In early 1888 Burnham & Root were hired by the Central Woman’s Christian Temperance Union to design a 12-story headquarters building for the northeast corner of Dearborn and Jackson, diagonally across from the site of their stalled Monadnock project. Note the location: Dearborn Street, not La Salle. During the construction lull of late 1886 through early 1888, the great railroad of the Southwest, the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad, had secretly spent over $13 million on property around 20th and State Street for its eventual entry into Chicago (see Chapter 6 where I will discuss the importance of this event in detail). In summary, the Santa Fe was financed by many of the same Boston financiers who controlled the Burlington and the Grand Trunk, therefore it would also use the Dearborn Street Station. Finally, after some five years of battling City Hall as well as the La Salle Street interests, Dearborn Street was finally going to blossom.
The W.C.T.U. had been founded in 1874 in Cleveland to combat the negative influence that alcohol had on the lives of women and children. In 1878, Matilda Bradley Carse had become president of the Chicago Central Christian Temperance Union and had also launched what would become The Union Signal, the largest women’s newspaper in the country. She led the Chicago organization in establishing many charities and promoting issues central to women and families, some ten years before Jane Addams began Hull House. The Building Association for this project had been incorporated in July 13, 1887, and consisted of Carse, the Chicago organization’s highly effective president, National President Frances E. Willard, Esther Pugh, William Deering, and James Hobbs, while local business leaders including William E. Hale, Norman B. Ream, and Melville E. Stone agreed to act as trustees of the building upon its completion.
It is readily apparent at first sight that Root in this design was attempting to one-up the corner tower in the recently announced Owings Building (see next chapter). At the southeast corner of Dearborn and Quincy, Root placed a corner tower (this location, and not at Jackson and Dearborn, was closest to the center of the downtown, i.e., it was the closest to the majority of people and therefore, perspective would make its image larger than if it was placed at Jackson) into the body that resembled his Cleveland Savings Fund Building. Some who knew of Root’s personal appreciation for the “finer things in life,” called into question the integrity behind his design, and frankly, the poor quality of this project only reinforced such suspicions. The Inter-Ocean was quite generous in describing Root’s rather unresolved body of the building as an architectural history lesson:
“Since the purpose of the W.C.T.U. is essentially Christian, a type of purely Christian architecture was deemed essential for the expression of its purpose in this building, but a Christian architecture of any one period was not thought necessary. Indeed, it seemed best that Christian architecture, in its comprehensive sense, should be used for the expression of the purposes so largely catholic as those avowed by the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. It is intended, therefore, that the completed building shall, in its lower stories, be of the earliest Romanesque type – a type growing into favor with the earliest growths of the Christian religion. Beginning with these primitive forms, the building, as it rises higher, will take on later forms; the early and simple Gothic; types of the early decorated forms; then middle decorated; then types more enriched; and finally, in the tower, the forms used are those which belonged to the last period of Gothic, or essentially Christian development in flamboyant traceries, etc.”
While his design incorporated numerous stylistic elements from past styles (a truly eclectic design!), it was constraint or control that was totally absent. Where was Root’s mind when he put this eclectic monstrosity to paper? Even the three visible corner towers each had their own language. It appears that he had rotated the body of the Cleveland bank so that the large tower, à la Balmoral Castle, was at the most public corner, and then topped off the whole confection with a mansard roof.
He hadn’t used a mansard roof with dormers since his equally poor entry for the Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce. I think Root was having a mid-career crisis. His creativity had simply expended itself in the design of twelve constructed (with many more stillborn) skyscrapers and numerous shorter office buildings (including the Burlington Building) in just five years. Twelve skyscrapers were two more than the combined number of skyscrapers designed by all of Chicago’s other architects (ten) by 1888! Beman ranked second in this category having designed three skyscrapers.
In the spring of 1888, Burnham & Root were completing the Rookery, the Phoenix, and the Rialto in Chicago, the Board of Trade, the Midland Hotel and the American National Bank in Kansas City, and just beginning construction on the San Francisco Chronicle and the Cleveland bank. In addition, they were in the process of moving their office from the Montauk Block to the top floor of the Rookery. Last, but not least, both partners were intimately involved in their plot to consolidate the W.A.A. and the A.I.A. I’ll simply say “burnout” and leave it at that. Fortunately for Root’s professional reputation, before contracts were let for the project, Marshall Field in July 1888 offered his hole in the ground at La Salle and Monroe that had defaced La Salle Street for over four years, as an alternative site with a lower annual lease. The W.C.T.U. Building Association jumped at the offer. Root would get a second chance to completely redesign the building later in the year. He would get it right this time. Saved by, of all things, Marshall Field’s “generosity.”
Hoffmann, Donald. The Architecture of John Wellborn Root. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1973.
At the base of the building’s 34’ x 56’ atrium Root located the 26’ high banking floor. For security reasons, the hall was physically (and visually) isolated from the atrium above by a skylight, but what a skylight it is! Root handed the design of the hall’s interior design to a talent and kindred spirit new to Chicago, English designer William Pretyman. Pretyman (1849-1920) was an artist and decorator born and educated in Great Britain. He had met his future wife while touring Egypt. Jenney Remington was the granddaughter and heiress of Eliphalet Remington, founder of the Remington Industries, manufacturers of firearms, agricultural equipment, and typewriters. He emigrated to the U.S. in 1881, settling near Albany, NY, to be close to Jenny whom he married in 1883. Meanwhile, he received a number of private and public decorating commissions, that the New York Times reviewed in 1882 as “he is one of the much travelled Britons, and has made with a practiced and rapid hand a long list of water-colours during journeys in the Orient and the Malay Archipelago.” They had eventually moved to Chicago in 1887 so that Jenny could be closer to her aunt, Mary Theresa Leiter, the wife of Levi Leiter, and her inner social circle. He decorated their new Chicago house with a British Aesthetic Movement interior “in a grand style,” that also included an English domestic staff. Born within a year apart, Pretyman personified the British Arts and Crafts movement that Root had followed since his early days in Liverpool. Root, during the rest of his life would come to rely upon Pretyman as his “color man.”
