The Architect, April 19, 1873
(By our Special Correspondent.)
THE approach to Chicago by either the Michigan Central or Illinois Central railroads, is along the western shore of the Lake, the road forming for some distance an embankment, with a space, sometimes covered by water, between it and the city. Hence a good deal of the inconvenience so common to American railways, of running through crowded streets, is avoided, and the terminus, or depot as they call it here, occupies a comparatively central position,just south of the embaucbure of the creek,or bayou, called the Chicago River, which, at a distance of about a mile from the Lake, divides into two branches,thereby breaking the city into what an Irishman would call “three halves.” This peculiarity of site seems to have been utterly ignored by those who laid out the city, and adopted the regular chess-board plan notwithstanding; a few diagonal streets or avenues being introduced here and there to avoid the obvious inconvenience of having to traverse two sides of a right-angled triangle, instead of the third. The square mile immediately south of the mouth of the river, in the vicinity of the depot above-mentioned was the chief business quarter, and along each of the river branches for several miles are the stock and timber yards, factories, and dwellings of the poorer classes, while along the lake shore,northand south,and in the district west of the centre, between the two river branches, are, or rather were, the three residential quarters. Of these divisions,the business quarter just south of the river, and the residential quarter north of it, have been the principal sufferers, both having been, to all intents, completely destroyed,the damage to the other districts being comparatively unimportant.
The buildings of the depot at which we are landed having been destroyed by the fire, we arrive under temporary wooden sheds, and enter at once upon a region in which order is being rapidly evolved out of chaos. The route traversed by the omnibus on its way to the “Tremont House” (one of the principal hotels temporarily re-established in the southern suburbs) going through the chief seat of the conflagration, brings at once under our observation the magnitude of the calamity and the energy with which it is being remedied. Mountainous piles of bricks, mortar, and other building materials obstruct the roadways,and at irregular intervals along the old lines of streets appear what maybe called the first year’s crop of new buildings which have risen from the ashes. The intervening spaces, large and ghastly enough to be sure, are occupied to a great extent by the temporary sheds in which the business energy of the city was forced to take refuge. Conspicuous among these shanties are those which are tenanted by members of the architectural profession, who hoist their signs very much in the manner depicted by “Phiz,” in his illustration of Messrs. Chuzzlewit & Co.’s establishment in the valley of Eden, let us hope, however, with more success. The house now occupied as the hotel above mentioned, stands just at the southern limit of the burnt district,on the margin of the lake, and is a good point whence to take observations. The two most fashionable avenues, Wabash and Michigan, extend for several miles south of it along the lake shore,and givea very favourable impression as to the wealth and tasteof the inhabitants. These avenues are lined with handsome villas, such as would cost from 3,000 l.to 10,000 l. in England (costing much more here, however), generally built of brick, and with marble and other more expensive materials for dressings, and although not quite of the architectural character to lease Mr. Ruskin, still quite as good as the majority of suburban villas about London or other large English cities. They commonly have some space around them, neatly kept and planted, and the sides of the avenues themselves are also frequently sodded and planted so as to give a cheerful rural aspect, and with the broad expanse of the lake, or rather inland sea, in front, present an air of comfort and salubrity which contrasts very favourably with the miles of gloomy brown stone streets which constitute the fashionable residential quarter of New York. In fact,the aspect of the up-town portion of the latter city is very dreary, and especially when we reach its outskirts and come upon straggling lines of brown stone mansions, half finished and interspersed with bleak and rugged patches occupied by just such shanties as now appear in the burnt district of Chicago, we are inclined to ask, “Where are the suburbs?” and hearing that there are none, to despair as I did in a previous letter of ever finding anything attractive in the surroundings of an American city. Justice compels me to admit that the two outlets of Chicago, which escaped the fire, are very pleasant, and the one which was so unhappily destroyed on the north side seems to have been equally, if not more, attractive.
