 1905–1916. Digital file 16437 © The Art Institute of Chicago.

tion that Wright underlined when he noted that some time after Hugo published his novel he had changed his mind. Instead of books killing buildings, architecture might “rise again . . . in the latter days of the nineteenth century” to become once more “the chief register of humanity.”50 For Wright, the architect was to create “the poetry of this Machine Age,” but other designers like Louis Sullivan, Daniel Burnham, City Beautiful advocates, and new voices in the nascent professions of landscape architecture and city planning also addressed in their distinct ways the problems posed by modern machines, rationalized labor, and the rapidly expanding metropolis. Cobb, too, had been part of the debate, most recently in his shift from the bureaucratic appearance of his project for a City Hall–County Building to the neoclassical design for the Federal Building. His earlier Romanesque work—the Newberry Library, the Chicago Historical Society, the Durand Art Institute, the Fisheries Building, and the Yerkes Observatory—had also forcefully conveyed the social and civic importance of these institutions, not least through inventive ornament and symbolic figures that tied Chicago to its earlier history or vividly expressed institutional realities. But even as these two phases in Cobb’s work and the variety of approaches to civic design spoke to metropolitan fragmentation and the highly transitional nature of a period struggling to reconcile modern innovations with still vital traditions, all of them affirmed Hugo’s belief in architecture’s capacity to communicate shared values and social conditions that mattered. This could have been forcefully the case with the Federal Building, too, except that the many delays so tightened the budget that Cobb, among other deletions, excised the frieze inscriptions and nearly all the bronze and marble figures he had planned on or around the drum, entrances, pediments, and corner plinths (compare figs. 9.2 and 11.7). That Cobb did not fight for the additional funds required to retain the symbolic program that would have given his building its fullest civic resonance, and that would have softened the hard edges and the blunter force that separated the built from the original version of the facility, was revealing. Associated in the eighties and nineties with the Chicago Architectural Sketch Club and the American Institute of Architects, and at the center of the development of the institutions that gave Chicago its distinct identity, Cobb allied himself with those who sought to advance the profession and the city as well as their own ambitions. But his conversion to neoclassicism was not the product of the more deeply rooted convictions about civic expression that led Sullivan to propose ways to civilize spatially aggressive skyscrapers, Adler to advance the profession’s interests, Burnham to promote city planning, or Wright to reaffirm architecture’s powers of public communication. Cobb also negated much of the professional merit he had earned by helping Gage implement the Tarsney Act when at the same time he entered the second Harrisburg competition after the AIA had condemned it and upheld the original program as “nearly perfect.”

Falls from Grace


Furthermore, at the height of the one period in American history when architects were most creatively engaged with urban design and metropolitan planning, Cobb was the servant, not the seer, behind Senator McMillan’s Centennial Plan, which, like the Federal Building stripped of its symbolic program, undercut the civic realm. Yet McMillan’s attempt to broker railroad interests, public safety, slum clearance, competing government jurisdictions, and civic art did have one great inadvertent benefit. The controversies it ignited catalyzed McMillan’s second campaign to replan Washington (1901–1902). Led by president Robert Peabody, the AIA successfully lobbied against the Centennial Plan and for a redesigned Washington under a new McMillan Commission.51 The collective brilliance that Burnham, Charles McKim, and Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., brought to this project both built on Cobb’s idea to line principal arteries with government buildings and made his own plan look timid or thoughtless, and Cobb himself all the more isolated from the AIA. Cobb’s blindness to the civic implications of using a wide swath of the Mall for the new avenue and his acquiescence in a Federal Building emptied of symbolic speech—his failure to make of architecture and urban design what Wright called the “chief register of humanity”—was consistent with Cobb’s reactive stance toward events surrounding his “professional monument” between 1899 and 1903. In the vacuum his passivity created, the power of the printed word, of an agency report magnified in the modern medium of the mass-circulation newspaper, helped kill not the building, but the building’s author. The Tribune’s crusade, von Nerta’s conclusions about “unbusinesslike methods” and suspiciously “plausible excuses,” and Congressman Mann’s threat of public hearings effectively destroyed the architect’s reputation in Chicago. Perhaps too confident that his “professional monument” would automatically bring him acclaim upon completion, Cobb underestimated how often he needed to visit the city, how carefully his subordinates had to manage construction, what modern public relations required, and how forceful a civic advocate he had to be for a project far larger and more complicated than anyone realized. At his dismissal, seven years into the project, not a single floor or window was in place, and the facility took two additional years to complete.52 These facts underline how Sisyphean the building campaign really was. Prolonged site clearance, strikes, bad weather, hand-tooled granite blocks, and other justifiable and unjustifiable delays on an edifice of such magnitude defied even the modern efficiencies of rationalized work, frustrating repeated attempts to coordinate public with private divisions of labor, and to align the realities of construction in Chicago with the distant authority of Washington officials, a New York contractor, and an overextended special architect too often on the move. As if defeated by so many setbacks, the Treasury Department held no formal dedication to mark the building’s opening in 1905. No one remarked on the impressive interiors. For the most part they followed Cobb’s plans, which the Inland Architect had praised four years earlier. They included office space “fitted up 312

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as handsomely as any of the big insurance or banking offices in Chicago or New York.” The courtrooms, public corridors, and “great vestibules” were floored and walled in a variety of marbles. Corridor vaults, “actually built—not veneered—of marble,” countered Wright’s critique of structural dissembling, as did centuries of using metal components to amplify or supplement the load-bearing and rhetorical powers of masonry architecture.53 The interiors, however, lacked one vital component. Cobb had wanted a historical subject painted on “the great flat panel” suspended over the oculus in the eight-story rotunda, the magisterial space where the four main corridors joined one another. But like the excised bronze and marble figures on the exterior, the panel, which would have marked the building’s iconographic as well as its spatial climax, never materialized (fig. 11.8). Yet this absence and a civically mute Federal Building were themselves a kind of chastened speech. In historical perspective if not in the minds of the building’s daily visitors, the United States Post Office and Customs Building was an unintended monument to labor strife, Cobb’s derelictions, his all too moderate civic convictions, and the unanticipated inefficiencies of divided labor on what was then the most imposing of modern scales.

11.8  Federal Building, view into the dome, 1964. HABS photo by Harold Allen.

Falls from Grace


12 Chicago in New York


hen Cobb moved to Washington in 1897, he had in hand not only the most desirable commission from the federal government since the Civil War but also social connections that enabled him to design the

decorations for President McKinley’s 1897 inaugural ball, which the Inland Architect called a “most artistic piece of work.”1 With his friend Lyman Gage in McKinley’s cabinet, his wife a guest of the First Lady at the White House, and his suite of offices in the Treasury Department, Cobb confirmed his status as the capital’s dominant architect when he started to design the buildings and campus of the American University the following year. But the university’s funding problems, the AIA’s censure, and its rejection of his and McMillan’s Centennial Plan ended Cobb’s dominance there by the turn of the century. When Gage’s successor as treasury secretary dismissed Cobb in 1903, the architect had already reestablished himself in New York. Yet setbacks in the capital were not the only reasons why he had moved himself and his family for the second time in six years. A building boom in Manhattan and the lack of comparable ones in Chicago or Washington showed that Cobb, still just forty-four years old, continued to seek national eminence despite his isolation from the AIA and the profession’s most talented circles. His ambition and his Chicago experience paid off handsomely in prewar New York. Although no documents show how he organized his Manhattan office, or how large or small it was, by 1910 Cobb had designed three remarkable skyscrapers on prominent sites in Times Square and Lower Manhattan,


the city’s most feverish areas of development, and the height, Chicago inflections, and other features of one of them made it an iconic example of the skyscraper’s new visual and rhetorical powers, ones that affirmed with a new lyrical intensity New York’s status as the nation’s premier metropolis. However, Cobb secured none of the civic and cultural commissions that had made his work so crucial to Chicago’s metropolitan maturity and his first years in Washington so promising. In the capital the trustees of the American University never built any of his designs after McKinley Hall, and they ignored much of his campus plan. In Manhattan after World War I his work fell off dramatically in volume and quality. By then, the influence of European modernism and a new generation of technological and organizational innovations marginalized Cobb. Yet despite his semiretirement, he was still enough the entrepreneur to found an organization for mediating business and labor disputes, the last New York project to draw on his Chicago experience and one that gave him some civic prominence in the last decade of his life.

Forty-Two Broadway (1902–1911) Cobb’s first skyscraper commission inaugurated a midwestern influx of talent and investment in Lower Manhattan and Times Square. The contractor for Forty-Two Broadway, a twenty-one-story building in the financial district, was the company founded by George Fuller, Cobb’s partner on their City Hall–County Courthouse project eight years earlier. When Fuller died in 1900, his son-in-law Harry S. Black, another of Chicago’s self-made men, took over the firm. According to his colleague Paul Starrett, Black “typified the disrespect for traditional methods that Fuller brought to Chicago.” With equal temerity, Black “invaded the East” in 1896 to establish a Manhattan beachhead for the firm and compete with the city’s builders. Seven years later, when the company finished Forty-Two Broadway, with its nearly 258,000 square feet, and the nearby Broad-Exchange Building, with its 327,000 square feet, the Fuller outfit had erected the world’s two largest office buildings.2 It did so having become even more efficient than Fuller’s Chicago operation. New machines powered by steam sped up such operations as excavating, driving piles, and hoisting. To Fuller’s pioneering single-contract system Black added the comprehensive time schedule, which phased the delivery of materials to the building site according to a predetermined pace of outdoor and indoor construction done in staged sequences by carefully coordinated groups of skilled laborers. The tight rationalization of work on Forty-Two Broadway and the Broad-Exchange Building quickly made Black’s version of the Fuller firm one of the leading builders of Manhattan skyscrapers.3 Like Cobb and other professionals, Black used Chicago as a feeder metropolis: in pursuing a national reputation, he left the city that had prepared him to do so. Paul Starrett, another self-made Chicagoan who became a Fuller executive after 316

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working in the 1890s for D. H. Burnham & Company, migrated too. But though they left Chicago, Chicago did not leave them. Black and Starrett increased the firm’s efficiency by working with architects whom they already knew: Cobb, in the case of Forty-Two Broadway, and Burnham’s firm for the company’s new headquarters on the triangular site at the southern tip of Madison Square (1903), a site that made the sobriquet of the Flatiron Building irresistible and the New York novelty of Chicago bay windows barely discernible.4 In contrast, the site for Forty-Two Broadway was a lot of ordinary width in the middle of a long wall of anonymous buildings (fig. 12.1). To enhance rental prospects, Cobb designed a five-story entrance frame in the distinct form of a stepped Jacobethan gable, an Anglicized version of the Dutch rooflines that originally characterized New Amsterdam and that the architect resurrected as a monumental door surround. This ornate motif and the rusticated quoin work at the north and south corners sharply set this building off from its neighbors. So did the building’s profits eight years later. Cobb, the president of the Forty-Two Broadway Company, which owned the building, sold what had originally cost $2.25 million for $7.5 million. This investment coup, underwritten by his experience investing in Chicago properties, was, according to the New York Times, “the largest real estate transaction of many years” and fourth on the city’s “list of record valuations.”5

12.1  Forty-Two Broadway (Empire Trust Building), New York, 1903. Henry Ives Cobb, architect. Architectural Record 15 (April 1904): 312. Courtesy Art Institute of Chicago.

Chicago in New York


The Heidelberg Building (1909–1914) Two years earlier, in 1909, Cobb had designed a building that capitalized on Times Square’s growing reputation as the nation’s center for types of entertainment and consumer persuasion that were both more systematized and more spectacular than in the previous century. Located at the southwest corner of Broadway and Forty-Second Street, the Heidelberg Building’s six stories of offices and shops culminated in a two-hundred-foot “Electrical Tower” (fig. 12.2). The tower’s sole function was advertising, hence the New York Times called it “one of the most novel building enterprises yet witnessed in the city.”6 In another novelty for such a prominent site, both the contractor and the leading investors were not New Yorkers but Missourians. Like the Fuller outfit, the C. L. Gray Construction Company of St. Louis had, according to the Times, “made a record for rapid work” constructing “many skyscrapers, hotels, and theatres in the West, and has now determined to enter the New York field and compete for the highest class of work in this city.” The real estate syndicate of Missouri men may have hired Cobb from their knowledge of a large office building he had designed in St. Louis in 1896.7 Riding the wave of recent advances in the lighting of expositions, city pageants, skyscrapers, and billboards, the St. Louis investors intended the “Electrical Tower” to exploit advertising’s escalating value in the hotel, theater, and marketing carnival of Times Square. Windowless, unoccupied, and designed in the English Gothic Cobb had plied at the University of Chicago, its walls were “exclusively” to display “artistic, electrical advertising on all . . . four sides.” White terra-cotta cladding and “buff trimmings” were to intensify the nighttime brightness of electric light on a “very ornate” building. The cornice at the sixth story was a virtual “seventh floor . . . likewise devoted solely to artistic advertising.”8 In this new alliance of architecture, electricity, and product promotions, the phrase “artistic electrical advertising” sought to preempt objections to ads invading the public space of streets. The promise of multiple ads tidily posted on the tower’s four sides rather than defacing ordinary buildings with “obtrusive . . . sky signs” persuaded the Times, headquartered in the Times Tower right across the street, not to criticize a project that actually sought to magnify advertising’s sensationalist powers of persuasion, and that converted the traditional cornice and the conventional high-rise into an illuminated mosaic of signs whose first appearance in a newspaper drawing was an advertisement for advertising itself. The newspaper even predicted that the tower would become “one of the wonders of the city.” During the day it would be “beautiful in architecture, while at night the lights radiating from thousands of electrical bulbs will be discernible for scores of miles.”9 318

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12.2  The Heidelberg Building, southwest corner of Broadway and Forty-Second Street, New York, 1909. Henry Ives Cobb, architect. New York Times, 25 July 1909, 10.

An already electrified Manhattan also promised to temper the tower’s commercial effrontery. In 1906 H. G. Wells observed that “New York is lavish of light, so full of the sense of spending from an inexhaustible supply” that “for a time” it drew him “irresistibly into the universal belief in [this] inexhaustible supply.” That munificent light fed desires to share in a rapidly expanding material abundance more precisely defined what other observers simply called Times Square’s “romance.”10 Reinforced by the noise and movement of pedestrians and automobiles, the hundreds of thousands of lights on the signs and marquees for hotels, theaters, and vaudeville houses created the unparalleled electrical effulgence of the “Great White Way.” Coined in 1902, this phrase described in the impersonal terms of a natural force a wholly manmade radiance that induced in many of Times Square’s nightly visitors a rapt oblivion. On its highly visible site, the “Electrical Tower” sought to make ads more persuasive by dominating a portion of Times Square’s myriad enchantments of disembodied light. The tower was one of the baldest expressions yet of the novel publicity power of tall commercial buildings. Since 1890 corporations and fraternal organizations had heightened their public identities through the rhetoric of distinctly shaped, supremely tall, dramatically lit, and sometimes civically evocative skyscrapers. The Times Tower, for example, was a triangular sliver of a building whose Italianate Gothic Cobb paired with his own English variant of the idiom. Unlike the Flatiron Building’s straight-up extrusion, the lower mass of architects Eidlitz & McKenzie’s newspaper headquarters was capped with a nearly square tower modeled on Giotto’s Campanile (1334) at the Florence Cathedral (fig. 12.3). The tallest building in the city when it opened in 1905, it filled a uniquely configured site with a reworked European landmark in order to sell more newspapers by projecting an image of power and civic beneficence into New York streets.11 This axial skyscraper at the scissored intersection of Broadway and Seventh Avenue loomed over Longacre Square as such an inescapable corporate presence that the district was renamed Times Square. Facing one another across Forty-Second Street, the Times Tower and the Heidelberg Building embodied two modes of skyscraper publicity, the newspa-

12.3  Times Tower, Longacre Square, 1905. Eidlitz & McKenzie, architects. Library of Congress.

Chicago in New York


per building draped in civic good manners and the Electrical Tower conceived as a blunter persuasive instrument despite its Gothic lineaments and putative “artistic” displays. A new subway line had already accelerated the redevelopment of Broadway between Forty-Second and Fiftieth Streets, and annually drew to Times Square the millions of working- and middle-class people who were an ideally receptive mass audience for advertisers. The Heidelberg project attempted to jolt the Great White Way into a new mode of sales suggestibility, and to affirm the compatibility of tradition and modernity by pairing the technologies of skyscraper height and electric light with an aesthetically medieval past. But despite the tower’s alluring prospects in the epicenter of New York’s intensifying cultural and commercial flux, seventeen months later the tall brick tower lacked its Gothic trim, and the steel frame anchored to it was largely empty of the signs it was supposed to support. The Times noted that stores and offices “did not rent satisfactorily,” that the company leasing the building had already “gone into bankruptcy,” and that many people found the unfinished building “unsightly and extremely detrimental to . . . Times Square . . . from an architectural standpoint.” One lighting expert claimed that the investors had paid too much for the site and did not understand that only two sides of the tower were good for ads.12 The investors, though, had a backup plan. Cobb had already designed the seven-story portion of the building for easy conversion to thirty stories should the value of office rents increase. A reorganized syndicate unveiled this project in 1914. The bay windows on Cobb’s upper floors recalled those of Chicago office blocks, but the high tower’s slenderness on a small site was otherwise all Manhattan (fig. 12.4). Still, the project never got built, reflecting Times Square’s saturation between 1905 and 1914 with so many popular entertainments and flamboyant ads that Broadway and Seventh Avenue became undignified settings for office buildings.13

The Liberty Tower (1910–1912) More than offsetting the twice-failed Heidelberg Building was the extraordinary success of the Liberty Tower. Located at the northwest corner of Nassau and Liberty Streets, Cobb’s second skyscraper in Lower Manhattan played a key role in the development of New York’s first truly spectacular skyline. In a period when major changes in the form, height, and size of skyscrapers endowed the tallest of them with much greater rhetorical and visual power, Cobb’s design of a very high tower on a very small site expressed these changes more dynamically than any of the other new skyscrapers except the Woolworth Building (1913). The Liberty Tower owed more to Cobb’s Chicago experience than the Heidelberg project, and just as much to ambitious midwesterners in a Manhattan booming as never before. The C. L. Gray Construction Company was the 320 Chapter 12

12.4  Project for a renovated Heidelberg Building, 1914. Henry Ives Cobb, architect. New York Times, 10 May 1914, 21.

contractor again, and Missouri men dominated the group of investors for this and another skyscraper on the single most valuable plot in the financial district.14 Along with new tunnels, subways, bridges, and civic buildings, the Liberty Tower and several other skyscrapers made the district the epicenter of a new New York. As a 1902 article in Harper’s Weekly put it, Manhattan was “simply bursting its bonds . . . as if some mighty force were astir beneath the ground, hour by hour pushing up structures that a dozen years ago would have been inconceivable.”15 Among American cities in the 1880s and 1890s, Chicago’s raw youth, the democratic cast of several of its major cultural institutions, and its quickly developed technological and organizational aggregations made it the purest modern distillation of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s dictum that America was “the country of the future . . . a country of beginnings, of projects, of vast designs and expectations.”16 But in the more corporate age of the early twentieth century, New York was the better example by far. The Liberty Tower was emblematic. After solving the technical problems

card, ca. 1915. Author’s collection.

Cobb clad the steel frame in a material, color, and style that were simultaneously novel choices for a Manhattan skyscraper and natural extensions of his Chicago work. First used on Chicago and New York structures like the Reliance (1895) and Condit Buildings (1899), panels and ornamental figures of glazed white terra-cotta washed themselves in rain, defied sooty air, distinguished the buildings from the rental competition, and were easily shaped into the varied forms Cobb reclaimed from the University of Chicago’s Tudor Gothic: hood moldings capped the lowest windows, while pinnacles and finials topped off the tower’s four corners and six tall dormers (fig. 12.5). But since the Liberty Tower was more than twice as tall as the Reliance Building, Cobb had to rethink skyscraper design. While he composed the façades using the column analogy of base, shaft, and capital, he gave this conventional strategy an unconventional vertical emphasis that neither Louis Sullivan, the poet of loftiness in tall office buildings who nonetheless countered his accentuation of skyscraper height with horizontally emphatic cornices, nor any other architect had yet achieved. Above the second floor at the corners of the building, and above the fifth floor on the principal façades, the wider piers covering the steel columns shot up four hundred feet to carry the new verticality directly Chicago in New York

of Liberty and Nassau Streets, New York, 1910. Henry Ives Cobb, architect. Post-

posed by subsurface quicksand and heavy wind loads on a high, slender tower,

12.5  The Liberty Tower, northwest corner


into the pinnacles, dormers, and finials that pushed into the sky and framed a steeply pyramidal roof. That is, Cobb fused façade and crowning features more seamlessly than earlier skyscraper architects. On the tower’s upper portions, he thinned out or lightly stressed the horizontal lines of ornament to sustain the vertical continuity of the wide, bold white piers rising behind them. As the piers soared into the crown, the steep slope and standing seams of the copper-clad chateau roof, which reworked the gabled skyscraper Cobb had pioneered with the Owings Building, accented verticality even more. Neither the pyramid on the much taller Metropolitan Life Insurance Tower (1909) nor the bulbous termination of the Singer Tower (1906) possessed so much upward thrust. Arcades, cornices, and other horizontal accents on the crowns of both buildings slowed the vertical momentum of the piers below.17 But these secondary differences aside, the Singer, Liberty, and Metropolitan towers shared with a few other office buildings in Lower Manhattan the soaring character, the compelling crowns, and the supreme height that were among the new features in skyscraper design. The unprecedented skyline they created and the innumerable images they inspired in high and popular art confirmed their newfound visual and rhetorical powers, ones that went well beyond even the formidable impact that the preceding generation of office buildings made on witnesses like Paul Bourget. The distinctions between the two groups of skyscrapers were most clearly evident in the responses of Henry James to Lower Manhattan’s earlier cohort, of which Cobb’s Forty-Two Broadway was one example, and the responses of Montgomery Schuyler to the newer skyscrapers whose dynamic verticality Cobb’s Liberty Tower epitomized. The different reactions of James and Schuyler gauged as accurately as any qualitative comparison could by how much more the rhetorical power of the recent towers impressed observers, embellished corporate identity, elevated entrepreneurial reputations, and were likely to improve property values or rental prospects for building syndicates and speculators. Absent from his native country for twenty-one years, James, who gathered his impressions for The American Scene on a visit in 1904 and 1905, combined the fresh perspective of someone who had never seen any skyscrapers at all with the social and architectural acuity required to do what very few writers could: fully to capture in language the visual and rhetorical shocks of an entirely new and spectacular kind of building. From boats on the Hudson and East Rivers and while walking Lower Manhattan’s streets, James examined structures little higher than the twenty-one stories of Forty-Two Broadway (fig. 12.6). These excursions led him to denounce the modern civilization heralded by “sky-scrapers” and the scheming for profits like those of Forty-Two’s record sale. As “triumphant payers of dividends” Lower Manhattan’s “new landmarks” ruthlessly generated an urban disorder that resembled “extravagant pins in a cushion already overplanted, and stuck in as in the dark, anywhere and anyhow.” These “giants of the mere market” could “never . . . be reconciled with any grace of 322 Chapter 12

12.6  Henry James’s Lower Manhattan: “The Skyline of Buildings below Chambers Street, as Seen from the Hudson River.” Harper’s Weekly, 20 March 1897, 296–97.

building” or any “sense of formal beauty.” Moreover, as had happened in Chicago during the boom years, James’s giants eclipsed a civic realm in which even “churchwardens” colluded in the eclipse: the trustees of the property under Wall Street’s Trinity Church were the “creators” just north of the churchyard of a slablike office building whose twenty-one stories “cruelly overtopped” Trinity’s own spire with a “south face as high and wide as the mountain-wall that drops the Alpine avalanche . . . upon the village. . . . What was the case but magnificent for pitiless ferocity?—that inexorable law of the growing invisibility of churches, their everywhere reduced or abolished presence . . . receiving thus . . . its supreme consecration.”18 Similarly, despite traditional styling like Forty-Two’s Jacobethan touches, modern office buildings obliterated the past. “Crowned not only with no history, but with no credible possibility of time for history,” they “never begin to speak to you, in the manner of the builded majesties of the world as we have heretofore known such—towers or temples or fortresses or palaces—with the authority of things of permanence or . . . long duration.” Yet James’s articulate vehemence was itself an acknowledgment of the modern world’s extraordinary technological and organizational potency, a recognition that the sheer physicality of these buildings could pierce the critical armor of someone as hostile to them as he was, for James concluded his fulmination against the slab that “cruelly overtopped” Trinity Church by admitting that the case was “magnificent for pitiless ferocity,” that “the vast money-making structure quite horribly, quite romantically justified itself, looming through the weather with an insolent cliff-like sublimity” (emphasis added). Indeed, viewed from a boat on the bay under a clear sky, Lower Manhattan’s office buildings could actually charm the critic: their grouped splendor had “the felicity . . . of taking the sun and the shade in the manner of towers of marble.” Their “uncontested and unabashed pride, with flash of innumerable windows and flicker of subordinate gilt attributions, is like the flare, up and down the long, narrow faces, of the lamps of some general permanent ‘celebration.’”19 If the “new landmarks” failed to speak with “the authority of the past,” if they crushed “the old quite as violent children stamp on snails and caterpillars,” if their aspect of the provisional telegraphed that they were there only until “science”— James’s shorthand for systematized finance—played “a more winning card,” then it

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was all the more telling that so fierce a critic ceded their capacity to call forth such lyrical responses. Indeed, Lower Manhattan’s simulacrum of “builded majesties” like “the bell-tower of Giotto” flattered the syndicates, companies, and corporations that financed and worked inside them with the “maximum of ‘business’ spectacle.” Still, over the next eight years the new generation of skyscrapers that included the Liberty Tower radically altered the terms of James’s “maximum.” With their emphatic verticality and arresting crowns, these much taller buildings so magnified and multiplied celebratory responses as to reinvent skyscraper rhetoric, a reinvention whose architectural terms Montgomery Schuyler most fully grasped. Here, too, it was telling that a critic long inured to urban spectacle, and better informed than James about the speculative conditions that underwrote “giants of the mere market,” was more taken aback by the newer giants than James the skyscraper neophyte had been by the older ones. In the intervening period the scale and form of skyscrapers and the territory they occupied had changed markedly. The Liberty Tower was more than half again as tall as James’s twenty-one-story cohort, and three of the other new skyscrapers were more than half again as high as the Liberty Tower. Where James had scrutinized flat-topped buildings clustered at the tip of the island, Schuyler gazed at “rocket-like” towers punctuating the three miles that stretched from the ferry slips to Madison Square (fig. 12.7). While James sensed no more of the sublime than the “mountain wall” of a single building, Schuyler, stunned by the towered peaks that utterly dominated James’s buildings, invoked the far more elemental image of a “jagged sierra.” If “some general permanent celebration” recorded the novelist’s single moment of unqualified delight, it paled next to Schuyler’s enchanted “tiara of proud towers. ”20 What produced such elation? While all seven towers rose much higher than usable buildings ever had before, and dominated lower buildings to a greater extent, five of them looked much taller than they really were because of small sites, slender proportions, and emphatic vertical lines. Moreover, six of the seven architects crowned their skyscrapers not with heavy cornices but with forms that gracefully addressed the sky by diminishing upward to a single point or line. Hence, the dome and lantern of the Singer Tower; the stepped and unstepped pyramids atop the Metropolitan Life, the Liberty, and the Bankers Trust (1912) towers; the

