So, it?s been a while since my last post on the Downtown Springfield Inc.?s Pied Piper Architectural Walking Tour. I attended tours in July and August but had to miss September?s because of work. October?s tour will be on Wednesday, the 7th, so I thought I?d catch you up before then. If you haven?t been before now, I?d encourage you to go in October because it will be the last one for 2009!
July?s tour was the only tour to not meet at the Lincoln-Herndon Law Office. This tour, instead, focused on the Illinois State Capitolcomplex and met at the Lincoln statue in front of the capitol. Anthony Rubano, of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, once again led us on an entertaining, educational walk of some of Springfield?s historic and modern structures.
The tour began with the Illinois State Capitol. Completed in 1888, the building is designed in a Second Empire style and is meant to be overwhelming when close up. While it?s made up of many components, its height is equivalent to a building between 20 and 30 stories tall and is taller than the United States Capitol, according to Wikipedia. To take in the entire scope of it all, you really need to walk either north or south to put some distance between yourself and the structure. The dome signifies the importance of the building as the seat of government, which is another idea dating back to the years of the Roman Empire. None of the other buildings surrounding it have domes, for instance, because that would take away from the significance of the capitol building.
The Illinois Armory building, a streamlined classicism-style building, was next. One of the first things we learned about it (a feature shared by many buildings) was the meaning of the Roman numerals on the left and right sides of the building?s front. The numerals on the left signify when the organization for the building was established (1898 on the Illinois building) and the numerals on the right signify when the building was built (1936). Following the armory was the Illinois State Library, which was finished around 1990, and the Illinois Supreme Court building, finished in 1906.
The next building on the tour was the Illinois State Bar Association. It was designed in part by Walter Netsch of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill(the firm that defined American modernism in the 1950s, ?60s and ?70s) and was built in 1966. I?ve been inside this building and can say it?s not quite like any other building I?ve been in. It?s composed of many concentric, multi-level squares in the center and in all corners. All the levels and half-levels in the building make for a lot of stairs. The exterior is poured-in-place concrete, with columns that have been tooled to achieve a rugged, tapestry-like surface. I can imagine some pretty crazy parties happening in a building like this ?
The last buildings of the tour were the Howlett building, Illinois State Archives and the Stratton building.
The Howlett building, started in 1918 and completed in 1923, was called the Centennial Building to commemorate Illinois? first 100 years of statehood. It now houses offices of the Illinois Secretary of State. We saw several very ornate doors on the building?s north side. The education of architects from this time drew from very old Greek/Roman/etcetera forms of sculpture and medallion making. These doors reflect this style of training and craftsmanship very well (see photos) through the expression of shells, fish, scales, fish nets, etcetera. Doors with a maritime motif like these are a little unusual for a building in the middle of the prairie, but they?re still pretty neat overall.
The Illinois State Archives building is very similar in design to the Howlett building and even includes the ornate ?fish doors? on the north side. It fits in very well with the rest of the buildings making up the capitol complex, and probably sacrifices some of its own style to do so. The architects of the Stratton building, however, didn?t quite follow that pattern. It?s a 1950s-era, H-shaped structure that?s an early example of architectural modernism and was built to house state offices. During this time, many private corporations on the rise constructed headquarters in this style, and so the state hired architects who naturally continued this pattern when designing this one. According to Mr. Rubano, however, the inside of the building more resembles a 1930s era ?grand lobby? style with marble and custom light fixtures and is meant to look more governmental, such as buildings that were being constructed in Washington, D.C.
Even though the buildings of the Illinois State Capitol complex were built decades apart, they share several common characteristics. A design trait among almost all of the buildings in the complex is called rustication. Rustication, as it?s used in the complex, is the different textures you see on the lower floor of the buildings compared to the upper floors. The carved-block style gives the building?s base floors a strong look to emphasize how they support the weight of the structures above. Several of them also feature colossal columns, which are columns that are two stories tall or taller. The Stratton building doesn?t have this, but it does have a darker stone base, which provides a similar separation effect. The faces of the buildings are also limestone, which is a common building material for this part of the country. The limestone used between the decades of the construction of these buildings has changed, which is why the Capitol building appears more yellowish than the others.
Our tour concluded at the famous Pasfield House Inn, a bed and breakfast, reception hall, meeting facility and much more. Mr. Rubano and Tony Leone, the owner of Pasfield House, gave great descriptions of the history, style, and significance of the home. Mr. Leone took groups of us inside for a first-hand look. While there, we were treated to some of the best ice cream I?ve ever had (cinnamon!). The Pasfield House is a place more than worthy of its own blog post, for sure, but their own Web site has more and better information than I could give you. Check it out if you have friends or family coming to town and you want to provide them with a unique stay during their visit.