The portion of the south residential district immediately adjoining the burnt business quarter has been largely invaded since the fire by the various banks and business houses of all kinds which were so cruelly dislodged. Here we find the post-office in temporary occupation of a large Methodist Church,and for some distance along the avenues villas appear covered with announcements and cut up in various ways for business purposes. An equally extensive irruption has been made into the western division, and as thesetwo districts are separated both by the river and the burnt district, no small inconvenienceis caused by the difficulty of communication. Indeed, this latter wasat all times very great, as the bridges were all on swivels, and in frequent operation caused by the constant struggle between the river and street trafic. Of late years this difficulty had been got over (or rather under) by the construction of tunnels, of which thereare two or three, but many more are required. When we get out some distance on the avenues, wooden houses appear more frequently, and in the poorer quarters along the river wood is almost exclusively used, so that in these districts one may walk for miles without meeting a house built of any other material. This is in fact the whole explanation of the enormous catastrophe which has recently desolated this and another well-known American city, and it is one in which the honest truth is seldom told. The business portion of Chicago before the fire, judging from the aspect of the ruins, was largely built of brick and stone,and had some buildings (the Post-office, for instance) in which special care had been exercised to guard against fire. But in all these buildings stately and substantialas they looked, wood was much more largely used than is usual in any European city of the present day, and, as above-mentioned in, the districts inhabitedby the poorer classit was almost exclusively used. A fire having once got head in such a district, and being driven by a powerful wind into another slightly less inflammable would not make any distinction, but, on the contrary, as many materials which ignite least readily produce the most powerful heat when ignited, it acquired such power as that no class of structure, however entitled to be called fire-proof, could stand before it. It is utterly preposterous to erect the public buildings of a city in such a manner, while for miles around no restrictions are exercisedas to the use of inflammable materials in private dwellings. Even a Chubb’s or Chatwood’s safe would be scarcely warranted to resist the fires of a blast furnace, no more could the comparatively few brick, stone, or iron buildings of Chicago or Boston be expected to resist the flames fed by thousands of wooden structures around them.
Looking east down Lake Street from LaSalle Street
An interesting phenomenon just here presents itself, which gives rise to a suggestion which it is to be hoped the civic authorities of more than one American city maybe induced to adopt. I alludeto a house moving along the street. By this time one has become pretty well used to meeting locomotive engines, with their trains, in the streets of American cities; but now we come upon houses on their travels, exciting no more attention seemingly than the cabs and omnibuses. It is very easily managed; the brick foundation being cut into and strong sleepers inserted to form a kind of cradle under which a set of wooden rollers are placed, for which loose planks are laid on the roadways, and the house drawn out over them by ropes and a capstan. The latter is removed at intervals, and a couple of men attend to moving the rollers and planks also, so that the whole thing is very quietly and cheaply done. Considering its facility, I respectfully suggest that a goodly number of these wooden houses be given “notice to quit.” There is some novelty in giving notice to the house, instead of to the tenant as in the old country; but of course things are different here. Enough of wooden districts remain in and about Chicago to burn the new city on its completion; in fact, it seemed to me from their extent that the most inflammable part of the city had escaped, I fear, unless greatly improved, to cause further conflagrations, which would be benefits if they could be confined to the districts in which they broke out, and did not carry with them so much of poverty, desolation and death. It is hard to predict where the next blow may fall; but although New York has had for some years past a building law which, if fully carried out, would greatly diminish its dangers, enough of flimsy and inflammable building remains from former times to furnish food for very extensive conflagrations. Nor is this building law by any means so complete as it should be. It seems to place no restriction on the erection of public buildings, such as theatres, churches and concert-rooms, with the staircases, partitions and corridors of wood throughout; and the same applies to the hotels of nine and ten storeys in height, and to blocks of chambers or ofices of equal extent.
Again, not only is wood thus used for constructional parts, but it is also much more freely used for decorative features than is common in Europe, and as appears to me quite unnecessarily in many instances. One example of its employment which, while entailing increased expense seems quite superfluous, is in studding or battening to the internal surface of all external walls. This practice, which may be considered as exploded in England and even in Ireland, where the humidity of the climate in some degree justifies it, is almost universal in America, notwithstanding that there is not one wet day here for four in the British Islands, and many other of the precautions requisite to guard against damp in the old country are found quite unnecessary here. I am utterly at a less to know why it should be continued. Excellent bricks are manufactured in or near every city in the Union, capable of being used, if necessary, to build hollow walls, and receive any requisite kind of internal finish. Of course wooden battening involves lathing to receive the plastering, and carries in its train a number of architectural deceits too numerous to mention, the aesthetic defects of which might be passed over did they not also almost invariably add to the inflammable character of the structures in which they are used.
