Chicago Common Brick

Have you ever noticed that in Chicago, no matter how interesting and high-quality the brick on a historic facade is, the brick that’s on the secondary elevations is kind of, well, not so interesting and high-quality?   What you’re seeing is a, Chicago-specific brick type. DYSV could go on and on about proper mortar, pointing, reasons for color variation, etc., but we’re not.  We’re gong to keep this one short and sweet – just a brief dispatch on what Chicago common brick is and how it came to be.

Continue reading

Painted Historic Woodwork: Naughty or Nice?

Its light, its bright, but is it all right?

It’s light, it’s bright, but is it all right?

A hot trend in home design and decor these days is clean, light interiors.  And while a bright, airy interior is certainly achievable in a historic house, our un-remodeled old homes, especially those dating from the 1870s to 1910s, can sometimes be murky and oppressive. Continue reading

Be a Pal to Your Porch.

Porches on porches in this post.

Porches on porches in this post.

One of the most characteristic features a house can boast is an architecturally interesting front porch.  Much as the eyes are the window to the soul, the porch is the window to the house.  Well, that’s a bad metaphor, since the porch is the porch to the house and the windows are the windows to the house, but you get it.  The historic quality of your porch deeply affects the perceived historic quality of the rest of the property.  Removing or enclosing a historic porch can irretrievably alter a house’s visual character.

Continue reading

Million Dollar District: How Landmark Designation Pays

Property rights enthusiasts often argue their opposition to preservation ordinances through the lens of “highest and best use.”  The concept of highest and best use provides that any given parcel of land should be used in a reasonable, legal, and financially feasible way to yield the highest value for that land.  Think of it this way: this principle is essentially why skyscrapers are a thing.  You can use the land over and over and over again, collecting rent each time.  And tell me, readers, what’s a better use than making cold, hard cash? For  economy of column space, we’ll keep zoning out of the discussion because that’s a big discussion.  Just know that you can only build skyscrapers where you are allowed to build skyscrapers. Enough on that for  now.

Continue reading

A Diamond in the Roof: Common Roof Types.

As we’ve noted before, houses come in infinite styles, plans, and configurations.  It can be hard to keep track of the different types of housing stock out there.  The American domestic architectural gods have given us one reprieve, though: generally speaking, there are just a few major roof types found on a wide range of house styles across the country.  Lucky us.

Continue reading

Hey, nice glass!

Earlier this week we looked at a commonly misused term in architectural parlance: “Victorian.”   I’d posit that “stained glass” is one that gets tossed around incorrectly just as often.  It is extremely unlikely that you have true stained glass in your home (unfortunately!).  Truth is, in the U.S., actual, honest-to-goodness stained glass is a rare bird, especially in an area like Chicago, which was largely developed in the mid-to-late nineteenth century.

Continue reading