Building 51 | Building 51 | c. 1891-92 original american ornamental cast iron mecca apartment interior atrium balcony railing baluster panel – willoughby j. edbrooke & franklin p. burnham, architects
8078
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c. 1891-92 original american ornamental cast iron mecca apartment interior atrium balcony railing baluster panel – willoughby j. edbrooke & franklin p. burnham, architects

51-18764-13

Category

Chicago Buildings

About This Item

truly remarkable and historically significant all original american ornamental cast iron interior balcony grille or baluster panel salvaged from the south side chicago mecca apartment building shortly before demolition in 1952. the richly organic design, consisting of impressive curvilinear forms, curvaceous leaves and floral rosettes resonates strongly with the art nouveau movement beginning around 1890. the remarkable cast iron baluster was designed by architect franklin p. burnham and was likely fabricated by the winslow bros. of chicago, il. the massive 96-unit mecca apartment building was built in 1891-92, completed just prior to the world’s columbian exposition. the apartment complex contained a roman brick exterior and two interior light courts roofed with glass. the four story atrium featured fountains and fishponds surrounded by balconies enclosed with ornamental grilles (see above). when opened, the mecca was billed as the largest apartment building west of new york. the mecca’s heyday was relatively short. by the mid 1920’s, the building had begun to fall into disrepair and also found its way into musical lore with “mecca flat blues.” the illinois institute of technology bought the mecca in 1941 and spent 15 years trying to demolish the structure as apart of its campus expansion plan. black state legislators passed a law that stopped demolition for years, fearing the razing the building would contribute to the acute housing shortage facing returning world war ii vets. the mecca had become so much a slum dwelling “the janitors went around wearing pistols just like the cops,” a former resident told newspaper columnist vernon jarrett back in 1982. by the early 1950’s, the structure was badly dilapidated and was razed shortly thereafter. the grille measures 41 3/4 x 29 3/8 inches.