Somewhere in Chicago there’s someone who knows more than you can imagine on any given topic and can tell you all about it in spellbinding conversation. On the topic of the Chicago school of architecture, that someone is preservationist and architect Wilbert Hasbrouck. (His wife, Marilyn, has run the Prairie Avenue Bookshop since 1974.)
Hasbrouck’s 639-page The Chicago Architectural Club: Prelude to the Modern is a monumental attempt to track the untrackable: the explosion of architectural creativity in Chicago in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Hasbrouck’s halfway through a follow-up centered on Dwight Perkins, who pretty much ran Burnham & Root (the Monadnock Building, the Rookery, the Masonic Temple, etc) in the early 1890s. As chief architect at the Chicago Public Schools from 1905 to 1910, he oversaw the construction of 42 school buildings, including Carl Schurz High School at Addison and Milwaukee, a rare example of the Prairie School style applied on an institutional scale. But, says Hasbrouck, “Perkins never claimed to be a designer. He called himself a planner.” The designers were people who worked under him. “We always hear about Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Sullivan. The whole point of both books is that there were a lot of younger guys, maybe 50 people, who did the work. But their names are gone.” Or maybe not, if Hasbrouck has anything to say about it. Prairie Avenue Bookshop, 418 S. Wabash, 800-474-2724, pabook.com. —Harold Henderson
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