Archive for the ‘Schweikher House’ Category

PAUL SCHWEIKHER AND THE SCHAUMBURG SCHOOL HE DESIGNED

July 22, 2018

Until the start of the spring semester of 1954, the public school children of Schaumburg Township had been attending one-room schools. The two remaining schools of the five one-room buildings that had once been sprinkled throughout the township, were the District 54 School at Schaumburg and Roselle Road and the District 51 School on Higgins Road near Huntington Boulevard. They are shown below.

In 1952, however, these school districts consolidated into School District 54. On December 20 of that year a special election gave the Board of Education approval to purchase and construct a school site for the district. The school board then chose a site on the north side of Schaumburg Road, just west of Plum Grove Road.

By March 26, 1953 when an article ran in the Roselle Register regarding the Cook County Circuit Court’s validation of the formation of the school district, the school board had already commissioned local resident and architect, Paul Schweikher, to design their school. “The plans for the new school building are well along so that with the favorable court decision the prospects for a modern school for Schaumburg are now almost a certainty.”

A later article of April 30, 1953 stated that “Mr. Schweikher is still drawing up plans for the new building, to cost $150,000.” He must have been a busy man, scurrying to get these plans finalized, as this was near the time that he was departing the area and his architecture practice to take the role of Chair of the Yale University Architecture Department. Interestingly enough, his son Paul attended the one room school at Schaumburg and Roselle until their departure.

The following photo, compliments of William Engler, is of the groundbreaking of the school which must have taken place in the spring or summer of 1953. Mr. Engler’s father was one of the trustees. From left to right are:  John Bierman, Frank Wiley, Al Straub (behind William Greve), William Greve, Herbert Buesching in the dark framed glasses, Emil Lichthardt, Paul Engler, and Henry Hartman.

The 1953-54 school year began with the students of District 54 divided between the Sunderlage School (formerly District 51), Schaumburg Center School (formerly District 54) and the Elk Grove School. By this time, Robert Flum had been hired as the school principal and was fulfilling that position as well as teaching at the Sunderlage School.

At the end of the fall semester students were instructed to take their belongings home with them in preparation for the opening of the new school. It was expected to open at the beginning of the spring semester but a delay occurred because of a local plumber’s strike and the fact that floor tile had not yet been received. [Daily Herald, January 7, 1954]

A couple of weeks later, on January 18, 1954, Schaumburg School opened. Around 80 students were now consolidated in a modern four classroom building with proper equipment and supplies–and indoor plumbing! Some of the teachers were Mr. Flum, Miss Anne Fox and Mrs. Paulus. Grades were doubled up in the school with the majority of the students enrolled in grades 1-4.

In viewing the building, it is obvious that Mr. Schweikher used Roselle School as a model for Schaumburg School. It is built in the same linear, one-story style with the four classrooms in a row and a slightly offset chimney in front that can be seen in the photo below.

The differences were the windows, the style of the chimneys and east and west walls, and the fact that the play/assembly area in Roselle School was two stories.

Where Roselle School (pictured above) had floor to ceiling windows with staggered framing, Schaumburg School had large windows that were framed without mullions.

The chimneys were also decidedly different. Roselle School’s chimney was rectangular and brick. Schaumburg School’s chimney is comprised of field stones which, in my impression, were liberated from piles of stones that Mr. Schweikher must have seen in various farm fields of Schaumburg Township. He added these same stones on the east and west sides of the building. It was a nice, local tribute to the farms he was surrounded by. The chimney still exists today as do the walls that are now contained within the building.

The play/assembly area in Schaumburg School was single storied and, judging by the Hedrich Blessing photos of the school, appeared to be adjacent to the front desk. The reception area consisted of one long desk and an open office area behind. The assembly area was opposite the desk. Open ceilings and open shelving could be found throughout the rooms of the building.

This incredibly modernistic building in the middle of a field was the swan song of Paul Schweikher’s time in the area. It was quite a difference maker for a school district that was used to one room schools with rudimentary tools and equipment.  And, even though the school was quickly added onto, we are fortunate that elements of his design still exist.

The next time you’re driving past District 54’s headquarters on Schaumburg Road, take note of that stone chimney and stone wall. Not only are they part of Schaumburg Township’s rural history, they are also part of our modern history. This unique school, in fact, ushered in an educational era for a township that was only just beginning its phenomenal growth.