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12.7  Lower Manhattan panorama from the East River. Postcard, ca. 1915.

setback turrets and tempietti of the Municipal Building; and the pinnacled cone of the Woolworth Building. These crowns, Schuyler emphasized, “give form and comeliness to the upper stages” of the towers and “detach an impressive silhouette against the sky to be far seen over either [the Hudson or East] river[s].”21 However imposing in other ways, James’s office buildings lacked “an impressive silhouette.” Although skyscraper daring took both critics aback, James’s observation about their “uncontested and unabashed pride” was tame compared to Schuyler’s sense of their newly promethean character: “We scale the very heavens in our audacity and invite the angry thunderbolts.”22 The statement was all the more remarkable coming from someone who had been studying skyscrapers since their inception forty years earlier in Chicago and New York, and who therefore saw in buildings like the Liberty Tower a history, an order, and an art the absence of which James the Europhile descried. That the “jagged sierra” astonished such a deeply knowledgeable critic testified to the formidable character of the skyscraper’s refashioned visual and rhetorical powers. Yet the awe inspired by the Liberty Tower and the other new buildings did not convey to Schuyler the Burkean threat that James clearly felt as he looked up at the ominous slab north of Trinity Church. Instead of James’s association to the brute force of an avalanche, Schuyler, unaccustomed to a lyrical métier, borrowed Lord Byron’s enchantment over Venice as a city crowned by a “tiara of proud towers,” and enlisted John Ruskin’s rapture over a cathedral’s “misty masses of multitudinous pinnacle and diadem tower” to stand in for his own.23 Similarly, Schuyler alluded to Jovian “thunderbolts” not to caution Faustian builders and architects, but to suggest the full scope and scale of their entrepreneurial, technological, and architectural prodigies. Astounded by buildings apparently untethered to technological limits, Schuyler, the sophisticated urbanite, beheld the new towers with the marveling innocence of a greenhorn. He did so despite having witnessed the less than innocent use of supreme height to advertise. Between 1906 and 1913 several corporations gained small fortunes’ worth of free publicity by erecting the world’s tallest building. The Singer Tower, the Metropolitan Life Tower, and the Woolworth Building successively claimed this distinction; even the Liberty Tower later got promoted as “the tallest building in the world on so small an area of ground.”24 That is, corporations and syndicates selling things as varied as sewing machines, insurance, five-and-dime goods, and office space achieved a new kind of triumph in a new era of public relations. Unlike the ads for individual products on the Heidelberg Building, the lyrical provocations of the Liberty Tower and the other new skyscrapers advertised companies free of charge, advanced their social status, gave their products fresh cachet, and promised to raise rents. Here the skyscrapers of James and Schuyler shared one important feature. The novelist had criticized Lower Manhattan’s towers for the “interested passion” of money-making that, “restless beyond all passions, is for ever seeking more pliable forms.” This motive—or James’s hybrid “science” of finance, publicity,

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and architecture constantly playing a “more winning card”—helped produce the remarkably pliable silhouettes that simultaneously induced Schuyler’s elation and promoted companies at no cost to themselves. More for Schuyler’s than for James’s skyscrapers, however, the hand-in-glove fit between architectural pliability and profit turned on an inevitable development in skyscraper form: the derivation of building silhouettes from well-known civic or memorial towers in Europe. This strategy at once addressed the design imperative to enhance rather than simply dominate the skyline, and the corporate imperatives to project a distinct identity, an image of cultural sophistication, and an aura of public beneficence. Just as Giotto’s Campanile was the model for the Times Tower, so the Venetian campanile in Piazza San Marco inspired the Metropolitan Life Tower, a version of the stepped pyramid of the Hellenistic Mausoleum of Halicarnassus crowned the Bankers Trust Building, and the towers on Flemish guild and town halls were objects of study for the Woolworth Building.25 In the unrivaled capacity of the new skyscrapers to impress and persuade, what James three decades earlier had called the age of the “ubiquitous advertisement” reached an unanticipated climax in which advertising in civic garb invaded the empyrean itself.26 This rhetorical plundering of the sky was successful enough to conflate commercial identities with the identity of the city, as though mediating the pursuit of profit through recognizably honorific forms somehow contributed to the public realm. The high quality of these designs actually did so, but to that degree they were simultaneously publicity boons, for they serviced a new kind of spectacle in which commercial might used architecture to colonize and wring profits from the air above existing buildings, just as the backers of the Heidelberg Building had presumed to dominate the public space of nearby streets through “artistic electrical advertising.” As symbols of America’s two largest cities, commercial skyscrapers wholly displaced the civic realm that Cobb had tried to reinforce in his skyscraper project for Chicago’s Public Square. Still, there were important differences between the commercial speech of the new skyscrapers and the aggressive promotions of many Midtown and downtown buildings. The Heidelberg Tower and the carnivalesque Great White Way brashly advertised specific consumer products. So did Newspaper Row, where right across the street from City Hall four tall office buildings announced the headquarters for four different papers by projecting into the night one- and two-story illuminated signs spelling out the newspaper names. The buildings in Schuyler’s skyline, however, advertised in subtler ways. Without billboards or electrified signage, with company names modestly incised into the stone blocks over entrances, or at most flagged in the manner of the Singer Tower’s pennant, the new skyscrapers softened company promotions by employing what historian Dietrich Neumann has described as more “circuitous” commercial allusions.27 Indeed, since skyscrapers like the Liberty and Singer Towers were the first to utterly dominate their surroundings, aloof indirection carried far greater powers of suggestion than the Heidelberg Building’s explicit ads would have. In their 326 Chapter 12

absolute dominance, each of these commercial giants seemed to be “above it all,” to convey a sense of imperturbable authority, stability, and superiority, as though to flaunt a real or fictitious oligopolistic ease. Compared to Forty-Second Street’s nighttime garishness or Newspaper Row’s reddened electric signs, lighting the four clocks on the Metropolitan Life Tower or bathing the Singer Tower and the Woolworth Building with searchlights was much less visually frenetic and far more elegant publicity. Towers condensed into illuminated clock rings or simple pillars of light, into apparently benign urban landmarks amidst the countless lit-up windows of surrounding buildings, were all the more potent for the absence of the verbal and visual hectoring of the competing signs on the Heidelberg Tower, the Great White Way, or Newspaper Row. Day and night, then, the new skyline’s rhetorical power revealed the aggregated technological and organizational efficacy of syndicates and corporations in such an artistically spectacular manner that it obscured, mollified, or contained within a small minority criticisms provoked by the increasing scale of these buildings. That they often wordlessly enchanted observers to a degree that went beyond even the expectations of their most publicity-conscious developers also augured well for regaining public trust in big businesses recently subjected to muckraking exposés and legal investigations.28 In contrast to the skyscrapers themselves, however, the promotional materials for prospective tenants in these buildings were anything but indirect and subtle. Just as the Liberty Tower and the other new skyscrapers incorporated the skyline, so their rental brochures often skewed aspects of Lower Manhattan’s history in order to sell office space. Not modeled on a European landmark, Cobb’s design for the Liberty Tower nonetheless synthesized elements from English Gothic and French chateaus still strongly associated with nonprofit institutions, an association that reinforced the quasi-civic, quasi-historical imagery the syndicate exploited in rental pamphlets to meet the skyscraper’s new imperative to project a benign public face. At the outset, the investors named their tower the Bryant Building to recall an earlier structure on the site that honored William Cullen Bryant, America’s first widely acclaimed poet and for fifty years the editor of the New York Evening Post, whose editorial offices occupied the block until 1875. According to one rental brochure, murals on either side of the lobby originally depicted “Autumn” and “Spring,” with Bryant the nature poet painted into the center of each.29 The murals appropriated Bryant’s role in Lower Manhattan’s literary and political past as a selling point for high-end office rents in the present. The promise of prestigious tenants and unchanging ownership had the same end in view: only clients like “stockbrokers, financial institutions, large corporations, and lawyers” were to occupy offices in a building erected not “as a speculation but as a permanent investment.” Since this last phrase claimed that the investors would not sell the building at the first opportunity to turn a substantial profit, the Liberty Tower’s vaunted stability amid Lower Manhattan’s feverish transformations obscured the tower’s financial reality as both a product and an

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accelerator of those very same transformations. The boast that the tower was “the tallest building in the world on so small an area of ground” rounded out the sales pitch. The brochure was thus a minor but telling example of the novel organizational system that James called “advertising scientifically worked”: the pamphlet’s carefully constructed image of the building was as much a part of the skyscraper’s increasingly systematic planning as the complex technology that secured the tower’s foundations on bedrock at a record depth below the street.30 But rental pamphleteering hardly mattered to those impressed by the tower itself. Although it occupied subsidiary slots in the skyline panoramas that photographers, postcard publishers, and moviemakers discovered in views from the East River, it still rose high enough above James’s generation of buildings to play a key role in Schuyler’s jagged sierra. The influences the Liberty Tower exercised on the Woolworth Building, for example, harmonized the new skyline’s most dominant and subordinate skyscrapers. The architects for both buildings sheathed them in white terra-cotta, dressed them in varieties of the Gothic, roofed them in copper, crowned them with steeply pyramidal forms, endowed them with more emphatic vertical lines than earlier buildings, and visually stabilized their extraordinary verticality with horizontal lines of ornament.31 These and other features made the Liberty Tower unusually dynamic. If the Woolworth Building required an ample site, wide streets around it, and the open space of City Hall Park to reveal its glories in full, exactly the opposite conditions heightened the Liberty Tower’s appeals. Narrow streets, a constricted site, and low buildings close to this slenderest of skyscrapers intensified its eruptive presence. If observers were unaware of its trapezoidal plan, in which no two sides were parallel with one another, they sensed the dynamism that the torqued geometry, part rhomboid and part rectangle, imparted to the tower. Pedestrians approaching it from the south or office workers on the high floors of nearby skyscrapers could not fail to notice its sun-whitened piers emerging out of shadowed streets, or sense the contrast between its skeletal lightness and the solid stone walls of nearby buildings. The lithe Liberty Tower neither hulked over nor crowded other buildings. In skyscraper defiles throughout the district, in more distant views of the spiking skyline from river, harbor, and bridge, and in elevated prospects from several skyscraper observatories, Cobb’s design sounded its indispensable note in the towered chorus that from the Battery to Madison Square hymned the city of momentous transactions. In a Lower Manhattan so rapidly rebuilt, photographers and filmmakers conferred on this skyscraper a celluloid afterlife as a totem of the modern world. Early evening or nighttime photographs like Karl Struss’s “Brooklyn Bridge, Nocturne” (1912–1913) often placed the Liberty, Singer, Bankers Trust, and Woolworth towers under the sweeping bridge, dispossessing them of their heroic character and collapsing Schuyler’s sublime into a dusky or inky picturesque of flat, soft skyscraper silhouettes enlivened only by a few pinpricks of light in the tower offices. 328 Chapter 12

The art historical category for such work is, of course, pictorialism, but its dreamy, often melancholy moods were not typical of most images of Cobb’s best skyscraper. Although scholars often apply the term to the photographs of Alvin Langdon Coburn, his 1912 view of the Liberty Tower, “The House of a Thousand Windows,” was anything but picturesque, exotic, or crepuscular, the adjectives commonly associated with a turn-of-the-century movement that sought to free photography from documentation and make it an art form as autonomous and expressive as painting.32 In contrast, Coburn infused this skyscraper with a startling degree of movement, with a unique verticality that reversed the pedestrian’s illusion of skyscrapers narrowing toward the top (fig. 12.8). Because he photographed the building

12.8  “The House of a Thousand Windows,” 1912. Alvin Langdon Coburn, photographer. Courtesy George Eastman House.

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looking down on it from the higher perch of the Singer Tower’s observation deck one block away, Cobb’s tower narrows toward the bottom, as though it had just erupted out of the earth, as if its stark contrast with the low, premodern buildings to the tower’s left underscored the rapidly escalating land costs precipitated by skyscrapers and the financial imperative to maximize rental return by extruding them straight up from the lot line with no setbacks at all. Finance, however, was the last thing on Coburn’s mind. “How romantic,” he wrote, “how exhilarating it is in these altitudes few denizens of the city realize.”33 Coburn conveyed his exhilaration in counterpoint. A plain abstract terra-cotta grid terminates in richly ornamented gables. The unpeopled windows are so many black voids against a spectral whiteness, stacked rows of horizontal dashes in tension with the stilt-like poise and the astonishing thrust of largely uninterrupted vertical lines. Over nearly two decades, the Liberty Tower continued to play both supporting and central roles in postcards and photographs that publicized Lower Manhattan’s modernity and commercial might (figs. 12.5, 12.7, 12.8, and 12.9). In many of the panoramic views taken from East River boats and bridges, buildings stepped up from low-pitched wharf roofs, to flat-topped tenements, to James’s corniced towers, and then to varied skyscraper crowns, prospects often centered by the Liberty Tower’s chateau élan and the Singer Tower’s domed lantern. Such views were never more powerful or persuasive, and never suggested a manmade nature so much as when slender plumes of steam drifted up from lower buildings, flecking “mountains” and “foothills” alike with trailing morning mist. Whether pictured in subdued or dramatic ways, the Liberty Tower and the Lower Manhattan skyline confirmed a metropolitan dominance that Chicago could not contest. The influx of midwestern capital and talent, most evident in the figure and works of Henry Ives Cobb, was tacit tribute to New York’s headier arenas of ambition. In contrast to Cobb in Chicago, Cobb in Manhattan did not secure a single important institutional commission. In prewar New York, McKim, Mead & White dominated this kind of design with refined neoclassical superblocks for Columbia University, Madison Square Garden, New York University, Pennsylvania Station, the General Post Office, and a Municipal Building that was part of Schuyler’s “tiara of proud towers.” But if Manhattan confronted Cobb with his limits, his achievements there were still substantial. Untainted by the controversies surrounding his design for the Pennsylvania State Capitol and his dismissal by the secretary of the treasury, Cobb was not only the architect for one of Manhattan’s finest and another of its most lucrative skyscrapers, but also enjoyed, as the Times noted in 1915, the stature of an architect who had “built many of [Chicago’s] great structures,” and who designed handsome neoclassical office buildings and smaller commercial structures for the business elite in Manhattan—including August Belmont, financier Jules Bache, and socialite banker John Wright Harriman—and for developers elsewhere.34 Yet after the war Cobb’s work, while it continued to mix elements of New

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12.9  Liberty Tower ca. 1912. Irving Underhill, photographer. Courtesy Library of Congress.

York real estate realities and his Chicago experience, failed to approach in importance or architectural quality that of the prewar period.35 As if to compensate, however, Cobb’s social and civic profiles were higher than they had been in Chicago. Like his North Side residence and his Lake Forest estate, Cobb’s Upper East Side residence and his retreat at Rockdale Farm in the rolling countryside of southeastern Putnam County suited a wealthy Brookline Brahmin and an eminent Chicago architect thriving in New York society. As it had before the war, the Times regularly covered the weddings and professional milestones of his children and grandchildren as well as the social activities of his wife.36 Cobb’s principal civic engagements began with a report he wrote for the United States secretary of labor in March 1919. Surveying the stagnant postwar building industry, he recommended that government quickly abandon wartime cost controls, return to the private sector’s fixed contract for a single price and a single deadline, and replace the unskilled workers who had filled in for soldiers and sailors with skilled labor of the sort which his years in Chicago had taught him to respect: “There are no workers more intelligent and careful about membership in the unions than the building trades and more particular in their selection of able leaders. A large part of the credit for all the benefits to human workers that has been brought about by labor unions is due to the skilled, educated mechanics of construction.”37 Along with a seat on a postwar commission to revise the constitution of the State of New York, Cobb held several offices in the influential Merchants’ Association of New York City, a pulpit from which he, like many Republicans and Democrats, preached the decade’s gospel of reduced taxes to stimulate trade and commerce. His most notable civic engagement, though, was an instance of organizational pioneering that recalled his earlier development of the Chicago Athletic Association, his rationalization of his very large architectural firm, and his proposal to mediate the strike called by the Chicago Building Trades Council. In 1922 Cobb helped found the Arbitration Society of America, a tribunal that sought to cut litigation in civil cases by 75 percent. A filing fee of only ten dollars promised plaintiffs that with or without the aid of lawyers they could avoid statutory technicalities and quickly adjudicate disagreements. Well-known attorneys, bankers, and businessmen endorsed the society “as the greatest step in twenty-five years to simplify legal procedure and prevent unnecessary court action.”38 Such optimism in the face of the daunting challenges posed by commercial disputes typified the faith of many Americans that new organizations in the postwar period could efficiently solve the problems and simplify the complexities created by prewar modernization. Cobb then worked to amalgamate the Arbitration Society and two other boards into the American Arbitration Association in 1926, for which he served as a vice president until 1928, the year in which illness forced him into semiretirement.

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Retrospect When he died three years later, on 28 March 1931, the obituary in the New York Times described Cobb as one of “the most widely known men in his profession in the country.”39 Yet this brief commemoration and a short list of his major buildings did not explain why this was so, or refer to Cobb’s central position in Chicago’s epochal transformations, or describe such remarkable successes as the Fisheries Building and the Liberty Tower’s original prominence in New York’s first spectacular skyline. The undervaluation was largely due to technological and organizational advances made during and after the war. The accelerated development that had made Chicago the prodigy of the West for two generations up through Cobb’s departure from the city seemed more commonplace in the 1920s. The institutions with which Chicago’s leaders in the 1880s and 1890s creatively transformed an industrial, commercial, and distributional center into a city able to produce its own forms of high culture, not least among them Cobb’s institutional buildings, elicited much less national or international attention. The civic humanism of scions and self-makers that had played so vital a role in institutions like the University of Chicago was much more muted. Instead, the rhetorical power or seductive appeal of airplanes, automobiles, silent movies, talking films, and other new mechanical marvels that depended on still more elaborate divisions of labor in giant organizations like General Motors upstaged the earlier modernity that had fascinated American and foreign visitors to Chicago. Likewise, by the time of his death, the tension between tradition and innovation inherent in Cobb’s eclecticism gave way to a headlong modernism dramatically visible in a new generation of skyscrapers. Just as the Liberty Tower and Schuyler’s “jagged sierra” had consigned James’s overplanted “pin cushion” and the horizontal sobriety of lidded office buildings to a suddenly irrelevant past, so postwar organizations like the Chrysler Corporation commandeered new technologies for skyscrapers whose architects stripped them of historical forms and whose builders raised them five times higher into the sky than Cobb’s tallest Chicago buildings, or twice as high as the Liberty Tower. That building’s new owner heralded other transformations that also dimmed Cobb’s reputation. In 1919 Harry F. Sinclair, the founder of the Sinclair Oil and Refining Corporation, and a corporate buccaneer anxious to outdo University of Chicago philanthropist John D. Rockefeller as an oilman, purchased the Liberty Tower “because of its splendid location,” he said, “and the assured protection of its light and air . . . by the . . . low buildings in its immediate vicinity.” The shifts from its originally advertised status as “a permanent investment” to a salable object, from a speculative office building to a corporate headquarters, from a tower identified with a St. Louis syndicate to one renamed the Sinclair Building in order to advertise the company and build the new owner’s reputation as a self-made man,

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were early signs of an economy undergoing fundamental change. The changes included Sinclair’s vertical integration, a new form of rationalized work that allowed his company to explore, pump, refine, produce, transport, and advertise oil and its derivative products.40 Sinclair’s rapidly accumulating assets—refineries, tank cars, tank ships, and oil concessions in three Latin American countries—supported new divisions of labor like Henry Ford’s assembly line at a River Rouge factory as long on the ground as the height of most skyscrapers. Such assets inaugurated the final phase in the shift begun by Rockefeller from a producer’s economy powered by the coal and wood whose smoke polluted Chicago and sullied Cobb’s linens to a consumer’s economy propelled by oil and by its tar, asphalt, and gasoline derivatives, the fuel and the paving materials for the new roads required by automobile suburbs. Even Sinclair’s unrepentant conviction for colluding in the 1921 Teapot Dome scandal, in which he and several other entrepreneurs bribed the secretary of commerce to secure drilling leases in Wyoming, typified a flamboyant postwar individualism that overshadowed the achievements of Cobb’s more circumspect generation. But any historical perspective fuller than obituary writers could possibly have mustered in 1931 has to grapple with the prodigious reality of those achievements. Cobb’s part in them was exceptional in ways that complicate views of modernizing Chicago up through 1900. Architecturally, he was both behind and ahead of his peers. Despite Cobb’s engineering education, William Le Baron Jenney used steel in office buildings earlier, and more forcefully expressed its structural realities in design. Cobb’s ornamental and compositional skills were advanced enough, especially in the neo-Romanesque idiom, but he was not as original in any of these areas as Louis Sullivan and John Wellborn Root. Although he reorganized architectural practice by abandoning the atelier and embracing modern divisions of labor, Cobb was not the indomitable or inspiring manager that Daniel Burnham was. Still, in the midst of Chicago’s metropolitan ferment only Cobb did so well in every one of these areas. Only he mastered so wide a variety of traditional and modern building types and architectural languages. These embraced the city’s most picturesque skyscraper in the Queen Anne turrets and gables of the Owings Building, varieties of the Romanesque as distinct as the Chicago Historical Society and the Fisheries Building, the university’s English Gothic, the Athletic Association’s Venetian variant, and the disciplined neoclassicism of the imposing Federal Building and the revised design for the Pennsylvania State Capitol. The civic works, in particular, displayed the spatial sophistication already apparent in his earliest houses and mansions. Among the large New York and Chicago firms, only Cobb’s combined in its founder the two roles of front man and principal designer. And only Cobb helped create other cultural institutions like the city’s premier athletic association, and proposed an arbitration board to help settle the crippling strike of the Building Trades Council. Culturally, Cobb’s migration from Boston to Chicago made him both typical and unique. A frontier city appealed to Cobb, Harper, Sullivan, and others whose 334 Chapter 12

recently professionalized educations enabled them to exploit opportunities that apprenticed architects and educators with less training could not, and to do so at a time when the confluence of new technologies, new organizational arrangements, Chicago’s location, and the region’s resources greatly expanded the scope of individual ambition. In the alliances between native-born and immigrant Chicagoans who made the nation’s most promising boomtown a crucible of modern urban life, Cobb typified the small but disproportionately influential group of individuals who abandoned settled lives and certain success to seek in riskier Chicago quicker, larger, and more unusual achievements than Boston, Philadelphia, or Manhattan were likely to allow. Yet Cobb possessed assets none of the other talented upstarts did. For the Chicagoans who developed the city’s major cultural institutions, Cobb’s Boston breeding, Cambridge education, architectural talents, and persuasive skills made him—as he took care to make himself—the right man in the right place at the right time. The New York or New England allegiances of many of the founders of Chicago’s institutions, and the inherently conserving functions of institutions themselves, favored eclectic architects like Cobb. His designs conferred an authority at once historical and eastern onto institutions and forms that Cobb, his patrons, and many other Chicagoans identified with urban culture at its most developed or refined. In the city’s multiple campaigns to acquire a cultural sophistication that would counter its reputation for pervasive materialism, Cobb’s role among those who redefined Chicago was not just central but singular. In his near monopoly on the commissions that transformed the frontier fortunes of self-made individuals as various as William Ogden, Walter Newberry, Potter Palmer, Ransom Cable, Charles Hull, Helen Culver, and Charles Yerkes into civic, cultural, and metropolitan assets, Cobb’s buildings embodied more of the richest historical veins on either side of the great fire than the work of Chicago’s other architects. In a city so rapidly transformed from a village into a fully fledged metropolis, in an urban settlement more purely defined by modern technology and organization than other American cities, Cobb’s eclecticism bestowed a much sought-after sense of tradition on institutions that mixed premodern and modern, elite and democratic, conservative and progressive functions in varying proportions. Within a brief fifteen-year period, his social and athletic clubs for the North Side, the Loop, and Lake Forest marked the city’s rapid stratification into varied elites in the metropolitan center and on its periphery. Even as many of Chicago’s rich in the 1880s no longer worked directly with those in the city’s lower social strata—the distressed populations with whom Ogden, Hull, and Culver had concerned themselves—several of Cobb’s patrons remained committed to egalitarian work. With firsthand knowledge of the city’s abject living conditions, Bertha Palmer used the social authority she exercised through the vehicle of her mansion to agitate for labor reform and women’s rights. Eliphalet Blatchford paired his interests in manual training, Christian missions, and aid for the poor with his

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development of a publicly accessible reference library. For Chicago’s second university William Harper insisted on meritocracy in the college and graduate school, democratic access to the extension division, and outreach programs in the city. In these and other ways, Cobb’s institutional work testified to the decisive, unrepeatable impact that single individuals and Hutchinson’s small groups of “hard-headed businessmen” could have on the cultural configuration of a modernizing metropolis and its most affluent suburb. Cobb’s eclecticism mirrored the creativity and conflicts of a self-conscious contender’s city coming of age. Including his controversial City Hall–County Building project, and the strikes against the Federal Building, his work contributed as much to Chicago’s cultural and civic maturation as the department stores of State Street did to its commercial distinctiveness, as its skyscrapers did to its architectural renown, as Lake Shore Drive and the equally unique park system did to Chicago’s ambition to be a modern city set in a garden, or as its women and workers did for agitation and reform in gender and labor relations. In this hypertransitional city, the architects who were more creative than Cobb still depended on the same vital tension between tradition and innovation that he and other eclectics did. Greater in booming Chicago than in other cities, this tension catalyzed their best work in both age-old and new types of building; in pure and hybrid historical forms; in a neo-Romanesque language whose unanticipated fecundity prompted observers to remark on Chicago’s cyclopean homes and the awesome technological and organizational power embodied in the city’s skyscrapers; and in neoclassical commercial and public buildings that could be as locally expressive as Chicago’s more skeletal office buildings. Such highly varied results and experiments were inevitable as the premodern conventions of occupational, professional, institutional, and civic life collided with the rationalizing imperatives of the modern world. Put another way, Cobb’s Chicago work epitomized the first of two phases in Henry James’s view of the creative prospects for a country without Europe’s long history and “the national stamp” of its distinct cultures. In 1867, when Cobb was an eight-year-old boy, James boldly asserted that “we [Americans] can deal freely with forms of civilization not our own, can pick and choose and assimilate and in short (aesthetically etc.) claim our property wherever we find it.” This “fusion and synthesis of the various National tendencies of the world” was the “condition of more important achievements,” the creative grist out of which “something original and beautiful [would] disengage itself from our ceaseless fermentation and turmoil.”41 Two decades later, Cobb the eclectic fused and synthesized, and out of that very same process materialized the “more important achievements,” the “original and beautiful” work of Root, Roche, Sullivan, and Wright. More conservative but functionally more diverse, and commissioned by a larger number of self-made and patrician clients with citywide cultural clout, Cobb’s civic, commercial, and cultural buildings incorporate, in a more representative fashion than the work of the city’s other architects, the history of a time and 336 Chapter 12

place that astonished observers for seventy years with its tumultuous growth and incipient modernity. Even as his breach of professional ethics at Harrisburg and his dismissals from the University of Chicago and the Federal Building qualify his legacy, they do not lessen in importance the imprints Cobb left everywhere on the cultural field of Chicago. In the Metropolis of the Great West, and in buildings and projects in towns and cities from the Rockies to the East Coast, especially the Manhattan skyscrapers that culminated in the Liberty Tower, Cobb assembled a body of work that in urban, cultural, and architectural terms is no less formidable for having been undervalued or overlooked for nearly a century.

