by Michael R. Allen
There is great news from Chicago for admirers of the work of architect Louis Sullivan: a storefront recently uncovered on Wabash Avenue has been identified as Sullivan’s work. The indefatigable Tim Samuelson found proof that the one-story cast iron front unearthed during renovation of the block containing the former Carson Pirie Scott department store building (under renovation and being renamed the Sullivan Center) was the work of the prarie master, and not an imitation of his hand.
The elegant, if small, work’s discovery brings some consolation after tragic fires at three Sullivan-designed buildings in 2006, 150 anniversary of the architect’s birth: Pilgrim Baptist Church, left a stone shell, the Wirt Dexter Building, demolished and the Harvey House, also demolished. Sullivan’s vacation cottage in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, designed in collaboration with Frank Lloyd Wright, was severly damaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and his Peoples Savings Bank in Cedar Rapids, Iowa was underwater during this summer’s flooding.
The storefront discovery comes at the same time as another bit of good Sullivan news: the completion in October of a thorough restoration of the Wainwright Tomb in Bellefontaine Cemetery in St. Louis, documented by Landmarks Association here.