Jane Rozek
Local History Librarian
Schaumburg Township District Library
jrozek@stdl.org

The photo of the District 51 school is compliments of Marion Ravagnie.

The photo of Roselle School is compliments of the Roselle History Museum.

The last photo is compliments of the Paul Schweikher Collection at Arizona State University.

 

 

PAUL SCHWEIKHER AND THE ROSELLE SCHOOL HE DESIGNED

July 15, 2018

Before he left Schaumburg Township in 1953, architect Paul Schweikher did a couple of lasting favors for two local school districts.  Roselle School District 12 and Schaumburg Township School District 54 were both in dire need of new schools for their districts.  Roselle’s population had increased after World War II and Roselle Public School at Park and Pine was way over capacity with 176 students. Schaumburg Township had recently consolidated their districts into one district for the entire township. With only a couple of one-room schools in Schaumburg Township to accomodate the students who were part of the public school system, a new, modern school was desperately needed.  Enter Paul Schweikher.

On December 1, 1951, the citizens of Roselle passed a referendum approving the construction of a new school. The school board must have expected a “yes” vote because, according to a November 30, 1951 article from the DuPage County Register, the architectural firm of Schweikher & Elting had already been commissioned and provided plans for the new building. The school would “consist of four classrooms and a play assembly room” and the building would be of “fireproof, brick construction with plenty of light, and designed to harmonize pleasingly with the residential character of the community. According to the school board, this building will also provide a needed place for civic and community affairs, a civic center, for all the people of the community.” (A health and staff room were also part of the plans.)

The already composed plans were also mentioned in a letter to the editor in the December 14, 1951 paper. Mrs. Douglas Fowler who was president of the PTA states, “Our organization would like to thank you for your cooperation in our recent campaign for a new school.  As your paper will probably announce on another page, the issues were settled by a landslide.”  She also states, “Schweikher and Elting designed a beautiful school, and received their share of our thanks.”

Later, in a public notice in the April 11, 1952 paper, the Roselle school district put out a bid for proposals for construction of the school.  Instructions for the proposals could be examined at the office of “the Architects, Schweikher and Elting, Meacham Road, Roselle, Illinois…” They would make copies available for a fee and checks would be paid to the order of the architectural firm. Eventually, in a June 20, 1952 article, it was announced that the E.W. Sproul Co. of Chicago had been “selected as the general contractor at a maximum price of $155,820.” Excavation work had, in fact, already begun and the building was expected to take six months though it did not open until February or March of 1953.

Built into the side of a gentle slope at the corner of Maple, Howard and Pine, the school’s site had been previously purchased from the village of Roselle. The building was described in the June 20th article as “the design is of modern architecture and the structure will be brick with large window areas on the north and south sides. These, with other innovations, will provide the maximum in natural lighting benefits.  A wide circular drive connected to Maple Avenue will provide access to the canopied entrance of the building.”

Unfortunately, we do not have a professional photo of the finished product. The building was L-shaped with the classrooms and offices running parallel to Maple Street and the large play/assembly room running perpendicular. You can see this design best in the Roselle Register photo which shows the back of the school. The play/assembly room is bricked and to the right in the photo.

Windows covered the entire south wall to the left, with each classroom having its own exterior door. You can also see these features in the following photo from the Roselle History Museum. Notice the skylight in the ceiling. Tom Troyke, Facilities Manager for Trinity Lutheran Church, the current owner of the building, said that the skylights had a louvre over them that probably allowed the teachers to direct sunlight into the room as they saw fit. 

The best photo of the front of the building is seen below and comes from Mr. Troyke. The cars in the foreground are on Maple Avenue and the front of the school and the circular drive is to the right. Notice the massive, rectangular chimney and the offset windows on the front. Chimneys are an important component of many of Schweikher’s designs–including his own house.

And, we can’t see it, but the east wall of the gym was made entirely of glass!

Five years later, in 1958, the school was added onto once again because the student population was continuing to expand in greater numbers. By this time it had been renamed Parkside School as seen in the photo at the top from Joan Beauprez, the historian of the Roselle History Museum. The addition was built adjacent to the play/assembly room which was probably bricked up at the time when the stage was most likely added. Eventually, over the years, the chimney was taken down, the skylights and original large boilers were taken out and the interior was redesigned. But, if you take a look at the Google aerial of the building–which is now the Trinity Child Care Center–you can see that the original L lines of the building are still intact. You can also see it here in the back of the building.

