I have yet to chime in on the story of the year in Oak Park: What to do with the Colt building on Lake Street? I am in favor of preserving it at any cost. For proof, I consulted my favorite reference book, the American Institute of Architects’ “Guide to Chicago.”
The guide has a chapter on only one neighborhood outside Chicago, our own Oak Park. There is a map, pictures and descriptions of all the Frank Lloyd Wright masterpieces, the ornamented Queen Annes, the Classical Revivals. The book reviews over 50 Oak Park buildings.
It includes descriptions like this one of the Richard S. Thain House at 210 S. Home Ave.: “The tall roof with the eaveless edge, and the combination of robust forms with thin, crisp clapboard siding are hallmarks of … the Queen Anne style.”
Or take this description of the Isaac N. Conrad House at 321 S. Clinton Ave., designed by E.E. Roberts: “Typical elements include the exaggerated breadth, the very low hipped roof and the deep eaves, the manneristic brackets scrolling down the walls, and the disproportionately large abacus between the porch roof and columns.”
Way at the end of the chapter, I found what I was looking for: a description of the Colt building.
It goes like this: “Having no thick lines at the eaves, no lintels, no corner piers, the Colt building is clad in sturdy dryvit and common brick. While it is not rich, challenging, satisfying, or open yet mysterious, the Colt Building is firmly rooted to the ground.
“It has no uncurtained art-glass or wood-mullioned windows, but the recently installed glass thermopane is energy efficient and set in sturdy painted aluminum frames.
“This snug exercise in symmetry reveals the exquisiteness of two brick boxes. These boxes are separated by a subtly confusing devise. The once open pedway is now enclosed and houses a wig store.
“Presaging modern strip malls, the broad uninterrupted expanses are not topped with a ziggurat or lantern. There is no terra cotta ornament. There are no panels depicting figures of commerce.”
Given its place in the history of architecture, how can we not preserve the Colt?
District 97 column
Now a brief word about my last column suggesting that the Dist. 97 middle school curriculum needs improving to address chronically low test scores. One teacher from a Cook County high school wrote to say that we should be happy with our test results because scores at her school are even worse. Her advice: Nosy parents should keep their ideas to themselves and leave it to the professionals. Au contraire. I invite parents (and even teachers) to write this paper with their ideas, kooky or not, for addressing the achievement gap.
A music teacher wrote taking issue with eliminating “soft” subjects such as art and music. To be clear, I do not favor eliminating the arts, only curtailing them a bit to give more time for math and reading. If anyone doubts my bona fides in the arts, I invite them to attend this weekend’s closing performances of Chad Morton’s TV Christmas Miracle at Village Players Theater. Keep an eye on who is playing Chad.