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I n t r o duct i o n 1. William Cronon, Nature’s Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West (New York: W. W. Norton 1991), prologue and chapter 1. 2. James Bryce, The American Commonwealth (Chicago: Charles H. Sergel, 1891), 660; Herbert Croly, “New York as the American Metropolis,” Architectural Record 13 (March 1903): 193–206. 3. Thomas Bender, Intellect and Public Life (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993), 30–36. 4. Louis Sullivan, The Autobiography of an Idea (New York: Dover Publications, 1956), 285–86, 314. On the size of the nation’s largest firms see Mary N. Woods, From Craft to Profession (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999), 116, 119; Thomas Hines, Burnham of Chicago (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979), 24–25, 268; Leland Roth, McKim, Mead & White, Architects (New York: Harper & Row, 1983), 115, 181; Robert Bruegmann, The Architects and the City: Holabird and Roche of Chicago, 1880–1918 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997), 285. 5. Sigfried Giedion, Space, Time and Architecture (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1941); Gwendolyn Wright, Moralism and the Model Home: Domestic Architecture and Cultural Conflict in Chicago, 1873–1913 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980); Robert Bruegmann, Holabird and Roche/Holabird and Root: An Illustrated Catalogue of Works, 1880–1940, 3 vols. (New York: Garland Press, 1991); Bruegmann, Architects and the City; Joseph Siry, Carson Pirie Scott: Louis Sullivan and the Chicago Department Store (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988); Joseph Siry, Unity Temple: Frank Lloyd Wright and Architecture for Liberal Religion (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996). 6. Helen L. Horowitz, Culture and the City: Cultural Philanthropy in Chicago from the 1880s to 1915 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1976). 7. Daniel Bluestone, Constructing Chicago (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1991); Bruegmann, Architects and the City; Joseph Siry, The Chicago Auditorium Building: Adler and Sullivan’s Architecture and the City (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002).


8. Cleveland Amory, The Proper Bostonians (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1947), 13. 9. “Miss Leonore Cobb a Bride,” New York Times, 21 September 1910, 9; “Cleveland Amory Dies at 81; Writer and Animal Advocate,” New York Times, 16 October 1998, section B, 11. 10. Amory, Bostonians, 16; Loren Cobb, “Thomas Cobb of Halifax, Nova Scotia,” at http:// freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~cobb/ns_thoscobb_main.htm. The Cobb genealogy is based on “Results from the Cobb DNA Project,” summarized by Loren Cobb at this site. 11. Amory, Bostonians, 44, 53–54, 55, 56. 12. “Obituary: John W. Candler,” Chronicle, 21 March 1908, 11; Richard Herndon, ed., Boston of To-Day (Boston: Post Publishing, 1892), 170–71; “George Campbell Barrett,” Harvard College Class of 1856: Secretary’s Report, 1899 (Cambridge, MA: Riverside Press, 1899), 8. Amory, Bostonians, 11, 34, 63–64. 13. Amory, Bostonians, 11, 34, 63–64, 19. 14. Henry F. Withey and Elsie Rathburn Withey, eds., Biographical Dictionary of American Architects (Los Angeles: Hennessey & Ingalls, 1970), 128–29; Montgomery Schuyler, “Henry Ives Cobb,” in Great American Architects Series 1–6 (May 1895–July 1899 (reprint; New York: DaCapo Press, 1977), 73–110; Industrial Chicago: The Building Interests (Chicago: Goodspeed Publishing, 1891), 2:625; The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, (New York: James T. White 1909), 11:488. 15. William H. Jordy and Christopher P. Monkhouse, Buildings on Paper: Rhode Island Architectural Drawings (Providence, RI: The Stinehour Press and Meridian Gravure, 1882), 228–29; The New England Historical and Genealogical Register (Boston: Society’s House, 1877), 31:91–92; Amory, Bostonians, 46. 16. Amory, Bostonians, 12, 22, 24, 25. 17. Ibid., 26, 64, 92. 18. In 1953 one of Cobb’s sons, Henry Ives Cobb II, who studied architecture in Paris at the École des Beaux-Arts and practiced with his father from 1908 until shortly before Cobb died in 1931, wrote two letters to Julius Lewis, a graduate student at the University of Chicago who was researching Cobb’s design for that campus. In the first letter the son stated that there was no extant archive: “I regret to say that at the time of my father’s death his ‘professional papers’ were done away with to such an extent that very little remains.” The brief letter provided no explanation about how or why the papers “were done away with.” The second letter noted that right after his father died, “I closed out the office to pursue the elusive muse of painting.” Cobb II to Lewis, 26 December 1953, and 8 November 1953. I am indebted to Mr. Lewis for providing me with copies of both letters.

Ch a p t e r 1 1. Joseph Kirkland, The Story of Chicago (Chicago: Dibble Publishing, 1892), 340; “The Union Club,” Chicago Tribune, 18 December 1881, 13; “Albert Wheelwright Cobb,” Sixth Report of the Secretary of the Class of 1872 of Harvard College 1875–1894 (Boston: Wright & Potter Printing, 1894), 11–12. Other prominent club members included Owen Aldis, John Crerar, William Kerfoot, Franklin MacVeagh, Robert Todd Lincoln, Ezra McCagg, R. Hall McCormick, and Samuel and Roland Nickerson. See Union Club 1880: Constitution, By-Laws, House Rules, Officers and Members of the Union Club of Chicago (Chicago: Chicago Legal News, Printers, 1880), 15–31, 49. 2. “The Union Club,” Chicago Tribune, 23 October 1880, 16; Julia Sniderman Bachrach, City in a Garden (Santa Fe, NM: Center for American Places, 2001), 163; Elizabeth McNulty, Chicago Then and Now (San Diego, CA: Thunder Bay, 2000), 72. 3. “The Union Club,” Chicago Tribune, 17 February 1880, 5; Donald L. Miller, City of the Century (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996), 160–62. On the Mahlon Ogden mansion and the fire, see Russell Lewis, Historic Photographs of Chicago (Nashville, TN: Turner Publishing, 2006), 26. A few other homes on the North Side did in fact survive the fire. 4. “The Union Club,” Chicago Tribune, 17 February 1880, 5; and 30 September 1881, 8; John Durant, ed., Yesterday in Sports (New York: A. S. Barnes, 1956), 30–31. Formed more than a decade after the Civil War, Chicago’s Union Club did not associate itself with support of the union cause, as did Boston’s Union Club, organized in 1863. On the Boston club see Frank L. Klement, Dark

340 Notes to pp. 9–18

Lanterns: Secret Societies, Conspiracies, and Treason Trials (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1984), 45–46; and “A Brief History of the Union Club of Boston,” at http://www.unionclub. org/history.html. 5. “The Union Club,” Chicago Tribune, 30 September 1881, 8; Hines, Burnham, 37; David Lowe, Chicago Interiors (Chicago: Contemporary Books, 1979), 98–99. 6. The Calumet Club, Reception to the Settlers of Chicago prior to 1840 (Chicago: Fergus Printing, 1879), 5–8; Field and Pullman were intermittently members of the Union Club, just as Union Club members like Henry Bishop belonged to the Calumet Club. Such joint memberships underlined the new importance of clubs in expanding the contacts and business opportunities of its members. 7. “The Union Club,” Chicago Tribune, 30 September 1881, 8; and 2 October 1881, 7. 8. Robert A. M. Stern, Gregory Gilmartin, and Johan Massengale, New York 1900 (New York: Rizzoli International Publications, 1983), 226–28. On Peabody & Sterns, see Wheaton A. Holden, “The Peabody Touch: Peabody and Stearns of Boston, 1870–1917,” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 32 (May 1973): 114–31; Russell Sturgis, “A Critique of the Work of Peabody & Stearns,” Architectural Record, Great American Architect Series 6, no. 3 (July 1896): 53–94. 9. Kirkland, Story of Chicago, 338–40. 10. “The Union Club,” Chicago Tribune, 18 December 1881, 13; Hines, Burnham, 372–73. 11. “Candler,” Chronicle, 21 March 1908, 11; Lisa Krissoff Boehm, Popular Culture and the Enduring Myth of Chicago, 1871–1968 (New York: Routledge, 2004), 73; Josiah Seymour Currey, Chicago: Its History and its Builders (Chicago: S. J. Clarke Publishing, 1912), 305–7; Herndon, Boston of ToDay, 171; Frederic Cople Jaher, The Urban Establishment: Upper Strata in Boston, New York, Charleston, Chicago, and Los Angeles (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1982), 536. 12. “The Union Club,” Chicago Tribune, 9 January 1883, 8; “Obituary: Augustus F. Smith,” New York Times, 8 July 1876, 5; “Marriage Announcement 1,” New York Times, 13 April 1882, 5; “Miss Cobb to Wed Reginald Williams,” New York Times, 11 February 1931, 28; James Boughton and Willis Arnold Boughton, Bouton-Boughton Family (Albany, NY: Joel Munsell’s Sons, 1890), 284–87. Walter Bowne was mayor of New York between 1829 and 1833, and still commemorated as such as late as 1931; see “Bowne Played Mayor in Pageant,” New York Times, 19 May 1931, 4; “Bowne, Walter,” The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography (New York: James T. White 1891), 3:384–85. 13. Isaac Arnold, William Ogden (Chicago: Fergus Printing, 1881), 1, 15, 19, 21; J. Young Scammon, Biography of William Ogden (Chicago: Fergus’s Series, Fergus Printing, no publication date or pagination); Edward W. Wolner, “Daniel Burnham and the Tradition of the City Builder in Chicago” (PhD diss., New York University, 1977), 25–26, 30–31. Ogden also carried on a variety of charitable activities; see Kathleen D. McCarthy, Noblesse Oblige (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982), 58, 65. 14. “William Butler Ogden,” in Thomas W. Goodspeed, The University of Chicago Biographical Sketches (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1922), 1:50–52. 15. Ibid.; Miller, City of the Century, 103; Jaher, Urban Establishment, 458, 460, 462; McCarthy, Noblesse Oblige, 58; Cronon, Nature’s Metropolis, 33–34, 52, 65–66, and 455 n. 14 for Cronon’s judgment that McCormick was more a modern marketer than an industrialist since he still employed artisanal production techniques in his factory. 16. Strong quoted in “Ogden,” in Goodspeed, 53–54; see also “Speech of Gen. Henry Strong,” in the Calumet Club’s Reception, 26. McCarthy, Noblesse Oblige, 80, notes Ogden’s promotion of a water supply and sewage system and the city’s first street railway and omnibus lines; he also bankrolled “the construction of miles of streets [and] designed the city’s first swing bridge” over the North Branch of the Chicago River. 17. Kirkland,, Story of Chicago, 182, 225; Arnold, Ogden, 1; “Ogden,” in Goodspeed, 52; McCarthy, Noblesse Oblige, 80. 18. Bender, Intellect and Public Life, 6–7. 19. McCarthy, Noblesse Oblige, 80; Jaher, Urban Establishment, 465. 20. Arnold, Ogden, 23; Thomas Tallmadge, Architecture in Old Chicago (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1941), 45, 47, 50–51. The estate was bounded by Wabash, Rush, Erie, and Ontario streets.

Notes to pp. 18–23 341

21. “Ogden,” in Goodspeed, 51, 54; Arnold, Ogden, 1, 22–24, 36; Miller, City, 79. Elihu B. Washburne, another Ogden associate and minister to France during the Franco-Prussian War, singled out Ogden’s “polished manners” and the quality of his talk as two of the reasons distinguished company came his way: “As a conversationalist, I have hardly ever known his superior, or even his equal,” a judgment affirmed by the expatriate portrait painter George P. A. Healy, who thought Ogden rivaled other brilliant talkers he had known such as Louis Philippe and Orestes Brownson. 22. Arnold quoting Ogden, Ogden, 6; Jaher, Urban Establishment, 454. 23. Carl Condit, The Chicago School of Architecture (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1964), 63; on the Brooks estate see “The Brooks Estate,” http://www.brooksestate.org/history. phpon. 24. Kirkland, Story of Chicago, 182; Dell Upton, “Inventing the Metropolis: Civilization and Urbanity in Antebellum New York,” in Catherine Hoover Voorsanger and John K. Howat, eds., Art and the Empire City (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000), 9. On Chicago’s relation to modern technology and organization see Wolner, “Daniel Burnham and the Tradition of the City Builder,” chapters 1 and 2; see Jaher, Urban Establishment, 495–96, for a statistical analysis of upward mobility in Chicago in this period. 25. Louis Sullivan, The Autobiography of an Idea (New York: Dover Publications, 1956), 200, 202. See also Cronon, Metropolis, 9–19. 26. The Biographical Dictionary and Portrait Gallery of Representative Men of Chicago, Minnesota Cities and the World’s Columbian Exposition (New York: American Biographical Publishing, 1892), 175; Industrial Chicago, 626; “Biographical Note” on Charles Frost at Northwest Architectural Archives, www.special.lib.umn.edu/manuscripts/architect.html/. 27. On Cobb’s real estate investments, see, for example, Chicago Tribune, 20 December 1891, 1; 22 May 1892, 34. 28. Lowe, Chicago Interiors, 98, 102. 29. Quoted in Stern, Gilmartin, and Massengale, New York 1900, 228. 30. Thomas Bender, New York Intellect (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1987), 175. 31. The site measured eighty-six feet on Washington Place and seventy-five feet on Dearborn Avenue. See “The Union Club—Plans of the New Building at the Corner of Dearborn Avenue and Washington Place,” Chicago Tribune, 15 January 1882, 12. 32. Richardson, a Harvard graduate from a well-to-do New Orleans family, had many Brahmin friends and clients in and around Boston and Brookline. See James F. O’Gorman, H. H. Richardson: Architectural Forms for an American Society (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987), 5–23; and Jaher, Urban Establishment, 525. 33. See Lowe, Chicago Interiors, 98–99, for a view of the Calumet Club’s interior. 34. “Union Club,” Chicago Tribune, 15 January 1882, 12. Subsequent quotations about the club’s interiors are from this article as well. 35. Ibid. An unanticipated success was the sudden demand among members for more bachelor flats than the club provided. For expansion plans worked out by Cobb & Frost, and for the fire in the club that probably put an end to them and caused the clubhouse to be finished in early winter 1883, see “Real Estate, North Side Bachelors to Be Provided with Quarters Adjacent to the Union Club,” Chicago Tribune, 11 February 1883, 17; and “Conflagrations,” Chicago Tribune, 28 March 1883, 7. 36. Clarence H. Blackall, “Notes of Travel: Chicago—IV,” American Architect and Building News 23 (24 March 1888): 142. 37. The social functions of men’s clubs in this period are described in Dixon Wecter, The Saga of American Society (New York; Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1937), 252–53; and Jaher, The Urban Establishment, 536. 38. Commercial and Architectural Chicago (Chicago: G. W. Orear, 1887), 70; Gail Fensky, “The Beaux Arts Architect and the Skyscraper: Cass Gilbert, the Professional Engineer, and the Rationalization of Construction in Chicago and New York,” in Roberta Moudry, ed., The American Skyscraper: Cultural Histories (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 37. 39. On Van Osdel’s background, see Tallmadge, Architecture in Old Chicago, 44–47, 90–96; The

342 Notes to pp. 23–30

Encyclopedia of Chicago (Chicago: Newberry Library, 2004), electronic edition, Chicago Historical Society, 2005, entry for Fuller; “George A. Fuller Dead,” New York Times, 14 December 1900, 1. 40. On the backgrounds of Burnham and Root, see Hines, Burnham, 9–15, 17; on those of Adler and Sullivan, see Robert Twombly, Louis Sullivan (New York: Viking Penguin, 1986), 28–76, 96–98; on Holabird, Jenney, and Roche, see Bruegmann, Architects and the City, 7–10, 12; on the Western Association of Architects, see Twombly, Sullivan, 220–24; and Mary N. Woods, From Craft to Profession: The Practice of Architecture in Nineteenth-Century America (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999), 32–41. 41. Blackall, “Notes of Travel—IV,” 142; Woods, From Craft to Profession, 41. 42. Tallmadge, Old Chicago, 47, 90.

Ch a p t e r 2 1. McCarthy, Noblesse Oblige, 61. 2. Palmer appears in the membership list of the Union Club 1880, 15–31. 3. Biographical Dictionary, 176. 4. “A Brief History of the Union Club of Boston,” unpaginated at http://www.unionclub.org/ history.html. 5. “Residence on Lake Shore Drive,” Chicago Tribune, 9 April 1882, 18. 6. On the backgrounds of Potter and Bertha Palmer, see Ishbel Ross, Silhouette in Diamonds (New York: Arno Press, 1975), chapters 1–3. 7. Joseph Siry, Carson Pirie Scott (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988), 15–18; Miller, City of the Century, 137–41; Jaher, Urban Establishment, 478; Cronon, Nature’s Metropolis, 328–29. 8. Miller, City of the Century, 137–41; Siry, Carson Pirie Scott, 18–20. 9. Harold M. Mayer and Richard C. Wade, Chicago: Growth of a Metropolis (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1969), 49–51, 54–61, 230; Stanley Buder, Pullman: An Experiment in Industrial Order and Community Planning, 1880–1930 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1967), chapters 1–4. 10. Mayer and Wade, Chicago, 121; Miller, City, 168–69; Rudyard Kipling, From Sea to Sea: Letters of Travel, pt. 2 (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1906), 230, reprinted in Bessie Louise Pierce, ed., As Others See Chicago (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1933), 251. 11. Mayer and Wade, Chicago, 74. 12. Miller, City of the Century, 413–14; Emmett Dedmon, Fabulous Chicago (New York: Random House, 1953), 128; Daniel Bluestone, “Charnleys by the Lake: Houses, Apartments, and Fashion on Chicago’s Gold Coast,” in Richard Longstreth, ed., The Charnley House (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004), 47; Paul Kruty, “The Charnley House in Its Architectural Context,” in Longstreth, The Charnley House, 78; also see John W. Stamper, “Shaping Chicago’s Shoreline,” Chicago History 14 (Winter 1985–1986): 44–55. 13. Quoted in Stephen Longstreet, Chicago 1860–1919 (New York: David McKay, 1973), 109; quoted without the word “chic,” and with the word “battlemented” rather than “battlements,” in Wayne Andrews, Battle for Chicago (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1946), 111. 14. See, for example, Shaw’s 1–2 St. James Street, London (1882). Dedmon mentions the model of mansions for Milwaukee brewers in Fabulous Chicago, 128. For mansion and estate houses of this period, see Arnold Lewis, American Country Houses of the Gilded Age (New York: Dover Publications, 1982); the book contains all the photographs and plans in George William Sheldon’s Artistic Country-Seats (New York: D. Appleton, 1886–87). 15. Arnold Lewis, James Turner, and Steven McQuillin, The Opulent Interiors of the Gilded Age (New York: Dover Publications, 1987), 114–19; see also photographs from George William Sheldon’s Artistic Houses (New York: D. Appleton, 1883–1884; and Wayne Craven, Gilded Mansions (New York: W. W. Norton 2008), 101. 16. Richardson quoted in Tallmadge, Old Chicago, 185. 17. Lowe, Interiors, xx–xxi, 57–61; Ross, Silhouette in Diamonds, 54; Miller, City of the Century, 79; Wecter, Saga of American Society, 469. 18. Lowe, Chicago Interiors, xviii.

Notes to pp. 30–45 343

19. Ibid., 62–63, for the Field mansion. 20. Lewis, American Country Houses, caption for fig. 45. 21. Ross, Silhouette, 56. 22. Ibid., 55; Count Castellane is invariably quoted in the sources; the first one appears to be Andrews, Battle, 111. 23. The Inter-Ocean quoted in Wayne Andrews, Architecture in Chicago & Mid-America (New York: Atheneum, 1968), 29; Longstreet quotes the visitor who expatiated on the “throne room” in Chicago, 109. 24. McCarthy, Noblesse Oblige, 44; Ross, Silhouette in Diamonds, 45, 56, 103; Jaher, Urban Establishment, 508, 509, 532, 533. 25. Jaher, Urban Establishment, 503; Ross, Silhouette in Diamonds, 47. 26. Wecter, Saga of American Society, 143; Ross, Silhouette in Diamonds, 112; Dedmon, Fabulous Chicago, 128. The quotation is from Jaher, Urban Establishment, 535. 27. Hugh Dalziel Duncan, Culture & Democracy (Totowa, NJ: Bedminster Press, 1965), 94–95. 28. Jaher, Urban Establishment, 511; Wecter, Saga of American Society, 348–50. 29. Kruty, “Charnley House,” 84. 30. George Warrington Stevens, The Land of the Dollar (New York: Dodd, Mead, 1898), 146–47, quoted in Bluestone, “Charnleys by the Lake,” 40; Cobb’s figure of twenty townhouses appears in an undated article in the Chicago Tribune; Kruty, “Charnley House,” 80–84. 31. Tallmadge, Old Chicago, 184. 32. Blackall, “Notes of Travel—IV,” 140. 33. See James Ackerman, The Villa: Form and Ideology in the Country House (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990). 34. Quoted in Miller, City of the Century, 121. 35. “Ransom R. Cable House,” Preliminary Staff Summary of Information Submitted to the Commission on Chicago Landmarks, August 1989, at the Commission on Chicago Landmarks, 3–4; Industrial Chicago, quoted in Staff Summary, “Ransom Cable House,” 3–4; A. T. Andreas, History of Chicago (Chicago: A. T. Andreas, 1886; reprinted in New York by Arno Press, 1975), 3:211–14. 36. Susan Benjamin and Stuart Cohen, Great Houses of Chicago (New York: Acanthus Press, 2008), 94–101. 37. Staff Summary, “Ransom Cable House,” 1–4; Andrews, Battle, 112; Tallmadge, Old Chicago, 120. 38. On Smith’s house, see Bluestone, “Charnleys by the Lake,” 49; and Jaher, Urban Establishment, 458. 39. Quoted in Andrews, Battle, 114. 40. “The Chicago, Portage & Superior Railway Company—Answers to the Bill of R. R. Cable,” Chicago Tribune, 24 March 1882, 6; “The Rock Island,” Chicago Tribune, 28 February 1886, 14. 41. “The Early Years,” in a “A Brief Overview of the Chicago, Rock Island, and Pacific Railroad,” introductory section of the Yard Clerical Manual issued by the Rock Island Railroad around 1970, unpaginated. 42. Staff Summary, “Ransom Cable House,” 4; Bessie Louise Pierce, A History of Chicago (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1957): 3:66–67; “The Early Years”; Chicago Tribune, 13 November 1909, 9. 43. Thorstein Veblen, “The Captain of Industry,” from Absentee Ownership and Business Enterprise in Recent Times, reprinted in Max Lerner, ed., The Portable Veblen (New York: Viking Press, 1950), 377–94; “The Rock Island,” Tribune, 28 February 1886, 14; Pierce, A History, 65–66. 44. “The Rock Island Road,” Chicago Tribune, 15 February 1884, 6; “The Rock Island,” Chicago Tribune, 28 February 1886, 14. 45. “The Rock Island,” Chicago Tribune, 28 February 1886, 14. On Porter’s role in the Union Club see the Chicago Tribune, 30 September 1881, 8. Cable had been a club member since 1882—see the pamphlet Union Club Chicago 1886 (no pub info, in the Chicago History Museum), 24. Cable’s name and his wife’s appeared regularly in the Tribune’s society column in the 1890s; see, for example, “Society,” 14 December 1894, 5; 21 January 1896, 5; 3 January 1897, 32; and “Current Events in Chicago Society,” 29 July 1897, 10.

344 Notes to pp. 45–55

46. Blackall, “Notes of Travel—IV,” 141. 47. Julius Lewis, “Henry Ives Cobb in Chicago,” manuscript in the author’s possession, 2002, 73–107. Compared to Cobb’s work, Frost’s first buildings after he started to practice independently in 1889 are plainer, less sensuous, and less picturesque, without as much ornament, and their serviceable plans lack Cobb’s more sophisticated disposition of spaces. See, for example, the “Custodial Building, Asylum for FeebleMinded [sic] Children,” Inland Architect and News Record 15 (April 1890). In the same period, the firm designed eleven small, unexceptional railroad stations in three midwestern states—see Inland Architect 10 (November 1887); Building Budget 3 (31 October 1887); Inland Architect 9 (July 1887). 48. Leander McCormick is listed as a Union Club member in Reversed Directory of the Elite of Chicago (Chicago: H. A. Pierce, 1881–1882), 371. McCormick asked Cobb & Frost to design a “summer residence” for him in Lake Forest that was apparently never built—see the Building Intelligence section of the American Architect and Building News 16 (18 February 1882), 84; and Lewis, “Cobb in Chicago,” 76–77. Perry Smith was a member of the Union Club as of 1880—see the membership list, Union Club 1880, 15–31. Charles Frost, who lived on the West Side, was listed as a member of the Calumet Club in The Elite Directory and Club List of Chicago (Chicago: The Elite Publishing Co., 1884–85), 249. After the fire that destroyed the club, he designed its neoclassical facility in 1893. 49. Donald T. Critchlow, Studebaker (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1996), 1–26; Albert Russel Erskine, History of the Studebaker Corporation (N.p.: Studebaker Corporation, 1924), 23. 50. Tallmadge, Old Chicago, 153. 51. Critchlow, Studebaker, 30–31, 34–35. 52. McCarthy, Noblesse Oblige, 67; on the notion of an imperial self, see Quentin Anderson, The Imperial Self: An Essay in American Literary and Cultural History (New York: Knopf, 1972). 53. “Tippecanoe Place,” http://www.tippe.com/history.html. 54. John Wellborn Root, “Architects of Chicago,” 16 Inland Architect (January 1891): 91–92.

Ch a p t e r 3 1. Jaher, Urban Establishment, 474, 476; membership list in Union Club 1880, 15–31. 2. Andreas, History, 61–62. 3. Wright quoted in Lloyd Lewis, John S. Wright (Chicago: Prairie Farmer Publishing, 1941), 207; Palmer’s line of credit given in Ross, Silhouette in Diamonds, 8–9; Ogden quoted in Arnold, Ogden, 35; on mythicizing Chicago’s recovery after the fire, see Ross Miller, “Chicago’s Secular Apocalypse: The Great Fire and the Emergence of the Democratic Hero,” in John Zukowsky, ed., Chicago Architecture 1872–1922 (Munich: Prestel-Verlag, 1987), 27–37. 4. Bruegmann, Architects and the City, 72; Joseph Siry, Auditorium Building, 93–95. 5. Don B. Wilmeth and Christopher Bigsby, eds., The Cambridge History of American Theatre (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 210. 6. For an excellent discussion of these developments see Bruegmann, Architects and the City, 65–99, 207–17. 7. The distinction between problem-solving architects and artist-architects is Bruegmann’s in Architects and the City, 117. 8. Blackall, “Notes of Travel—IV,” 141. 9. “Resolutions Adopted by the Union Club January 5, 1884 . . .” in Union Club Chicago (Chicago: Press of Cameron, Amberg, 1884), 20. 10. On Beman’s work see Tallmadge, Old Chicago, 146–47, 157; and Thomas J. Schlereth, “Solon Spencer Beman, Pullman, and the European Influence on and Interest in his Chicago Architecture,” in Zukowsky, Chicago Architecture, 171–87. 11. C. H. Blackall, “Notes of Travel: Chicago—II,” American Architect and Building News 22 (31 December 1887): 313, 314; C. H. Blackall, “Notes of Travel: Chicago—III,” American Architect and Building News 23 (25 February 1888): 89. 12. Condit, Chicago School of Architecture, 59–60; Siry, Auditorium Building, 95–96.

