Random Notes - A Blog


17 June 2007
“All I could say was that I didn’t want the building wrecked.”

So replied Chicago photographer and architectural salvor Richard Nickel when asked by a reporter about his efforts to save Adler & Sullivan’s Garrick Theatre, built in 1892 as the Schiller Building. Richard Cahan’s They All Fall Down: Richard Nickel’s Struggle to Save America’s Architecture, has been the first in a string of several books I’ve read recently that touch on buildings, individuals, or histories centering around Louis Sullivan, the spiritual godfather of the Prairie School. Cahan is also co-author of the more recent Richard Nickel’s Chicago: Photographs of a Lost City, a collection of duotone images of buildings old and new. The strikingly composed and technically excellent photographs confirm that Nickel was “a poet with a camera,” as he was described at his memorial service.

Wilbert Hasbrouck’s monumental The Chicago Architectural Club: Prelude to the Modern is a 640-page history of the emergence of architecture as a profession as detailed in the activities of this group of draftsmen. This six-pound book exhaustively recounts the Club’s programs, complete with copious illustrations. (Sadly, a large number are marred by moiré patterns.) While its size makes it a daunting through-read, I have been dipping into this volume periodically over the course of the last year.

Another recent read is Joseph M. Siry’s The Chicago Auditorium Building, which describes the tinderbox atmosphere of Chicago in those days of nascent Socialism, and the efforts of the Auditorium promoters to diffuse these tensions by placing musical art within the reach of all citizens. Siry’s is a work that is as much social history as architectural, with both integrated in such a way that removal of one aspect would irreparably hobble the other. This approach may seem indulgent to those who prefer their architectural history by the inch, but it adds immeasurably to the richness of meaning of the building.

Works that directly relate to the Prairie School are few, apart from the seemingly endless “me-too” Frank Lloyd Wright picturebooks. I have assembled an incomplete list of books that relate to the first Prairie School, and would welcome your suggested additions.


Old Notes



As always, I welcome your comments about this site or any Prairie School building.

John A. Panning, Lake City, Iowa





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