Saturday, October 29, 2011
The mysterious, magical Farcroft
This little guy is the keeper of the key to an unusual building on the north side of Chicago. The Farcroft Building in Rogers Park is reportedly the northernmost highrise building in the city. Construction of the 13-storey building began in 1928, the work of architect Charles Wheeler Nicol. The Farcroft was built with 84 three-, four- and five-roon suites. Maybe this fellow was one of the original tenants:
The Farcroft is adorned with about a dozen grotesques, including these characters:
Not much appears to be known about this building. Even the architect who is working on restoring the Farcroft has posted a request for information on an architectural history listserv, including the location of Nicol's archive, if one exists. The dearth of information seems remarkable since Nicol designed more than 1,200 buildings, largely in the U.S. Midwest. Then again, being prolific is no guarantee of being remembered.
There's more to doing research than Google searches and finding what's on the Internet, but from Toronto, that's the only way I'm able to research a Chicago building. Here's what I've turned up about the Farcroft:
A Chicago Tribune article from February 1928 — admittedly, before the building had even begun — described, only cursorily, the exterior, not mentioning the faces at all. The interiors were described in a bit more detail:
"Color will play a prominent part in interior equipment and decoration. For instance, the kitchens will have colored tiled walls, to match the cheerful hues manufacturers at last are putting into culinary utensils and kitchen furniture. Several bathrooms will have gay tinted tubs to splash in, with walls and fixtures to match."
David Blixt, a Shakespearean actor, writer and former tenant of the Farcroft, wrote an intriguing, provocative post on his blog of building lore he picked up from other tenants and the company that formerly owned it. Nicol, Blixt said, "fancied himself a magician, and wanted the building to be a nexus for mystical energy."
None of the rooms in his apartment had right angles, "the better to funnel the 'mystic' energy."
When he and his wife moved in, they met another resident in the elevator who gave him a business card and said, "This is the name of my exorcist. He did a wonderful job."
I suppose some sinister, mystical, magical energy could be expected at a 13-story building located at 1337 West Fargo Avenue.
And this wizard appears at each storey up the front of the building:
I'll post any additional information I get. In the meantime, Happy Halloween, everybody!