Schweikher was likely involved in the entire building process for the original design given that his office was so close and that potential contractors went there to get specifications for the proposal. His cutting edge design was certainly unique for this small town, even though this was the advent of the era of single level schools. Still, a school building that was largely windows on three sides? That is not something you see every day.

Interestingly though, the designs came in handy just a couple of years later when Schaumburg Township District 54 approached him about their new school. Read about that project and Schweikher’s last contribution to the Schaumburg area in next week’s blog. It’s an interesting comparison!

Jane Rozek
Local History Librarian
Schaumburg Township District Library
jrozek@stdl.org

My thanks to Tom Troyke and Joan Beauprez for their sustained interest and support in researching this school.  Without them I would not have had a tour of the building or photos that helped solve some of the mysteries.  Their passion for their hometown was remarkable.

 

PAUL SCHWEIKHER COMES TO SCHAUMBURG TOWNSHIP

July 8, 2018

It was a farmhouse that drew Chicago architect Paul Schweikher to Schaumburg Township but it was the countryside that kept him here. Today, the home he built on the banks of Salt Creek is on the National Register of Historic Places and belongs to the Village of Schaumburg. It is a masterful combination of Japanese, modernist and prairie elements all rolled into a striking house and studio.  Schweikher built it when he was working in Chicago where architecture is, most assuredly, a veritable feast for the eyes. How amazing then, that he intentionally chose remote, rural Schaumburg to build this most unique structure to be his personal residence.

He had arrived in Chicago in 1922 as a young man of 19 and studied at both The Art Institute of Chicago and the Armour Institute of Technology, while also working with noted architect, David Adler.  Eventually moving on to Yale University, he completed his degree in 1929. He returned to Chicago in 1930 and worked with a number of local architects before settling in as principal and senior partner at the firm of Lamb & Elting in 1934.

Schweikher came to Schaumburg Township in 1936 to study a farm that had recently been purchased by L.D. Kern and his wife, Dorothy. The farm was on the east side of Meacham Road and the Kerns invited him with the hopes that he could renovate the house on the property.  After walking through the farmhouse and most likely deeming it too small for the Kern’s growing family, he turned his attention to the barn.  It showed much more promise and potential–both for the family and for his architectural skills.  He had to have been intrigued because he accepted the commission and rolled up his sleeves to begin work on the design.

In conjunction with local builder Emil Sporleder, the house was built and ready for the Kerns by December 1936.  During that time Schweikher likely became intrigued with the farm because, on February 1, 1938, (according to a Cook County title record) Schweikher obtained seven acres from L.D. and Dorothy Kern.

It has never been determined whether Schweikher purchased the property from the Kerns or received it as payment for the work on their house. Martyl Langsdorf, a later owner, always said it was an in kind payment for the work he did for the Kerns. The Kern’s son, Jerry, said it never came up in conversation while his parents were alive. Consequently, we are still left wondering.

Nevertheless, the plans for purchase must have been happening for some time because earlier, in 1937, he had begun the design of his house on a return voyage from Japan. Having visited the country with his wife, he was powerfully influenced by the architecture he encountered on the trip and included a number of Japanese elements in the design.

Construction began in 1938 with Emil Sporleder once again serving as the main contractor. An October 7, 1938 mention in the Roselle Register states that “Mr. Sweitzer [sic], a Chicago architect is beginning construction of a home on Meacham Road, a few blocks south of Schaumburg road. The ground formerly belonged to L.D. Kern’s Willow Brook Farm.” We do not know when the house was finished or when he and his wife moved in, but we do know that he eventually named it the Willow House. This name was reflective of both the willows that grew along the banks of Salt Creek and of a particularly striking specimen that grew in the front yard. The willows were clearly a powerful influence for both the Kerns and Schweikher.

Once the house was completed, Schweikher commuted back and forth to Chicago for work until after the outbreak of World War II.  His architectural firm dissolved in 1942 as a result of the war and Schweikher joined the Naval Reserve, serving as a Naval Lieutenant Commander. For a time, he served locally but, by 1945, he was based in Monterey, CA. According to a July 6, 1945 Daily Herald mention, Schweikher came home for a 15 day leave because, in June of that year his wife gave birth to their son, Paul Jr. in Chicago.

After the war, Schweikher and Winston Elting opened a firm in 1946 under the name of Schweikher & Elting. It was based in the studio at his home in Roselle, which was the legal address and nearest incorporated village. (Theodore Lamb, who had been the first partner in Lamb & Elting, was killed during the war in 1943.)