Pretyman was in charge of the decoration of all the hall’s surfaces: walls, ceilings, moldings, and, of course, the gorgeous leaded stained glass in the ceiling’s skylight. Similar to Sullivan’s interior ornament at this moment, Pretyman’s colors and complex curvilinearity also verged on the edge of Art Nouveau.
Pretyman took advantage of the opportunity offered by a visit to the U.S. in 1891 by a close friend, Walter Crane, in conjunction with a travelling exhibition of his work, to offer him the commission for two murals for the hall. Crane (born in 1845 in Liverpool, nonetheless) was a collaborator with William Morris in the design of textiles, wallpapers, stained glass, and other household materials. He had been influenced by John Ruskin and knew some of the members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. He did wood engravings and watercolors, but his true calling was that of a book illustrator, especially children’s books. He also was an examiner for the Art Department of the South Kensington Museum, so he, like Pretyman, provided a direct link between the British Arts and Crafts Movement as well as the South Kensington Design Reform Movement and what was being done in Chicago during the late 1880s.
Crane chose as the subject for his murals “The Tale of the Goose That Laid the Golden Eggs,” one I’m sure that the bank’s Directors heartily approved. In the first one, “Call Me Not Fool Till Heaven Hath Sent Me Fortune,” (Shakespeare, As You Like It, II.7.xix) has the Master carrying the goose that lays the golden eggs, accompanied by a fool and a maiden with a plate of golden eggs, walking past a pub with the sign, “When Adam and Eve… in Paradise.” The Master’s knife is still in its scabbard. In the second mural, “Fortune Never Comes With Both Hands Open,” (Shakespeare, Henry IV, Part 2, IV.4.ciii) the greedy Master, wanting all of the eggs immediately, has killed the goose, the last egg has cracked on the ground, exposing merely an yolk that is spreading toward the dropped knife of the Master. The sign of this pub reads, “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.”
Indicative of the class warfare in the U.S. at this moment, Crane, who in good Ruskinian and Morris fashion was a Socialist, had naively appeared early after his arrival at an anarchist meeting in Boston, where he voiced his support for the innocence of the four Haymarket Square anarchists who had been executed in 1887. That night saw the cancellation of many of the scheduled parties and dinners that were to mark his exhibition.
As he had detailed his earlier atriums (i.e., the Burlington Building) or his lightwells (i.e., the Rookery), Root’s objective was to maximize the distribution of daylight throughout the numerous floors below through the use of white-colored materials, glass windows and prisms in the floors, and gilded metalwork. The difference in the bank’s building was that the general public had no access to see this atrium because the stained-glass ceiling closed off the atrium above from the public. Only those people involved with business in the upper floors had the opportunity to view this “modern” Chicago School elevation. (Here I see a parallel between British landscape architects designing the early iron-and-glass greenhouses at the beginning of the nineteenth century, when J.C. Loudon in 1817 had predicted a modern design vocabulary without any traces of traditional architecture ornament because this tended to reduce the amount of daylight penetration (see Volume One), and these late nineteenth century architects who also had to design to maximize daylight penetration.)
What I find interesting in Root’s design of these elevations is that they differ from those in the similar location in the Rookery. While the structure of these walls in both the Rookery and the bank were iron skeleton-framed, while Root had expressed the frame in the Rookery’s elevations, he treated the wall surface of the Bank’s atrium as planes with windows and doors punched into them. More than likely, the reason for the difference I believe was that the Rookery’s spaces on the inside of this wall was a doubled-loaded corridor, meaning that this wall only had to provide light and air. Meanwhile, the Bank’s space on the other side of this wall was a single-loaded corridor, meaning that this wall had to provide physical entrance and yet some measure of privacy from those who were walking alongside it. The provision of daylight was secondary because these rooms still had exterior walls with windows on the opposite side of the rooms, therefore it was not necessary to provide an all-glass wall in the atrium of the bank.
Another sign of the times was the contrast between the “medieval” or “Gothic Revival” look (stemming from the mid-nineteenth century) of the bank’s exterior and the banking hall versus the “modern” aesthetic (now emerging at the end of the century) that Root employed in the atrium above the stained-glass ceiling. In essence, this building represented the conundrum faced by Chicago’s architects during the second half of the 1880s: trying to maintain a continuum with the traditions of architecture while faced with the reality of incorporating the industrialized materials of the present. In a way, this was the same contrast represented in the building’s construction: one could not see the modern iron frame of the building’s interior as it was hidden by the building’s traditional stone exterior.
Footnote: The bank is a hidden gem of the Chicago School, and well worth the trip to take it all in. However, if you would like to see an example of William Pretyman’s work in Chicago, visit the Glessner House. The Glessners had hired Pretyman to redecorate their parlor in 1893 when they were adding electricity. He replaced the original yellow floral-patterned wallpaper on the walls with burlap that was stenciled in eight layers of metallic paints and glazes, that has recently been restored.
I would like to express my appreciation of the following people for their kind assistance with this post:
Matthew Pitts, Key Bank’s Regional Manager of Communication for his assistance in procuring some of these images.
“stealthshot,” one of my Instagram followers who directed me to many of these images.
William Tyre, Executive Director and Curator, Glessner House.
In Our Second Century: Society for Savings, Cleveland, 1949.
Hoffmann, Donald. The Architecture of John Wellborn Root. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1973.
