The role of a preservationist, as assigned by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior, is to “identify, retain, and preserve” the historic features of a building to maintain “the building’s character.” While Jane Jacobs, well-known grassroots organizer, tells us that diversity and age of building stock loans character to neighborhoods, I’d like to push her thinking to apply it to specific features within individual buildings. Identifying, retaining, and preserving architectural elements of a building’s interior allows for more nuanced, layered designs. On the other hand, how often have you stood in a building and thought “wow, that’s so 80s”? It is when a room is designed solely to the taste of a specific period that it begins to date itself.
With all of this in mind, on the eve of demolition at 1304 N. Ritchie Court, I’d like to present my wunderkammern, or cabinet of curiosities, as pertaining to the house. My wunderkammern is comprised of the items that I am preserving and integrating into the renovation of the house. This collection is not exhaustive, but rather symbolic of my overall goal of “identifying, retaining, and preserving” the historic features of the house.
The pictures collected below are original to the 1880s detailing of the building. As was common for the time, I suspect that many of the pieces came from a mail-order catalogue. The houses along Ritchie Court were built as part of a larger development scheme enacted by Potter Palmer, and therefore, ready-made doors, fireplaces, paneling, etc, would most likely have been purchased. The APTI has many catalogs digitized for research purposes. These ready-made pieces were made available because of new factories and processes invented during the Industrial Revolution, and catalogues such as that from Sears, Roebuck and Co. were quite popular.
In the next few days, these historic features will be carefully wrapped and otherwise protected. The Chicago Department of Buildings has graciously issued us a permit, and work on the house is officially about to commence. Please stay tuned for construction updates!