Notes to pp. 56–74 345

13. Blackall, “Notes of Travel—III,” 90. 14. Frank A. Randall, History of the Development of Building Construction (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1999), 110; Henry Ericsson, Sixty Years a Builder (Chicago: A. Kroch and Son, 1942), 221; Bruegmann, Architects and the City, 81–82, 484 n. 63. 15. Quoted in Siry, Auditorium Building, 94–95. 16. Ibid.; Andreas, History, 668–69. 17. “Inspecting the New Opera House,” Chicago Tribune, 19 June 1885, 5; “Amusements,” Chicago Tribune, 19 August 1885, 5; Siry, Auditorium Building, 95–96. 18. Siry, Auditorium Building,, 96. See p. 97 for Adler & Sullivan’s orchestra and balcony plans. 19. Ibid., 34–36, 93–95, 123–27. 20. Ibid., 104, 129, 203. 21. Ibid., 217–21. 22. “Chicago Opera House Souvenir” (Chicago, 1913), 2–5. 23. John J. Flinn, Chicago, the Marvelous City of the West: A History, an Encyclopedia, and a Guide (Chicago: Standard Guide, 1892), 121, quoted in Siry, Auditorium Building, 95; Rand McNally, Bird’s Eye Views and Guide to Chicago (Chicago: Rand McNally, 1898), 82, quoted in Siry, 97. 24. Frank Lloyd Wright, An Autobiography (New York: Longmans, Green, 1932), 64; Harold R. Vynne, Chicago by Day and Night: The Pleasure Seeker’s Guide to the Paris of America (Chicago: Thomson and Zimmerman, 1892), 36; both publications quoted in Siry, Auditorium Building, 97–98. 25. Randall, Building Construction, 140. 26. “Chicago’s Skyscrapers,” Chicago Tribune, 13 January 1889, 2. 27. Schuyler, “Henry Ives Cobb,” 74. 28. “Chicago’s Skyscrapers,” Tribune, 13 January 1889, 2. 29. John Hill, Jr., Gold Bricks of Speculation (Chicago: Lincoln Book Concern, 1904), 146–49; “Fails for Over $5,000,000,” New York Times, 18 January 1900, 1. 30. On Owings’s theater projects see “The City,” Chicago Tribune, 12 April 1886, 8; and “A Theater Row,” Chicago Tribune, 16 May 1886, 16; for a drawing of the Moorish office building project see Inland Architect 9 (February 1887); for a watercolor rendering of the Owings Building with the clock, see Inland Architect 11 (June 1888). 31. Schuyler, “Henry Ives Cobb,” 74. All subsequent quotations on the Owings Building are from this page. 32. “Chicago’s Skyscrapers,” Chicago Tribune, 13 January 1889, 2. 33. “Two Types of Office Buildings,” Chicago Tribune, 29 November 1891, 28. 34. For the Boyce Building, see “Among Architects and Builders,” Chicago Tribune, 27 March 1892, 28; for the Medinah Temple, see “To Erect a Twelve-Story Building,” Chicago Tribune, 10 June 1892, 10; and “New Home for Chicago Shriners,” Chicago Tribune, 12 June 1892, 26. 35. For the distinction between Chicago’s commercial firms and eastern ones who practiced architecture as a high art, see Bruegmann, Architects and the City, 116–17.

Ch a p t e r 4 1. Kirkland and Kirkland, The Story of Chicago, 2:405–6. 2. Ibid.; Jaher, Urban Establishment, 468. 3. Kirkland and Kirkland, Story of Chicago, 2:405–6; see 407–10 for quotations of the two most important paragraphs in Newberry’s will, a summary of the legal conditions Newberry appended to it, and the circumstances that permitted its enactment; Horowitz, Culture and the City, 36. A brief summary of the will and its enactment appears in Rolf Achilles, ed., Humanities Mirror: Reading at the Newberry, 1887–1987 (Chicago: R. P. Donnelly & Sons, 1987), 65. 4. Bishop to Blatchford, 7 April 1888, unpaginated letter in the Newberry Library Archives: Cobb Building Construction Files, locator number 13/00/02, box 1, folder 3. Bishop was Master in Chancery, U.S. Courts, Honore Building. He and Cobb were also members of the University Club; see University Club 1889 (Chicago: Press of America, 1889), 43.

346 Notes to pp. 74–91

5. Horowitz, Culture and the City, 34–35, 73. Blatchford served on the board of Inspectors for the city’s House of Correction (1872, 1884–1885); on the Commercial Club Committee with Marshall Field and John Crerar that organized the Chicago Manual Training School in 1882, and on its board of trustees with Field in 1883; was vice president of the Chicago Citizens League along with Lyman Gage, Charles Hutchinson, Ferdinand Peck, Cyrus Hall McCormick, and Marshall Field (1885); member of the Board of Trade and National Board of Trade Representatives in 1873; trustee of the Art Institute (1886); president and vice president of the Chicago Academy of Sciences (1871–1877); trustee of the Women’s Medical College (1870–78); president of the board of trustees, Illinois Charitable Eye and Ear Infirmary (1875); a deacon in the New England Church (1884); and a backer of the Young Men’s Christian Association. See Kirkland and Kirkland, Story of Chicago, 2:345, 347; Pierce, History, 394; and Andreas, History, 79, 118, 152, 290, 299, 421, 430, 518, 526, 807, 871. 6. Paul Finkelman, “Class and Culture in Nineteenth Century Chicago: The Case of the Newberry Library,” manuscript (1972), open shelf no. 1, 4th floor, Reading Room, Newberry Library, 7–8. 7. On technical advances in book production and distribution, see Ackerman, The Villa, 229–52; and Kenneth A. Breisch, Henry Hobson Richardson and the Small Public Library in America: A Study in Typology (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1997), 60. 8. Houghton David Wetherald, “An Architectural History of the Newberry Library” (Master’s thesis, Oberlin College, May 1964), 9–12, 27–29; W. F. Poole, “The Construction of Library Buildings,” Library Journal (4 April 1881): 69–77; Poole, “Progress of Library Architecture,” Library Journal (July-August 1882): 132. 9. Wetherald, “An Architectural History,” 29; W. F. Poole, “The Newberry Library in Chicago,” Library Journal (January 1886): 14–15. 10. “Preliminary Statement” for the “Presentation of library topic at meeting of July 8, 1887,” E. W. Blatchford Papers, Newberry Library, locator number 02/15/01, box 15, folder 1043, 25–26. This is a typewritten copy of a statement written in Blatchford’s hand—see Trustees Minutes & Agendas, locator number 2.1.30, box 1, folder 2. 11. Minutes of the 8 July 1887 meeting at Blatchford’s house, in Blatchford Papers, box 15, folder 1043, 6, 20–21; Kirkland and Kirkland, Story of Chicago, 2:323–24; Union Club Chicago 1886, 35–56. 12. On conflicts over terrain in public culture, see Thomas Bender, The Unfinished City: New York and the Metropolitan Idea (New York: New York University Press, 2007), 57–62. 13. Horowitz, Culture and the City, 98–99, 122. Contract between the trustees and Poole (“This agreement made this thirteenth day. . . . ), 13 July 1887, Trustee Reports and Documents n.d. & 1887–1907, locator number 2.1.21, box 3, folder 2, 1–2; Achilles, Mirror, 65. 14. Minutes of 8 July meeting, 24, 25–26. 15. The five firms are listed in a note in Blatchford’s handwriting in the Blatchford Papers, box 4, folder 149; the list of Blatchford’s criteria is in Cobb Building Construction Files, box 1, folder 4. 16. Bishop to Blatchford, 7 April 1888; University Club 1889, 48; MacVeagh to Blatchford, 17 April 1888, 2, in Cobb Building Construction Files, box 1, folder 3. 17. “Memorandum of Agreement . . . ,” 26 July 1888, 1, 2; in Cobb Building Construction Files, box 1, folder 1. 18. All quotations in this and the preceding paragraph are from Miller, City of the Century, 405. 19. Ibid.; Horowitz, Culture and the City, 32, 34, 47, 98–99, 121–23. 20. Horowitz, Culture and the City, 71, 98–99, 121. 21. Newberry’s will quoted in Kirkland and Kirkland, Story of Chicago, 2:408. Newberry’s library initiatives are identified in Lawrence W. Towner, “A History of the Newberry Library,” in Achilles, Humanities’ Mirror, 18; and Horowitz, Culture and the City, 34, 36. 22. Miller, City of the Century, 405; Poole quoted in Finkelman, “Class and Culture,” 13, 34. 23. Benjamin and Cohen, Great Houses of Chicago, 42. 24. Minutes of the 8 July meeting, 18; “Preliminary Statement,” 27; Finkelman, “Culture and Class,” 13, 38.

Notes to pp. 91–97 347

25. Minutes of the 8 July meeting, 7, 18, 20. 26. Miller wants it both ways, to praise Poole for collections that by 1894 added “immeasurably to the city’s riches,” and to criticize him and the trustees for having “violated [Newberry’s will] in spirit,” for having created an institution that in the words of one local paper he quotes was only “for the better and cleaner classes.” City of the Century, 405. The first condition was not possible without the second, if to be of a “better” class means any of the following: more curious, intellectual, bookish, refined, or artistically or mechanically inclined than the average user of a public library in the 1890s. In Blatchford’s view, workers like those who used the Astor Library would have qualified on these grounds. 27. Ibid., 389; Bender, New York Intellect, 215. 28. Finkelman, “Class and Culture,” 8; Wetherald, “Architectural History,” 9. 29. Breisch, Richardson and the Small Public Library, 253. 30. Achilles, Humanities’ Mirror, 66; Towner, “History of the Newberry Library,” 19. 31. See Poole, “Construction of Library Buildings,” n. 8. 32. William Jordy, American Buildings and Their Architects: Progressive and Academic Ideals at the Turn of the Century (New York: Oxford University Press, 1972), 321–29. Wetherald, “Architectural History,” 13. 33. Finkelman, “Class and Culture,” 8; Winsor had preceded Poole as the president of the American Library Association and the American Historical Association; Henry Van Brunt worked with him on the design of the Gore Hall stacks. Henry James, The Bostonians (New York: Modern Library, 2003), 233. 34. W. F. Poole, “Importance of Public Libraries,” Library Journal 16 (December 1891): 98; no author cited, “Librarians and Library Architecture,” Library Journal 13 (September–October 1888): 339. 35. J. N. Larned, “Report on Library Architecture,” Library Journal 12 (September–October 1887): 379; Larned to Blatchford, 25 May 1888, Blatchford Papers, box 4, folder 185. 36. Breisch, Richardson and the Small Public Library, 253. 37. Cobb to trustees, 20 September 1889, 1, 2, in Blatchford Papers, box 15, folder 1050. For the East Coast tour, Poole gave Cobb introductory letters, routine in the case of the librarians favoring the stack system, warmer in tone and content to those favoring his type of arrangement; see Wetherald, “Architectural History,” 35; William Williamson, “Frederick Poole and the Modern Library Movement” (PhD diss., University of Chicago, 1959), version in the Newberry Library, 519, 540. 38. Wetherald, “Architectural History,” 37–38. Cobb’s European trip was not unique. In a letter thanking Blatchford for some materials on the Newberry Library, Charles McKim, for example, informed Blatchford that he was shortly “to sail for Europe . . . for the purpose of perfecting as far as possible the detail of the new public library [in Boston].” See Blatchford Papers, box 4, folder 188, 2. 39. Cobb to trustees, 20 September 1889, 6; Wetherald, “Architectural History,” 45–46. The Madrid and the London plans are in the Blatchford Papers, box 4, folders 198 and 199. Blatchford’s copies of three of Cobb’s sketches, described in the following paragraph of the text, are in box 15, folder 1048. Rossbach’s scheme reworked the staircase, elevated interior courtyard, and framing arcade of the Palazzo dell’Università in Genoa (1630). 40. Henry James, The American Scene (London: Chapman and Hall, 1907), 250–51. 41. Cobb to trustees, 17 May 1889, in Cobb Building Construction Files, box 1, folder 2. Quotations are from pp. 2, 5–6, 7, 10, and 11 of this letter. The earlier discussion of the Ogden site occurred at the meeting of the trustees and invited guests at Blatchford’s house on 8 July 1887. See n. 10. Wetherald, “Architectural History,” 49, notes an estimate that the Ogden site was three thousand square feet larger than the homestead site. 42. Poole concurred. See Poole to trustees, 30 May 1889, 4, in Cobb Building Construction Files, box 2, folder 17; Wetherald quotes an undated Tribune article on these matters, in “Architectural History,” 49. 43. Cobb to trustees, 20 September 1889, 2, 4, 6, 8.

348 Notes to pp. 98–106

44. Poole to trustees, 11 September 1889, 14, in Blatchford Papers, box 15, folder 1051; J. N. Larned, “Report on Library Architecture,” 379–80; Larned to Blatchford, 25 May 1888; Wetherald, “Architectural History,” 117–19. 45. Poole to trustees, 11 September 1889, 1; Poole to trustees, 11 October 1889, 3, in Blatchford Papers, box 15, folder 1052. 46. Poole to trustees, 11 October 1889, 4–8; Poole to trustees, 11 September 1889, 12. 47. Cobb to trustees, 20 September 1889, 3; Poole to trustees, 11 October 1889, 11. 48. Cobb to trustees, 20 September 1889, 6. 49. For an examination of these and related issues, see Breisch, Richardson and the Small Public Library, 2–102, 251–53. 50. Poole to trustees, 11 October 1889, 9. 51. For the plans Poole had prepared for him, see Blatchford Papers, box 4; Wetherald, “Architectural History,” 55–56; “The Newberry Library,” Chicago Tribune, 29 December 1899, 6, reprinted in “Dr. Poole’s Plans for the Newberry Library Structure Examined,” Library Journal 15 (February 1890): 48–50; Poole to Herbert Baxter Adams, 13 January 1890, quoted in Williamson, “Poole and the Modern Library Movement,” 557, and in Wetherald, 64–65. Poole also published a penultimate version of the revised plans: “Newberry Library,” Library Journal 15 (December 1890): 107–11. 52. Poole to trustees, 11 September 1889, 13. 53. Poole to Charles Evans, 23 April 1891, quoted in Williamson, “Poole and the Modern Library Movement,” 585. 54. Bruegmann, Architects and the City, 25. 55. Cobb to trustees, 20 September 1889, 1. 56. On Blatchford’s aesthetic sense, see Benjamin and Cohen, Great Houses of Chicago, 40–43; and the photo of his library in Elaine Harrington, “International Influences on Henry Hobson Richardson’s Glessner House,” in Zukowsky, Chicago Architecture, 197. 57. Cobb to trustees, 20 September 1889, 1, 2. 58. On the extralocal sources see O’Gorman, H. H. Richardson, 80–87; Donald Hoffmann, The Architecture of John Wellborn Root (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1973), 47. 59. Montgomery Schuyler, “D. H. Burnham and Company,” Architectural Record 5 (December 1895): 53. 60. The arguments are those of Judith Martin in The Spirit of H. H. Richardson on the Midland Prairies (Ames: Iowa State University Press, 1988); and of Thomas Schlereth; both are quoted in Commission on Chicago Landmarks, “Ransom R. Cable House,” 6, 7–8. The high visibility of George Post’s Produce Exchange Building (1884) on a long street front was the only major exception in Lower Manhattan to that district’s otherwise smaller, shorter, narrower, and less imposing Romanesque buildings. Boston, too, had several impressive neo-Romanesque business blocks, but they did not make the cumulative impression that the larger, taller, and more numerous Chicago buildings did. 61. Elaine Harrington, “John J. Glessner House,” in Alice Sinkevitch, ed., AIA Guide to Chicago (New York: Harcourt Brace 1993), 361. 62. Louis Sullivan, Kindergarten Chat 6, “An Oasis,” in Isabella Athey, ed., Kindergarten Chats and Other Writings (New York: Dover Publications, 1979), 30; O’Gorman quotes the economist Jerome Davis on “large-scale interrelated units” in H. H. Richardson, 89. 63. Schuyler, “Henry Ives Cobb,” 92. 64. Ibid., 102. Wetherald, in highly speculative arguments built on several “ifs,” maintains that Louis Christian Mullgardt, a talented architect working in Cobb’s office in 1891, designed the façade. Without any one of his “ifs” Wetherald’s case falters or collapses—see Wetherald, “Architectural History,” 78–103. A talented ornamentalist, Mullgardt might have worked on the façade ornament, but no surviving records document this. 65. Sullivan, in Athey, Chats, 29. 66. James M. Wells, “Building the Collection, “ in Achilles, Humanities, 27–29; also see 66–67.

Notes to pp. 107–115 349

67. Jordy, American Buildings and Their Architects, 325; Wetherald, “Architectural History,” 117–20; for early tensions between Poole and Dewey, see Wayne A. Wiegand, Irrepressible Reformer: A Biography of Melvil Dewey (Chicago: ALA Editions, 1996), 45–52. Poole believed that each library collection was unique, and therefore required a unique cataloguing system.

Ch a p t e r 5 1. Arnold, quoted in Miller, City of the Century, 170. 2. Wilbert R. Hasbrouck, The Chicago Architectural Club (New York: Monacelli Press, 2005), 85, 115, 126, 130, 143, 173. 3. Bender, Unfinished City, 81. 4. Franz Schulze, Rosemary Cowler, and Arthur Miller, 30 Miles North: A History of Lake Forest College, Its Town, and Its City of Chicago (Roanoke, VA: R. R. Donnelly & Sons, 2000), 10–17. 5. Ibid.; Mayer and Wade, Chicago, 85. 6. The quotation is from a mid-1880s catalogue for Lake Forest University, and appears in Schulze, Cowler, and Miller, 30 Miles North, 17. 7. “Report of the Building Committee,” in Minutes of the Board of Trustees of the First Presbyterian Church at Lake Forest (Lake Forest College Archives and Special Collections), vol. 1 (9 June 1886): 40, 41. 8. Tallmadge, Architecture in Old Chicago, 124; Schulze, Cowler, and Miller, 30 Miles North, 17; Russell V. Kohr, “The Saga of the Stones of the First Presbyterian Church of Lake Forest, Illinois,” in Kohr, History of the First Presbyterian Church, Lake Forest, Illinois 1859–1984 (Lake Forest, IL: no publisher cited, 1984), 16–20; Lewis, John S. Wright, 117; “The First Presbyterian Church of Lake Forest; Phase II: Historical Analysis,” 8 May 1989, 30–31 (Lake Forest Presbyterian Church Archives). 9. “The Memorial Stained Glass Windows,” 1 (booklet in Lake Forest Presbyterian Church Archives). 10. Kim Coventry, Daniel Meyer, Arthur Miller, Classic Country Estates of Lake Forest (New York: W. W. Norton 2003), 64; Paul Sprague, “Final Report of the Historical Consultant on the Lake Forest, Illinois, Ordinance,” 30 June 1982, 1–3 (Lake Forest College Library Special Collections). 11. “The Mascoutah Kennel Club’s Show,” New York Times, 12 January 1889, 3; and 4 March 1889, 4; Biographical Dictionary, 176. 12. Schulze, Cowler, and Miller, 30 Miles North, 39. 13. Ibid., 21–23; Mayer and Wade, Chicago, 86. 14. No author identified, “A Brief History of North Gym,” one-page summary in the Lake Forest College Library Special Collections. 15. Schulze, Cowler, and Miller, 30 Miles North, 41–45. 16. Ibid., 42–43. 17. Walter R. Bridgman, “Know Your College, 2: Durand Art Institute,” Stentor, 3 February 1925, 4; Jeffrey Karl Ochsner, H. H. Richardson: Complete Architectural Works (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1982), 300–305. I am grateful to Arthur Miller for the Bridgman reference. 18. On the role of Memorial Hall in library architecture, see Breisch, Richardson and the Small Public Library, 41–45. 19. Coventry, Meyer, and Miller, Classic Country Estates, 64; Schulze, Cowler, and Miller, 30 Miles, 50–53; for four other houses by Cobb see Arthur Miller, “Lake Forest Residences by Henry Ives Cobb, Cobb & Frost, Charles S. Frost, Alfred Granger, and Frost & Granger—All Campus Architects 1880s–1910s,” 1, manuscript in the Lake Forest College Archives and Special Collections. Cobb & Frost had earlier designed two faculty residences in a modified Arts and Crafts mode, a dormitory that was never built, and a chapel that was. The two South Side homes were the Hugh Birch House (1890) at 1912 S. Michigan Avenue, and the Henry Diblee House (1891) at 1922 S. Calumet Avenue; see William H. Tyre, Chicago’s Historic Prairie Avenue (Chicago: Arcadia Publishing, 2008), 53, 57. 20. Schulze, Cowler, and Miller, 30 Miles North, 38–39.

350 Notes to pp. 115–131

21. Coventry, Meyer, and Miller, Classic Country Estates, 63. 22. Jaher, Urban Establishment, 531; Michael H. Ebner, Creating Chicago’s North Shore: A Suburban History (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989), 201; John William Leonard, ed., Who’s Who of America: A Biographical Dictionary of Contemporary Women of the United States and Canada (New York: American Commonwealth, 1914), 1:618; “Will Have a Fine Club,” Chicago Tribune, 15 October 1895. 23. Vincent Scully, The Shingle Style Today (New York: George Braziller, 1974), 9–10. 24. Richard Herndon, ed., Boston of To-Day (Boston: Post Publishing, 1892), 171. 25. Julian Rich, “The Dream City,” Harper’s Magazine (August 1893): 16–24; William Dean Howells, “Letters from an Altrurian Traveller,” Cosmopolitan Magazine (December 1893): 218–32, reprinted in Neil Harris, ed., The Land of Contrasts (New York: George Braziller, 1970), 345, 347; Henry Adams, The Education of Henry Adams (New York: Modern Library, 1931), 343; Stevens, Land of the Dollar, 144–52, as reprinted in Bessie Louise Pierce, ed., As Others See Chicago (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1933), 398. 26. David F. Burg, Chicago’s White City of 1893 (Louisville: University Press of Kentucky, 1979), 57–59, 208–9. 27. Robert W. Rydell, “A Cultural Frankenstein? The Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893,” in Keith L. Eggener, ed., American Architectural History: A Contemporary Reader (New York: Routledge, 2004), 254–57; Burg, White City, 105–6, 236. 28. Burg, White City, 239; Stanley Appelbaum, The Chicago World’s Fair of 1893 (New York: Dover Publications, 1980), 69. 29. Henry Van Brunt, “Architecture at the World’s Columbian Exposition—V,” Century Magazine (October 1892): 897. 30. Hubert Howe Bancroft, The Book of the Fair (Chicago: Bancroft, 1893), 509, 511, 513. 31. Van Brunt, “Columbian Exposition,” 900–901; Bancroft, Book of the Fair, 541. 32. Schuyler, “Henry Ives Cobb,” 81; Van Brunt, “Columbian Exposition,” 901. 33. Bancroft, Book of the Fair, 512, 513; Van Brunt, “Columbian Exposition,” 898, 900. 34. Bancroft, Book of the Fair, 513; Kirkland and Kirkland, Story of Chicago, 2:145–46. 35. Schuyler, “Henry Ives Cobb,” 81. 36. Quoted in “Foreign Comment upon Chicago Post Office Design,” Inland Architect 29 (July 1897): 57–58. 37. Ben C. Truman, History of the World’s Fair (Augusta, ME: T. H. Bodge, 1893), 376. 38. Louis LaBeaume, The Way We Came: An Address in Celebration of the Centennial of the American Institute of Architects, 23 February 1957, 10, pamphlet, St. Louis, MO, Public Library. 39. Paul Bourget, Outre-Mer: Impressions of America (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1895); portions reproduced in Pierce, As Others See Chicago, 381–94. 40. Truman, History of the World’s Fair, 66; “In Honor of Mr. Burnham,” New York Times, 26 March 1893, 2, quoted in Hines, Burnham, 119–20. 41. Burnham to Cobb, 10 February 1891, in the Art Institute of Chicago’s Burnham and Ryerson Libraries, Daniel H. Burnham Collection, Series I: Business Correspondence, Letterpress Copybooks, vol. 1, pt. 2, p. 352; Burnham to Cobb, Letterpress Copybooks, vol. 2, 28 March 1891, 35. 42. Burnham to Cobb, 8 August 1891, Letterpress Copybooks, vol. 3, p. 176; Burnham to Cobb, 24 August 1891, vol. 3, p. 304. 43. Burnham to Cobb, undated letter sometime between 3 and 5 September 1891, vol. 3, p. 394; Burnham to Cobb, 26 October 1891, Letterpress Copybooks, vol. 4, p. 188. 44. Studebaker’s role in the Indiana delegation is given in Bancroft, Book of the Fair, 810. 45. Schuyler, “Henry Ives Cobb,” 82. 46. Both guidebook quotations appear in Burg, White City, 221. 47. Schuyler, “Henry Ives Cobb,” 82. 48. The Columbian Gallery: A Portfolio of Photographs from the World’s Fair (Chicago: Werner, 1894), 4; The Columbian Exposition Album (Chicago: Rand, McNally 1893), unpaginated. Van Brunt’s

Notes to pp. 131–145


characterization was consistent with the racial and ethnographic views of Chicago architects generally; see Joanna Merwood, “Western Architecture: Regionalism and Race in the Inland Architect,” in Charles Waldheim and Katerina Ruedi Ray, eds., Chicago Architecture: Histories, Revisions, Alternatives (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005), 3–14. 49. Kirkland, Story of Chicago, 343–44. 50. Ibid. 51. Paul Angle, The Chicago Historical Society, 1856–1956 (Chicago: Rand McNally 1956), 133–37; Crerar was a member of the Union Club—see Union Club Chicago (Chicago: Blank Book Makers and Printers, 1882), 9–22. 52. Byron York, “The Pursuit of Culture: Founding the Chicago Historical Society, 1856,” Chicago History 10 (Fall 1981): 141–50, 175; Angle, Chicago Historical Society, 151. 53. Minutes of the Chicago Historical Society, 260, 265, 268, 285, 287, 315; in the Research Center, Chicago History Museum. 54. Angle, Chicago Historical Society, 140–42. 55. The model of two towers joined by a segmental arch may have been Richardson’s Herkomer House (Middlesex, England 1888); see Henry-Russell Hitchcock, Henry Hobson Richardson (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1966), 284, and fig. 107. See also a drawing of Cobb & Frost’s Dearborn Observatory at Northwestern University in Inland Architect 11 (May 1888); and an online photograph of Charles Frost’s Morgan Park Library (1890) in the University of Chicago’s Regenstein Library, Special Collections, Digital Collections, Archival Photographic Files. The library is a doll house next to the primal power and more unified composition of the Historical Society. 56. Bourget, Outre-Mer, in Pierce, As Others See Chicago, 381–94. 57. Angle, Chicago Historical Society, 140, 142–43. 58. “To Preserve Relics,” Chicago Tribune, 13 November 1892, 4. York, “The Pursuit of Culture,” 147. Robert L. Brubaker, “The Development of an Urban History Research Center: The Chicago Historical Society’s Library,” Chicago History 7 (Spring 1978): 24. 59. Bruegmann, Architects and the City, 133. 60. Paul Angle, “The Chicago Historical Society: 1856–1946,” Chicago History 1 (Spring 1946): 57–58.