In the fall of 1887 Burnham & Root also received the commission to design a ten-story office building for the largest bank in Cleveland, the Society for Savings. In essence, it was a program similar to the Rookery, albeit on a smaller lot. The 110’ by 132’ rectangular site, located on the highly-visible north corner of the city’s Public Square, was large enough for Burnham to ring the exterior with a single-loaded corridor of offices that left an 34’ x 56’ atrium that would extend the full height of the building. Naturally, the bank’s banking hall would be located directly under it on the ground floor to maximize daylighting for its customers. Post’s Equitable Building had set this model, with the latest version of this model we have seen was Burling’s First National Bank of Chicago.
Given a ten-story rectangular mass, how should Root approach its exterior design, i.e., what would be his theme? As opposed to a generic speculative office building, however, this was to be a bank. I think he was seeking an image for the bank as a secure location, and what would be closer on his mind after a two-month long tour of Europe than a medieval castle? To be exact, I think he used the latest castle erected in Europe, Balmoral Castle, designed by the royal patron of the British Design Reform movement, himself, the late Prince Albert.
Root chose a quarry-faced red sandstone for the building’s exterior, more than likely to give him the opportunity to experiment with Richardson’s stonework on the Field Warehouse, that at this precise moment was nearing completion. The second inspiration I can find is the bank’s then current building, that he could have easily rationalized as an attempt to communicate the continuity of a long-trusted business institution.
The existing building had raised entrances at each corner that were separated by a Gothic-pointed three-arched arcade that was raised on a half-basement. Root interpreted this in the building’s main façade facing on Rockwell Avenue, facing the Square, with a battered half-story high granite plinth that was split at both corners to allow an entrance marked by a low relief balcony with vertical sentries.
Upon the plinth he placed the same number of four dwarf granite columns caped with a rough-cut capital that supported the same three-pointed arched arcade in the sandstone. This created a five-arched arcade across the building’s ground floor, that determined the building’s elevation of five vertical bays above.
He treated the upper nine stories as an unbroken surface: he was experimenting with the lesson of not breaking a building’s elevation into horizontal layers with continuous sillcourses that Richardson had left in the Field Store. (Note that I said experiment because Root for some personal reason would continue to layer most of his elevations in later buildings.) As such, the Cleveland Bank falls into the family of Root’s similar designs with continuous, unlayered exterior surfaces that included the two apartment buildings he had designed immediately before this building, as well as the later Monadnock Block.
He capped the building with the tenth floor containing paired windows with a square head and a corbelled cornice that was articulated from the stories below with a continuous line of trim that outlined the arcade below with an ogee-arched profile. The remaining eight interior stories he broke into two four-story zones, each zone comprising of a single lower floor topped by a three-story arcade. The unity he achieved in the building’s surface by not using sillcourses was completely negated by Root’s always nervous pencil and his facile design ability: he used FOUR, NO FIVE different arch profiles (six if you count a flathead as a flat arch) in ten floors! (Hoffmann was kind in describing Root’s elevation as “evident caprice.”) The ground floor is pointed, the second floor is elliptical, the fifth floor has pointed arches, albeit slightly flatter than those in the ground floor, the ninth floor has semicircular arches, but with an ogee outline (that does, however, echo the original building’s façade). I think the ogee was leftover from his design for the Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce competition that he lost. (And I just caught the scrolled bracket he employed at the entrance of the San Francisco Chronicle in the drawing below as well!)
The longer Ontario Street elevation has the same elevational treatment spread over six bays, with the exception that there are no entries. Root also used this language on the two alley elevations, with the exception of the addition of three-storied angled bay window in floors two-four. He broke the symmetrical massing in good medieval fashion with the addition of a two-story stairwell at the right side of the front elevation that created immediate access between the banking floor and the offices above.
It’s stairstep elevation is a direct ode to Richardson’s use of such a detail. To round off the analogy to Balmoral, three of the four corners at the roof sprout cylindrical turrets (again, an Albi Cathedral quote?) but the fourth corner, in the back, is joined to a much larger cylindrical form, much like that in Balmoral, except this more than likely contained the building’s chimney.
The question in my mind is why exterior walls of solid stone that are five feet think at the base? Especially after he had experimented only the year before with a “thin” exterior masonry veneer in Kansas City’s Midland Hotel. Was it in response to Richardson’s Field Store AND Sullivan’s Auditorium (curiously, both architects had originally planned these buildings with a brick exterior) or did the client (again, like these two same buildings) simply wanted the solid “security” of a stone wall? Nonetheless, in the building’s interior structure, Root continued to push the technology of the iron frame. The “Z-bar” columns were formed by riveting a number of wrought iron Z-bar sections into the shape needed. This process is credited to Chicago engineer, Charles L. Strobel, then consulting with Burnham & Root. Strobel (1852-1936) was born in Cincinnati with German-born parents and sent to Stuttgart’s Royal Institute of Technology, graduating in 1873 with a degree in civil engineering. He returned to Cincinnati where he worked for the Cincinnati Southern Railroad. He assisted C. Shaler Smith in the design and fabrication of the railroad’s High Bridge over the Kentucky River (see Vol. 2, Sec. 6.1).
When it was completed in 1877, it was the first modern cantilever bridge in the U.S., the longest (519’) cantilevered bridge in the world, and the world’s highest railroad bridge (275’ only 6’ shorter than New York’s 281’steeple of Trinity Church). He quickly became one of America’s leading railroad engineers, specializing in the use of steel. He had then moved in 1878 to Pittsburgh as the chief engineer for the Keystone Bridge Company, until the company relocated him to Chicago in 1885 as their agent and chief engineer. His talents were quickly put to work by Burnham & Root, as well as by the city’s other architects. His knowledge and experience with steel structures would advance the construction technology used to build Chicago’s ever-taller skyscrapers.
