Monday, May 31, 2010

Mrs. Isaac Bowen Residence - the latest casualty?

The aim of the blog is to typically present a random building designed by J. L. Silsbee.  There is nothing random about today's choice.  This relatively modest stone home was designed for Mrs. Isaac Bowen in 1892.  It was designed at a high point in Silsbee's career.  His office would have been over-crowded with residential commissions and he would have been overseeing the final touches on his many buildings and projects designed for the World's Columbian Exposition.  For the period, it is not a remarkable work of architecture.  Nor does the home have a remarkable history.     
Regardless of it's architectural and historical significance, it is nicely detailed with several of Silsbee's signature design elements including stone arranged in a random ashlar coursing as seen in almost all of his stone structures.  It has a large recessed arch with a porch area at the top floor, a feature also seen in the Henry Stone Residence.  It also has a dominant round front bay that is also seen in the Henry Barber Residence. The porch structure at the entry is nicely detailed but is not seemmlessly incorporated into the rest of the structure as it is in many of his more carefully designed homes.  That said, it is still a fine building with a lot of detail. 
It is somewhat late example of Silsbee's Romanesque designs.  The style saw it's height of production from 1878 to about 1886, though he continued work in this masonry style into the years just before his death.

What is unique about the structure, is that it appears that it will be the latest Silsbee building to be lost due to poor maintenance and care and general lack of appreciation of historic architecture.  Since moving to Chicago 13 years ago, I have seen relatively few of Silsbee's buildings get demolished but they still seem to get demolished on a regular basis.  An odd situation for a city that touts itself as an architectural capitol.   A stone beauty designed for Mrs. Anson Piper on Indiana Avenue (1887) was demolished in 1999.  The Kirkland School (1892), in the Gold Coast Neighborhood, came down about five years later.  His last remaining Edgewater home, designed for J. L. Cochran (1890), came down in 2006.    

Even if the exterior of the home is saved, the building is completely gutted and is currently exposed to the elements.  Wood trim and fine porcelain subway tile lay in piles in the alley behind the structure.

1 comment:

Gregory H. Jenkins AIA said...

Even when the building is sadly gone, the photographs remain. Thanks, at least, for this.