Ch a p t e r 6 1. Douglas A. Noverr and Lawrence E. Ziewacz, The Games They Played: Sports in American History, 1865–1980 (Chicago: Nelson-Hall 1983), 10–13; John Rickards Betts, America’s Sporting Heritage 1850–1950 (Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Publishing, 1974), 107–8. Stephen Hardy, How Boston Played: Sports, Recreation, and Community 1865–1915 (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1982), 127–46. 2. Edward W. Wolner, “Chicago’s Fraternity Temples: The Origins of Skyscraper Rhetoric and the First of the World’s Tallest Office Buildings,” in Moudry, The American Skyscraper, 103–12. 3. William Henry Burke, “The Chicago Athletic Association: Past and Present,” (no publication information), 7–8; Ron White, Henry Ives Cobb: Architect of the Chicago Athletic Association, pamphlet, 2; “Will Outrival the East,” Chicago Tribune, 23 March 1890, 1. 4. See the membership lists for the Union Club in Union Club 1880, 15–31; Union Club Chicago, 9–22. 5. Information provided by Ron White, the CAA’s archivist for more than a decade before the institution closed in 2007. Records and documents kept by the association were unavailable for research during the preparation of this book. 6. “Will Outrival the East,” 1. 7. Ibid.; from his knowledge of the CAA minutes, Ron White, in an interview with the author in April 2006, reported that Hutchinson was not regularly in attendance, perhaps due to his many other civic commitments. 8. “Outrival the East,” 1. 9. Hutchinson’s activities and views summarized and quoted in Miller, City of the Century,

352 Notes to pp. 145–158

355–57, 389–91. 10. Miller, City of the Century, 389. 11. Burke, “Past and Present,” 7, 9; Interview with Ron White, April 2006. 12. “Outrival the East,” 1. 13. Burke, “Past and Present,” 6. 14. Schuyler, “Henry Ives Cobb,” 75. All subsequent quotations from Schuyler on the CAA are from this page, 76, and 80. 15. “A. G. Spalding Home,” Chicago Tribune, 9 February 1892, 3; Hal Higdon, Boston: Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the Boston Athletic Association Marathon (Emmaus, PA: Rodale Press, 1995), 14, 22; Bob Considine and Fred G. Jarvis, The First One Hundred Years: A Portrait of the NYAC (London: Macmillan, 1969), 18–24. 16. Whether Cobb also knew of Philadelphia’s Jayne Building (1850), an eight-story structure whose top floor carried a stiffer, less subtle version of the Ducal Palace’s piano nobile arcade, is uncertain. 17. Oscar Mullgardt to Robert J. Clark, 15 August 1960, quoted in Wetherald, “Newberry Library,” 90. 18. No residential or business directories, and no articles in the professional press, place Mullgardt in Chicago earlier than 1891. He came there from St. Louis. Drawings of two floor plans and the final design for the CAA’s façade appeared in “For a New Gymnasium,” Chicago Tribune, 11 January 1891, 9. So early a date in 1891 may mean Mullgardt arrived in the city in late 1890, after Chicago and St. Louis directories for that year had been published. Mullgardt had no residence listed in The Lakeside City Directory of Chicago 1890 (Chicago: Lakeside Press, 1890), but he was listed at the “Cambridge Flats” in The Lakeside City Directory of Chicago 1891, 1647. Similarly, the 1890 Lakeside Business Directory of Chicago (Chicago: Chicago Directory, 1890) did not give a business address for him, but the 1891 issue of the directory listed him as “designer 1001 Owings bldg,” 446. No Chicago directories for 1892 or 1893 list him. In 1892 Mullgardt became co-owner of the St. Louis firm of Stewart, McClure & Mullgardt, and resided at 1604 Lucas Place—see Gould’s St. Louis Directory for 1892 (St. Louis, Gould Directory Co., 1892), 1106. On biographical sketches of Mullgardt in the professional press, and Mullgardt’s moves to Massachusetts, Texas, and Missouri between 1889 and 1890, see Robert Judson Clark, “The Life and Architectural Accomplishment of Louis Christian Mullgardt,” (Master’s thesis, Stanford University, 1964), 13–14. On Cobb’s aversion to “antagonistic ideas,” see chapter 11, n. 1. 19. Blatchford and Bradley to Cobb, 31 December 1890, 222–23, in Trustee General Correspondence, Letterpress Copybooks 1–3 (9 August 1887–22 April 1892), box 5, folder 32, 2. In the letter, the trustees reviewed Cobb’s design of the library’s southern façade: “We would again express what we have heretofore stated to you, our admiration of the design. The character of the building . . . is refined and . . . appropriate to the noble use for which it is intended.” On the Durand Art Institute, see Stentor, May 1890, 203; the design was complete, but donors, including Marshall Field, had not yet made good on their pledges, and construction was delayed. The gymnasium design was complete by June; see Stentor, June 1890, 232. 20. On Native American stereotypes in the last half of the nineteenth century, see Robert F. Berkhofer, Jr., The White Man’s Indian (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1978), 96–111, and elsewhere throughout the book. 21. Hardy, How Boston Played, 142–45. 22. “Flooring Crashes Down,” Chicago Tribune, 18 February 1889, 3; Burke, “Past and Present,” 11. 23. Bruegmann, Architects and the City, 71–72; “Fourteen Stories High,” Chicago Tribune, 11 November 1892, 8. “It Is Now a Misfit,” Chicago Tribune, 23 January 1892, 13; “Building Limit Order Not Ironclad,” Chicago Tribune, 26 November 1891, 10; “Buildings of 1891,” 1 January 1892, 11. 24. “Among Architects and Builders,” Chicago Tribune, 24 January 1892, 29; Randall, Building Construction in Chicago, 137. 25. “Keystones Fall Out,” Chicago Tribune, 26 June 1892, 6; “Mr. Cobb Considers It Safe,” 27 June 1892, 8. 26. “Block the Streets,” Chicago Tribune, 26 October 1892, 1, 5.

Notes to pp. 158–169 353

27. See the following Tribune articles: “Aldrich Will Act,” 27 October 1892, 1; “Obstacles Must Go,” 28 October 1892, 5; “Sidewalks Obstructed by Fences,” 3 November 1892, 6; “Obstructions Still in the Way,” 4 November 1892, 9; “Struck by a Falling Lead Plummet,” 29 November 1892, 2; “Told by Contrast,” 11 December 1892, 1, 4; “Injured at Hartford Building,” 11 March 1893, 1. 28. “Death Lurks Near This Building,” Chicago Tribune, 13 December 1892, 1. 29. “Falls Seven Stories,” Chicago Tribune, 20 May 1893, 1. 30. “His Sphere of Labor an Exalted One,” Chicago Tribune, 27 November 1892, 1. 31. “Glass Nearly Cuts Off a Man’s Leg,” Chicago Tribune, 22 January 1895, 5. 32. “With $1,500,000 Capital,” Chicago Tribune, 15 February 1891, 1. 33. Ibid.; “Title and Trust,” Chicago Tribune, 5 March 1891, 1; Chicago Title Insurance Company, “Chicago Title and Trust Co.: 160 Years and Beyond,” www.ctic.com/history.asp. 34. Carol Willis, Form Follows Finance (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1995), 28. 35. “Sales Amount to $4,250,000,” Chicago Tribune, 1 January 1892, 11. 36. Arnold Lewis, An Early Encounter with Tomorrow (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1997), 1–6. 37. “Two Types of Office Buildings,” Chicago Tribune, 29 November, 1889, 28. 38. Louis Sullivan, “The Tall Office Building Artistically Considered,” Lippincott’s Magazine (March 1896): 403–9, reprinted in Leland M. Roth, America Builds (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1983), 341. 39. On the complex planning of skyscrapers, see Bluestone, Chicago, 104–51. On the systematic organization of the architectural firm see Lewis, Encounter, 55–57; Roth, McKim, Mead & White, 115–16; Hines, Burnham, 24–25. See also Woods, From Craft to Profession, especially chapter 2. 40. “Model Offices—Fourth Series,” Inland Architect 25 (May 1895), 39. All subsequent quotations on Cobb’s office arrangements are from this page. 41. Ironically, African Americans in the last quarter of the nineteenth century had begun to practice architecture and establish schools for themselves. See Woods, From Craft to Profession, 73–77, 99–101. 42. Schuyler, “Henry Ives Cobb,” 73. 43. “Henry Ives Cobb,” Biographical Dictionary, 175; Industrial Chicago, 626. 44. Sullivan, Autobiography of an Idea, 314. Charles Moore, Daniel H. Burnham: Architect and Planner of Cities (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1921): 1:43.

Ch a p te r 7 1. Thomas Wakefield Goodspeed, The Story of the University of Chicago (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1925), 1; Goodspeed, “William Butler Ogden,” in Biographical Sketches, 1:51–52; Goodspeed, A History of the University of Chicago (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1916), 15–19. 2. Goodspeed, Story, 3–4. 3. Goodspeed, A History, 15–16; Kirkland, Story of Chicago, 182, 194, 205, 212, 216, 283, 343–44; Deborah Jean Warner and Robert B. Ariail, Alvan Clark & Sons: Artists in Optics (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Press, 1968), 23; Thomas Hoyne, “Report of the Secretary of the Astronomical Observatory Society,” 16 March 1874, summarized and quoted in www.deller.com/newspaper.6htm; on the naming of the observatory, see Goodspeed and www.astro.northwestern.edu/outreach/ chronology2.html. 4. Goodspeed, Story, 4. 5. Goodspeed, History, 41–42. 6. Frederick T. Gates, “The Need of a Baptist University in Chicago, as Illustrated by a Study of Baptist Collegiate Education in the West,” speech given before the Chicago Baptist Ministers’ Conference, 15 October 1888, 2–8, 11–19; see Frederick T. Gates Papers, box 1, folder 2 in the Special Collections, Regenstein Library, the University of Chicago. Goodspeed, History, 4. 7. Gates to John D. Rockefeller, quoted and dated to early 1889 in Gates, Chapters in My Life (New York: Free Press, 1977), 105; Goodspeed, Story, 12; Anthony Storr, Harper’s University (Chi-

354 Notes to pp. 170–185

cago: University of Chicago Press, 1966), 39–41; Ryerson quoted in Robin F. Bachin, Building the South Side (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004), 31; see also 33–34. 8. The University of Chicago Centennial Catalogues: The Presidents of the University of Chicago (www.lib.uchicago.edu/e/spcl/centcat/pres/presch01_01.html), 1; Edward Shils, “The University, the City, and the World: Chicago and the University of Chicago,” in Thomas Bender, The University and the City (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988), 212–14. 9. Storr, Harper’s University, 47. 10. Ibid., 61; Goodspeed, History, 265–66. 11. Thomas W. Goodspeed, William Rainey Harper, First President of the University of Chicago (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1928), 51–55; Bachin, Building the South Side, 29–30. 12. Ellen Frances Fitzpatrick, Endless Crusade (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990), 32–33. 13. See, for example, Wright, Moralism and the Modern Home, 1–6; and Thomas Winter, Making Men, Making Class: The YMCA and Workingmen, 1877–1920 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002). 14. Burg, White City, 34–38. 15. Goodspeed, Story, 30–32; Neil Harris, foreword to Jean Block, The Uses of Gothic (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983), xii. 16. Lewis, John S. Wright, 118–19; Mayer and Wade, Chicago, 100–102, 274. 17. Goodspeed, History, 443; Hutchinson to William Rainey Harper, 27 February 1892, University Presidents’ Papers 1889–1925, box 65, folder 11, in Special Collections, Regenstein Library. 18. Minutes of the Committee on Buildings and Grounds, vol. 1 (1890–), 25 April 1891; Harper’s Weekly 35 (30 May 1891): 410, clipping in the George C. Walker Papers 1869–1905, box 1, folder 5, Special Collections. 19. “Chicago University Trustees Will Soon Make a Selection, “ Chicago Tribune, 20? May 1891; and Harper’s Weekly, 30 May 1891, clippings in the Walker Papers, box 1, folder 5. 20. Harper’s Weekly 35 (30 May 1891): 410. 21. Harper’s Weekly claimed that “but three firms responded” to the invitation—Cobb, Patton & Fisher, and Flanders & Zimmerman—the same firms that the Tribune claimed were the only ones invited in the first place. These are errors, since the minutes of the Buildings and Grounds Committee on 4 June identified Adler & Sullivan as still in the running, as did a letter from Goodspeed to Harper the following day. Moreover, one of the unattributed drawings in Harper’s Weekly was Sullivanesque in its ground-floor arcade and the ornamental form atop the engaged columns. See Minutes of the Committee on Buildings and Grounds, vol. 1, June 1891; Goodspeed to Harper, 5 June 1891, University Presidents’ Papers, box 36, folder 4; Harper’s Weekly 35 (30 May 1891): 410. 22. Minutes of the Committee on Buildings and Grounds, vol. 1: 4 and 9 June 1891. 23. Ann Wolfmeyer and Mary Burns, Lake Geneva: Newport of the West (Lake Geneva: Lake Geneva Historical Society, 1976), 1:195–98; Goodspeed, History, 232. 24. Goodspeed to Harper, 7 October 1890, and 21 September 1890, in William Rainey Harper Papers, box 9, folder 7, in Special Collections. Paul Venable Turner, Campus (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1987), 110–20, 219, and 325 n. 19; Block, Uses of Gothic, 11. 25. Letter quoted in Goodspeed, History, 421. He does not say who wrote or received the letter. 26. Turner, Campus, 110–17, including the quotation from the Yale Literary Magazine. 27. William Rainey Harper, The Trend in Higher Education (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1905), 23–24, quoted in Block, Uses of Gothic, 7. 28. Before Cobb’s appointment the trustees were already exploring quadrangular plans; see Goodspeed, History, 219. For Cobb’s preliminary campus plan and aerial perspective, see “A Plan of the Campus,” Chicago Tribune, 28 June 1891; and 10 July 1891. Both unpaginated clippings are in the Walker Papers, box 1, folder 5. 29. Neil Harris writes, for example, that “while it was in the city, the University of Chicago was not firmly of the city.” See his foreword to Block, Uses of Gothic, xii.

Notes to pp. 185–194 355

30. Wilson quoted in Turner, Campus, 227. 31. Ibid., 10. 32. For illustrations of Yale, Princeton, and Trinity during this decade, see Turner, Campus, 217–18, 227–33. 33. Goodspeed, “William Butler Ogden,” in Biographical Sketches, 55–56. 34. Goodspeed quotes both the Post and Marshall Field in his History, 182–83. 35. Gates, “The Need of a Baptist University in Chicago,” 18; Gates to Rockefeller, 13 January 1889, quoted in Goodspeed, History, 54; see also 182. 36. Minutes of Committee on Buildings and Grounds Minutes, vol. 1, 25 May 1892. 37. Cobb to Goodspeed, 2 June 1892, in Board of Trustees Correspondence 1890–1913, box 1, folder 2. 38. Goodspeed to Harper, 12 October 1892, Presidents’ Papers, box 36, folder 4. 39. See Goodspeed, History, 226, 268. 40. Twombly, Louis Sullivan, 10, 48; Hines, Burnham of Chicago, xvii; Bruegmann, Architects and the City, 7, 12. Poole and the Newberry Library trustees were similarly frustrated with Cobb during 1891; see Bradford to Blatchford, 31 August 1891, 2, in Cobb Building Construction Files, box 2, folder 18; “A Good Reason for Delay,” America 6 (2 July 1891): cover cartoon. 41. “Description of the Offices of Henry Ives Cobb,” Inland Architect 25 (4 May 1895). Roth, McKim, Mead & White, 114; Bruegmann, Architects and the City, 285. 42. See, for example, Inland Architect 22 (October 1893), plate; Architectural Record 3 (July 1893), plate; Charles E. Jenkins, “The University of Chicago,” Architectural Record 4 (January 1894): 229–46; Schuyler, “Henry Ives Cobb,” 84–92. 43. Silas B. Cobb to the Trustees of the University of Chicago, 9 June 1892, quoted in Goodspeed, History, 225. Cobb later gave the university an additional $15,000. Goodspeed, “Silas Bowman Cobb,” in Biographical Sketches, 1:155, 163, 168; also see “Silas B. Cobb,” in John Moses and Joseph Kirkland, History of Chicago (Chicago: Munsell, 1895), 1:580–81. 44. Obituary for Martin Ryerson in the Chicago Tribune, reprinted in the Muskegon Weekly Chronicle, 15 September 1887, www.rootsweb.com/ipa/A0772553. 45. Bachin, Building the South Side, 49–50. Albert Michaelson, head of the physics department 1894–1929, advised on Ryerson Hall; Block, Uses of Gothic, 238 n. 9. 46. Goodspeed, History, 230–32; Goodspeed, “George Clarke Walker,” in Biographical Sketches, 1:112–18; Wolfmeyer and Burns, Lake Geneva, 195–98; The University of Illinois, The University Studies (Urbana-Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 1906), 225–26. 47. Goodspeed, “Sidney Kent,” in Biographical Sketches, 1:86–97; Goodspeed, History, 234. 48. Block, Uses of Gothic, 46. 49. Ibid., 46; Goodspeed, History, 236. 50. Fitzpatrick, Endless Crusade, 33. 51. Ibid., 185, 228–29. 52. Talbot to her parents, 9 September 1892, in Marion Talbot Papers, box 1, folder 11, Special Collections, Regenstein Library. 53. Block, Uses of Gothic, 24–25, 28–29; Cobb to Goodspeed, 30 January 1892, Correspondence of the Board of Trustees, box 1, folder 2. 54. “Foster Hall,” in Midway Plaisance Walking Tour, http://www.trishmorse.com/Ellis%20 north.htm. 55. Talbot to her parents, 25 September 1892, Marion Talbot Papers, box 1, folder 11; Bachin, Building the South Side, 76–77, 83, 86. 56. Bachin, Building the South Side, 25, 54, 72. 57. On Low and Columbia, see Bender, New York Intellect, 281–86. 58. Turner, Campus, 4. 59. Storr, Harper’s University, 201–9.

356 Notes to pp. 194–214

Ch a p t e r 8 1. Goodspeed, History, 173–76. 2. Goodspeed, “Charles Jerold Hull,” in Biographical Sketches, 1:128–30, 134, 140, 141; and “Helen Culver,” in Biographical Sketches, 2:87. 3. “Culver,” 87–90; “Hull,” 136, 143. 4. Jane Addams, Twenty Years at Hull House (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1990), quoted in Goodspeed, “Hull,” 136. 5. Culver to Harper, 14 December 1895, in Board of Trustees Minutes, vol. 2 (19 December 1895): 385–87; see also Culver to Harper, 29 January 1896, in Board of Trustees Minutes 2 (3 February 1896): 129. 6. “Committee Report on Erection of the Biological Buildings,” Board of Trustees Minutes 2 (27 December 1895): 391–92. 7. Block, Uses of Gothic, 36; Storr, Harper’s University, 253. 8. Burg, White City, 263–82. 9. William Rainey Harper, “The Laying of the Corner Stone of the Haskell Oriental Museum,” in John Henry Barrows, The Biblical World (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1896), 86, 87. 10. Cobb to Harper, 7 January 1895, University Presidents’ Papers 1889–1925, box 9, folder 6. 11. James Russell Lowell, “Cathedral,” in Perry Miller, ed., Major Writers of America (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World 1962): 1:875; in this edition “looked” is “gazed.” Barrows, Biblical World, 89; Goodspeed, History, 298. The new Divinity School also used the building, including the skylit third floor for its library. 12. Donald E. Osterbrock, Yerkes Observatory, 1892–1950 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997), 3; Miles Berger, They Built Chicago (Chicago: Bonus Books, 1992), 49–53 (Sullivan quoted on 51); Hines, Burnham, 273–77. 13. Helen Wright, Explorer of the Universe (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1966), 48, 54; Osterbrock, Yerkes Observatory, 6; Storr, Harper’s University, 72–75. 14. Goodspeed, History, 16; Wright, Explorer of the Universe, 38; Goodspeed, Story, 2. 15. Palmer to Laughlin, quoted in Storr, Harper’s University, 72; see also Hale to Hutchinson, 28 December 1891, Presidents’ Papers, box 65, folder 11; and excerpts from five of Hale’s other letters to Harper and to Hutchinson, quoted in Storr, 73–74; Osterbrock, Yerkes Observatory, 8. 16. Wright, Explorer of the Universe, 74–76; Osterbrock, Yerkes Observatory, 9. 17. Osterbrock, Yerkes Observatory, 1; Wright, Explorer of the Universe, 94–96; David M. Young, Chicago Transit (DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 1998), 59–60. See also Stephen Longstreet, Chicago, 1860–1919 (New York: David McKay, 1935), 79–93. 18. Osterbrock, Yerkes, 1, 2; Wright, Explorer of the Universe, 94–95; the Harrison quote appears in Charles Tyson Yerkes (1837–1905), http://www.chicago-1.0rg/personnel/figures/yerkes/ index.html. 19. “Gives a Telescope,” Chicago Tribune, 12 October 1892, 1; Charles Tyson Yerkes, http://www. chicago-1.0rg/personnel/figures/yerkes/index.html. 20. Giovanni Rucellai, Zibaldone (memoir dated 1473), 121–22, at; Martin Kemp, Behind the Picture: Art and Evidence in the Italian Renaissance (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997), 150–53. 21. On national identity and Renaissance neoclassicism see Richard Guy Wilson, “Architecture and the Reinterpretation of the Past in the American Renaissance,” Winterthur Portfolio 18 (Spring 1983): 69–87. 22. Cobb to Harper, 6 December 1892, University Presidents’ Papers, box 14, folder 3. 23. “Gives a Telescope,” Chicago Tribune 1; Charles Tyson Yerkes, http://www.chicago-1.0rg/ figures/yerkes/. 24. Goodspeed, Story, 134, 135; Osterbrock, Yerkes, 15; Goodspeed, History, 308. The choice of this site removed the observatory that first appeared in the north central portion of Cobb’s 1891 plan; the proposed Biological Lecture Hall replaced it until the planning of Hull Court, when it too was removed from the plan.

Notes to pp. 215–227 357

25. Harriet Monroe, A Poet’s Life: Seventy Years in a Changing World (New York: MacMillan, 1938), 117. 26. George Ellery Hale, “Beginnings of the Yerkes Observatory,” typescript, 1922, quoted in Helen Wright, Joan N. Warnow, and Charles Weiner, eds., The Legacy of George Ellery Hale (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1972), 20. 27. For an illustration see Inland Architect 11 (May 1888): plate. 28. Hale quoted in Wright, Legacy, 20. See also Wright, Explorer, 108. 29. On Schliemann, see Leo Deuel, ed., Memoirs of Heinrich Schliemann (New York: Harper & Row, 1977), 166–67, 177, 184–85. Schliemann thought the god was Phoebus Apollo. Also see David A. Traill, Schliemann of Troy (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1995), 1–13, 92, 95–96. 30. Author’s conversation with Richard Dreiser, administrator at the Yerkes Observatory, 4 October 2005. 31. Masons usually lay bricks wide-face down, and half a length more to the left and right of those in the course below. In contrast, Cobb rotated the Roman bricks wide face out, and placed them exactly over one another. The greater height in each course of unsyncopated brickwork created horizontal lines that pulled the eye along the length of the building and around the swelling curves of the telescope chambers. 32. National Park Service, “Astronomy and Astrophysics,” at www.cr.nps.gov/history/online_books/butowsky5/astr04p.htm. 33. “Given by Mr. Yerkes,” Chicago Tribune, 22 October 1897, 3. All subsequent quotations and material on the ceremony are from this article. 34. Mayer and Wade, Chicago, 140–42. 35. Unidentified newspaper clipping reproduced in Wright, Legacy, 30. 36. Kelly to trustees, 17 May 1898, quoted in Goodspeed, History, 313. 37. See Louis A. R. Yates, A Proud Heritage: Bradley’s History 1897–1972 (Peoria: Observer Press, 1974), 9–32. 38. Agness Joslyn Kaufman, “Lewis Institute,” Paul V. Galvin Library Archives, http://archives.iit.edu/history/lewis/, 1–6. 39. Burg, White City, 30–31. 40. Turner, Campus, 172, 219. 41. Paul Baker, Richard Morris Hunt (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1980), 380–81. 42. Schuyler, “Henry Ives Cobb,” 82, 85, 92, 103, 110. 43. Goodspeed, History, 300–301. 44. Gates, “The Need of a Baptist University,” 3, 4, 18, 19.

