Building 51 | Building 51 | cyrus hall mccormick cast iron interior residential radiator grille
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cyrus hall mccormick cast iron interior residential radiator grille



Louis Sullivan

About This Item

exceptionally well-designed and incredibly rare original documented c. 1901 ornamental cast iron cyrus hall mccormick house radiator grille fabricated by the winslow brothers, chicago, il. the oversized louis h. sullivan-designed grille or grate is so delicate and intricately designed that, according to an account by george grant elmslie (louis h. sullivan’s chief draftsman), william winslow (president) of the winslow brothers foundry – who worked with sullivan on several commissions prior – stated that it was virtually impossible to execute the grille’s design in iron. sullivan reportedly replied ever so confidently that winslow could do it, and proceeded to walk out the door. elmslie recounted that “four perfect castings” were created by the foundry; both sullivan and winslow kept one. winslow’s grille was donated to the art institute of chicago in 1920, where it is currently displayed, along with an owatonna bank teller wicket (of equal craftsmanship), in the architectural artifact gallery that surrounds their building’s atrium staircase. sullivan’s grille was given to architect daniel h. burnham as collateral for a loan advanced to him by burnham. that grate is now displayed at the university of illinois school of architecture in champaign/urbana. since the commission wasn’t widely recognized, the other remaining grille was likely scrapped when the mccormick house was abandoned and ultimately trashed by vandals (which was documented by photographer richard nickel) and demolished shortly thereafter. it is likely that nickel wasn’t made aware to the sullivan remodel during the time he was documenting the house. by then the grilles were long gone; nickel would have otherwise noticed and rescued them. unbeknownst to many, one of the grilles was not scrapped as previously thought. it was discovered many years ago on maxwell street – likely around the time the mansion was demolished. the man who purchased it had recognized it after matching it to the one given to the art institute. the partial remodeling of the cyrus mccormick mansion in 1901 was designed to be a “bachelor’s quarters” to keep the mccormick’s son stanley, under close supervision. during this time stanley was mentally unstable that worsened to the point where he was later institutionalized. the university of madison-wisconsin possesses the majority of the drawings for sullivan’s remodeling of the mccormick mansion in their nettie mmcormick papers collection. the exact location and number of grilles used in the remodel can likely be addressed through the exploration of this collection. the historically-important is currently undergoing extensive restoration with the addition of a period appropriate copper-plated finish that will closely match the plating of the originals.