Wednesday, August 4, 2010


To put Richard Nickel's work into deeper perspective, according to Richard Cahan's biography of the photographer, between the years 1950 and 1972, roughly the span of his career, 39 buildings of Louis Sullivan, one third of the Master's major works, were destroyed. Nickel photographed as well as salvaged artifacts from practically all of them.

The two greatest losses of these were the Stock Exchange Building at 30 North La Salle Street, (where Nickel lost his life), and the Schiller (later the Garrick) Building at 64 West Randolph Street. The Old Stock Exchange was replaced by a thoroughly undistinguished skyscraper while the Garrick Theater was replaced by a parking lot. Ironically, that parking lot was subsequently leveled to make way for the Goodman Theater complex which leads to the lament, if only...

Many more important Chicago buildings were lost during that particularly dark period of the city's architectural history. The Republic and Cable Buildings by Holabird & Roche, the Pullman Building and Grand Central Station by Solon S. Beman, the concourse of Union Station by Graham, Anderson, Probst & White and the lovely Edison Building by Purcell, Frick and Elmslie were all replaced by vastly inferior buildings, if anything at all.

In his eulogy for Richard Nickel, his longtime friend and mentor, the photographer Frederick Sommer wrote:

When the single masterpiece is struck down, the act is attributed to the madman, but when the coherence of an entire society is vandalized, the destruction is viewed with proud arrogance as evidence of progress.

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