The city of Brooklyn, containing over 300,000 inhabitants, which may be consideredas chiefly a residential suburb to New York, is to this day totally innocent of a building law, hence no restriction exists on the erection of wooden structures to any extent. The depots of the ferries and railroads are all of wood, and in the outlets, rows upon rows of terrace dwelling houses maybe seen still in course of erection of the same material. The other similarly circumstanced suburb of Jersey City, in which all the leading railroad termini are situate, enjoys equal immunity; hence, two gigantic conflagrations of railroad depots have occurred within the last few months.
One useful result to be hoped for from these fires, is the more general adoption of brick both externally and internally. As I remarked in a previous letter, the American mind seems to have hitherto entertained an unaccountable objection to that venerable, substantial, and, if you will, highly, classical material. To live in a “brownstone” house was the acme of a New Yorker’s pride, to be compelled by cruel fate to dwell within brick walls involved social degradation. To have a pew in a church of marble or granite was something, but to attend a brick meeting-house was a very poor miserable thing indeed. A retail dry goods store of cast-iron, provided it had only enough of architectural lying on its face in the shape of arcades, pillars, consoles, rustications, & c., was a noble establishment, worthy of a merchant prince; but could any fashionable customers be expected to frequent one of brick? It did not matter that the brown stone or marble was laid on in the thinnest slices, and largely counterfeited by cast-iron or zinc, so long as the hated brick was kept out of sight all was well. And even when the much despised material was by dire necessity made to appear, it could not be used honestly, but must be used so as to look as if built differently from what it really was. Bartholomew severely reprobated the introduction in his day of Flemish bond to supersede the Old English, on account of its supposed better appearance, though inferior strength, but what would he say to American brick facing, which is so skilfully contrived as to make a wall appear as if built all of stretchers, no header being allowed to show.
A walk through the burnt district of Chicago, however, speaks volumes in favour of the much abused material. So to be sure would an examination of the substructures of the Coliseum, the amphitheatre at Pozzuoli, and the Baths of Caracalla, but lessons derived from the experience of the old world were to be neglected till re-writtm. by fire and blood upon the ruined cities of the new. I have not seen anything to warrant the stories whose current about the inflammable stone said to have been used. The various stones used seem to have borne the intense heat to which they were subjected “as well as could be expected.” Wherever enough of it was used, in connection with brick, and in walls of sufficient thickness, not dependent upon wood or iron for support, it seems to have stood pretty well; but the instances of this were few and far between. Numerous cases appear in which everything seems to have given way but the brick vaults, which erected on each floor for safe custody of papers, & c., now appear as towers of strength amid the ruins. Wherever the contents have suffered it has been commonly not from any failure of the brickwork, but from the heating of the iron doors, which, like the celebrated patent impossible, impregnable, and impermeable safes, so largely relied on, have proved unequal to the trial.
Whatever remains to excite interest in the ruins of the business quarter, when we proceed to the northern residential quarter the destruction seems to have been so complete as literally to “leave not a rack behind.” The wind being from the south, when the conflagration had well fastened on the business quarter the volume of flame was driven north, and seems to have cleared away nearly everything above ground in that direction. The rain has fallen and the grass grown on this scene of desolation, so that now, unless for occasional indications, one might suppose this district had been always as bare as Claphamor Wimbledon Common, instead of being but a few monthsagoas full of delightful residences as St.John’s Wood, Notting Hill, or any other choice metropolitan suburb. And as it will require all the energies of the afflicted but resolute Chicagoans to rebuild the business portion of the city within the next few years, I fear this once charming residential suburb will remain for a much longer time “a howling wilderness.” I However, in one or two directionsa speculative builder seems to have tried his hand on a row of houses,and I think if a few more of that worthy class, with only some capital or credit, would take the matter in hand, they might do well both for themselves and the burnt-out city. Very high rents might not be had at once, but in a few years, the business quarter being completed, and trade re-established with greater vigour than ever, as it is sure to be, the demand for dwellings of superior class will become very great, and those who may have“ taken time by the forelock” will be certainto reap a good harvest.
