Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Tree Studio rehab honored by Friends of Downtown

Friends of Downtown held their annual Awards Dinner Monday night, recognizing ten specific projects ranging from the new McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum, the McCormick Tribune Bridgehouse and Chicago River Museum, and Joe Valerio's Michigan Avenue store for Garmin. Best new building was Booth/Hansen's 30 West Oak , Best New Public Art Madgalena Abakanowicz's Agora, Best Adapative Reuse: Hartshorne Plunkard's rehab of the Chicago and Northwestern Power Station.

Best Restoration went to Friedman Properties, for their work on the landmark 1894 Lambert Tree studios a $70,000,000 upgrading that saw a century old tradition come to an end. A trust set up by Tree reserved the Studio's for the use of artists, keeping rents low. Over the decades, residents included artists as diverse as author Edgar Rice Burroughs, sculptor John Storrs, whose Ceres gazes down LaSalle Street from the top of the Chicago Board of Trade Building, and actors Burgess Meredith and Peter Falk.

With the rehab, there are no more residents at Lambert Tree. They've been replaced by such upscale retailers as Thomas Moser, Aveda, a couple of antique stores, and Pops for Champagne, transplanted from its long-time home on Sheffield Avenue. What was once artists' studios and apartments in the 1912 annex is now the headquarters for Metropolitan Capital Bank, bankers to the "emerging affluent" with millions of dollars in personal assets. Starving artists no longer need apply.

Tree's own visage can be seen in the building's ornament. A silk-stocking Democrat, he was a friend and supporter of progressive Illinois governor John P. Altgeld, and was among those pleading for clemency for the men convicted, in a highly suspect trial, of inciting the 1886 Haymarket bombing. As a Circuit Court Judge, he did his part in keeping one of Chicago's most enduring traditions alive by presiding over trials that found a number of the city's aldermen guilty of corruption. An unsuccessful candidate for both the U.S. House and Senate, he served as ambassador to Belgium, and, for a period of only one month, Russia.

Tree and his wife Anna were among Chicago's most prominent patrons of the arts. He made his fortune as a connected attorney. In a period of 18 months ending in 1867, when consumer prices, by one indicator, were less than a tenth of what they are today, his law firm had an income of $28,000. The Tree Studios were built opposite Tree's broad-lawned mansion at 620 North Wabash, replaced in 1912 by the twin onion-domed Medinah Temple, today a Bloomingdale's furniture store.


1 comment:

brad said...

Great post - thanks for the link to Tree's mansion, so cool!

I thought I'd read that Bloomie's had originally wanted to raze the entire block for another beige tower, and that they faced so much opposition that they relented and rehabbed Medinah.

Not sure if what I read was true, but if so, the accolades and awards shouldn't be heaped on these guys. Yes, they did a nice job with the exterior of the Temple, but they're still just a bunch of suits interested in the almighty dollar. The banishment of the artists living upstairs just reinforces that view.