The Z-bar columns allowed the corresponding beams to be better connected. This also applied to diagonal members. Therefore, the building’s structure also utilized an early example of diagonal bracing, presumably to increase the building’s lateral stiffness to better resist wind loads. These were located on all the odd-numbered floors.
Hoffmann, Donald. The Architecture of John Wellborn Root. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1973.
Before I move beyond the Republican Convention with the renewal of Chicago’s construction that began in the summer of 1888, there are three buildings by Root and three buildings by Sullivan that I need to examine first.
5.1. THE SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE: ROOT’S RESPONSE TO THE AUDITORIUM
After his return from Europe in September 1886, Root’s first two large building commissions were still beyond the “friendly confines” of mid-decade Chicago. During the fall of 1887, Burnham & Root were commissioned to design a new building for the San Francisco Chronicle, the largest newspaper west of Chicago, and one for Cleveland’s Society for Savings. The Chronicle had a program very similar to what the New York Tribune had handed Richard Morris Hunt some fourteen years earlier: spaces for the paper’s operations and printing, a number of rental floors to generate income to defray expenses, and a clock tower that would be the city’s tallest structure (and as far as I can ascertain, the tallest (208’) west of Chicago, until Minneapolis completed the 225’ Northwestern Guaranty Building).
The triangular site at the intersection of Market, Geary and Kearney Streets presented Root with an irregular shape that forced Root into an asymmetric location of the tower, again not unlike Hunt’s final design. Root’s elevational language appears to have been the next iteration of his Kansas City Board of Trade, employing the multistoried arcade in the upper floors, while the rest of the windows were flat-headed paired openings.
A two-story rusticated stone base, with the by-then conventional “Syrian” arched entrance, supported a transitional story in which Root once again married the stone base with the brick upper body by alternating layers (stripes) of stone and brick. He articulated the seven floors of the brick body into a rhythm of 2-3-2 with continuous sillcourses, although this was inconsistent with the elevation’s architectonics because he had unnecessarily divided the four-story arcade with the sillcourse at the base of the arches. Quite simply, this sillcourse was not needed and he should have followed Richardson’s lead in how he had detailed the upper surface of the Field Store as one continuous field.
Root massed the building as a 10-story block that followed the three street edges and then marked its entrance with the tower placed at the intersection of Market and Geary. He used the tower to hide the awkward angle between the two blocks. This divided the building’s “front” into two bays facing Geary and four bays along Market. As he had recently lost the Auditorium commission, this project gave him the opportunity to design a tower of equal magnitude to Sullivan’s design. In fact, as one investigates the newspaper building, it has a suspiciously similar scale: a ten-story body and a 200+ foot tower. Therefore, I can infer that Root was attempting to design a “better” tower than what Sullivan had finally designed. I say finally, because Sullivan, as I will discuss further into this chapter, had made a few “last minute” changes from what William Ware had proposed in his penultimate design of February 1887.
I will briefly discuss these here (and in depth in a later section) so I can compare and contrast to how Root addressed this same problem in the Chronicle tower. In his design, Ware had not only pushed the tower in front of the 10-story body, but had also interrupted the body’s top cornice line, allowing the tower to extend from the ground to beyond, uninterrupted by the cornice, hence allowing the tower to read as its “own” mass: an unbroken, vertical 16-story element counter-balancing the long, 10-story horizontal body. (This was reinforced in Ware’s design by not allowing the sillcourse at the tenth floor to run past the four piers of the tower: therefore, the piers extended unbroken for sis stories, making the tower dominate the similar language of the body.)
Meanwhile, for whatever reason, and historians have offered a number of explanations, Sullivan revised the final design of the tower so that both the tenth-floor sillcourse and the cornice ran unbroken past the tower, confusing the clarity of the expression of the tower vis-à-vis the body. He then further blurred the building’s architectonics by placing a second, corbelled cornice at the base of the tower, one story above the building’s cornice. This one story acts as a base upon which the remaining six-stories of the tower are placed. One author has surmised that Sullivan had expressed his organic idea by detailing this six-story tower to have burst out of the 10-story base, (as a flower rising out of its pot) leaving this one-storied corbelled base as evidence. A good story, but it can’t hide the fact that Sullivan was “still maturing” as an architectural designer: is it a 17-story tower in front of a 10-story base, or is it a 10-story base with a seven-story tower placed on top? And it doesn’t get any easier to discern which it is when looking at the lower, unresolved ten stories of the tower.
I’m not sure that Root had any better luck with his articulation of the San Francisco tower vis-à-vis the building’s body. He had pushed the tower in front of the body, and then added a continuous bay window to mark it, but then he ran two of the body’s sillcourses around it, blurring its articulation. (Let’s not address Root’s venture into Italian Mannerism with the oversized scrolled bracket that he placed under the bay window.) It seems he was inspired by Sullivan’s corbelling at the base of the Auditorium’s tower and extended its height to better express it as a podium for the tower’s clock, but he also merged this story with the building’s cornice, blurring any architectonic clarity (is the tower the entire vertical element or is it merely the clock pavilion placed on this base). I do see the “organic notion” of growth in how Root dislocated the arched window in the tower’s bay two floors higher, resulting in what Hoffmann described as a “Palladian motif.” Quite frankly, my interpretation of Root’s detailing is that he is still in search of “repose” in the elevation of large buildings. In other words, the increased vertical scale of these buildings still merited a counterbalancing horizontal. We have yet to see a Root building in which he has fully embraced a vertically-accented elevation. (At this point I might observe that the professor, Ware’s design for the Auditorium tower might just well be the best example we have seen up to this point of such a design.)
In Root’s design of the clock tower, I can see the influence of Albi Cathedral again, as I had mentioned in the tower of the Kansas City Board of Trade. Except that he has been more literal in copying the cathedral’s cylindrical forms that he placed at the tower’s four corners. He built the clock tower out of wood, to reduce its mass in response to anticipated seismic quakes. The wood structure was then encased with copper sheathing. Helical stairs at its rear took visitors up to the 14-floor observatory.