Curiously enough, the city water-works, situate in this district, by the margin of the lake, seem to have quite escaped,the engine and boiler houses, water-tower, & c., being quite uninjured, and almost uninterrupted in their operation. I can only account for it by reference to the superior manner in which they were built, of stone chiefly, little or no wood being used in their construction. The residence of one of the city magnates, although only a frame house, seems also to have wondrously escaped; but this is accounted for by the large space around it, which alone rendered it possible to guard it from the tempest of flame which cleared away the surrounding district. This incident proves what I have elsewhere remarked, that frame houses, if only sufficiently isolated, standing in gardens or grounds of their own, are comparatively unobjectionable. But once they begin to multiply, and form rows or streets, the danger becomes very great, and demands immediate legislative interference.
The new buildings which have risen almost “like an exhalation,” are now so far complete as to be fair subjects for criticism. At a rough estimate, I should say fully one-third of the business quarter has been rebuilt—not bad for the first year’s operations. Whether it be that exorbitant rents are demanded, or that much of the business has removed into what were formerly the residential quarters, I know not, but a good many notices of stores, and especially offices to let, appear on the new buildings. Many, however, are in vigorous occupation, and wherever this is the case, the buildings being also light and new, that portion of the city has an uncommonly smart appearance, very much like the new portion of Paris before the siege. Indeed,the promise is that the new business portion of Chicago, being about one square mile in extent, will in that respect outshine any other city, unless, indeed, Boston-which has got a nearly similar opportunity—be stirs herself to rebuild in a superior style.
Chamber of Commerce II
The Land Owner
One difficulty which Boston has to contend with (and in which London failed), Chicago did not experience, namely, the necessity for rearranging the streets. This was done, for good or evil, so as to be irrevocable before the fire, and so far as straightness and width are concerned, quite fairly enough. All that is desirable further is—what is now being gradually carried out—the substitution of stone for wood in the side-walks, with the provision of proper channels and crossings.
The new buildings present many commendable features, especially the more plentiful use of bricks in the party-walls, which seem to be of respectable thickness throughout, and in which, also, the very simple and obvious expedient of corbelling out for the floor joists is generally adopted. In this respect New York builders might take a lesson, their practice being to run the joists into the walls, often miserably thin. The architectural character of nearly all the new buildings must be pronounced as “of the shop, shoppy,” but inasmuch as nearly all are for trades, this is no more than to say it is in harmony with the purposes of the buildings. There has been but one important public building as yet rebuilt—the Chamber of Commerce—which has been rehabilitated nearly on its original design, under the direction of the original architect, Mr. J. C. Cochrane—already well known as the architect of the Illinois State Capitol at Springfield. It is a good piece of modern Italian architecture, mostly executed in stone of good colour, but with some of the upper cornices of zinc. This building was opened with great éclat a year after the fire, and it is only to be regretted that such unseemly haste was used in its re-erection, so as scarcely to give the architect fair play, and necessitate such a flimsy mode of construction in any part.
The Architect, May 3, 1873
(By our Special Correspondent.)
AS might be expected,the architects already established in Chicago,and who had the chief share in its previous work, have had the lion’s share in its restoration also, some of these gentlemen having had the opportunity, which falls to the lot of but few, of re-erecting all their previous works over again. Let us hope they have made well by this windfall. Cortes they have not been without rivals, for at every turn one sees shingles at all possible heights,from the first to the tenth storeys—”Vitruvius T. Square, architect;” “ Brown, architect and superintendent of works;” “Jones, architect: retail stores a specialty;” “Figgins, church architect.” &c, &c.