The majority of the design projects undertaken by the firm were private family residences, with most of them developed in the Chicago area. Various draftsmen and architects were employed such as Edward Dart, who went on to be part of the firm of Loebl, Schlossman, Bennett & Dart and designed Water Tower Place.  Hired for secretarial purposes was Doris Klausmeyer, the wife of architect Thomas H. Klausmeyer who worked for Skidmore, Owings & Merrill.

Schweikher was also asked to take on a couple of local contracts.  Considering he did most of his local business in Roselle, it is no surprise that during the school referendum process in December 1951, the Roselle School District commissioned the firm to do the design. After the referendum passed Schweikher designed a school that was built into the side of a gentle slope at the corner of Maple, Howard and Pine. Roselle School (later Parkside School) consisted of four classrooms, a play assembly room, a health and staff room and, on a lower level, bathrooms and a boiler room.

In 1953, Schweikher was called on by the newly formed District 54 in Schaumburg Township to design a school on Schaumburg Road, just west of Plum Grove Road. At the time, his own 7-year-old son was attending Schaumburg Center School, the one-room schoolhouse in the heart of Schaumburg Township.  It had to have been obvious that a new school was definitely needed. You can see the school off to the right in the distance.

Schweikher put the plans together during his last months in Schaumburg. The design for Schaumburg School was somewhat reflective of Roselle School, although the stones on the chimney and the east and west walls are certainly distinctive. This school, too, had four classrooms, as well as an office that was part of a large assembly area. It was certainly unique for rural Schaumburg Township.

Around this same time George Howe, Chair of the Yale University Architecture department, who had earlier visited the Schweikher home with architect Mies van der Rohe, was actively recruiting Schweikher to succeed him at Yale. After some consideration he decided to accept the post.

The career move made it necessary to find buyers who would truly appreciate both the house and the surrounding acreage that was so much a part of the design. In 1953, Martyl and Alexander Langsdorf visited the property. They were, respectively, an internationally acclaimed landscape artist and a physicist who worked with Enrico Fermi at the University of Chicago. Both appreciated the special house and agreed to the purchase. They, in turn, became faithful, passionate owners of the property for many years and worked successfully to place the house on the National Register of Historic Places. After Alexander’s death, Martyl eventually sold the house to the Village of Schaumburg who maintains it to this day as the Schweikher House Preservation Trust.

Schweikher stayed at Yale until 1958 when he left to become Chairman of the Carnegie School of Agriculture at Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie–Mellon) in Pennsylvania. While there, he continued to design a variety of buildings. He retired in 1970 and, with his wife, subsequently moved to Sedona, Arizona where he, once again, designed and built his own residence. He is pictured outside of the home in the photo below. Even with this small view, it is possible to note some similarities between the two houses. He lived there until his death in 1997 at the age of 94.

In his oral history, Schweikher was asked “Of all the buildings that you’ve built, which ones do you think come closest to expressing who you are?” His response: “I feel that one of the most successful still, was my Willow house in Roselle… It seemed to handle the material most knowingly of anything that I did before or after. It was knowledgeable, it was plain spoken, it fits the site, adapted well to human use.”

How fortunate we are to have his own, self-ascribed gem still in existence in Schaumburg Township. If you get the chance, take a tour. It will be an experience you won’t forget.

Jane Rozek
Local History Librarian
Schaumburg Township District Library
jrozek@stdl.org

My thanks to Susan Benjamin for contributing the photo of Paul Schweikher outside of his home in Arizona.  Photos of him are rare and it is nice to be able to include this one!

In the next two weeks you can find blog postings on the Roselle and Schaumburg schools that he designed.  

HISTORIC STONE STRUCTURES IN THE FOX VALLEY AREA

May 8, 2018

What:  Conversations in the Studio:  Historic Stone Structures in the Fox Valley Area

Who:  Adam D. Gibbons; Northwestern University (BA History), Wake Forest University (MA History), Genealogist; will discuss historic architecture in the form of stone buildings in the Fox Valley area.  

When:  Saturday, May 12, 1-2 pm.

Where:  Schweikher-Langsdorf Home and Studio, 645 S. Meacham Road, Schaumburg

How:  Tickets are $5 and RSVP is required.  For registration or questions call Todd Wenger at 847-923-3866 or email Kim Bauer at events@schweikherhouse.org