Friday, June 26, 2009

Goodbye Showmen's League Building

It was in the works for months and it happened a week ago, the little Showmen's League of America Building at Randolph and Franklin was demolished. The adjacent buildings will be coming down soon as well. Here's a link to Lynn Becker's blog about the future of the site.

While the building was built shortly after the Great Fire in the 1870s, its facade was altered when it was purchased by the Showmen's League, the union of "out-of-doors showmen", carnies for short. The alteration made the building ineligible for the protection of landmark status, for what that's worth these days.

Although I haven't seen pictures of the original, I'm assuming it had a cornice of some sort which was replaced with a parapet that mimicked the awnings one would find on a circus tent. Above each window were small metal circus elephants (representing the Showmen's League's logo) that were rescued a few weeks ago. No doubt they'll be turning up on eBay one day if not already.

I suppose it's hard to justify protecting buildings like these that don't meet the criteria for landmark's designation. Still it would be nice if developers and architects could work around buildings that have charm and a sense of history, instead of destroying them simply to make open space around their mega-office buildings.

Whimsy is not something that is valued in contemporary architecture. Architects today consider themselves artists above all else and each building must reflect that. It is as if all music to be found today were written by Ligetti, Stockhausen and John Cage.

If the Showmen's League Building were a piece of music, it would be "That's Amore" by Dean Martin.

Not a great work of art but something that makes one smile.

And there's something to be said for that.


Pete said...

I'm glad you photographed the building. My office is only a block away but for some reason I never got around to photographing it. By any chance did you get a closeup of one of the carved elephants above the windows?

jamesiska said...


I'll check through my image files to see if there close ups of the elephants. If so i'll post them asap. Thanks,