Similar to Hunt’s vertical planning of the New York Tribune building, Root located the heavy printing presses, that were susceptible to the faintest vibration, in the basement’s two floors while the typesetting/composing functions were located on the tenth floor that provided the best daylight. One floor below, as close as possible, was the editing staff. The paper’s business operations were located on the first two floors, as convenient as possible for clients. The remining six middle floors were rented out. The building’s construction consisted of standard masonry exterior walls, with an interior structure of cast iron columns and steel beams and floor joists. In an attempt to increase the building’s resistance to the lateral movements caused by earthquakes, Root incorporated steel straps in the floors (see plan) that were bolted to the columns and beams where they intersected, triangulating the building’s masses as best as possible in attempt to prevent the building from shaking apart..
The building’s wooden clock tower was set on fire by a firework shot during an election parade in 1905. The building did not survive the fire that followed the 1906 earthquake, but the exterior was restored and two more floors added afterwards by the Burnham firm’s San Francisco office, headed by Willis Polk (probably best known for his design of the all-glass façade Hallidie Building in 1918.) Fortunately, the original exterior of the Chronicle Building was maintained and incorporated in the San Francisco Ritz-Carlton Club and Residences in 2007.
Hoffmann, Donald. The Architecture of John Wellborn Root. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1973.
In the following morning’s session, St. Louis’ Charles Illsley asked to clean up the minutes that recorded the confusion of the consolidation process by offering the following resolution:
“Resolved, That the Western Association adjourned sine die after unanimously instructing their directory to take all necessary steps to relinquish the charter of the Western Association, and to transfer all its properties to the American Institute. The certified lists of members of the two associations were now presented and the persons named therein were recognized as members of the American Institute, which unanimously amended their constitution and by-laws, which had been duly submitted thirty days in advance of this convention. [To which he added:] I think we do not want all the proceedings of yesterday to be recorded in our minutes. I offer that as an instruction to the secretary.”
Hunt directed Bloor to amend the minutes, but the fact remained that Sullivan’s concern that the consolidation process should have been thoroughly thought out before the convention never rang truer.
Speaking of Sullivan, neither he nor his partner attended the convention that was the culmination of the West’s reformation, an effort in which they had played a very active role. The completion of the Auditorium at this time (Opening night was scheduled for December 9, 1889, less than three weeks away), unfortunately, required their constant supervision, to which Adler confessed as much in a letter he sent to the convention. The letter’s main intent, however, was Adler’s desire to be the one to nominate Hunt to be the first president of the new organization. Once both nomination committees had submitted their list of candidates, Carlin rose to read Adler’s gracious nomination:
“… Another cause for regret at my absence from the convention is the hope I entertained of being the one to nominate for the presidency of the newly organized Institute one who, through the past thirty years, has been our leader in the development of the artistic phase of modern American architecture, and who has been the teacher and mentor of more than a score of the best of the younger architects, a man who has been in all his relations to his clients, to the public, and to the profession, truly a cavalier without fear and without reproach, and who, advanced in years, still retains the virility and elasticity of youth in his work and in his intercourse with the world. To forego the privilege of nominating for the presidency of the American Institute of Architects Mr. Richard M. Hunt, is a deprivation that I shall ever regret.”
The nominations were then closed, at which point Hunt responded:
“Pres. Hunt: Before we proceed, I must confess that the letter has taken my breath away.
The president, overcome by his feelings, sat down and covered his face with his handkerchief amid great applause. After the excitement had somewhat subsided, Mr. Carlin addressed the secretary as follows:
Mr. Secretary, I would move you sir, that the election of Mr. Richard M. Hunt as president of the newly organized Institute be made unanimous. (Which was seconded by many voices) All those in favor of that motion please make it manifest by saying “aye.” (A storm of “ayes.”) It is entirely unanimous. (Loud and prolonged applause.)
Pres. Hunt: Gentlemen, I thank you most sincerely for this expression of your confidence. I will do all that I can do to aid in carrying on the good work of the Institute, the union that has now been consummated, and let us hope that it will be fruitful of good work in the right direction, and that it may be everlasting. And I think I express the feelings of everyone present in saying, “So say we all.” (Great applause.)”
Adler’s letter had also nominated Bloor to continue in his capacity as the second most important position in the organization, Secretary, but this apparently exceeded the former W.A.A.’s (who now had a majority of members) magnanimity in victory. The remaining four executive positions were filled with W.A.A. stalwarts: W.W. Carlin, First Vice-President; James McLaughlin, Second Vice-President; Samuel Treat, Treasurer; and Secretary, was given to the man recognized by his peers as the pivotal figure in bringing reform to the A.I.A., John Wellborn Root. Adler and Illsley were elected to three-year terms on the Board of Directors, while Burnham’s name was still nowhere to be found in any of the convention’s proceedings. In fact, indicative of his political seclusion following the personal rebuff he had earlier received in the last W.A.A. presidential election, Burnham not only did not attend the convention, but was also not even nominated as one of the eleven substitutes to fill any vacancies that might occur on the new A.I.A. Board of Directors.
The day-to-day affairs of the new A.I.A. were to be governed by the Executive Committee, that in addition to the President (Hunt), Secretary (Root), and Treasurer (Treat), consisted of four elected directors. Adler, Carlin, E.H. Kendall (New York) and R.W. Gibson (New York) were so chosen, giving the W.A.A. an undisputed 4-3 majority in running the new association. The W.A.A.’s control over the new A.I.A. was all the more consolidated with Root’s election as Secretary to replace Bloor, for now all official A.I.A. correspondence was funneled not through New York, but through Root’s new office in the Rookery. Contrary to what Hunt had envisioned for the convention in his opening speech, the W.A.A. had indeed “rung out the old” guard of New Yorkers that had controlled the old A.I.A.
