(note: Edited July 2, 2009. Thanks again to Anthony Rubano for providing corrections and additional information! Corrections/additions are in blue)
While it's been two weeks to the date of this year's second Downtown Springfield Pied Piper Architectural Walking Tour, I'm a firm believer that a late post is better than no post at all! If you're unfamiliar with these tours, I recommend you give my post of the first tour for 2009 a read.
Now that you've read the previous link and are familiar with the tour, I can get into the details of the second one ? at least, what I can remember! I'll contact Anthony again regarding the details.
The date of this tour was Wednesday, June 3. By the time it started, the weather had turned from cool and overcast to sunny and warm. Once again, the tour was hosted by Anthony Rubano of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. A larger-than-last-time group of us met in front of the Lincoln-Herndon Law Office, which I think was a direct result of the really nice afternoon. The focus of this tour was the area surrounding the Old State Capitol.
If you had a business in the 1800s, an area like the one encircling Old State Capitol was the place to be. Back then, locations such as these served as the heart of commerce (aided especially by its proximity to the railroad), socializing and politics for a growing community. While our options have expanded since then, a lot of those purposes remain today. This section of town continues to serve as a popular place to socialize, hold special events (that whole Obama thing, you know) and provide tourists a glimpse into the past of the state of Illinois.
The first leg of the tour focused on the building at the corner of Sixth and Adams streets, otherwise known as the Illinois building. It was built in the late 1920s, and completed just prior to the beginning of the Great Depression. It was technologically advanced in its day because its all-steel frame. Steel-frame construction allowed the building to be made the height that it was. The decorative green squares on the building's western facing side may look like bronze, but they're actually another material glazed terra cotta.
The next stop was the Springfield Marine Bank building, which is now a Chase bank. The original portion, designed by Helmle and Helmle, was built very close to the same time as the Illinois building, but did not need to be as large. It was a pre-depression "we're strong and will keep your money safe" design, much like the Ridgely-Farmers State Bank building from the first walking tour. The columns in the front are all made of the same material. The columns on the "main" part of the building are carved, whereas those flanking that area are smooth. The windows were mounted, expensively, by using a thin bezel in order to keep the eye focused on the columns and away from the window mounts. The façade is entirely of limestone, like the Illinois Building, but designed in a different style. The Corinthian columns on the original part of the building are carved. The original building was flanked by a new addition, built in 1975-6 by Ferry & Henderson. This addition uses smooth columns whose size and material echo those of the original columns. The addition's windows are recessed behind the limestone columns and supported by steel cables within the window frames themselves, so that there was no overt vertical structure to distract the eye from the powerful and monumental columns.
The building on the corner of Sixth and Washington streets was up next. This building, however, is one of the ones I really don't remember a thing about. Sorry folks! I'll ask Anthony Rubano to provide some details. The Kerasotes Building was built in the 1920s in the same Classical style as the original Marine Bank. It's a simpler design, though and uses glazed terra cotta rather than carved limestone. This simplified Classicism was relatively common in the 1920s. This building along with Broadwell's at 5th and Washington make wonderful bookends to the north side of Old Capitol Square.
The tour focused next on the buildings to the north of the Old State Capitol. One of particular interest is the Buck's Building. This building is a preservation work in progress. One noteworthy feature of this building is the decorative facade on the front, at the top of the structure. While this facade may look like ornately carved stone, it's actually a metal fabrication that is it's actually sheets of zinc-plated steel that were intricately stamped into elaborate shapes and then attached to the brick of the building's front. It's painted to look like stone. When this building was constructed, it was most likely ordered by mail via a catalog, shipped to Springfield via the railroad and installed by the owner. Its only purpose is to add some flair to the building's front. The next building is the future home of the National Museum of Surveying. It was renovated by a local company and done so in a way that is a sharp contrast to the National City bank next to it. Speaking of the National City bank building, it is one of the most important buildings on the Old State Capitol square, according to Mr. Rubano. Why? The building is important because of the investment it took to build it (I'm very sketchy on these details). Built in the 1970s, the cost was significant for a town such as Springfield. It was also designed by a prestigious Chicago architectural firm that normally wouldn't design for a structure in an area the size of Springfield. Important parts of the construction include the smooth, reflective surface of the outside wall and the design of the first floor, which draws the eye up the the floors above from the outside. It was originally constructed for the Roberts' Brothers Department Store in 1975 and designed by the local firm of Graham O'Shea Wisnosky. Its contextual design that references historic architectural elements (like bay windows, mansard roofs, and segmental arches) is in sharp contrast to the starkly Modernist National City bank next to it. Speaking of the National City bank (originally Illinois National Bank), it is one of the most important buildings on the Old State Capitol square, according to Mr. Rubano. Why? The building is important because of its progressive design and enormous expenditure. Completed in 1974, the building was designed by the Chicago firm of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill. Its cost was significant for a town the size of Springfield. Important parts of the construction include the smooth, reflective surface of the outside wall (mirrored glass and polished granite) and the inset design of the first floor, which draws the eye up the floors above from the outside. Much of its interior is given over to a large, gracious atrium.
The Broadwells Drug Store building was the next stop of the tour. It now houses Uptown Looks hair salon. Following that was the Myers Brothers building. The "Myers Brothers" lettering on the south side is colored brick in the building's exterior white-glazed terra cotta inset into the unglazed brick. The Reisch Building was constructed in a post-Victorian "Edwardian" style designed using a mannered Classicism that flowered briefly in the post-Victorian "Edwardian" period, which can be identified by some of the ornate features on the building's front. The last few buildings, a group of five clustered at 5th and Adams, were historic preservation success stories, according to Mr. Rubano. These abandoned buildings were rehabilitated into offices, retail spaces, and apartments in the late 1990s, a project that surely saved them from demolition. The tour concluded with a reception at Caitie Girl's on Fifth at 400 E Jefferson.
Hope you liked this article about the second Pied Piper Walking Tour. Remember, these tours are free and occur the first Wednesday of each month through October. One important note: Next month's tour will meet in front of the Illinois State Capitol instead of the Lincoln-Hendron Law Office.