Towertown: Cyber-History Diagrams #1

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Towertown: Exploring alternative Chicagoisms

THE DILL PICKLE CLUB (HOBOISM) CITY W/O WALLS “This club served simultaneously as a tea room, lecture hall, art gallery, theatre, sandwich shop, printing press, craft store, speakeasy and one-time toy manufacturer. ... And so goes the dependability of our collective memory.” (Moscato 2009a, 5)

“Without question, the Pickle is best remembered for its regular schedule of lectures, debates and forums. Sundays proved to be infamous, as many soapboxers, reporters, students and hoboes made the club their destination after Bughouse Square, an outdoor soapbox forum located but a block away.” (Moscato 2009b, 8)

“The club was part of a broad bohemian social movement that combined art, intellectualism and activism. Named after the Chicago water tower, the Towertown district grew to house numerous salons, forums and clubs of a similar nature.” (ibid, 10)



FOURTH PRESBYTERIAN (GOTHICISM) WALLED CITY Designed by Ralph Adams Cram, completed 1912

“The great mission of Fourth Church will be to grapple with the conditions by which it is surrounded.” (Seltzle 1913, 77)

“Like the institutional churches, including Olivet, Fourth Church’s buildings would serve the physical, social, and educational well-being of its neighbors. That meant providing a ‘home away from home’ for the thousands of single working people in the area.” (Scroggs 1990, 75)

“The phrase ‘Walled Towns’ is symbolical only; it does not imply the great ramparts of masonry... such as once guarded the beautiful cities of the Middle Ages. ...[A]round these communities there is drawn a definite inhibition that absolutely cuts off from the town itself and ‘all they that dwell therein’ those things from the assault of which refuge has been sought.” (Cram 1920, 45-6)



John Hancock Center (-) WALLED CITY Bruce Graham & Fazlur Khan for SOM, completed 1969

“The tower’s population can commute by elevator from their upper-story apartments to offices below - effectively, living in a ‘city within a city.’ But the building also established a vertical suburbia downtown. Although residents were captivated by the lake, clouds, and migrating birds, they lived disconnected from the city below, which receded into an abstract background. With an interior pool, gym, restaurants, and shops, the building’s developers bragged that one would never have to leave the structure. The sunken plaza separating the ground floor from Michigan Avenue only heightened this disconnection. ... ‘Big John’ emphatically announced the return of the urban core under the sign of technology.” (Vernelis 2013, 96-7)




Works Cited:

  • Cram, R. A. 1920. Walled Towns. Marshall Jones Company: Boston.

  • Moscato, M. 2009a. “Introduction,” in Brains, Brilliancy, Bohemia: Art & Politics in Jazz-Age Chicago Eberhardt Press: Portland OR; for Dill Pickles Clearing House, 5.

  • Moscato, M. 2009b “A Tradition of Non-tradition: the Dill Pickle Club as catalyst for social change,” in Brains, Brilliancy, Bohemia, 6-13.

  • Scroggs, M. M. 1990. A Light in the City: The Fourth Presbyterian Church of Chicago. Fourth Presbyterian Church of Chicago: Chicago.

  • Stelzle, C. 1913. “A modern church to meet a modern situration,” Continent, 27 (Feb 1913); quoted in Scroggs, A Light in the City.

  • Vernelis, K. 2013. “American Aesthetic,” in A. Eisenschmidt & J. Mekinda (eds.), Chicagoisms: The City as Catalyst for Architectural Speculation. Park Books: Zurich, 96-7.

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