Thursday, December 14, 2006

Gift Idea for the Preservationist

What could be more tragically romantic than dying while trying to save remnants from a beautiful & historic Adler & Sullivan building slated to be demolished?


This is "what Richard Nickel did", when he fell through the floor of the Chicago Stock Exchange and was buried in the rubble in 1972.

If this intrigues you, I suggest you check out "Richard Nickel's Chicago: Photographs of a Lost City." Here you will see the collected photos by Richard Nickel. His collection includes candid photos of Chicagoans of all types from diverse neighborhoods and of course, photos of amazing buildings that were leveled in the name of progress.


The destruction of the Garrick Theater (see photos) to make way for of all things a parking lot made me gasp out loud. Ironically, the site is the location of the new Goodman Theater.

On the day after his body was discovered, a Chicago Sun-Times editorial cartoon honored him with a drawing of a gravestone with the epitaph:

Richard Nickel
1928-1972
Killed in Action
rescuing Chicago architectural treasures

and from the man himself:

"What a fool I must be. Why am I horsing around, moving the stones from one warehouse to another, while everybody else is making a dandy living, have their own lives and apartments and houses, etc.? It's even a problem for me to buy a car." (Sound familiar anyone?)

and

"Great architecture has only two natural enemies: water and stupid men."

9 comments:

Tad said...

Whats your view on urban planning?

Christina said...

Those are 2 perfect gifts for the Chicago rehabber! (in particular) We love to collect old photos of what things were like-and architecture is a favorite of both of ours.

Jocelyn said...

guess my view on urban planning is we don't do enough of it. Daniel Burnham had a plan and a vision and today, we reap the benefit in Chicago.

People think that we should let market forces control what happens development-wise or else it's fascism. I think that's pure and simple greed. If money is our highest value, we are truly doomed in my opinion.

By this philosophy, it's okay to harvest the rainforest if market forces see fit.

And then some others say, people are more important than buildings. But buildings can last generations.

Obviously, I'm a planner-type. I attend development meetings for my community all the time.

Tad said...

I agree that Chicago's lakefront is the direct result of Burnhams' vision. Daley II is building upon that (as other 20th century administrations have)hence Chicago's international reputation as a green city.
I have no opinion on perceptions of greed as facism heralding humanity's demise, that's up to the individual.However with patient observation and detatched study,biotechnologies and the evolution of a conscientous understanding of the human role for earth I believe that areas like the rainforest can be harvested and growing simultaneously.

Greg said...

I believe that areas like the rainforest can be harvested and growing simultaneously

I live in an area where logging is (was) king, so I can say with some qualifications that it all depends on who says what gets harvested and when.

If it's left to a corporation with stock holders who expect results every 3 months, then I don't believe it's possible. If it's left to a Government that is funded and influenced mostly by corporations that have stock holders who expect results every 3 months, then I don't think it's possible.

If we lived in a utopian society where a learned group of elders who are insulated and detached from big business and corporate greed get to make the decisions for all of society, then maybe it would be possible. Does such a thing, or could such a thing, ever exist outside of a science fiction novel? Not in my lifetime, that's for sure.

Tad said...

A structure is functional by its primary intent:habitation as well as its era placement and aesthetics.
The myth of Rogers Park(I've read)is that a farming family settled on Lunt ave. by Ridge.Undeveloped topographically and alien to its present state.Demographically diverse,authors and future celebrities reside(d)in that community.
Perhaps in the near future I will watch their network interviews on that new model cell phone? The Star Trek model.

Marty said...

You opened a subject with an enormous amont of complexity, but I'm glad you did so, even if you are only touching on it.

To the problems of historic preservation and environmental conservation -- the two are very closely related -- there is no single answer. But there are three large common issues that are in the forefront and are the most difficult to deal with. Greed, the pressures of growing population and ignorance.

Gee, those sound like some of the common ills of most social and political problems!

Working to protect indivual buildings and places is like putting out fires. Dealing with those other three issues is like fire prevention.

Preservationists have to do both.

What you do in your house blog, restoring a beautiful old house and showing people the outcome, is a valuable contibution.

Thanks. Hope you keep it up when the house is done.

Fargo said...

Thanks for mentioning this fine book. I loved "They All Fall Down" and have long hoped that this book would come as a follow-up.

If you want to see some of the pieces of what Richard Nickel salvaged, visit "Fragments of Chicago's Past" at the Art Institute. It's the collection of architectural fragments and stained glass windows on the walls around the top of grand stairs that are just east of the Michigan Ave. entrance. Read the labels and note that there are a bunch that are gifts or loans from Southern IL University, John Vinci or Tim Samuelson. Much of Nickel's collection went to SIU and some of it came to the Art Institute because SIU did not have a place to display it well.

John Vinci and Tim Samuelson were Nickel's close friends and his partners in many of his salvage efforts. They are still involved in architectural preservation in the Chicago area.

The best of all is the trading room from the old Stock Exchange building, reconstructed inside the Art Institute near the Columbus Drive entrance (and the entrance from the old building just outside).

The success of Burnham's plan and other area plans, as well as the uncountable failures of the market to create and preserve quality architecture and public space, made me a believer in urban planning long ago. There should be more urban planning.

I've been enjoying your blog for a while. Bought a 1923 bungalow in Beverly a few months ago. I'm grateful that previous owners did not inflict too many bad changes on the house. Your stories give me inspiration and encouragement. Thanks for sharing them.

Jocelyn said...

Marty- I wonder if you're Marty from the Uptown Hostoric Preservation group? In any case, thanks for the encouragement. I plan to keep the blog indefinitely as it gives me a good outlet for my interests in architecture etc... and I love finding kindred spirits too.

Fargo- I am aware of the Stock Exvhange room at the AI, but haven't been there for years. I'll have to get down there soon. Thanks for the reminder and kind words. Good luck with the bungalow!