Ch a p t e r 9 1. Cobb had at least one very large commercial commission in 1894, the neo-Romanesque Garfield Building on Euclid Avenue in Cleveland, Ohio. 2. “New Court Building,” Chicago Tribune, 26 August 1894, 12. The report was submitted with Fuller’s name only. 3. “Time Is Too Short,” Chicago Tribune, 14 September 1894, 3. 4. Ibid. 5. Ibid. 6. “Too Much Haste about the Courthouse Project,” Chicago Tribune, 16 September 1894, 28; “Time Is Too Short,” Tribune, 14 September 1894; “No ‘Freak’ for Them,” Chicago Tribune, 20 September 1894, 12. 7. “Don’t Like the Plan,” Chicago Tribune, 16 September 1894, 14; “Time Is Too Short,” Tribune, 14 September 1894. 8. “Don’t Like the Plan,” Tribune, 16 September 1894, 14. 9. “Time Is Too Short,” Tribune, 14 September 1894. 10. Stern, New York 1900, 60–67; Sarah Bradford Landau and Carl W. Condit, Rise of the New

358 Notes to pp. 227–250

York Skyscraper 1865–1913 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999), 366–71. 11. Monroe, A Poet’s Life, 124–25, 143–44; Wolner, “Chicago’s Fraternity Temples,” 103–14. 12. “Don’t Like the Plan,” Tribune, 16 September 1894, 14. 13. Bluestone, Constructing Chicago, 184–85. 14. For plans of these two floors see “New Court Building,” Tribune, 26 August 1894. 15. Sullivan, “The Tall Office Building,” in Roth, America Builds, 343. 16. “House for Uncle Sam,” Chicago Tribune, 1 January 1892, 9; “Four Years Too Long,” Chicago Tribune, 25 January, 1895, 12; Bluestone, Constructing Chicago, 174. 17. Bluestone, Constructing Chicago, 174. 18. Cobb, Jenney, and Adler are all quoted at length in the 25 January 1895 issue of the Tribune. For a favorable view of the work of the Office of the Supervising Architect, see HenryRussell Hitchcock and William Seale, Temples of Democracy: The State Capitols of the USA (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1976), 214. 19. “Four Years Too Long,” Tribune, 25 January 1895; Hitchcock and Seale, Temples, 215; Roth, McKim, Mead & White, 335, Hines, Burnham, 126–27. 20. Burnham quoted in Hines, Burnham, 131. 21. “Four Years Too Long,” Tribune, 25 January 1895. 22. Ibid. 23. “Many Want the Job,” Chicago Tribune, 1 August 1895, 10. 24. “To Provide for Chicago Officials,” Chicago Tribune, 12 September 1895, 6; “Prospects Brighten for H. I. Cobb,” Chicago Tribune, 21 February 1896, 4. 25. “Prospects Brighten for H. I. Cobb,” 4. 26. On Coolidge see the brief biography: “Coolidge, Charles Allerton,” in American Architects’ Biographies, http://www.sah.org/index.php?src=gendocs&ref=BiographiesArchitectsC. 27. “Prospects Brighten for H. I. Cobb,” Tribune, 21 February 1896; “Henry Ives Cobb Is on Hand,” Chicago Tribune, 20 February 1896, 8. 28. “Prospects Brighten for H. I. Cobb,” Tribune, 21 February 1896. 29. Ibid.; “H. I. Cobb Is Appointed,” Chicago Tribune, 14 March 1896, 9. 30. Ibid.; “Prospects Brighten for H. I. Cobb,” Tribune, 21 February 1896. 31. “H. I. Cobb is Appointed,” Tribune, 14 March 1896. 32. On Burnham’s ambition see Monroe, A Poet’s Life, 114. 33. On agents securing business for firms, see Bruegmann, Architects and the City, 19. 34. “Plans a Public Temple,” Chicago Tribune, 13 September 1896, 16. 35. Francis W. Fitzpatrick, “Chicago’s Federal Building,” Inland Architect 36 (October 1900): 18. 36. Burnham quoted in Hines, Burnham, 129; Hitchcock and Seale, Temples, 205–15. 37. “Plans a Public Temple,” Tribune, 13 September 1896. 38. Ibid. 39. Subsequently Cobb had to revise his plan for the postal functions to meet the postmaster’s specifications: American Architect and Building News 55 (9 January 1897): 12. 40. “Plans a Public Temple,” Tribune, 13 September 1896. 41. Fitzpatrick, “Chicago’s Federal Building,” 18. 42. Bluestone, Constructing Chicago, 181. 43. “Plans a Public Temple,” Tribune, 13 September 1896. 44. David M. Henkin, The Postal Age (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006), ix–xii, 1–12, 172–75. 45. For the Burnham-Atwood scheme see Bluestone, Constructing Chicago, 188–89. 46. Louis Sullivan, “The High Building Question,” Graphic (19 December 1891): 405; republished as an appendix in Donald Hoffman, “The Setback Skyscraper of 1891: An Unknown Essay of Louis Sullivan,” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians (May 1970): 181–87. 47. “Foreign Comment upon Chicago Post Office Design,” Inland Architect 29 (July 1897): 57, 58.

Notes to pp. 250–263 359

48. Inland Architect 21 (April 1898): 26. 49. Hines, Burnham, 138; Hitchcock and Seale, Temples, 215. 50. Wilson, “Architecture and the Reinterpretation of the Past.”

Ch a p t e r 1 0 1. “Henry Ives Cobb, Architect, 1211 Connecticut Avenue NW,” in Boyd’s District of Columbia Directory (Washington, D.C.: William H. Boyd, 1897), 302. 2. “Programme of a Competition for the Selection of an Architect for a Capitol Building to Be Erected by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg,” (Harrisburg: Clarence M. Busch, State Printer of Pennsylvania, 1897), 1, in the Pennsylvania State Archives. 3. Hitchcock and Seale, Temples, 59–63, 238. 4. “Cobb May Rent Chicago Office,” Chicago Tribune, 25 May 1901, 6. 5. Leland Roth, A Concise History of American Architecture (New York: Harper & Row, 1979), 57; Hitchcock and Seale, Temples, 48. 6. Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1945), 2:53; Lincoln quoted in Roth, Concise History, 94–95. 7. “Programme of a Competition,” 11; on the Rhode Island State Capitol, see Roth, McKim, Mead & White, 150–55; on the Minnesota State Capitol, see, among many other publications, Neil B. Thompson, Minnesota’s State Capitol (St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society, 1974); on both capitols see Hitchcock and Seale, Temples, 212–26. 8. Hitchcock and Seale, Temples, 212–26; “Programme of a Competition,” 9. 9. Cobb interview quoted in Gail Caskey-Winkler et al., “The Pennsylvania State Capitol: A Documentary History,” report prepared for the Pennsylvania Capitol Preservation Committee (Princeton, N.J.: Heritage Studies, 1987), 1:66. “Programme of a Competition,” 1. The commission added the requirement “for the direct admission of light and air” to the legislative chambers after abrogating the first competition because all eight of the designs approved by the competition’s board of experts provided top lighting only. On the abrogation see “Report of the Capitol Building Commission,” in Journal of the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (16 March 1899): 1199–201 (the requirement for light appears on 1201); Caskey-Winkler et al., “The Pennsylvania State Capitol,” 60–65; and Dan Deibler, “An Architectural Competition: A Capitol Offense,” Master’s thesis, University of Virginia, 1974, 22–35. 10. Hitchcock and Seale, Temples, 238; Deibler, “An Architectural Competition,” 11. 11. “Report of Henry Ives Cobb, Architect,” Exhibit D in “Report of the Capitol Building Commission,” 1220–21. 12. “Commission Selects Plan for New Capitol Building,” The Patriot, 23 October 1897, 1; for Furness’s entry, see George E. Thomas, Michael J. Lewis, and Jeffrey A. Cohen, Frank Furness: The Complete Works (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1991), 324–25; on Furness’s objections to the commission’s abrogation of the competition, see Michael Lewis, Architecture and the Violent Mind (New York: W. W. Norton 2001), 224–30. 13. “Programme of a Competition,” 7, 12. 14. Ibid., 5; Deibler, “An Architectural Competition,” 10–33. 15. Deibler, “An Architectural Competition,” 10–33; “Report of the Capitol Building Commission,” 1199–203. 16. John Hall Rauskin to Hastings, 16 September 1897; Horace H. Burrell and David Knickerbocker Boyd to Hastings, 17 September 1897; Laird to Benjamin F. Haywood, Secretary of the State Capitol Commission, 25 September 1897; all three letters are in the Pennsylvania State Archives, Hastings Documents. 17. “Report of the AIA Committee,” accompanying a letter from Laird to Hastings, 6 October 1897, Pennsylvania State Archives, Hastings Documents. 18. Carrere to Hastings, 19 October 1897, Pennsylvania State Archives, Hastings Documents; Editorial, New York Times, 12 October 1897, 6, quoted in Deibler, “An Architectural Competition,” 34; for a detailed exposition of these and related events see Deibler, 26–46.

360 Notes to pp. 263–278

19. Deibler, “An Architectural Competition,” 37; “Report of the Capitol Building Commission,” 1202. Drawings from the first and second competitions have mostly been lost or destroyed; a small number of elevations, plans, and perspectives survive only through reproduction in Pennsylvania newspapers, a few professional publications, and Furness’s archive. 20. “Cobb’s Plans Are Used,” Chicago Tribune, 23 October 1897, 10; for public responses in Pennsylvania, see “New Capitol Plan Chosen,” Press, 23 October 1897, 1, 5; “Commission Selects Plan for New Capitol,” Patriot, 23 October 1897, 1; “The New State Capitol,” Public Ledger, 23 October 1897, 1, 22. 21. Caskey-Winkler et al., “The Pennsylvania State Capitol,” 66; “Report of the Board of Experts . . . ,” Exhibit A in “Report of the Capitol Building Commission,” 1211; “Programme of a Competition,” 1. 22. “Report of Henry Ives Cobb,” 1222; “Cobb’s Plans Criticized,” Chicago Tribune, 10 February 1898, 7; see also Deibler, “An Architectural Competition,” 49–50. 23. Deibler, “An Architectural Competition,” 51 (Cobb quoted from a report by the Capitol Building Commission, 30 March 1898). 24. “Completed Design for Pennsylvania State Capitol,” Inland Architect 32 (September 1898): 17. 25. Deibler, “An Architectural Competition,” 53. 26. Charles H. Darlington, “Pennsylvania’s Palace of Graft,” World’s Work, May–October 1907, 9238, quoted in Caskey-Winkler et al., “The Pennsylvania State Capitol,” 72–73. 27. L. S. Shimmel, “The State Capitol of Pennsylvania” (Harrisburg, PA: Telegraph Printing, 1906), 57; “Report of Henry Ives Cobb,” 1222. 28. Hastings quoted in Deibler, “An Architectural Competition,” 53. 29. “Report of Henry Ives Cobb,” 1222. 30. Ibid.; “Report of Philip H. Johnson,” in “Report of the Capitol Building Commission,” 1224–25. 31. Caskey-Winkler et al., “The Pennsylvania State Capitol,” 75; Deibler, “An Architectural Competition,” 57; “Estimate of Henry Ives Cobb, Architect,” in “Report of Capitol Building Commission,” 1223–24. 32. “Mr. Cobb’s View of Chicago,” Chicago Tribune, 28 May 1899, 34. All subsequent quotations of Cobb and the Tribune editorialist are from this article. 33. “Social and Personal, Mrs. McKinley Receives Many Afternoon Visitors,” Washington Post, 6 April 1898, 7. 34. On Fuller, see Carl Smith, Chicago and the American Literary Imagination (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984), 20–37. 35. Sullivan, “The Tall Office Building,” in Roth, America Builds, 441; Bruegmann, Architects and the City, 19. 36. Boyd’s Directory of the District of Columbia (Washington, D.C.: William H. Boyd, 1899), 329. The author has been unable to locate a Newport address for Cobb; he may rented rather than owned a summer residence. 37. Lewis, Early Encounter, 30–31. 38. On Ellsworth as art collector, see Grace Goulder Izant, Hudson’s Heritage (Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 1986), 211–14; Hines, Burnham of Chicago, 314. 39. On Herrick, see Smith, Chicago, 33–37, 42–46; on Burnham’s plan see Hines, Burnham, 313–18. 40. For Bertha Palmer’s anomalous social status at Newport around 1900, for example, see Ross, Silhouette in Diamonds, 125–46. 41. See, for example, “Society-Amusements,” Chicago Tribune, 14 December 1894, 5; “Society, Amusements,” Chicago Tribune, 21 January 1896, 5. 42. Wright et al., Legacy, 42–64.

Notes to pp. 279–288 361

Ch a p t e r 1 1 1. “Real Estate Market . . . Architect Henry Ives Cobb Will Make Washington His Headquarters,” Washington Post, 23 January 1898, 9. The article mistakenly located the city hall in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. 2. Cobb to Harper, 23 January 1900, Presidents’ Papers, box 7, folder 8. All quotations in this section of the text are from this letter. 3. I am grateful to John Notz for initially suggesting that Coolidge was Cobb’s rival. Hale to Harper, 5 February 1895, Presidents’ Papers, box 65, folder 11. Between January and July 1900 Coolidge dined with Hutchinson three times; they spent two days together in Oxford and London, 29–31 March; and on 27 July they met with Harper to confer “on plans for buildings of The University”—see Hutchinson’s appointment diary for 1900–1909, Hutchinson Papers, Newberry Library; see also Jay Pridmore and Peter Kiar, University of Chicago (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2006), 48. 4. Harper to Cobb, 22 August 1899, William Rainey Harper Papers, box 5, folder 4. 5. Cobb to Harper, 15 September 1899, University Presidents’ Papers 1889–1925, box 14, folder 3. 6. On the trip to Oxford, see n. 3 above. Hutchinson to Harper, 4 April 1900, University Presidents’ Papers 1889–1925, box 65, folder 12. 7. Harper to Coolidge, 17 July 1902, University Presidents’ Papers 1889–1925, box 14, folder 4. 8. “Joint Session of Architects and the Outdoor Art Society,” Chicago Daily Tribune, 8 June 1900, 2; “H. I. Cobb Told to Get Out,” Chicago Tribune, 16 December 1900, 1; “The Thirty-Fourth Convention, AIA,” American Architect and Building News 70 (22 December 1900): 94–95; New York Times, 16 December 1900, 18; “Seventh Session,” Proceedings of the Thirty-Fourth Annual Convention: American Institute of Architects (December 1900): 126–33. 9. Tribune, 16 December 1900. 10. “Architects Thrown Out,” Patriot, 17 December 1900, 1. 11. Deibler, “An Architectural Competition,” 59–61; Caskey-Winkler et al., “The Pennsylvania State Capitol,” 77–81. 12. Ware’s report in “Report of the Capitol Investigation Commission,” 16 August 1907, printed in House Journal (1909), 229–30, quoted in Caskey-Winkler et al., “The Pennsylvania State Capitol,” 81. 13. Darlington, “Palace of Graft,” 9238. 14. Hitchcock and Seale, Temples, 244. 15. Ibid., 244–48; “Graft Scandal,” in Pennsylvania State Capitol, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Pennsylvania_State_Capitol. 16. “Plans for Chicago Day,” Chicago Tribune, 6 September 1899, 12. 17. “Strike Committee Waiting,” Chicago Tribune, 2 September 1899, 5; “Chicago Union Men Aroused,” New York Times, 4 August 1899, 1. 18. “New Postoffice Corner-stone Is Union Work,” Chicago Tribune, 7 September 1899, 7. 19. “The Situation among the Granite Cutters,” Stone: An Illustrated Magazine 19 (June–November 1899): 131–32. 20. “Bonus to Lay Corner-stone,” Chicago Tribune, 15 September 1899, 1; “Henry Ives Cobb Arrives,” Tribune, 7 October 1899, 3. 21. “Laying of the Corner-Stone,” Chicago Tribune, 10 October 1899, 3. The next four paragraphs of the text draw on this article. The “golden trowel” is mentioned in “Henry Ives Cobb Arrives,” Chicago Tribune, 7 October 1899, 3. 22. “President Says Nation Is Firm,” Chicago Tribune, 11 October 1899, 1. 23. Royal Montgomery, Industrial Relations in the Chicago Building Trades (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1927), 30. My account of this conflict draws on pp. 17–32, and on Ernest L. Bogart, “Chicago Building Trades Dispute,” Political Science Quarterly 16, no. 1 (March 1901): 127–28, especially for the initial agreement between the two councils that later broke down. See also J. E. George, “The Chicago Building Trades Conflict of 1900,” Quarterly Journal of Economics 15 (May

362 Notes to pp. 289–299

1901): 348–70. “The Situation among the Granite Cutters,” 131, briefly reports that in late winter or early spring 1899 the Maine granite cutters demanded a 33 percent increase in wages and an eightrather than a nine-hour working day; Pierce and other contractors maintained that the demands robbed them of a fair profit. Pierce then employed nonunion laborers, many of them recent Italian immigrants, and the union struck the quarry. The union’s demands may have contributed both to the formation of the Contractors’ Council to counter union power and to the resistance of the Chicago Building Trades Council throughout the strike. For Pierce’s view of the stonecutter’s strike, see “Shaw to Hurry New Postoffice,” Chicago Tribune, 14 October 1902, 6. 24. “Strike Will Not Retard Public Building,” Chicago Tribune, 24 March 1899, 7; “Cobb Inspects Postoffice,” Chicago Tribune, 6 May 1899, 13; “To Push Work on Post Office,” Chicago Tribune, 15 May 1900, 1, 2. 25. “Law Holds on Pickets,” Chicago Tribune, 16 May 1900, 5. 26. “To Push Work on Post Office,” 2. 27. “Cobb Urges a Labor Truce,” Chicago Tribune, 3 June 1900, 1; “Hope of a Labor Truce,” Chicago Tribune, 4 June 1900, 1. 28. “Henry Ives Cobb Says Work on the New Postoffice Will Be Pushed,” Chicago Tribune, 29 October 1900, 2. 29. “To Force Work on Postoffice,” Chicago Tribune, 16 February 1901, 1; “Denounce Delay on Postoffice,” 17 February 1901, 3. 30. “Will Rush Work on Postoffice,” Chicago Tribune, 3 February 1901, 5. 31. “Few Employed on Postoffice,” Chicago Tribune, 10 March 1901, 8. 32. “Forced to Build Faster,” Chicago Tribune, 19 May 1901, 1. 33. See the following issues of the Tribune: “Cobb May Rent Chicago Office,” 25 May 1901, 6; “Washington,” 26 May 1901, 1; “Architect Cobb Will Remove His Office to Chicago,” 28 May 1901, 8; “One Man Will Supervise New Postoffice,” 10 June 1901, 3; “Will Push Work on Postoffice,” 15 June 1901, 5; “Cobb to Hurry Postoffice,” 8 August 1901, 7. 34. “Henry Ives Cobb Pleased with Work on Postoffice,” Chicago Tribune, 24 September 1901, 1; “Postoffice Disappoints Even Henry Ives Cobb,” Chicago Tribune, 12 November 1901, 3. 35. “The Chicago Federal Building,” Inland Architect 37 (July 1901): 46–47. 36. See the following issues of the Tribune: “The Government Building Scandal,” 14 April 1902, 12; “Mr. Cobb’s Head in Great Danger,” 16 April 1902, 1; “Seeks New Facts on Postoffice,” 27 April 1902, 4; “Pierce Has Low Postoffice Bid,” 25 September 1902; 4; “Wants Cobb and Peirce Removed,” 1 October 1902, 3; “Cobb Here to See Postoffice,” 9 December 1902, 15. Cobb and Peirce both stated that delays were due to eighteen months of strikes and the demolition contractor’s slowness in turning the site over to them in the first place. See their letters in “Public Building Now Being Constructed in Chicago,” Adverse Report submitted by the Committee on Public Buildings and Grounds to the House of Representatives, 3 December 1902, 57th Congress, 2nd Session, Report no. 2752, in Records of the Public Buildings Service, Letters Received 1843–1910, Chicago, Ill., P.O., box 162, folder “October to December 1902 [1 of 2],” at the National Archives, College Park, Maryland. 37. “Cobb No Longer Chief on Work,” Chicago Tribune, 8 March 1903, 1; “Shaw Steadying Money Market,” 11 March 1903, 2; J. K. Taylor to von Nerta, 6 March 1903, Correspondence of the Office of the Secretary of the Treasury, Letters Sent, 1878–1917, Letters Sent by the Office of the Supervising Architect (“M” Series), 1878–1916, vol. 175 (March 1903), at the National Archives (College Park, MD). 38. “Report of George O. von Nerta of Inspection of Post Office, Court House, &c. in Course of Construction at Chicago, Illinois,” 3, 6, 7, 10, 11, 23–24, 54–55—in Records of the Public Buildings Service, Letters Received 1843–1910, Chicago, IL, P.O., box 162, folder “January–March 1903 [1 of 3],” at the National Archives. 39. “Cobb’s Removal May Be Ordered,” Chicago Tribune, 2 April 1903, 1; see also “Many Flaws in Cobb’s Granite,” Chicago Tribune, 3 April 1903, 4; von Nerta, “Report,” 22. 40. “Cobb’s Head Now in Danger,” Chicago Tribune, 15 May 1903, 1, 7. 41. “Shaw Shakes Out Henry Ives Cobb,” Chicago Tribune, 13 August 1903, 1, 4.

Notes to pp. 299–304 363

42. Ibid. 43. See “Plans for a Building,” Washington Post, 25 March 1899, 12; “Real Estate Market,” Washington Post, 26 March 1899, 14. 44. Jon Peterson, “The Senate Park Commission Plan for Washington, D.C.,” in Sue A. Kohler and Pamela Scott, Designing the Nation’s Capitol: The 1901 Plan for Washington, D.C. (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, 2006), 6–13. 45. On the development of the campus plan see Karin M. E. Alexis, “The American University: Classical Visions of the National University,” in J. Kirkpatrick Flack, ed., Records of the Columbia Historical Society of Washington, D.C. (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1989), 52:163–82; William Edwin Ross, “A Methodist Experiment in Graduate Education: John Fletcher Hurst and the Founding of American University, 1889–1914” (PhD diss., American University, 1992), 157–99. For a sample of Cobb’s unexceptional designs, see University Courier 8 (January 1890); Cobb may have gotten to design the Centennial Plan through the university chancellor, Bishop John F. Hurst, who was on the Centennial Committee—see John R. Reynolds and Joanne E. King, “Highlights in the History of the American University 1889–1917,” 17, in the Archives and Special Collections of the American University. 46. Mann to Shaw, 4 August 1903, in Records of the Public Buildings Service, Letters Received 1843–1910, Chicago, Ill. P.O., box 163, folder “June 16 to August 1903 [1 of 2],” at the National Archives. 47. Shaw to Mann, 11 August 1903, in Correspondence of the Office of the Secretary of the Treasury, Letters Sent, 1878–1917, Letters Sent by the Office of the Supervising Architect (“M” Series), 1878–1916, vol. 180; telegrams: Shaw to John Peirce and five other contractors, 12 August 1903, in Correspondence of the Office of the Secretary of the Treasury, vol. 180. National Archives. 48. Frank Lloyd Wright, “The Art and Craft of the Machine,” in Edgar Kaufmann and Ben Raeburn, eds., Frank Lloyd Wright: Writings and Buildings (New York: New American Library, 1960), 57. See also Neil Levine, “The Book and the Building: Hugo’s Theory of Architecture and Labrouste’s Bibliothèque Ste-Geneviève,” in Robin Middleton, ed., The Beaux-Arts and Nineteenth Century French Architecture (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1982), 138–73. 49. Wright, “Art and Craft of the Machine,” 61. 50. Ibid. 51. Peterson, “Senate Park Commission Plan,” 28–29. 52. “The Secretary of the Treasury has removed . . . ,” American Architect and Building News 81 (29 August 1903): 89. 53. “The Chicago Federal Building,” Inland Architect 37 (July 1901): 47.

Ch a p t e r 1 2 1. “Mosaics,” Inland Architect 29 (March 1897): 19. 2. Paul Starrett, Changing the Skyline (New York: McGraw-Hill Book, 1938), 65–90; Landau and Condit, New York Skyscraper, 301, 434 n. 3. 3. Landau and Condit, New York Skyscraper, 179, 301; Starrett, Changing the Skyline, 66–70. 4. Landau and Condit, New York Skyscraper, 303. 5. “In the Real Estate Field,” New York Times, 7 August 1902, 12; “$7,500,000 Paid for Downtown Building,” New York Times, 1 January 1911, 1. 6. “Electrical Tower for Times Square,” New York Times, 25 July 1909, 10. 7. “Thirty-Story Tower on Bryant Building Site,” New York Times, 28 March 1909, 15; Walter B. Stevens, St. Louis: History of the Fourth City 1763–1909 (Chicago: S. J. Clarke, 1909), 842–45; E. D. Kargau, Mercantile, Industrial and Professional St. Louis (St. Louis: Nixon-Jones, 1903), 575–77; “New Skyscraper for Times Square,” New York Times, 31 December 1909, 1. 8. “Electrical Tower,” 10; “Novel Structure Planned for Times Square Corner,” New York Times, 16 May 1909, 11. 9. From a February 1910 article, quoted in “Streetscapes . . . The Heidelberg, the Times Sq. Tower That Couldn’t,” New York Times, 26 April 1998, section 11, 7. The author has been unable to locate the 1910 article.

364 Notes to pp. 305–318

10. William R. Taylor, ed., Inventing Times Square (New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1991), 236; H. G. Wells quoted in David Nye, American Technological Sublime (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1994), 195; “romance” quoted on 192; see also chapters 6–7. 11. The Fuller Company was the contractor for the Times Tower; Landau and Condit, New York Skyscraper, 197–203. 12. See the following Times articles: “Heidelberg Tower May Be Torn Down,” 7 December 1910, 6; “A Failure Truly Fortunate,” 8 December 1910, 12; “Latest Dealings in Realty Field,” 11 December 1910, real estate section, 1; “Plan to Increase Height of Times Square Building,” 12 July 1928, 43; and “Streetscapes,” 7. 13. “Noteworthy Building Operations,” New York Times, 10 May 1914, 21; “Streetscapes,” 7. 14. Landau and Condit, New York Skyscraper, 317–18, 337. See also “Manhattan’s Latest Tower Building,” Real Estate Record and Guide (3 April 1909), 654; “Thirty-Story Tower,” 15; and Lydia Latchinova, “Liberty Tower,” Landmarks Preservation Commission Report, 24 August 1982, 1–9, at the New York City Planning Commission.. 15. Quoted in Gail Fenske, “The Image of the City: The Woolworth Building and the Creation of the New York Skyline,” in Barbara S. Christen and Steven Flanders, eds., Cass Gilbert: Life and Work (New York: W. W. Norton 2001), 142. 16. Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The Young American,” online at http://www.emersoncentral. com/youngam.htm. 17. For the Metropolitan Life Insurance Tower, see Landau and Condit, New York Skyscraper, 210–12. Three earlier office buildings with chateau roofs—Napoleon LeBrun & Sons’ Home Life Insurance Building (1894), George Post’s Union Trust Building (1890), and Cass Gilbert’s unexecuted tower for the West Street Building (1905)—countered their upward lift with heavy cornices and horizontal arcading within or just below the dormers. Cobb had employed chateau roofs on two Chicago mansions and the Indiana Building at the 1893 World’s Fair. 18. Henry James, The American Scene (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1968), 76, 80, 81, 82, 83, 95. 19. Ibid., pp. 77, 92, 83, 76. 20. Montgomery Schuyler, “The Woolworth Building” (New York: Munder-Thomsen, 1913), twelfth page of an unpaged text; reprinted in William Jordy and Ralph Coe, eds., American Architecture and Other Writings by Montgomery Schuyler (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1961), 2:605–21. 21. Schuyler, “Woolworth Building,” second page of text. 22. James, American Scene, 77; Schuyler, “Woolworth Building,” first page of text. For other responses to the new visual power and advertising value of towers standing free of neighboring buildings, see Stern, New York 1900, 164–73. 23. In the fourth canto of Childe Harold, Byron, evoking the “fairy city” of Venice during and after its days as a Mediterranean hegemon, figured its many church steeples as a “tiara of proud towers.” In the first chapter of The Seven Lamps of Architecture Ruskin hymned a Gothic cathedral’s “misty masses of multitudinous pinnacle and diademed tower.” Also see Edmond Burke, A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful (New York: Columbia University Press, 1958), 57, 64, 72, 76, 78; for Ruskin’s gentler sublime see Seven Lamps, chapter 3. 24. Quoted from an early rental pamphlet in “Liberty Tower, 55 Liberty Street, New York,” unpaged real estate brochure (1990?), in Avery Library, Columbia University. 25. Landau and Condit, New York Skyscraper, 361, 379; Fenske, “The Image of the City,” 141, 145. 26. Henry James, The Portrait of a Lady (New York: Bantam Classics, 1983), 115. 27. Dietrich Neumann, “Architectural Illumination before the Twentieth Century,” in Dietrich Neumann, ed., Architecture of the Night: The Illuminated Building (Berlin: Prestel, 2003), 13; and Neumann, “Lichtarchitektur and the Avant-Garde,” in ibid., 43. 28. See for example, Kenneth Turney Gibbs, Business Architectural Imagery in America, 1870– 1930 (Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press, 1984); and Michael McGerr, A Fierce Discontent: The Rise and Fall of the Progressive Movement in America 1870–1920 (New York: The Free Press, 2003), 170–75.

