Building 51 | Building 51 | early 20th century michael reese hospital lobby cast plaster “gardenesque” pilaster capital
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early 20th century michael reese hospital lobby cast plaster “gardenesque” pilaster capital



Chicago Buildings

About This Item

all original and remarkably intact early 20th century historically-important michael reese “main” hospital interior lobby cast plaster pilaster capital possibly fabricated by the decorators’ supply company, chicago, il. like most ornament found throughout the hospital building, the richly ornate half capital or cap was designed by hugh gardner of schmidt, garden & martin. the oversized fragment has been painted over with several coat of paints, but the intricate and detailed leafage remains very evident. each section contains a centrally located cartouche that integrates nicely with the surrounding organic motifs. the segment located between the two capital half-sections is a very unusual and visually distinctive geometric abstraction in triangular form. the rear cavities or backside of the plaster capital is reinforced with animal (presumably cow or horse) hair and wood laths. great overall condition, despite the numerous coats of paint applied over the years. michael reese hopsital was erected on the ground of the former hospital constructed in 1880. the hospital was dedicated with appropriate ceremonies on june 16th, 1907. built at a cost of nearly a million dollars, the hospital was considered the most modern and best equipped in the city during time of construction. the building itself was six stories in height, constructed of solid masonry, steel and tile, with the most approved “system of heating, lighting and ventilation.” the interior originally accommodated 240 beds, included sixty private rooms. there were three operating rooms , along with special provisions for isolating patients in the surgical, medical gynecological and maternity departments. the hospital was designed by the architectural firm of schmidt and garden and martin. although known primarily for their commercial and industrial designs, the firm also designed several residential buildings, more than 300 hospitals and a few public structures. richard ernest schmidt studied architecture at the massachusetts institute of technology and worked for a number of architects (adolph cudell and charles sumner frost) before starting his own practice in 1887. eight years later, he asked hugh gorden garden to join him as chief of design. a native of toronto, canada, garden had moved to chicago in the late-1880’s, apprenticing with several architectural firms, including flanders & zimmerman, henry ives cobb, and shepley, rutan & coolidge. he then became a freelance renderer, which brought him jobs with howard van doren shaw, louis sullivan, and frank lloyd wright. in 1906, the schmidt-garden partnership was formalized under the name of richard e. schmidt, garden & martin. the third partner was edgar d. martin, who later joined the firm of pond & pond. schmidt brought business acumen and social connections to the partnership, while garden brought the imagination, inventiveness, and sensitivity of a creative designer and versatile draftsman. martin was an extremely skilled structural engineer who was able to solve technical problems associated with large industrial buildings and modern materials, such as the montgomery ward & co. catalog house, one of the first buildings to be constructed of reinforced concrete. garden helped evolve the firm’s progressive approach to design, much in the way that his contemporaries, sullivan and wright, had done.