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Hyde Park landmarks vying for restoration funding
Robie House, Lorado Taft sculpture among list of 25 contenders

Sept. 11, 2007

Two Chicago landmarks on the University’s campus are among 25 sites vying for restoration funding from the American Express Partners in Preservation Chicagoland Initiative, a competition announced earlier this month.

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House at the corner of Woodlawn Avenue and 58th Street and artist Lorado Taft’s Fountain of Time sculpture near Washington Park were chosen to be on the list of contenders by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and American Express.
The grant proposal for the Robie House asks for funding to completely restore the guest bedroom’s original finishes and fixtures, a key component of Wright’s original design. Adequate lighting to illuminate and protect Taft’s public artwork is the proposed project to benefit the Fountain of Time monument.

Chicagoans who vote between now and Wednesday, Oct. 10 in a Web-based election will choose the winning landmarks, which are guaranteed funding. The National Trust for Historic Preservation, American Express and a 20-member advisory committee will parcel out the grants to those with the most votes. Winners will be announced in November.

Both of the campus sites are part of an Open House weekend for the public, when members of the Robie House and the Fountain of Time preservation teams will be available to discuss the history, conservation and future plans for restoration.

Robie House, 5757 S. Woodlawn Ave., will be open to visitors from noon to 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 16 for free, guided tours and access to the guest bedroom, which typically is not open to the public for viewing. A meet-and-greet event at the Fountain of Time sculpture, Midway Plaisance and South Cottage Grove Avenue, is scheduled from 2 to 3:30 p.m.

Twenty-three of the 25 competing landmark preservation projects will be open for public viewing on Saturday, Sept. 15 and Sunday, Sept. 16, including the Quinn Chapel A.M.E. Church on Wabash Avenue, Bohemian National Cemetery on the North Side, the Grand Army of the Republic Memorial Hall in Downers Grove, Ill., and Petersen Historic Farmstead in McHenry, Ill.

According to Chicago Tribune architecture historian and critic Blair Kamin, the open house events will reinforce the importance of these landmarks and others like them. “The open houses will communicate vividly that architecture is about real, live, three-dimensional structures that create a sense of place in their community, not two-dimensional icons meant only to be viewed on a computer screen,” wrote Kamin in a Thursday, Sept. 6 article that reported on the contest.

The University has played an integral role in the restoration of these two Hyde Park landmarks. In 1995, the University leased Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House to the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio Foundation so it could be developed as a house-museum.

The Robie House marked a dramatic departure in the design of residential architecture when it was built in 1910. The house’s striking horizontal lines, hovering roofs and fluid, open-spaced interior revolutionized American residential architecture.

In 1957, a panel of leading architects and art historians named Robie House one of two outstanding houses built in the 20th century. In 1963, Robie House was designated a Registered National Historic Landmark.

The University supported the efforts of the Chicago Park District and conservators of the Art Institute of Chicago in their restoration of the Fountain of Time sculpture, which was conducted over nearly a decade, beginning in the 1990s. For its own Midway Plaisance Master Plan, the University partnered with the Chicago Park District to develop the Dr. Allison Davis Garden, built directly east of the Fountain of Time sculpture and dedicated in 2005.

Taft and 20 assistants completed work on the Fountain of Time in 1922. Though his original plan called for granite, Taft settled for concrete to create the monument that was a tribute to 100 years of peace between the United States and Canada. 

Once ravaged by weather and vandalism, the restored figure of Father Time and the procession of 100 human figures are reflected in a large basin, which also has been recently restored and filled with water for the first time in 50 years.

Launched in 2006, the Partners in Preservation program has pledged $5 million over a five-year period toward preserving historic sites in the United States. Chicago (and its surrounding counties) is the second region that will benefit from the preservation grants, which went to landmarks in the San Francisco Bay Area last year.

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Last modified at 04:04 PM CST on Tuesday, September 11, 2007

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