Chicago gala - "Marshall's wall" - East Lake Shore Drive - turns 100

    March 4, 2011

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    More information at The Benjamin Marshall Society.

    100 years ago, in 1911, the flamboyant architect and developer Benjamin H. Marshall, began turning what was then landfill into what is now one of Chicago's toniest addresses and defining postcard scene of the city: East Lake Shore Drive. Marshall's firm, through the jazz age and slightly beyond, designed some of the most perfect, graceful and satisfying melanges of older styles ever built in the Chicago area. 

    Marshall was another one of those who as a young man had been impressed by Chicago's World Columbian Exposition of 1893.  He decided to become an architect. Mostly with a partner, Charles Fox, he designed the Drake, Blackstone, and Edgewater Beach Hotels, the ill-fated Iroquois Theater, the Blackstone Theater, the Sheridan Trust and Savings Bank (now Bridgeview) in Uptown, and the South Shore Country Club - now South Shore Cultural Center - where Barack and Michelle Obama held their wedding reception. The firm designed five of the buildings on East Lake Shore Drive. While not innovative in terms of defining modernism, Marshall and Fox promoted civilized living. Look in the top image of East Lake Shore Drive and see how it is even more lovely with a lawn and trees in front of it than it is today separated from the beach with that gash of a very wide and speedy concrete highway. 

    Marshall and Fox worked in urban and suburban settings. Marshall's own home was a 32 room "Shangri-La" in Wilmette, near where Plaza del Lago stands today. The firm designed several mansions on the North Shore, including one in which I was lucky enough to spend time when very young.  There I absorbed some of my earliest experiences of how architecture works, of how divine proportions can brighten your life, quality craftsmanship and solid construction can help form a complete person, and touching and looking at fine materials can enrich one's thinking. If you let it.      
    where Oprah lived briefly, and advice columnist columnist Ann Landers lived for many years. 
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