Jewel Boxes of the Midwest
February 16, 2003 10:59 PM   Subscribe

Louis Sullivan had been one of the most successful architects of the late nineteenth century, working at the forefront of early skyscraper design. But by the turn of the century, his distinctive style had fallen out of fashion, and his major commissions dried up. Sullivan took jobs where he could find them, and between 1908 and 1919 designed small banks in eight midwest towns. Tiny yet elegant, they are sometimes referred to as his "jewel boxes." See examples in Owatonna, Minnesota; Grinnell, Iowa; West Lafayette, Indiana; Sidney, Ohio; and Columbus, Wisconsin.
posted by Aaaugh! (14 comments total)
Wow, they're beautiful. I had no idea.

I especially love the one in Ohio, with that wonderful "Thrift" facade. It's too bad about the BankOne sign on the Purdue State bank, though, boy howdy.
posted by redfoxtail at 11:08 PM on February 16, 2003

Gosh, those are beautiful.
posted by oflinkey at 11:14 PM on February 16, 2003

In 1890, Gaudi overshadowdowed the work of Sullivan. Then the Bauhaus came along in 1925 to wipe away his contributions. Still, he was a founder of the the Modern Movement and FL Wright owes a lot to his designs.

Thanks Aaaaugh.
posted by jabo at 11:44 PM on February 16, 2003

What a fantastic post - as a huge Frank Lloyd Wright fan, I was aware of Sullivan's influence on his work, but I'd never seen a collection of modern day photos of Sullivan buildings, especially post the departure of Wright. Very cool stuff, thanks!
posted by jonson at 12:20 AM on February 17, 2003

Yay for the architecture posts!

Last spring me and my girlfriend, an architecture student, went to see an exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago on Sullivan. It was great. Thanks for the links!
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 12:50 AM on February 17, 2003

The buildings are like beautifully decorated cakes. Great post - an instant classic, much like Sullivan's work.
posted by iconomy at 5:19 AM on February 17, 2003

Very nice post! I keep waiting for Sullivan's Kindergarten Chats to show up published online (no luck so far). Jabo, I don't know that I'd say Gaudi specifically overshadowed Sullivan, as Gaudi has always been in a "class of his own," heh. But yes, Wright owes a great deal to his "Lieber Meister", as he referred to his mentor Sullivan.
posted by Shane at 6:31 AM on February 17, 2003

The bank in Owatonna is covered in this site, as well as a bunch of other Prairie School buildings around the upper Midwest...
posted by COBRA! at 8:02 AM on February 17, 2003

Hey, thanks for a great post.
posted by saltykmurks at 8:47 AM on February 17, 2003

Thanks for the great post.
posted by djacobs at 11:46 AM on February 17, 2003

I wish I had more to say than a cheerleader comment, but I also want to thank Aaaugh! for the great post. Those buildings are amazing. I am going to start looking more closely at the older buildings here in PDX; who knows what other "jewels" are out there?
posted by sennoma at 12:49 PM on February 17, 2003

Great post. Thanks.

I had no idea we had one of these in Wisconsin.
posted by aine42 at 1:35 PM on February 17, 2003

For more on Sullivan's lost buildings (and a complete catalog of those stills standing) refer to They All Fall Down, the story of Chicago preservationist Richard Nickel. Nickel literally gave his life to the preservation of Sullivan's architecture.
posted by aladfar at 4:44 PM on February 17, 2003

Another interesting tangent to Sullivan is the death of cemetery architecture. One of his works from his high point was the Getty tomb from 1890. This work is follows the tradition of grand tombs, a tradition followed in Chicago's Graceland cemetery, among elsewhere in the world. A tradition that has seem to disappeared.

Yeah, yeah, we're just worm food in the end. But, spending the last couple of years designing a tomb seems to be a cool way to focus thought on what you are and what you leave.
posted by superchris at 6:20 PM on February 17, 2003

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