Lost Dart, Losing Goldberg

This is the final post in a five-part series on Edward Dart by guest author Matt Seymour.

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In a 1960 article written for the Chicago American by Ernest Tucker entitled “New Buildings Too Much Alike,” the state of Chicago’s architectural scene was discussed— Tucker coined a phrase where he referred to modern architecture as the “Milk Carton School.”

He argued that historic buildings had more character than the new buildings that were going up at the time, citing the Beaux Arts Federal Courthouse and Louis Sullivan’s Garrick Theater as examples. Both building would be demolished within a few years of the article.  As a response to the article, Dart wrote Tucker and in the letter he stated:

“Chicago has languished, unwittingly to a large degree, on the remarkable architectural heritage of the early skyscrapers— the Monadnock, the Garrick, 30 North LaSalle, Carson’s— of an architecture that is virile— in which imagination, personality, strength of principle, are evident and appreciated.  Does Chicago realize that people come from all over the world just to see these masterpieces?”[1]

Dart agreed that Chicago had a strong architectural heritage yet, in his opinion, few seemed to care.

Darts’ own architecture, along with the architecture of his contemporaries, has now become part of the underappreciated architectural heritage of Chicago that he mentioned in his letter to Tucker.  Although many of Dart’s buildings still stand, several have been demolished within the past few years, which means that Dart’s aging buildings are at a critical point in their existence.  They will either be maintained and preserved or lost forever.

No building better exemplifies this struggle of preserving what’s not yet valued, though, than Goldberg’s Prentice Women’s Hospital.  Fifty years have passed since Dart’s letter to Tucker, but Dart could easily have argued for Prentice, which demonstrates the “imagination, personality, and strength of principle” of Bertrand Goldberg.  Dart’s last quote remains as relevant today as it was in 1960.  If Prentice is lost, future generations will look back to 2012— the same way we look back at the demolitions of the Stock Exchange and the Garrick, to name a few— and say: “What a waste- why couldn’t they figure that out?”

[1] Edward Dart, Letter to Ernest Tucker, September 6, 1960.  Edward Dart Collection, Ryerson Burnham Libraries, Art Institute of Chicago.

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