Saylor, F.A.I.A., Henry H., “The First 100 years of the A.I.A.,” J.A.I.A., May 1957.
“The Consolidation Convention of the American Institute of Architects and the Western Association of Architects,” Inland Architect, November 1889.
The fact of the matter was that the new constitution and by-laws did not spell out to the letter how the transition from the old A.I.A. to the new A.I.A. was to occur without running into legal snares with respect to the continuation of its corporate charter. Although Littell’s retort to Hunt, that other A.I.A. conventions had adjourned many times before without any effect on its charter, was correct, the reality of the situation was that no one had thought out and agreed upon just how to start the new organization legally. Although the new constitution had been formally adopted by the membership, exactly when did the old A.I.A. organization with its constitution and elected officials cease to exist, and how did the new A.I.A. organization with its constitution begin? Root and the rest of the W.A.A. believed this had now occurred with the adjournment of the old A.I.A. and with Hunt’s election as the temporary chairman of the joint convention, according to Article XIV of the new bylaws.
This series of events, however, was counter to the old A.I.A.’s inner hope of keeping the A.I.A. a continuous corporate body throughout the consolidation proceedings. While Root and the rest of the members of the new organization enjoyed the afternoon adjournment for local sight-seeing and dinner assuming that all was well, Hunt and two of his A.I.A. associates took the opportunity to get a favorable legal opinion from a lawyer friend in Cincinnati, Jacob Cox, with the intention of overturning the last action by Root and getting the proceedings back in line with the old A.I.A.’s view of how the historical record should read. Hunt, armed with the new information, wasted no time in turning the proceedings to the A.I.A.’s advantage as soon as the convention reconvened after dinner:
“Mr. Hunt: After the meeting this morning I was not altogether clear in my own mind that we had taken the right action about forming this joint convention in these different resolutions that we passed. One was that all members of the Western Association be admitted into the Institute of Architects. That resolution was rescinded, and there was a joint convention called, of which I was appointed the temporary chairman. I expressed myself at that time as having my doubts as to the legality of our proceedings, and I have since found that all our discussion and resolutions at that time was a great waste of time. After the adjournment this morning I called upon one of the most eminent jurists in this country, the Hon. Jacob D. Cox, formerly Secretary of the Interior. I went there with Mr. Stone and Mr. Scoville. We had a conversation with him, of twenty minutes or so, and he told us that the view that I put before him was the correct one, and that we could only act in continuing the American Institute of Architects right along, with its officers and branches, until new officers were elected, otherwise we would violate our charter, and would be completely disorganized… It would seem that in spite of our various opinions on this subject, and each of us has one, I suppose, all our work has been done for nothing… Article V of this [Cox’s] opinion says, “It is my opinion, therefore, that if the prestige of age, etc., as well as the corporate rights, etc., of the American Institute are to be saved, it must be done by keeping its organization continuous.”
Mr. Randolph of Chicago: It seems to me that the best thing to do is to adjourn the temporary meeting, then for you to call a meeting of the American Institute. I move that we adjourn sine die. The motion carried.
Mr. Hunt: I will now call the Institute of American Architects to order and the first thing will be to rescind this resolution.”
Obviously stunned by this unexpected turn of events, many members were completely confused over the issue, wondering out loud if everything that had been done over the preceding year towards consolidation had been for naught:
“Mr. Helmers: Under the opinion which you now hold in your hand, you understand that the work done by the association individually-this joint ballot that we have had by letter adopting this constitution-is that all wiped out and illegal?
Pres. Hunt: No.
Mr. Illsley [W.A.A.]: If one stands, why does not the other?
Pres. Hunt: What we have done is perfectly legal and correct up to the present time. One institution, the one into which we go, whatever it may be, has, according to the opinion, got to be continuous. One body has got to be continuous, and the other merges into it. As I understand the case the Institute and the Western association have, by ballot, agreed to meet in joint convention and merge into the association known as the American Institute of Architects. The Association and the Institute are present, but not in joint convention. In other words, they have carried out what their constitution and by-laws have required them to do, and the stand I take is this, that the fact of our being here in joint convention makes us the [new] Institute of Architects without any further ballot, and that the officers of the [old] American Institute are the officers of this meeting at present, and that it is not necessary for any body to make a motion. All that is necessary for anybody is to make a move in the [old] Institute that the members of the Western Association be taken in.”
Hunt was now echoing the argument Patton had made in the morning session that nothing further needed to be done in forming the new organization, but he did clarify the issue of who was to lead the joint convention. Because the old A.I.A.’s charter was to remain continuous and because the new constitution and by-laws had overlooked the issue of transition officers, the officers of the old A.I.A. would continue with their duties until the new organization elected new officers. Nonetheless, Hunt once again attempted to circumvent the spirit and reality of Article XII of the new by-laws by suggesting that a motion be made by someone “in the Institute that the members of the W.A.A. be taken in.” He was quickly corrected by Stone, who had accompanied him in the meeting with Cox:
“Mr. Stone: I think the statement is entirely correct, but I would suggest that this be done; that if the lists be prepared which have been passed upon and when it is declared that the persons upon the lists made up are assembled as the American Institute of Architects, then we are all members of the Institute [hence nobody needed to be ‘taken in’], and we proceed immediately to our business and that is the thing that gives us our status.”
