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remarkably rare 19th century american jenney-designed isabella building

À propos de l'objet

all original rare cast aluminum elevator grille recovered from the non-extant isabella building, designed by architects william le baron jenney & william bryce mundie in 1892. the lightweight 19th century cast aluminum grille is one of only two salvaged from the isabella, where only one original elevator cab remained intact and functional (used by the building's custodian) until the time the building was handed the death sentence. worse yet, during demolition, the wrecking company severed the elevator's cables sending the cab crashing to the basement where the majority of the fragile aluminum panels broke into pieces. it's quite remarkable that two grilles survived. what makes this seemingly simple grille so remarkably important, is the fact that its fabricated out of aluminum, which during during the late 19th century was an incredibly costly material that proved difficult to cast. interestingly, around the same time two other chicago buildings were outfitted with aluminum ornament, with the first being the monadnock building (burnham & root, 1891), the venetian building (holabird & roche, 1892), and then the isabella, where this panel was rescued from. thankfully, the monadnock is still standing, with most of its original aluminum ornament intact. the venetian and isabella were both demolished (1959 and 2004, respectively) , with no known ornament rescued from the former. the surviving panels from the isabella building, along with the monadnock's lobby ornament, represent the first use of aluminum as architectural ornament. chicago-based winslow brothers cast the aluminum ornament, along with any and all bronze and ironwork used in these buildings. i will explore the use of ornamental aluminum in a future post when do a thorough photographic survey of the monadnock's lobby and its aluminum staircase. the gothic style isabella building was commissioned by levi z. leiter, who together with jenney erected the first and second leiter buildings designed for both office and retail. the isabella was named for the daughters of isabella, a charitable catholic women's group that occupied the uppermost floor upon the building's completion in 1893. the eleven-story steel-framed structure with raft footings and reinforced with rails, contained an unusual framing system involving wind bracing in the form of "knee braces" (i.e., short diagonal members at the connections between girders and columns). the isbella building was the first american building to be braced this way. on the main street elevation, the first seven stories formed a cellular curtain with continuous piers rising above the belt course and the second floor line. the windows at the eighth and ninth stories lie under a high hipped roof topped by a central gabled skylight. the building was damaged by a fire (floors 5-6), whereby the hipped roof and five floor below it were removed, leaving a "stump." a portion of the lower facade was partially obscured behind a false facade built in 1964 by saint mary's church (owner of the building at the time). the isabella was designed by the architectural firm of jenney and mundie, with partner william le baron jenney considered one of chicago's most important architects, known as the "father of the skyscraper." interestingly, the isabella's gothic design was a stylistic departure from jenney's earlier "chicago school" buildings. the exterior featured elaborate gothic detailing (executed in copper), along with a pitched rooftop that would later be reincarnated in cass gilbert's 1913 woolworth building, known as the "cathedral of commerce." the primary tenant, for whom the building was built for, contributed to the use of unconventional gothic stylistic elements designed by jenney. shortly before demolition in 2004, the building was left largely neglected with nearly all of the upper floors vacated by tenants long ago.
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