Thursday, June 18, 2009
One North LaSalle
I sat in traffic as the rain came down, waiting to make a familiar turn to reach a familiar parking lot in what had become a depressingly familiar routine involving family matters and a courtroom in Chicago. I can't think of what drew my attention to the gloomy, dark scaffolding covering a high rise to my left, but as I idled, waiting for the light to change, I looked out the driver's side window. And a few square feet of ornate trim, nearly hidden from sight, sparked a flash of recognition. I searched for the address, and smiled when I realized I'd been driving past the One North LaSalle building all this time.
I'm not an architecture expert, I'm not a history buff. I can't tell a chevron from a Chevrolet. But for the past nine years I've worked in the only Art Deco courthouse in Wisconsin, in Sheboygan, and I know I'm a lucky person for it. Only blocks from Lake Michigan, the courthouse, built in 1934 as a WPA project in the Great Depression, is a visual gem. I walk down hallways of polished peach colored Georgia marble with dramatic black veining to reach my office, but not before passing beneath white ceilings sporting ornate plaster trim in geometric designs. Charming aluminum lighting sconces and heating grills decorate the lobby, and the mail box in the lobby is a work of art itself.
I was so entranced by the building's design that I researched it on the internet, and found that the Chicago architect on the project, K.M. Vitzthum & Co., was also the principal architect for the One North LaSalle building in Chicago. I found pictures of some of the architectural details from the building on LaSalle, such as the plaster trim on the ceiling, and thought "hey neat! Whodathunkit?" The similarity in the lines of the building are unmistakable, though as you can imagine, there's an economy of scale involved in comparing 49 stories with six, and a Depression era project with something from the end of the Roaring Twenties. It just felt good to walk around knowing that the place I love to work in had such sophisticated provenance, and a bigger, far more elaborate version standing somewhere in Chicago's Loop.
I parked the car, took care of family business, and decided to reward myself on the way home with a cup of Starbucks (soy mocha with whip, please) and a visit to the building on LaSalle. Between the rain and the scaffolding, there was no point in looking up to try to grasp the outer grandeur of the building. THAT, I figured, I could always scope out on line. But as I stepped into the lobby, I felt a thrill of recognition. The polished marble walls. The ornate light fixtures. The elaborate heating grills. The delicately angular ceiling designs in plaster above me. The mailbox!!!
The soul of the building was the same. My little courthouse in Sheboygan didn't just have a kissing cousin down in the Loop, it had a big brother! I added up the extra aggravation involved in returning to my car for my camera, slogging back through the rain, and getting at least a half hour closer to the brinksmanship of rush hour traffic...and decided it was worth it. I knew from experience that the parking ramp was going to cost me thirty two dollars anyway, so I might as well get some more fun for the money.
Enjoy! Pictures of the Sheboygan County Courthouse to follow one of these days!