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When Too Much is Just Right





[June 19, 2007] A colorful interloper knocks the top hats off the stuffed shirts of Logan Boulevard

 -by Lynn Becker



Logan Boulevard is one of Chicago's architectural treasures. Part of Chicago's garland of boulevards laid out in the 1870's, by the turn of the 20th century it was becoming home to the greystone mansions of immigrant entrepreneurs too nouveau riche to be accepted among the older-money swells of Prairie Avenue. Most of those mansions still survive today, their power to impress intact - richly ornamented, evocative of old European pomp, super-solid, and more than a bit stolid.

Logan Boulevard mansions, Chicago

In 1907, architect George Maher lightened things up with the landmark house he designed for barrel-making tycoon John Rath at the corner of Logan and Washtenaw.

Rath House, George Maher, architect

More recently, the Boulevard's solemnity is being leavened by a great brick and frame house kitty-corner from the Rath, beautifully restored and lushly gardened, that takes kitsch to the level of minor delirium.

Logan Boulevard house

What can you say about a house that has its own version of the Eiffel Tower in the side yard . . .

House wooden Eiffel Tower

. . . or whose entrance is guarded by a pair of bronzed, griffin-like winged lions?

. . . or whose towering turquoise birdbath comes complete with its own bronzed birds?


If you're the good taste police, you begin to salivate just thinking about all the violation tickets you can write. For the rest of us, just enjoy.

You could argue that the house does violence to the sobriety of Logan Boulevard, but I would suggest it's more like a sorbet between courses. After encountering an unrelieved progression of Greystone after Greystone, they all start to look the same. Spending some time contemplating the riotous house on Washtenaw refreshes the visual palette, so you can better appreciate its impressive, straighter-laced neighbors.


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© Copyright 2007 Lynn Becker All rights reserved.

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