Hunt assented to Stone’s interpretation and finally abandoned his idea of ‘taking in’ the W.A.A. members to the old A.I.A., opening the door to the final resolution of the consolidation issue. Clay then moved that the new constitution and by-laws be adopted to replace the old A.I.A.’s constitution and by-laws that was unanimously approved. Patton, the secretary of the W.A.A., then presented the certified list of W.A.A. fellows who were entitled to become fellows in the new A.I.A. Bloor, the secretary of the old A.I.A., repeated Patton’s action with the certified list of fellows and associates of the old A.I.A. that were entitled to become fellows in the new A.I.A. Thus, the new American Institute of Architects was formally organized and its first convention somewhat awkwardly convened. Continuing the fitful nature of the proceedings, the new A.I.A. then adjourned its convention, to allow the W.A.A. to conclude its business in accordance with Cox’s legal opinion:
“Pres. Carlin: Gentlemen, this is a meeting of the Western Association of Architects. (Laughter.) Will some member of the Western Association make a motion that this association now adjourn sine die?
Mr. Illsley: Mr. President, I beg leave to offer a motion that I think will cover the whole case more directly:
Resolved, That the secretary of the Western Association be instructed to insert in his minutes, at the end of the motion to adjourn in the morning’s proceedings, the words “sine die,” so that the minutes will stand that this association did then adjourn sine die.”
The issue of how to legally dispose of the W.A.A. charter was forwarded to the W.A.A. directors and also directed by Illsley that it be placed in the minutes of the morning session, prior to the newly-inserted motion to adjourn sine die, in an attempt to make the consolidation convention seem more orderly than it actually had been. Upon the approval of both motions, the W.A.A. ended its five-year existence that Root took the opportunity to have the final word by delivering a characteristically witty eulogy:
“Mr. Root: I would like to congratulate the Western Association, now defunct, upon the extreme deadness of the corpse twice killed. (Laughter.)”
(I am taking the space to closely document the events from the official transcript that finalized the consolidation of the two organizations in order to show that the W.A.A. had not just surrendered and thus, was sheepishly merged back into the A.I.A. fold, as the A.I.A. still claims today. I think this is also necessary to better understand Burnham and Root’s decision to invite these same Eastern A.I.A. architects to design the 1893 World’s Fair.)
Actually, the convention started unofficially on the evening of November 19, the eve of the first day of the convention. Cincinnati’s architects, along with the Cincinnati Architectural Sketch Club had assembled, in conjunction with the convention, an exhibition of almost 1000 architectural drawings and sketches by architects and draftsmen from throughout the country. The featured speaker, honored with the task of opening the exhibition, was the West’s leading architectural figure, John Wellborn Root, who, only the night before, had once again performed his traditional duty at the annual banquet of the Chicago Architectural Sketch Club by offering the first toast of the evening.
Root’s schedule had become increasingly hectic as the economy had rebounded earlier in the year, as evidenced by his actions during this week in November 1889. The Sketch Club’s banquet went into the early hours of the morning of the 19th, yet we find Root with obvious little, if any sleep, boarding a train a few hours later at 9:30 a.m., for the ten-hour trip to Cincinnati. Ever so mindful of duty, at 9 p.m. the night after the Sketch Club banquet in Chicago, Root opened the National Exhibition of Architectural Drawings by standing before the largest gathering of American architects and delivered a warm and witty talk about the reasons for the consolidation that was titled “Ode for the guidance of Persons Practicing the Profession of Architecture in the United States.”
At 10 o’clock the next morning according to schedule, the joint convention opened with Pres. Carlin of the W.A.A. calling the W.A.A. convention to order (remember, Carlin had upset the plans of the Burnham/Root clique at the previous convention, that if successful, would have had Burnham, and not Carlin as the W.A.A. President). In his opening speech, he took pride in the fact that the new organization being formed had thought it “best to radically change the methods of conducting the business, and to borrow largely from the constitution and by-laws of the Western Association.” Following the perfunctory reading of committee reports, the W.A.A. convention adjourned.
Pres. Hunt of the A.IA., according to schedule, then took the chair and called the convention of the old A.I.A. to order and gave his opening address, that revealed a remarkable change of heart on the part of the A.I.A. toward the value of the local chapters, that only six years earlier it was all too eager to divorce: “The Institute depends upon the chapters for its very life blood, and could not exist any more than the body without its members, if the chapters were not alive and active.” The end of Hunt’s speech also left no doubt that the two associations were forming a new organization on an equal footing:
“The report of the Special Committee on Consolidation is so wisely considered and so admirably expressed that it leaves nothing for me to say beyond words of commendation, and to impress upon you that the earnest efforts of these gentlemen in thus providing for the merging of the two great architectural associations of our country into a common institute is not a funeral dirge to “ring out the old and ring in the new,” but a refrain ancient as history and strong as truth, ‘Union is force.’ “
Like the W.A.A., the A.I.A. then proceeded to the reading of its committee reports. Following the report of the trustees, all other committee reports were unanimously “referred to the incoming convention.” But just what was the incoming convention? Sullivan’s earlier concern for a clearly outlined order of business then proved to be justified. Because Article XIV of the approved by-laws stated that consolidation would take place at “the meeting of the two organizations in joint convention,” but did not clarify what this meant procedurally, there was justifiably room for interpretation by both sides as to what should happen next. Should the old A.I.A. adjourn its convention as the W.A.A. had, so that the new organization could then convene its convention? Alfred Stone took a “rather innocent” first step with a motion that avoided the adjournment of the old A.I.A.’s convention: “that the members here assembled now constitute the American Institute of Architects and proceed to the consideration of the constitution.” C.A. Cummings of Boston, another member of the old A.I.A., then proceeded to try to circumvent Article XII of the new by-laws, that made members of both associations “fellows of the reorganized American Institute of Architects,” with the following suggestion which implied that the W.A.A. was joining the old A.I.A.:
“Mr. Cummings: It seems to me that the consideration of the constitution and by-laws which is to govern the consolidated body ought to be participated in by the members of the consolidated body and not merely by the members of one branch of the consolidated body.
