Building 51 | Building 51 | late 19th century exterior schiller or garrick theater building wrightesque terra cotta colonnade panel with darkened patina – adler & sullivan, architects, chicago, il.
8519
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late 19th century exterior schiller or garrick theater building wrightesque terra cotta colonnade panel with darkened patina – adler & sullivan, architects, chicago, il.

51-20871-14

Category

Louis Sullivan

About This Item

one of two original and intact matching sets reconfigured (i.e., webbing or hallowed cavities removed) and completely unrestored 19th century exterior schiller (later known as the garrick theater) building terra cotta colonette blocks fabricated by the northwestern terra cotta company of chicago. the two blackened terra cotta panels feature a very unique and distinctive interplay between organic motifs and geometric shapes. the blocks have more of a “wrightesque” signature, where the flowing organic designs of sullivan are minimal and constrained within the geometric shapes that command more of a presence than the small bits of leafage – opposite of sullivan’s design approach). the original cream or buff-colored glazed finish has darkened considerably (to the point where the blocks are virtually black) due to prolonged exposure to soot and other air pollutants spanning several decades. the terra cotta building fragments were fabricated by the northwestern terra cotta company, chicago, il. the flat, mountable panels originally were apart of a larger colonnade that flanked each side of the facade’s window openings. the non-extant late 19th century terra cotta-clad schiller theatre building was designed by architects louis sullivan and dankmar adler of the firm adler & sullivan for the german opera company. at the time of its construction, it was one among the tallest buildings in downtown chicago. The building’s focal point was an elaborately designed 1,300-seat theater noted for its highly organic-themed plaster ornament and remarkable acoustics. opened in 1892, the schiller theater was originally funded by german investors and was projected to be used for german-language operas and cultural events. one of the more tangible references to its german heritage was a series of terra cotta busts of prominent german figures integrated within the second story arcade. the theater changed its name and duties over the following decades. it was briefly known as the dearborn theater from 1898 to 1903, until finally settling on the name garrick theater. after german investors backed out of the project in the late 1890’s, it ceased its german performances, and exhibited touring stage shows. in the 1930’s the theater was acquired by balaban & katz and subsequently used as a television studio and movie theater. after a long decline that began during the depression, the garrick was razed in 1960 and replaced with a parking structure. the demolition instigated a large outcry and is considered to be one of the first wide scale preservation efforts in chicago. photographer and historical preservationist richard nickel spearheaded an effort to document and rescue hundreds of architectural artifacts from the building shortly before and during its demolition.