It is rather striking that the builders seem to take none of this trouble to advertise themselves, but ratherlet themselves be sought for, assuming a much more dignified position. However, the explanation is easy.
The American public has yet to learn that an architect should be a man of special and high-class training as well as experience and should be valued accordingly. In that matter the training necessary for any profession is greatly under-rated—a year‘s study being considered ample for a physician or lawyer. The material capital necessary to start as an architect is very small. Given a pair of tressels, a drawing-board, T-square, and box of instruments, and there you are. As for training, impudence will do as well, perhaps better. To be a builder or contractor, one must.have some little capital or credit. Hence it is that Chicago is at present overrun with professed architects, who seem ready to do business on any terms or no terms, and to resort to all sorts of undignified expedients to bring themselves before the public.
That respectable body,the American Institute of Architects, no doubt is bringing some good influence to bear on the public mind generally, but I fear not by any means to the extent it should. Like its most respectable prototype, the R.I.B.A., it seems rather addicted to questions of a high and,as I may say, etherial character, than to those which bear direction the practice of its members. The fixing of proper rates for the various services required of an architect and of terms on which competitions should be conducted, seems to be just as far distant from realisation here as in England. And, in particular, the American profession seems to have grievously neglected both its own and clients’ interests in not long since having recognised and caused to be understood the necessity for local superintendents, or, as called in England “Clerks of Works.” Even in the city of New York, where things are more closely in accordance with the European practice than elsewhere, buildings costing 100,000l. or upwards, are suffered to go on without any closer supervision than occasional visits from the architect. It is time for the Americans to see that this is, to use one of their own expressive phrases, “a one-horse mode of doing business.” The one horse in question namely, the architect, unless gifted like Sir Boyle Roche’s bird with the power of being in two placesat one time—must either confine himself wholly to one building, or risk his client’s interests and his own reputation on the chance of the builder or his workmen proving invariably capable and honest. The clients should be made to understand that it is thoroughly penny wise and pound foolish to grudge the expense of a qualified and independent officer to be constantly on the spot. It would be also the greatest possible benefit to the profession if the younger members could only get employment in that capacity, instead of hanging up shingles and haunting garrets in frantic competition with each other, as they do at present.
Mr. A. B. Mullett, architect to the United States Treasury, seems at any rate to have a better notion of the system on which business should be conducted, and to have brought the authorities of that department to his way of thinking. That gentleman has at present a number of buildings in progress under his direction in the principal cities of the Union—often thousands of miles from each other—which are ably carried out by simply having competent resident superintendents on the works. He is about to commence operations shortly at Chicago in the erection of an immense pile for the Post Office, Custom House,and general United States offices. The design of this building has been published in a local journal (The Land Owner) and if carried out, as it is likely to be, in the most durable materials, it will undoubtedly form a very effective and imposing pile. There has been a good deal of adverse criticism expended on it, and perhaps the best way is to let your readers judge for themselves by giving an illustration of it in due time. It is commonly said, perhaps with truth,that Uncle Sam, like his children. knocks plenty of hard work out of his architects,and however liberal in his expenditure in stone, marble, &c., grudges payment for brains, the architects receiving very small annual stipends—not commissions; but let us hope that as Congress has recently taken a fit of doubling salaries (including those of its own members), such able and hard-working officials will not be forgotten. Neither Uncle Sam or anyone else can expect first-rate talent any more than first-class stone or marble without paying for it.
