Sunday, June 20, 2010

Lincoln Park Comfort Station

I have always found it ironic that some of Silsbee's smallest and seemingly least significant works are the ones that received the most attention.  Perhaps it is because the more significant buildings have succumbed to the wrecking ball or maybe this has some deeper insight into the values of architectural historians.
One of these modest gems is a cottage that Silsbee designed for Lincoln Park.  It was commissioned in 1888 and served as toilet facilities for the park and nearby zoo.  A rendering of the project that appeared in the local construction journal, the Building Budget, was prepared by Prairie School architect George Maher.   
The structure is exquisitely detailed with pressed brick, rounded at the corners, with large boulders as a primary wall material, capped with a widely flared hipped roof.  The materials and expression of the structure have the same refined articulation that can be found in homes of the same period that Silsbee's office was designing in the Buena Park and Edgewater neighborhoods of Chicago. 
The Lincoln Park Cottage, with its unique character, set the tone for other park structures that were to follow. The materials and entry configuration were echoed in Silsbee's design for the Lincoln Park Conservatory as well as the park offices located at the rear of the Conservatory. 
The wide eaves and low-slung character of the structure were also repeated by Silsbee when he was called upon to design subsequent structures for the Lincoln Park Zoo.  
The structure is a Chicago Landmark, possibly the greatest distinction and protection given to any of Silsbee's structures anywhere.  It was lovingly restored two years ago and is currently used as a volunteer coordinator's office for the park's gardens.   

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