Notes to pp. 319–327 365

29. The brochure is summarized and quoted in Landau and Condit, New York Skyscraper, 337, 338. 30. Henry James, The Ambassadors (New York: Penguin Books, 1986), 504. 31. Landau and Condit note the white terra-cotta and Gothic resemblances in New York Skyscraper, 337. 32. See Mary N. Woods, “In the Camera’s Eye: The Woolworth Building and American AvantGarde Photography and Film,” in Christen and Flanders, Gilbert, 149–62, for a lucid analysis of skyscrapers and pictorialist photography. 33. Alvin Langdon Coburn, New York from Its Pinnacles (London, 1913), unpaged, quoted in Woods, “In the Camera’s Eye.” 34. “George B. Moyer Dead,” New York Times, 10 December 1915, 13. The neoclassical Harriman National Bank (1905) occupied the southeast corner of Forty-Fourth Street & Fifth Avenue); see “The Real Estate Field,” 1 December 1915, 22; and “Encouraging Activity in Realty Field,” 5 December 1915, real estate section, 2. For the Belmont and Bache commissions, see “In the Real Estate Field,” New York Times, 31 March 1910, 16; and “New Bache Building,” 4 July 1920, 93. For Cobb’s extension of Delmonico’s Restaurant, see “Real Estate,” New York Times, 31 January 1918, 15. In Salt Lake City, the neoclassical Newhouse and Boston blocks (1907) were the only two of the fifteen structures Cobb and developer Samuel Newhouse planned for a new financial district that were actually built—see “Newhouse’s Business District,” in Salt Lake Architecture, http:// saltlakearchitecture.blogspot.com/2009/05/newhouses-new-business-district.html. (As a result of his grandmother Augusta Cobb’s marriage to Brigham Young, Cobb had an uncle, an aunt, and at least three first cousins who were living in Salt Lake while he worked with Newhouse.) In Albany, New York, Cobb designed the sixteen-story neoclassical New York State Bank (1927); see Diana S. Waite, ed., Albany Architecture (Albany: Mount Ida Press, 1993), 98. 35. The two largest commissions were the twenty-one-story loft building (1924) on the northwest corner of Eighth Avenue and West Thirty-Eighth Street, whose Romanesque mullions frame Chicago windows on the three lowest floors (two narrow sashes flanking a large fixed pane of glass); and the twenty-two-story office building (1924) at the northeast corner of Seventh Avenue and Thirty-Eighth Street, which employs Romanesque blind arcades on three upper floors, a groin-vaulted vestibule in dark red sandstone carried on splayed Romanesque piers, and two other linked spaces that form an unusually gracious transition into the building. 36. A small sample of Times articles includes “Miss Leonore Cobb a Bride,” 21 September 1910, 9 (notes Cobb’s Rockdale Farm); “Society in Service during Lent, 24 February 1918, 53; “Patriotic Events Staged by Society,” 7 April 1918, 49; “Ball of Fine Arts Brilliant Triumph,” 12 March 1920, 13; “Candler Cobb to London,” 27 July 1921, 8. 37. “Building Holdup Cause and Effect,” New York Times, 16 March 1919, 105. 38. See the following issues of the Times: “Clean Sweep in Tax Law,” 13 November 1921, 13; “New Tribunal Cuts Red Tape of Courts in Civil Disputes,” 13 March 1922, 1; “Sees Trade Gain by Mellon Plan,” 20 November 1923, 4; “E. P. Thomas for Merchants Board,” 7 May 1929, 62; “Henry I. Cobb Dies; A Noted Architect,” 28 March 1931, 16. 39. “Henry I. Cobb Dies,” 16. 40. Sinclair quoted in “Big Firms Buying Homes in Wall Street District,” New York Times, 18 May 1919, 116; “Harry Sinclair Dies,” New York Times, 11 November 1956, 1, 86. 41. James to Thomas S. Perry, 20 September 1867, in Leon Edel, ed., Henry James Letters (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1974): 1:77.

366 Notes to pp. 327–337

Selected Bibliography

Note: The Digital Collections at the Ryerson and Burnham Libraries of the Art Institute of Chicago are assembling an online catalogue of Cobb’s work, with photographs for many of the entries.

Archival Sources See endnotes for the names and locations of archival sources and unpublished documents at the following institutions: American University Library Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library at Columbia University Boston Public Library Brookline Public Library Commission on Chicago Landmarks Lake Forest College Archives and Special Collections Lake Forest Presbyterian Church Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library of Washington, DC (Washingtoniana Division) National Archives (College Park, Maryland) Newberry Library New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission New York Public Library Research Center of the Chicago History Museum Ryerson and Burnham Libraries of the Art Institute of Chicago Special Collections Research Center at the University of Chicago Library


Theses, Dissertations, and Unpublished Documents Clark, Robert Judson. “The Life and Architectural Accomplishment of Louis Christian Mullgardt.” Master’s thesis, Stanford University, 1964. Lewis, Julius. “Henry Ives Cobb and the Chicago School.” Master’s thesis, University of Chicago, 1954. ———. “Henry Ives Cobb in Chicago.” Manuscript in author’s possession, 2002. Wetherald, Houghton David. “An Architectural History of the Newberry Library.” Master’s thesis, Oberlin College, May 1964. Williamson, William. “Frederick Poole and the Modern Library Movement.” PhD diss., University of Chicago, 1959. Version in the Newberry Library. Wolner, Edward W. “Daniel Burnham and the Tradition of the City Builder in Chicago.” PhD diss., New York University, 1977.

Books Achilles, Rolf, ed. Humanities Mirror: Reading at the Newberry, 1887–1987. Chicago: R. P. Donnelly & Sons, 1987. Ackerman, James. The Villa: Form and Ideology in the Country House. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990. Adams, Henry. The Education of Henry Adams. New York: Modern Library, 1931. AIA Guide to Chicago, ed. Alice Sinkevitch. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1993. Amory, Cleveland. The Proper Bostonians. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1947. Anderson, Quentin. The Imperial Self: An Essay in American Literary and Cultural History. New York: Knopf Publishing Group, 1972. Andreas, A. T. History of Chicago. Vol. 3. Chicago: A. T. Andreas, 1886. Reprint, New York: Arno Press, 1975. Andrews, Wayne. Architecture in Chicago & Mid-America. New York: Atheneum, 1968. ———. Battle for Chicago. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1946. Angle, Paul. The Chicago Historical Society 1856–1956. Chicago: Rand McNally, 1956. Appelbaum, Stanley. The Chicago World’s Fair of 1893. New York: Dover Publications, 1980. Architectural Record Co. Great American Architects Series 1–6 (May 1895–July 1899). New York: Da Capo Press, 1977. Arnold, Isaac. William Ogden. Chicago: Fergus Printing, 1881. Athey, Isabella, ed. Kindergarten Chats and Other Writings. New York: Dover Publications, 1979. Bachin, Robin F. Building the South Side. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004. Bachrach, Julia Sniderman. City in a Garden. Santa Fe, NM: Center for American Places, 2001. Bancroft, Hubert Howe. The Book of the Fair. Chicago: Bancroft, 1893. Bender, Thomas. Intellect and Public Life. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993. ———. New York Intellect. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1987. ———. The Unfinished City: New York and the Metropolitan Idea. New York: New York University Press, 2007. Benjamin, Susan, and Stuart Cohen. Great Houses of Chicago. New York: Acanthus Press, 2008. Berkhofer, Robert F., Jr. The White Man’s Indian. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1978. Betts, John Rickards. America’s Sporting Heritage 1850–1950. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Publishing, 1974. The Biographical Dictionary and Portrait Gallery of Representative Men of Chicago, Minnesota Cities and the World’s Columbian Exposition. New York: American Biographical Publishing, 1892. Bluestone, Daniel. Constructing Chicago. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1991. Boehm, Lisa Krissoff. Popular Culture and the Enduring Myth of Chicago, 1871–1968. New York: Routledge, 2004. Boughton, James, and Willis Arnold Boughton. Bouton-Boughton Family. Albany, NY: Joel Munsell’s Sons, 1890. Bourget, Paul. Outre-Mer: Impressions of America. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1895.

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Breisch, Kenneth A. Henry Hobson Richardson and the Small Public Library in America: A Study in Typology. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1997. Bruegmann, Robert. The Architects and the City: Holabird and Roche of Chicago, 1880–1918. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997. ———. Holabird and Roche/Holabird and Root: An Illustrated Catalogue of Works, 1880–1940. 3 vols. New York: Garland Press, 1991. Bryce, James. The American Commonwealth. Chicago: Charles H. Sergel, 1891. Buder, Stanley. Pullman: An Experiment in Industrial Order and Community Planning, 1880–1930. New York: Oxford University Press, 1967. Burg, David F. Chicago’s White City of 1893. Louisville: University Press of Kentucky, 1979. The Calumet Club. Reception to the Settlers of Chicago Prior to 1840. Chicago: Fergus Printing, 1879. The Columbian Exposition Album. Chicago: Rand, McNally, 1893. The Columbian Gallery: A Portfolio of Photographs from the World’s Fair. Chicago: Werner, 1894. Commercial and Architectural Chicago. Chicago: G. W. Orear, 1887. Condit, Carl. The Chicago School of Architecture. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1964. Considine, Bob, and Fred G. Jarvis. The First One Hundred Years: A Portrait of the NYAC. London: Macmillan, 1969. Coventry, Kim, Daniel Meyer, and Arthur Miller. Classic Country Estates of Lake Forest. New York: W. W. Norton, 2003. Craven, Wayne. Gilded Mansions. New York: W. W. Norton, 2008. Critchlow, Donald T. Studebaker. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1996. Cronon, William. Nature’s Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West. New York: W. W. Norton, 1991. Currey, Josiah Seymour. Chicago: Its History and Its Builders. Chicago: S. J. Clarke, 1912. Dedmon, Emmett. Fabulous Chicago. New York: Random House, 1953. Duncan, Hugh Dalziel. Culture & Democracy. Totowa, NJ: Bedminster Press, 1965. Durant, John, ed. Yesterday in Sports. New York: A. S. Barnes, 1956. Ebner, Michael H. Creating Chicago’s North Shore: A Suburban History. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989. Eggener, Keith L., ed. American Architectural History: A Contemporary Reader. New York: Routledge, 2004. The Elite Directory and Club List of Chicago. Chicago: Elite Publishing, 1884–1885. Ericsson, Henry. Sixty Years a Builder. Chicago: A. Kroch and Son, 1942. Erskine, Albert Russell. History of the Studebaker Corporation. N.p.: Studebaker Corporation, 1924. Fitzpatrick, Ellen Francis. Endless Crusade. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990. Flinn, John J. Chicago, the Marvelous City of the West: A History, an Encyclopedia, and a Guide. Chicago: Standard Guide, 1892. Giedion, Sigfried. Space, Time and Architecture. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1941. Goodspeed, Thomas W. The University of Chicago Biographical Sketches. Vol. 3. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1922. Gould’s St. Louis Directory for 1892. St. Louis, MO: Gould Directory, 1892. Hardy, Stephen. How Boston Played: Sports, Recreation, and Community 1865–1915. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1982. Harris, Neil, ed. The Land of Contrasts. New York: George Braziller, 1970. Harvard College Class of 1856: Secretary’s Report, 1899. Cambridge, MA: Riverside Press, 1899. Hasbrouck, Wilbert R. The Chicago Architectural Club. New York: Monacelli Press, 2005. Herndon, Richard, ed. Boston of To-Day. Boston: Post Publishing, 1892. Higdon, Hal. Boston: Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the Boston Athletic Association Marathon. Emmaus, PA: Rodale Press, 1995. Hill, John, Jr. Gold Bricks of Speculation. Chicago: Lincoln Book Concern, 1904. Hines, Thomas. Burnham of Chicago. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979. Hitchcock, Henry Russell. Henry Hobson Richardson. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1966. Hoover, Catherine Voorsanger, and John K. Howat, eds. Art and the Empire City. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000.

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See endnotes for other periodical articles and all newspaper articles from the Chicago Tribune (1881– 1905), the New York Times (1889–1931), the Washington Post (1896–1903), and the (Brookline) Chronicle (1890, 1908).

Websites “A Brief History of the Union Club of Boston.” http://www.unionclub.org/history.html. “Biographical Note” on Charles Frost. Northwest Architectural Archives. www.special.lib.umn. edu/manuscripts/architect.html/. Chicago Title Insurance Company. “Chicago Title and Trust Co.: 160 Years and Beyond.” www. ctic.com/history.asp. Cobb, Loren. “Thomas Cobb of Halifax, Nova Scotia.” http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb. ancestry.com/~cobb/ns_thoscobb_main.htm. “Tippecanoe Place History.” http://www.tippe.com/history.html.

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Note: Italic page numbers indicate illustrations. A. C. Bartlett House, 59 Ackerman, James, 344n33, 347n7 Adam, Robert, 45, 58 Adams, Charles Francis, 31 Adams, Henry, 351n25 Addams, Jane, 49, 135, 157, 186, 288, 309; and educational reform, 218, 223, 238 Adler, Dankmar, 30, 71, 93, 253; efforts to professionalize architecture, 262–63, 278, 286, 294, 302, 311 adult education, 186 advertising, 318, 326, 328 Aiken, Henry, 255–56 Aldis, Owen F., 24, 31, 156, 223 American Baptist Education Society, 184, 244 American exceptionalism, 299 American Federation of Labor, 299 American Historical Association, 91–92 American Institute of Architects (AIA), 253–54, 268, 278, 282, 284, 306, 311–12; condemnation of Cobb, 289, 293–95, 302, 315; reputation as an exclusive gentlemen’s club, 30 American Library Association, 91–92 American Renaissance, 264, 271 American University, Washington, D.C., 289, 306, 308, 308 Amory, Cleveland, 9–11

Anthony, Susan B., 135 aquariums, 139–40 Arbitration Society of America (later the American Arbitration Association), 332 architects: division of labor, 29–30, 42, 63, 76, 140–42, 154, 156, 163; licensure, 30–31; problem-solving versus artist, 71; professionalization, 5, 99, 120, 254 Architectural League of America, 293 architectural modernism, 7 architecture firms —Adler & Sullivan, 77–80, 94, 110, 119, 132–33, 188–90; dissolved, 245 —Burlington & Whitehouse, 188 —Burnham & Root, 18–20, 26, 86, 94, 179, 223 —Cobb & Frost, 61, 122, 228, 350n19, 352n55; end of partnership, 87, 95; office buildings, 67–68, 71, 77–80, 83; residential commissions, 42, 50, 52–54, 58–59, 65, 67, 190 —D. H. Burnham & Company, 317 —Eidlitz & McKenzie, 319 —Flanders & Zimmerman, 188 —H. B. Marshall, 277 —Holabird & Roche, 7, 76, 86, 151 —McKim, Mead & White, 94, 101, 124, 131, 133, 176; Columbia University, 6, 195; in prewar New York, 247, 250, 330; Rhode


Island State Capitol Building, 267, 270, 272 —Napoleon LeBrun & Sons, 365n17 —Patton & Fisher, 188–90 —Peabody & Stearns, 15, 19–20, 24–25, 41, 94, 142, 179 —Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge, 255, 292–93 —Silsbee & Kent, 42 —Treat & Foltz, 248 —Ware & Van Brunt, 130 Armour, George, 19 Arnold, Isaac, 23, 90, 119, 146, 148, 213, 341n13, 341n17, 342n22, 345n3 Art Institute of Chicago, 48, 52, 89–90, 98, 205, 221, 255, 263; conceived as a democratic cultural institution, 79, 146, 157–59 Astor, William B., 96 Astor Library, 96–97 astronomy, 183, 215–16, 223–25, 228, 236 astrophysics, 224, 228 Athey, Isabella, 349n62 Atwood, Charles, 133, 262–63 Auditorium, 68, 89–90, 99, 146, 157, 159, 175; as a mixed-use building, 78–80, 156, 250; neo-Romanesque façade, 110, 149, 173 Bache, Jules, 330 bachelor flats in men’s clubs, 342n35 Bachin, Robin, 185, 209 Bankers Trust Building, 324, 326, 328 Baptist Union Theological Seminary, 183, 185 Barrows, Rev. John Henry, 221, 223 Barry, Rev. William, 146 Baumann, Frederick, 255 Bayard Building, 79 Beaux Arts, 132, 258, 299 Beecher, Mary, 207 Beecher Hall, 207, 208, 210 Belmont, August, 330 Beman, Solon Spencer, 8, 60–61, 72, 76, 188, 255 Bender, Thomas, 3, 120, 341n18, 342n30, 347n12, 348n27, 356n57 Billings, Frederick, 130 biology, 215, 218 Bishop, Henry W., 90–91, 94–95, 156, 341n6 Black, Harry S., 316–17 Blackall, Clarence, 29–30, 51, 58–59, 71, 74–76, 149, 173 Blatchford, Eliphalet Wickes, 5, 90–98, 109, 113, 238, 335; copies of Cobb’s sketches for the Newberry Library, 104, 105; European tour to study libraries, 102 Bluestone, Daniel, 8, 40, 261 Boston, First Families of, 9–11, 125, 255 Boston Athletic Association, 155–56, 159 Boston Public Library, 101, 103 Botany Building, 220. See also Hull Court (Hull Biological Laboratories)

376 Index

Boughton, James and Willis Arnold, 341n12 Bourget, Paul, 141, 149, 173–75, 179, 264, 288, 322 Bowne, Walter, 21 Boyce Building, 86, 171 Boyington, William, 182, 193, 213 Bradley, Lydia Moss, 238 Bradley, William H., 90, 93, 95 Bradley Institute, 238, 306 Bricklayers’ Union, 298 Brighton Aquarium, 140 Brooks, Peter and Shepherd, 24 Brown, William Hubbard, 146 Brownson, Orestes, 342n21 Bruegmann, Robert, 7–8, 76, 151, 339n4, 343n40, 345n4, 345nn6–7, 346n35, 349n54, 353n23, 356nn40–41, 359n33, 361n35 Brunelleschi, Filippo, 259 Bryant, William Cullen, 23, 327 Bryant Building, 327 Bryce, James, 2 Buder, Stanley, 343n9 Building Contractors’ Council, 299–300 buildings, mixed-use, 68, 72, 77–78, 80, 165 Bullfinch, Charles, 9 Burg, David F., 351nn26–28, 351n46, 355n14, 357n8, 358n39 Burke, Edmond, 365n23 Burke, William Henry, 156, 158–59, 194–95, 353n22 Burnham, Daniel H., 8, 11, 26, 30, 196, 257, 285, 302, 334; advocate for fair competitions, 294; architect and member of the Calumet Club, 19; on the failure to employ the Tarsney Act, 253–54, 263; on H. H. Richardson, 110; plans for Chicago, 1, 262, 264, 311–12; plans for Manila and Baguio, 299; role in the Columbian Exposition, 119, 141–42, 179, 188, 259; shift away from studio, 5–6; South Shore park plan, 287 Cable, Ransom, 5, 33–34, 52–55, 58–60, 288 Cable House, 55–59, 55, 56, 62; floor plans, 57 Calumet Club, 18–19, 18, 24, 26–30, 32, 59, 155 campus design (campus planning), 188, 193, 195, 221 canals: Illinois and Michigan Canal, 21, 188, 201; Sanitary and Ship Canal, 188 Candler, John, Jr. (Captain), 9 Candler, John W., 10, 20, 132 Capitol Building Commission, 267–68, 271, 275–80, 284, 294 Carlisle, John G., 253–56, 259, 263 Carnegie, Andrew, 60, 276, 288 Carrere, John, 277–78, 294 Cassatt, Alexander, 276 Cassatt, Mary, 133 Central Park (Manhattan), 93, 97, 122

Chautauqua movement, 186 Chicago: as a center for Baptist education, 184; central business district, 172, 250; city motto, 182; civic activism, 120, 223; civic ambition, 8, 11, 79, 95–99, 155, 226, 246; civic identity, 182, 251, 287, 311; civic image, 246, 250, 276; civic patriotism, 223, 284; corruption, 225, 237, 251; development of civic and cultural institutions, 8, 79, 158–59; financial district, 73; growth in the nineteenth century, 2–3, 7, 54, 141, 198–99, 257; Loop, 67–68, 70, 76, 110–11, 149, 237, 246, 250; machine politics, 252; map of Hyde Park, 187; pollution, 286–87, 334; reform movements, 12, 50, 135, 186, 300, 336; reputation as Porkopolis, 204; reputation for materialism, 8, 159, 287, 335; trade unions, 290; upward mobility, 342n24 Chicago Architectural Sketch Club, 119, 311 Chicago Astronomical Society, 2, 90, 183, 228 Chicago Athletic Association, 5, 119, 131, 153–65, 160, 161, 164, 166, 183, 190, 213, 334; site characteristics, 159 Chicago Building Trades Council, 297–301, 334 Chicago Federal Building, 246, 252–63, 258, 289–90, 311–13, 310, 313, 334; cornerstone ceremony, 297–99; delays, 301–4, 311–12; labor issues, 297–301; magnitude, 302–3 Chicago fire of 1871, 21, 24, 39, 68, 70, 122, 146, 150, 172, 182, 245; before and after comparisons, 2–3, 15–16, 19; twenty-eighth anniversary, 297–98 Chicago Historical Society, 6, 22–23, 90–91, 93, 119–20, 145–52, 148, 149, 151, 152, 213, 334 Chicago Horticultural Society, 23 Chicago Manual Training School, 97 Chicago Newsboys’ Home, 216 Chicago Opera House, 68–72, 74–80, 75, 86–87, 99, 173, 248; floor plans, 78; jointstock investment mechanism, 78–79 Chicago Post Office and Customs Building. See Chicago Federal Building Chicago Public Library, 91, 93, 96, 150, 159, 255, 263; role in formalizing cultural distinctions, 99 Chicago Stock Exchange, 68 Chicago Stonecutters Union, 297 Chicago Symphony Orchestra, 157 Chicago Title and Trust Building, 153, 171–75, 172, 174, 253, 264 Christ Church, Oxford, 194, 292–93 Christianity: muscular, 126, 155; secularization of, 241 Chrysler Corporation, 333 City Beautiful movement, 258, 311 City Hall–County Building, 246–52, 264; financing scheme, 246

civic humanism, 3–4, 12, 78, 90, 95, 133, 181, 216, 243, 288, 333; amateur or bottom-up, 228, 238; frontier, 146; in Lake Forest, 120 Clark, Alvan, 183 Clark, Robert Judson, 163, 353n18 classicism, Greek or Roman, 191 C. L. Gray Construction Company, 318, 320 club culture in London, 19 clubhouses, 26, 29 Cobb, Albert Wheelwright, 15–16, 20–21, 31 Cobb, Augusta, 9, 366n34 Cobb, Henry Ives: AIA censure, 309, 315; ambition, 257, 291; Arbitration Society of America, 332; avocations, 285; Boston Brahmin background, 9–12, 20, 257, 285, 291, 332, 335; as both front man and principal designer for his firm, 334; breach of professional ethics, 293–94, 309, 337; career parallel to Burnham’s, 285; career representative of Chicago’s development, 83, 89; Chicago Athletic Association founder, 154, 179–80, 332; dismissal from Chicago Federal Building project, 303–4, 308–9, 312, 337; early employment, 10–11; eastern United States and European library tours, 100, 102; eclecticism, 7–8, 167, 194, 241, 285, 333, 335–36; education, 10, 35, 335; engineer skills, 71–72, 334; entrepreneurial initiative, 157, 216, 248, 257; factors in his success, 120; friendships, 11; growth of his firm, 142, 153–54, 179–80, 196–97, 253; influenced by H. H. Richardson, 27, 56, 62, 113, 120; interactions with Poole, 107–8; interview with the Detroit Tribune, 284–87; investor in real estate, 25; lack of an archive, 7, 11; lack of modern public relations, 303, 312; lack of partners, 163; letters from Daniel Burnham, 142; lineage, 9; love of ornament, 232–34, 254, 334; move to Chicago, 25; move to Chicago Title and Trust Company Building, 175–80; move to New York City, 308, 315; move to Washington, D.C., 267, 286–88, 315; national prominence, 264, 279, 290, 315; neoclassicism, 264; obituaries, 333; office at the Treasury Department, 267, 302, 315; Onwentsia Club founder, 131, 180; patrons (clientele), 4–5, 8; perfectionism, 197–98; preeminent architect of cultural institutions, 119, 190; prominence and success, 249; proposal for labor arbitration, 299, 301, 332, 334; reorganization of his practice, 163, 175–76, 179–80, 177, 198, 251, 332, 334; rivalry with Charles Coolidge, 255–57, 289; social and civic profiles in New York, 332; as a social figure, 156, 285; stake in the University of Chicago, 197–98; University of Chicago

Index 377

dismissal, 290–93, 337; variations on the Romanesque, 120; in Washington, D.C., 6; wealth, 11 Cobb, Henry Ives, works of —American University, 289, 306, 308, 315–16 —Chicago Federal Building: criticism, 248–49, 309–10; design, 252, 257–64, 258, 274; interiors, 312–13 —Chicago Historical Society, 145–52 —Chicago’s North Side, 17 —City Hall–County Building proposal, 245–52, 247, 264 —Columbian Exposition, 132–45 —commercial commissions, 171 —commissions outside Chicago, 179 —decorations for McKinley’s inaugural ball, 315 —downtown Chicago buildings, 67, 69, 87 —East Coast commissions, 289, 305, 308–9 —firm’s reception room, 177–79, 178 —First Presbyterian Church, 121–24, 123, 127 —government commissions, 254–57, 315 —King Edward Hotel, 305 —Lake Forest, Illinois, 1–2, 120–32, 213; personal estate, 124–25, 125, 130–32, 284 —Lake Forest University, 125–30, 126, 127, 128, 129 —McKinley Manual Training School, 305, 306 —Merchants’ Association of New York City, 332 —Newberry Library, 90–91, 95, 99; neoRomanesque façades, 109–13; sketches, 102–5, 103 —New York City, 6 —New York State Bank (Albany, N.Y.), 366n34 —1900 Centennial Plan, Washington, D.C., 306, 307, 309, 312, 315 —Pennsylvania State Capitol, 267–71, 273, 274–76, 275, 280–84, 281, 282, 289, 293–97, 309 —postwar commissions, 366n35 —residential commissions, 33–34 —Salt Lake City, 366n34 —townhouses, 51 —University of Chicago, 181, 188–90; campus plan, 191–94, 192, 219, 243, 293; Cobb Gate, 239–41, 239, 240; design for a chapel, 241–43, 242; —U.S. Customs House competition entry, 305, 305 —Woodward & Lothrop department stores, 305 —Yerkes Observatory, 226–35 Cobb, Henry Ives, II, 340n18 Cobb, Loren, 340n10 Cobb, Silas B., 199–200, 207 Cobb Hall, 199–201, 199 Coburn, Alvin Langdon, 329–30