The Grand Pacific Hotel,
Leased by Gage Bros. & Rice, of the Sherman House, to be Opened March 1, 1873
The Land Owner, April 1872
That colossal structure, the Pacific Hotel, which was about half-way up at the timeof the fire, and suffered so much as almost to require a complete rebuilding, is in an advanced state,and promises to be a very splendid establishment. It has the immense advantage of being free on all sides, and can be viewed from a considerable distance as well as closeat hand. The general composition is somewhat of the modern Parisian type, reminding us vary much of the Grand Hotel at Paris; but, as might be expected, the detail and finish are not quite of that elaborate and exquisite class in which the French delight. However,there is more of boldness, and on the whole the effect is very good. The architect is Mr. W. W. Boyington, who is also building the terminus of the Michigan Southern Railroad near—a massive structure of stone, seemingly well adapted to its purpose, and, let us hope, such as will set a good example in place of the flimsy or ginger bread structures so commonly used for similar purposes in this
The new buildings for the Singer Manufacturing Company, by Mr. Jenison, present another example of the prevailing style which has so thoroughly taken root in this country as almost to deserve to be called “American Renaissance.” The general composition is French, and the detail bolder, but not so refined. in fact, the haste with which these buildings have to be designed, and the little leisure left to the architect when, as above mentioned, he is expected to do the business of clerk of the works as well as his own, renders it impossible to study and elaborate the detail as it should be done. I suppose, however, it is time enough for the American public to get elegant and carefully-studied detail when they are willing to pay for it.
Singer Building I
In Process of Erection at the Southeast Corner of State and Washington Streets, Field, Leiter & Co.’s Old Site
The Land Owner, June, 1872
A little moreof wandering through the rebuilt city, and one begins to feel that these huge blocks of retail and wholesale stores and hotels, all loaded with commonplace features and surmounted by the invariable Mansards, are mighty tiresome. Even in Paris one soon gets to feel that, with all the elegance of detail, one hotel, or maison meublée, is very like another. Here and there attemptshave been madeat Gothic, but these seem generally confined to the substitution of pointed for semicircular arches, and Gothic for Italian mouldings, and do not affect the general composition. As I understand more than one noted Americo-Gothicist has “made tracks” for Chicago since the fire, I expected to find a little more attempt in that direction, but I suppose the prevailing tendencies were too strong in favour of the Parisian style. As “good Americans when they die go to Paris,” so the more like Paris their cities can be made the better; when they have arrived at a little more advanced stage it will be time enough to indulge them in something of Nuremberg.
The marvelous rapidity with which the rebuilding has been carried on has not been attained without sacrifice in more than one direction. And here let me remark that nothing can be more absurd than the overdrawn accounts as to the solidity, costliness, & c., of the materials employed than the accounts which have reached some of the English papers, the Daily News in particular. If Chicago be dependent, as is often said, upon its credit with European and Eastern merchants, what more likely to damage this than exaggerated and untrue statements as to the extravagant style in which it is being rebuilt? I have seenan accountof one building having fallen before it was occupied, also descanted on as an example of the reverse of this, but where so many new buildings are run up, some will occasionally get into unskilful or parsimonious hands. As a general rule the buildings seemed to me fairly built, with plenty of brick work and timber in them (items in which the London builder commonly scamps). As for stone and marble, they are almost exclusively used for decorative features, and sliced awfully thin, often seton edge and grooved to represent solid rusticated masonry. This species of architectural lying is, I suppose,considered white comparedwith the moredirectprocessof paintingcast-ironor zinc to= represent the same. However, both species flourish at Chicago, the latter material being in especial demand for cornices, which,as there is practically no limit to their projection, overhang to an extent to strike the passer-by with terror, until he learns the material of which theyare formed. The cornices of the Farnese Palace at Rome, and of the Riccardi and Strosziat Florence, frown down upon us (in zinc) from the summits of dry goods and ready-made boot and shoe stores, and inasmuch as the friezes of some are of great height,the panels are skilfully made into windows to light the= garrets. Massive pediments and tympana, recalling the Agora at Athens, may be seen, easily hoisted into their places by two men and a crab-winch. However, like the devil, they do not look so bad when they are painted, and when a gorgeous description of their palatial effect comes out in the Chicago Tribune or The Land Owner (with an engraving), who knows the difference?
Notwithstanding all this, I believe the rebuilt Chicago will be a considerable improvementon what was destroyed, for as far as can be judged from the ruins and unburnt portion, the architecture previously in vogue was still more showy and flimsy. A good many of the churches remain, and these are especially distinguished by such qualities. No congregation, of whatever sect, seems to have been contented without a lofty spire, a vast amount of pinnacles and a profusion of geometrical tracery.
But it was another thing to get theseof genuine materials, hence they were commonly of wood,iron, zinc,or othercheats. And in this execrable bad taste all denominations share equally. In a former communication referring to another city, I had to discriminate, giving the Roman Catholics and Protestant Episcopalians credit for juster notions of church building than the other sects; but here all seem on a level, utterly ignoring the first principles of good taste in their buildings. Whether there will be any improvement in the churches which will have to be built to replace the burnt ones, remains yet to be seen.
Michigan Southern and Rock Island Passenger Depot
Henri Lovie, 1873
But a few of those have been commenced as yet, for obvious reasons, but in what has been done I am sorry to perceive but little indication of a= better spirit, either in the taste shown in the selection of designs or in the treatment of the architects. A notable instance has just been published in the.Chicago papers. A local professional journal recently complained of the existence of “scalawag architects;” here is an example of a “scalawagchurch.”
The congregationof the Unitarian Church of the Messiah, under the ministry of the Rev. R. L. Collyer, having decidedon erectinga new church, selected,in competition, designs by Messrs. Faulkner & Clark, and instructed these gentlemen to prepare the working drawings. These being completed, numerous alterations were ordered and carried out, tenders received,& c., which transactions extended over several months, when at length the architects discovered that the business had been placed in other hands,and on sending in their accountwere refused payment. Having, however, taken proceedings in the United States courts, the jury awarded a verdict in their favour for $3,800,which was confirmed on an appeal to the Supreme Court at Washington. This transaction, so discreditable to the Church, is however encouraging as showing that the community at large is not disposed to tolerate ecclesiastical swindling. The leading architects in Chicago met and passed resolutions of sympathy and congratulation to the architects, and the local press camedown pretty heavily upon the defendants. Indeed, I doubt (judging from the nearly parallel case of Peachey v. Girdlestone, some years back,and some other cases) whether an English architect would be likely to obtain equal redress in such a case, and especially whether he could calculate either on the support or sympathyof his professional brethren.
The use of cast iron for fronts of buildings does not seem so general in Chicago as elsewhere, it is only used for the lower supports. As yet the perfection in iron castings previously noticed as characteristic of New York has not been reached by local founders. Some few fronts seem to have come direct from New York rand are easily to be recognised by the superior excellence of the castings.
On the return journey from Chicago to New York, I took the Michigan Central, Lake Shore,and Erie Roads. This route brings one along the southern shore of Lake Erie, through the cities of Toledo, Cleveland, and Buffalo, all seemingly thriving and populous. The latter city, being the third in population of the State of New York, is rather disappointing, its streets, though spacious and straight, being almost destitute of anything worthy of the name of architecture. There are, however,a couple of respectable churches, or rather cathedrals—one the Roman Catholic, evidently the work of Mr. Lafever, and presenting a very noble interior; the other the Protestant Episcopal,looking very like some of Mr. Upjohn’s work. In suburbs, however, Buffalo is rich. A short walk brings us to wide, neatly-kept, and planted roads, and villas by the dozen or hundred, as handsome and well kept as the choicest about Sydenham any of the environs of London. They are commonly built of brick, which is cheap here,and a few enquiries as to cost lead me to conclude their cost approximates closely to that of similar houses in England. I presume the proximity of Buffalo to British territory, and consequent cheap manufactures, has something to do with this. The enormous cost of building in the United States is largely due to the protective (or, rather,oppressive) tariff, and the wonder is how with such an incubus there is still such activity. The remainder of the journey by the Erie Road passes through some most delightful scenery, presenting sites for mansions and villas unexcelled by anything in England, and leading us to wonder that wealthy Americans do not prefer to build houses in the midst of such, rather than the eternaland dreary “brown-stonemansions” in the up-town portion of New York.
Map of the Rebuilt Downtown; from New Chicago, 1872
The lake front, or any portion of the South Division’s burnt district, are given. Wherever a building of brick, stone or iron has been completed, or even commenced, the area which it covers is shown in black, the white portion representing that portion of the South side’s burnt section upon which no rebuilding has yet begun. As the great interest in the work of reconstruction centers in the South division, or great business heart of Chicago, the diagram presents only that portion of the city.