378 Index

Coe, Ralph, 365n20 Collins, Joseph W., 141 Columbian Exposition of 1893, 119, 124, 132, 134, 158, 165, 179, 183, 188, 190; Administration Building, 258–60, 259; Court of Honor, 133, 136, 139, 141, 258, 264; Fisheries Building, 133–41, 136, 137, 138, 139, 152, 192, 213, 243, 263, 333–34; imperial view of America’s history, 299; Indiana Building, 142, 143, 365n17; India Pavilion, 144, 144; Palace of Fine Arts, 133, 135, 139, 262, 262; Parliament of Religions, 221; Street in Cairo, 133, 144–45, 145; Transportation Building, 133; Women’s Building, 133, 135 Columbia University, 195, 212 Commercial Club: Boston, 20; Chicago, 20–21 competitions for government commissions, 253–54 Condit Building, 321 construction practices in the Loop, 169–71 Cook, Walter, 277 Coolidge, Charles A., 255–57, 263–64, 290–93 Coventry, Kim, 350n10, 350n19, 351n21 Crerar, John, 113, 146 Crerar Library, 113, 115, 150 Croly, Herbert, 2 cultural stewardship, 146 Culver, Helen, 215–18, 225, 238, 241 Currey, Josiah Seymour, 341n11 Darlington, Charles H., 361n26, 362n13 Darwin, Charles, 125 Dearborn Observatory, 183, 224, 228, 352n55 de Castellane, Boni, 47–48 Delmonico’s Restaurant (New York), 366n34 Deuel, Leo, 358n29 Doge’s Palace, Venice, 159, 162 domes, 258–60, 262–63, 270–71, 296 dormitories, and the university experience, 195, 206–9, 208, 210, 237 Douglas, Stephen A., 23, 182, 213 Douglas Hall, University of Chicago, 182–83, 182 Durand, Henry C., 127 Durand Art Institute, 119–20, 127–30, 128, 129, 136, 152 Eckstrom, C. Albert, 302–5 economies of scale: role in Chicago’s development, 24 elevators, 71, 81, 170, 172, 223, 250 Elliot, John, 45 Ellsworth, James W., 287 Emerson, Ralph Waldo, 23, 31, 321 Ericsson, Henry, 346n14 façadism, 108 Farwell, Charles B., 126, 130–31

Federal Building (Chicago). See Chicago Federal Building Ferrer, Gabriel, 45 Field, Marshall, 19, 24, 31, 37, 45, 156, 159, 196, 226, 301 First National Bank (Burnham), 264 First Presbyterian Church, Lake Forest, 2, 121–23, 123, 125, 127, 250 Fisheries Building, Columbian Exposition, 119–20 Fitzpatrick, Ellen Frances, 186, 356n50 Fitzpatrick, Francis W., 260, 302–3, 305, 308, 359n35 Flanders, John J., 73, 76 Flatiron Building, 317, 319 Foltz, Fritz, 248 Ford, Henry, 334 Fort Dearborn, 183, 298 Fort Sheridan, 131 Forty-Two Broadway, 316–17, 317, 322–23 Foster, Nancy S., 207, 209 Foster Hall, 207, 209, 210 Franklin, Benjamin, 3 fraternal movement. See Independent Order of Odd Fellows; Masons Froebel, Frederick, 97 Frost, Charles Sumner, 2, 25, 29, 352n55 Fuller, George A., 30–31, 71–72, 245–46, 248–49, 252, 316; system of general contracting, 76, 141, 245, 316 Fuller, Henry Blake, 285, 287 Fuller, Margaret, 23 Fuller Company, 365n11 Furness, Frank, 277–78 Gabriel, Ange-Jacques, 273 Gage, Lyman, 132, 147, 156–58, 263–64, 298, 300–302, 311, 315 Gardner, Isabella Stuart, 48 Garfield Building (Cleveland), 358n1 gargoyles, 201, 239–41, 293 Garnier, Charles, 295 Gates, Rev. Frederick T., 184–85, 195–96, 244 Giedion, Sigfried, 7 Gilbert, Cass, 267, 270–71, 274, 296, 365n17 Gilpin, Henry D., 146 Gilpin Library, 150 Giotto’s Campanile, Florence Cathedral, 319, 326 Giovanni Rucellai, 226 Glessner House, 57 golf, 131 Gompers, Samuel, 301 Goodspeed, Thomas W., 183–90, 195–201, 215–17, 227, 241, 243, 341n14, 341nn16–17, 342n21, 354n1, 355nn10–11, 355n28, 356n47, 357n11, 358n36 Gore Hall, 100–101, 191

Gothic, 84, 86, 143–44, 193–95, 201, 228, 320, 328; castellated, 182; Cobb’s, 205–6, 212, 241–43, 293; English (Tudor), 6, 190–91, 213, 318, 321, 327, 334; High Victorian, 130; neo-, 100, 167, 191, 200, 238; Venetian, 6, 159–63, 161, 163, 167, 319 Gould, Jay, 47 government work, changing nature of, 246, 251–52 Grant, Ulysses S., 60 Great White Way, 319–20, 326–27 Green Hall, 237–38 greenhorns, 80 grid, systematized, 24–25, 38, 71, 87, 110, 122 Guizot, François, 23, 38 Hale, George Ellery, 223–28, 232, 234, 236, 288, 290 Hale, William, 223, 228 Hanna, Mark, 301 Harding, George, 277 Hardouin-Mansart, Jules, 259 Hardy, Stephen, 352n1, 353n21 Harper, William Rainey, 4–5, 183–99, 206–12, 241–44, 288, 336; outreach programs, 221, 238; role in dismissing Cobb as University of Chicago architect, 290–93; and the Yerkes Observatory, 223–28, 232, 234, 236 Harriman, John Wright, 330 Harriman National Bank, 366n34 Harrington, Elaine, 110 Harrison, Benjamin, 60–61 Harrison, Carter, 225, 227 Harrison, William Henry, 61 Hartford Building, 153, 166–70, 168, 170, 175; accidents during and after construction, 169–71, 301 Hasbrouck, Wilbert R., 350n2 Haskell, Caroline E., 221 Haskell Oriental Museum, 221–23, 222 Hastings, Daniel H., 276–78, 283, 294 Haussmann, Eugène, 38 Hayden, Sophia, 133 Haymarket riots, 49, 79, 130 Healy, George P. A., 22, 45, 342n21 Healy & Millet, 163, 165 Heidelberg Building, 318–20, 318, 320, 325–27 Henderson, David, 70, 77, 80, 99 Henrotin, Charles, 15, 68, 72, 76, 78 Henry Diblee House, 350n19 Herkomer House (Richardson), 352n55 Herndon, Richard, 340n12, 341n11, 351n24 Herrick, Robert, 287 Herter Brothers, 45, 47 Higdon, Hal, 353n15 higher education, changes in, 186, 191, 193, 212 Hill, James B., 252 Hill, John, Jr., 346n29

Index 379

Hill, Stephen, 268–75 Hitchcock, Henry-Russell, 270, 296 Hoffmann, Donald, 349n58, 359n46 Holabird, William, 30, 286 Holden, Wheaton A., 341n8 Home Insurance Building (Jenney), 73, 81, 365n17 homeownership for the poor, 217 Horowitz, Helen, 8, 94 Hotchkiss, Almerin, 122 Howells, William Dean, 351n25 Hugh Birch House, 350n19 Hugo, Victor, 309, 311 Hull, Charles Jerold, 215–18, 238, 309 Hull Court (Hull Biological Laboratories), 216–20, 239, 241 Hunt, Richard Morris, 45, 71, 133, 243, 258–60, 262 Hurst, John F., 364n45 Huston, Joseph, 295–97 Hutchinson, Charles L., 5, 48, 52, 79, 95, 98, 154, 157–58; University of Chicago trustee, 185, 188–91, 198, 224, 291–92 imperial self, 61 Independence Hall, Philadelphia, 268, 306 Independent Order of Odd Fellows: skyscraper projects, 156–57, 262 Jackson Park, 124, 135, 188 James, Henry, 100, 103–5, 322–26, 328, 330, 333, 336 Jayne Building (Philadelphia), 353n16 Jefferson, Thomas, 45, 194, 244 Jenkins, Charles E., 356n42 Jenney, William Le Baron, 6, 8, 26, 30, 71, 76, 86, 94, 334; comments on Cobb’s City Hall–County Building proposal, 248; competing for the Chicago Federal Building, 255; Home Insurance Building, 73, 81; parks, 1; preliminary plan for the Chicago Historical Society, 147; speaking out on modern building methods, 253 Johnson, John J., Jr., 227 Johnson, Philip H., 283 Joliet, Louis, 150 Jones, David B., 130 Joseph Dux, 165 Kelly, Elizabeth G., 207, 237 Kelly Hall, 207, 210 Kennard, Dewitt Taylor, 249, 252, 258, 276 Kennicott, Robert, 201 Kent, Sidney A., 38, 201, 204, 206, 225–26 Kent, William, 45 Kent Chemical Laboratory, 204–6, 205, 206, 207, 218, 226 Kenwood Observatory, 223–24, 228

380 Index

Kerfoot, William D., 68, 70, 72, 76, 78, 80 King, Joanne E., 364n45 King Edward Hotel (Toronto), 305 Kipling, Rudyard, 39, 47–48 labor, modern organization of, 3, 6, 29, 70, 158, 332 La Giralda, Seville Cathedral, 247–48, 252 Laird, Warren P., 277–79 Lake Forest (Illinois), 120–23, 121, 132, 287 Lake Forest University, 120, 125; gymnasium, 126–27, 126, 127 Lake Shore Drive, 33, 39, 41, 50, 52 Lake Street, 36–37, 39 Larned, J. N., 101 LaSalle, Robert de, 151 LeBrun, Pierre, 279, 284 Leiter, Levi, 19, 37, 52, 301 L’Enfant, Pierre, 306 Les Invalides, Paris, 259 Lewis, Allen Cleveland, 238 Lewis, Arnold, 46, 173 Lewis Technical Institute, 238, 306 Liberty Tower, 320–22, 321, 324–30, 329, 331, 333 libraries: public, 89–90, 92, 108–9; private, 97, 150, 285 Library of Congress, 92, 101, 306 Lincoln, Abraham, 270 Lincoln, Robert Todd, 93, 97 Lincoln Park, 39–40, 51 Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth, 31 Lord Byron, 325 Lost Rock, 130 Low, Seth, 187, 212 Lowe, David, 45 Lowell, Charles Russell, 35 Lowell, James Russell, 223 MacVeagh, Franklin, 95; mansion, 50, 56 Madison Square Garden, 247 Maine Granite Cutters’ Union, 297 Mallers Building (Tower), 73, 73, 110 Manhattan skyline, 323, 324 Mann, James R., 303, 308–9, 312 mansions as distilled wealth and power, 65 Manson, W. M., 300 marquees, 80, 319 Marquette, Jacques, 150 Marquette Building, 151 Marshall Field Wholesale Store, 110–13, 150 Martineau, Harriet, 23 Mascoutah Kennel Club of Chicago, 124 Masonic Temple, 86, 111, 150, 173, 248, 250 Masons: skyscraper projects, 156–75, 250 Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, 326 McCagg, Ezra, 93–95, 97 McCarthy, Kathleen D., 61, 341n13, 341nn15–17, 341n19, 343n1, 344n24

McClure, Rev. James Gore King, 122, 127 McCormick, Cyrus Hall, 21–24, 26, 38, 52–53, 60–61, 124 McCormick, Cyrus Hall, Jr., 130, 156 McCormick, Leander, 59, 131, 173, 345n48 McCormick, R. Hall, 123 McCormick Building, 110 McCully & Miles, 124 McKim, Charles, 11, 99, 103, 105, 263, 271, 274, 312, 348n38 McKinley, William, 263, 298–99, 306, 315 McKinley Hall, American University, 308, 316 McKinley Manual Training School, 305–6, 306 McMillan, James, 306, 312, 315 Mead, William R., 263 Medill, Joseph, 53 Medinah Temple, 86, 171 Memorial Hall (Harvard), 130, 190 men’s clubs, elite, 5, 18–19, 29–30, 155–56 Merchants’ Association of New York City, 332 metal frames, building production and, 67, 71, 74, 110, 150, 172. See also steel frame metropolis, 2 Metropolitan Life Insurance Tower, 322, 324–27 Metropolitan Museum of Art, 99 Metropolitan Opera House, 77 Michaelson, Albert, 356n45 Michelangelo, 271, 296 Michigan Avenue, 39 Midway Plaisance, 188 Miller, Donald L., 95–98 Mills, Robert, 268 Milwaukee City Hall competition, 143, 143 Minnesota State Capitol, 267, 271, 272, 273, 296 mixed-use buildings, 68, 72, 77–80, 165, 250, 274 modernism, European, 316, 333 Monadnock Building, 86 Monroe, Harriet, 135, 227, 359n11 Morgan, J. P., 60 Morgan Park Library (Frost), 352n55 Morgan Park Theological Seminary, 186 Morrill Land Grant Act of 1862, 186 Moses, John, 356n43 Mullet, Alfred, 252 Mullgardt, Louis Christian, 141, 163, 165, 349n64 Municipal Building (McKim, Mead & White), 250, 325 national identity, 226, 264 Naval Observatory, 243 neoclassicism, 132, 261, 263–64, 299, 334 neo-Romanesque, 334; in Chicago, 27, 55–60, 68, 149–50, 264, 336; office buildings, 72–76, 153. See also Romanesque Neumann, Dietrich, 326

Newberry, Walter L., 16, 21–26, 90, 94, 96, 115, 146, 213; will, 90–93, 96–97 Newberry Library, 89–115, 112, 114, 120, 183, 248, 287; as a civic institution, 95–99, 146, 158; compared to the Chicago Historical Society, 150, 152; sites for, 93–94, 97, 105–6, 111; subject areas, 115 Newhouse, Samuel, 366n34 Newspaper Row (New York), 326–27 newspapers, professionalized, 49–50 New York Athletic Club, 155–56, 159 New York State Capitol, 296 Nickerson, Roland, 156, 287 Nickerson, Samuel, 53, 287 1900 Centennial Plan, Washington, D.C., 306, 307, 312 Nixon Building, 150 Northwestern University, 228 Norton, Charles Eliot, 187 Norton, Francis, 251 Ogden, Mahlon, 16–18; estate, 105–6 Ogden, Marianna Arnot, 195, 215 Ogden, William Butler, 21–26, 38, 51–54, 70, 87, 90, 141; background, 21–22; call for culture in Chicago, 52, 58, 74, 83; Chicago Historical Society, 146, 148, 152; civic humanism of, 22–23, 31, 34; president of the University of Chicago, 182–83, 195, 213, 215 Olmsted, Frederick Law, 26, 122, 124, 131, 135, 188, 312 Olmsted, Vaux and Company, 122, 188 Onwentsia Club, 131–32, 131 opera, 79, 98–99, 250 O. R. Keith House, 58, 58 O’Rourke, Jeremiah, 252–55 Owings, Francis P., 83–87 Owings Building, 68, 81–87, 82, 85, 175, 322, 334 Palmer, Alice Freeman, 207–9 Palmer, Bertha Honoré, 5, 33–35, 41–47, 51, 68, 287–88, 335; art collection, 48, 51, 133; social agenda, 48–50, 95, 135, 157 Palmer, Potter, 5, 15–16, 19, 24, 30–31, 33, 87, 288; development of lakeshore neighborhood, 40, 49–51, 59, 65; retail merchandising, 36–39, 70; as a self-made man, 48; Union Club connection with Cobb, 34–35 Palmer House Hotel, 37, 39 Palmer mansion, 41, 42; description, 40–45; as an institution, 45–52; interiors, 43, 44, 46, 47; as a repository of the decorative arts, 46; staff, 49 Paris Opera, 295 park systems, metropolitan, 39, 51, 135, 188 patronage, 45, 198, 215, 237; Florentine, 226



Patterson, Rev. Samuel, 122 Peabody, Robert Swain, 10–11, 71, 99, 293, 312 Peck, Ferdinand W., 78–80, 95, 98–99, 157–58 Peltz, Paul, 101 Pembroke Lodge, 130 Pennsylvania State Capitol, 268–71, 269, 273, 275, 281, 282, 289, 293–97, 334; budget, 275–76, 279–80, 284; competition, 267–68, 277–79, 293–94; completion by Joseph Huston, 295–97, 295, 296; site, 273 Petit Trianon, Versailles, 273 Pevsner, Nicholas, 7 philanthropy, 181, 227, 288 Philippe, Louis, 342n21 Philippine Islands, 298–99 Piazza San Marco, 326 Pierce, John, 297, 300, 303–4, 308, 363n23 Pioneer Hook and Ladder Company, 200 play, rationalized, 154–55 Poole, William Frederick, 90–99, 106–9, 213, 287; acquisitions, 100, 113; plan for the Newberry Library, 92, 94, 100–102, 115 Porter, Henry H., Jr., 54 Post, George, 349n60, 365n17 post offices, and postal operations, 260–61 Potter, William A., 252 Pridmore, Jay, 362n3 Prince of Wales, 23 Princeton University, 193–95 Probasco, Henry, 100 Produce Exchange Building (Post), 349n60 professionalization, 3–4, 12, 185, 212, 228; in architecture, 10, 16, 30, 120, 163, 264, 286, 294; in education, 24, 71, 185, 192, 226, 335; of knowledge, 98, 216, 244; of librarians, 91, 99 Protestant work ethic, 53, 61, 74 Public Square, Chicago, 245–46, 251, 259, 261, 326 publicity, mansions and, 49 Pullman, George, 19, 24, 31, 38, 98; company town, 38, 61, 65, 186 Pullman Building, 72, 72, 74, 77 quadrangles in campus planning, 191–95, 207, 211, 212, 244 racism, 178 railroads, 3, 21–22, 34, 38, 52–54, 65, 98, 200; Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad, 33, 53–54; Chicago & Northwestern Railroad, 21, 53–54; Galena and Chicago Union Railroad, 21, 200; Pennsylvania Railroad, 276; Union Pacific, 21, 53 Railway Exchange Building (Burnham), 264 recession, 25, 215, 245 Reliance Building, 321 Remsen, Ira, 204

382 Index

Resse, Pio, 100 Rhode Island State Capitol Building, 267, 271, 272, 273–74, 274 Richardson, Henry Hobson, 1, 8–9, 27, 45, 113, 120, 255; atelier, 176; Billings Library, 129–30; Glessner House, 57; late houses, 62; MacVeagh mansion, 50, 56, 95; Marshall Field Wholesale Store, 110; resort homes, 41; staircase in the New York State Capitol, 296 Richter, Joseph, 141–42 Robert Clark Competition, 119 Roberts, Rev. William C., 125–27 Roche, Martin, 1, 6, 8, 30 Rockefeller, John D., 183–87, 195–96, 207, 213, 333–34 Rodin, Auguste, 228 Romanesque, 1, 57, 59, 73–76, 86, 159; classicized, 238, 248; Norman, 241; office buildings, 109–11, 113, 173, 175; for the Yerkes Observatory, 228. See also neoRomanesque Rookery Building, 81, 110, 150, 173, 175, 264 Roosevelt, Theodore, 306 Root, John Wellborn, 19, 26, 29–30, 62, 72–73, 76, 86, 110; floating raft foundation, 81; originality, 1, 6, 8, 76, 334 Rorke, Allen B., 283 Ross, Ishbel, 46 Rossbach, Arved, 102 Ruskin, John, 62, 163, 325 Ryerson, Martin A., 5, 185, 188–91, 200, 204, 226–27, 236, 292; civic humanism of, 212; relationship with Coolidge, 290 Ryerson Physical Laboratory, 200–201, 202, 203, 205, 218, 226 safety deposit company, 167 satyrs, 233 Scammon, J. Young, 21, 90, 146, 183, 228, 341n13 Schliemann, Heinrich, 232–33 Schuyler, Montgomery, 81, 84, 110–13, 159–63, 175, 179, 340n14, 356n42; on the Columbian Exposition, 139–40, 143–44, 243; on Manhattan’s skyline, 322, 324–26, 328, 330, 333 Seale, William, 270, 296, 359nn18–19, 359n36, 360n49, 360n3, 360nn7–8, 360n10 Second Presbyterian Church, Washington Street, Chicago, 122, 250 self-made men and women, 4–5, 11–12, 16, 23–26, 31, 33, 60, 79–80, 83, 288 self-making in Chicago, 5, 34, 53, 151, 158, 181, 198–99 settlement houses, 49, 157, 159, 186, 218, 288, 300, 309. See also Addams, Jane Shaw, Leslie M., 303–5, 308–9 Shaw, Richard Norman, 40

Shingle Style, 132 Shinnecock Hills, 131–32 Silsbee, Lyman, 147 Sinclair, Harry F., 333–34 Sinclair Building, 333 Singer Tower, 322, 324–28, 330 Siry, Joseph, 7–8, 70, 77–80, 343nn7–8, 345n12, 346n15, 346nn17–18 skyscrapers, 6–7, 72, 83, 87, 264, 270; accidents during construction and public fears, 166–71; for an athletic club, 154, 157–58, 163; capacity to generate income, 250; in Chicago, 175; as civic entities, 246, 250; commercial, 155, 165, 252, 326; construction, 154; experimental structures, 81; height limits, 167, 171, 248–49; as landmarks, 84; major changes in form, height, and size, 320, 322, 324; mixed-use, 80, 165; new technologies, 333; and pictorialism in photography, 329; publicity potential, 153, 319, 325–26; and rationalized work, 172–73; rooflines, 86; setback, 1, 260–62; as signs of fundamental changes in the U.S. economy, 334; steel-framed, 161 Smith, Augustus F., 21 Smith, Emma Martin, 21 Smith, Frank Hill, 30 Smith, Perry H., 53, 59, 345n48 Smith, William Henry, 130 Smithmeyer, John L., 101, 306 Snell, Henrietta and Amos J., 207 Snell Hall, 208 South Kensington Museum, 46 Spalding, A. G., 154, 156, 169 sport, sports culture and, 153, 155 sporting life linked with hunting, 165 stack plan for libraries, 100–102, 106, 108 Stanford University, 193–95, 193, 241 Starrett, Paul, 316–17, 364n3 state capitols, 267, 270 State Street, 36–39, 37, 70 steel frame: rejected in government buildings, 252, 254, 283; in skyscrapers, 161–62, 165, 175, 264, 321; used in building, 81, 150, 250, 334 steel-reinforced concrete, 293 Stevens, George Warrington, 50, 133, 344n30, 351n25 stonecutting, 302–3 Stone Derrick Men’s Union, 298 St. Paul’s Cathedral, 271 St. Peter’s Basilica, 271 Strickland, William, 268 Strong, Henry, 22, 141 Struss, Karl, 328 Studebaker, Clement, 5, 33–34, 59–65, 143, 200 Studebaker Building (Studebaker Repository), 60, 60, 67, 73–74, 173

Studebaker Mansion. See Tippecanoe St. Urbain, Troyes, France, 240 Sullivan, Louis Henry, 30–31, 72, 79, 179, 223, 287; description of the Marshall Field Store, 111, 113; Golden Door, 133, 135; originality, 1, 5–8, 25–26, 334; on the skyscraper, 176, 252, 262, 286, 311, 321 Sullivan, M. J., 297–98 Tacoma Building, 76, 81–83, 83, 85–87 Talbot, Marion, 207–9 Tallmadge, Thomas, 51, 341n20, 342n39, 343n42, 343n16, 344n37, 345n50, 345n10, 350n8 Tarsney Act (1893), 253–55, 263, 311 Taylor, Frederick, 177 Teapot Dome scandal (1921), 334 technologies, modern (new): in building, 228; effect on property values and building heights, 71; impact on books, 91; impact on development in Chicago, 2–3, 24, 38, 65, 212 telescopes, 183, 224–25, 227, 234–36 theater production, systematized, 70 theaters, fire precautions and, 77 Thornton, William, 270 Times Square, 318–20 Times Tower, 318–19, 319, 326 Tippecanoe, 59–65, 62, 63; floor plans, 64 titles, abstracts and insurance, 172 Tocqueville, Alexis de, 270, 296 town-gown antagonism, 194 Treasury Department, Office of Supervising Architect, 252–56, 263, 309 Trinity Church, Wall Street, 323, 325 Trinity College, 194–95, 241 T-Square Club, Philadelphia, 278 Union Club, Boston, 31–32, 35, 340n4 Union Club, Chicago, 15–32, 27, 28, 34–35, 54, 59, 68, 72, 155–56; architectural competition, 15–16, 19, 24–25, 31; description, 26–29; membership, 24; prominent members, 340n1 Union League Club, Manhattan, 19, 20, 26 Union Stock Yard Company, 38, 204 Union Trust Building, 365n17 University Club, 59, 346n4 University Library at Leipzig, 102, 103 University of Chicago, 119, 181–13, 213, 333; architectural features, 194, 200–201, 205; competition, 181–82, 187–91, 189; engagement with the city, 184–87, 193–95, 212, 244; extension division (outreach programs), 185–86, 193, 212, 221, 243, 288, 300, 336; first and second, 182–87; funding, 184–85, 206, 212, 215, 218, 221, 225, 232, 237; science program, 215; site, 187–88, 192, 194

Index 383

University of Chicago Press, 186 University of Southern California, 224 Upton, Dell, 25 urban development, 51 urban planning, modern, 38 U.S. Capitol, Washington, D.C., 270–71, 275 U.S. Customs House (New York), 305, 305 Van Brunt, Henry, 135–36, 139, 141, 144, 306, 348n33, 351n31 Van Buren, Martin, 23 Vanderbilt, Alva, 48 Vanderbilt, William H., 54 Vanderbilt mansion, 42, 45 Van Osdel, John, 22–23, 29, 31, 39, 70–71, 133, 245, 251 villa, traditional, 51–52 von Nerta, George O., 303–4, 308, 312 Walker, George C., 190, 201, 212, 218, 226 Walker Museum, 201, 204, 205, 209, 211, 222, 226 Walter, Thomas U., 270–71 Ware, William, 295 Washington Park, 188 Washington Square, Chicago, 16–19, 32, 53, 106, 115 Webster, Daniel, 23 Wellington Hotel, 171 Wells, H. G., 319 Wells, Ida B., 135 Western Association of Architects (WAA), 30–31, 91–92, 263 Western Union telegraph, 201 Wetherald, Houghton, 92, 347n9, 348n28, 348n32, 348nn37–39, 348nn41–42, 349n44, 349n51, 349n64, 350n67

384 Index

Wharf, India, 9 White, Andrew, 187 White City. See Columbian Exposition of 1893 Whitehouse, Francis, 147 Wight, Peter B., 26, 97, 255 Willard, Frances, 135 Wilson, Richard Guy, 263, 357n21 Wilson, Woodrow, 193 Winsor, Justin, 100, 106–7 Wister, Owen, 297 Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, 186, 250 Woman’s Temple, 86, 110, 150, 173, 250 women: admitted into universities, 206–7, 209; role in modernizing America, 133–35 Women’s Club, 68 Woods, Mary N., 31, 339n4, 343n40, 354n39, 354n41, 366nn32–33 Woodward & Lothrop department stores, 305 Woolworth Building, 320, 325–28 Work: new forms of organization, 2–4, 24 World’s Fair. See Columbian Exposition of 1893 Wren, Christopher, 271 Wright, Frank Lloyd, 1, 6–8, 80, 287; lecture on architecture, 309–13 Wright, Gwendolyn, 7, 355n13 Wright, John S., 70, 122, 135, 188 Yale University, 185, 190, 194–95 Yerkes, Charles Tyson, 5, 215–16, 223–28, 232, 234–37, 241, 288 Yerkes Observatory, 223–37, 229, 230, 231, 232, 233, 235, 243, 248; site, 227 York, Byron, 146 Young, Brigham, 9, 366n34 Young Men’s Association, 96 Young Men’s Christian Association, 155, 186