Pres. Hunt: Precisely so. That is a question that has been considered. It is a question whether we would not go out of existence as the American Institute of Architects unless we proceeded upon that line. Mr. Stone’s proposition is to that effect, that the Western Association be merged right in without the stoppage of this association.”
W.W. Clay then made a motion, unanimously approved that made all members of the W.A.A. members of the A.I.A. This action was entirely out of order, for according to Article XIV (the by-laws were in effect upon the meeting of the two groups in joint convention), Article XII of the by-laws (members of both groups were already fellows of the reorganized A.I.A.) was already in effect. In addition, Clay’s motion made no mention of the associate members of the old A.I.A. that were also to become fellows of the new A.I.A. What was to become of them?
The speedy passage of Clay’s motion was followed by a welcoming speech by the Mayor of Cincinnati, giving the W.A.A. leaders time to realize that they had been duped, thus reigniting the tensions between the two associations immediately following the mayor’s speech:
“Mr. Carlin [W.A.A. pres.]: I would move a reconsideration of the motion of Mr. Clay that the members of the Western Association be passed into the American Institute of Architects for this reason. It was not the understanding, in formulating the constitution and by-laws for the merging of the two associations, that either association should be taken into the other as a body, but that both associations should meet and form a new body from the members of both, and it does not seem to meet the approbation of the members of the Western Association that they be bodily thrown into the American Institute of Architects as they now exist. I would therefore move a reconsideration of the resolution.
Mr. Hunt [A.I.A. pres.]: I would like to state before the discussion takes place that it occurred to several of us [in the A.I.A.] that unless we merged both bodies into the Institute-if the Institute dissolves-we will lose our charter. There is a legal point there as to whether the Institute should continue right on.”
Smelling a double-cross, Root immediately responded as a member of the consolidation committee:
“That question was raised in the committee. It was not even considered that the American Institute should surrender its charter, for the reason you suggest. The only point contained in the suggestion of Mr. Carlin is that the Western Association having had its innings and adjourned, the American Institute should have its meeting and adjourn and a joint convention of the association be called by its chairman. It is a matter of form in which there seems to be some sentiment as representing the quality of the union and maintaining the individuality of each association.
Pres. Hunt: Your suggestion is that we introduce a resolution to adjourn before this other motion is determined, as a matter of form?
Mr. Root: Yes, sir, and a joint convention be formed.
Mr. Briggs: The first idea is that this motion be rescinded, and then adjourn.
Mr. Clay: The question is, is that vote to be rescinded by members of the American Institute only?
Mr. Root: It would be necessary that the members only who voted upon its passage vote to rescind. It would be members of the American Institute now existing.
Pres. Hunt: All those in favor of the rescinding of the resolution say aye. Carried.”
The old A.I.A. then adjourned its convention, immediately after which Root stood up and seized the moment for the W.A.A. by moving “that the convention now be formed and organized at once, composed of the two bodies,… and that Mr. Hunt be appointed as temporary chairman.” This course of action ran counter to the plans of the old A.I.A. that still viewed consolidation as the return of the prodigal W.A.A. to the A.I.A. fold. The A.I.A. thought it had a trump card with the agreement to use its charter for the new organization, however, which Hunt wasted no time in playing by expressing his concern that the adjournment of the old A.I.A. could jeopardize the A.I.A. corporate charter:
“Pres. Hunt: That [losing the charter] is a very delicate point. I think there is just that possibly of legally losing our charter. I think it is a very important point for our consideration.
Mr. Root: If we come together as a joint convention, can we not then determine whether we can act as the American Institute of Architects and whether the name shall be the American Institute of Architects.”
Emlen T. Littell, of New York, then called Hunt’s bluff:
“This convention of the A.I.A. has met for twenty-three or twenty-four years and has adjourned without losing its charter. Why can’t it adjourn now without losing its charter?
Mr. Hunt: They have adjourned. Now there is another motion before the house, which is that we shall assemble with the two associations together, and that the chair shall be held by myself as temporary chairman. Now, then, it seems to me you are starting a new institute [which was the originally agreed-upon procedure from the W.A.A. viewpoint]. There is a legal quibble in that.
Mr. Root: The idea is this, that these gentlemen are now in an unorganized condition and should be organized as a convention, and in this convention it is to be determined what the body is to be called and under what charter it is to work. We all understand that we organized as the American Institute of Architects to proceed under the charter of the American Institute of Architects, but before we do that, we must get ourselves organized into some sort of coherent body.
Mr. Hunt: That is what has been done. This is to be, as I understand it, the American Institute of Architects, and must continue that way in order to hold our charter. Now, what has been done is to admit all those present into this body and it strikes me it is the only possible way to do it in order to avoid some possible legal difficulty. There may be nothing in it, but it strikes me that starting off that way we organize immediately a new body unless we merge one association into the other; it is a new body and we have no charter.”
Hunt’s words were in complete opposition to the spirit and the word of the carefully crafted constitution and by-laws of the new organization that had been formally adopted by both organizations six months earlier, and revealed a last-ditch effort by the warhorses of the old A.I.A. to have the last word in the battle with the upstart westerners. Norman Patton rose to defend the W.A.A. in the face of Hunt’s challenge, quoting the adopted constitution and by-laws of the reorganized A.I.A.:
“Norman Patton: It seems to me that any further motion to consolidate is unnecessary. Why? Because the whole ground has been gone over completely. Each society, by a vote of two-thirds of its members, which is sufficient to alter its constitution, if necessary, has voted to consolidate. We have in both societies formally voted and adopted this constitution. We do not meet here as an organized convention. We meet here as a consolidated society. This constitution has been voted upon by the members of the American Institute of Architects and the Western Association of Architects, and we meet under this constitution. The name is already adopted. We can change nothing. We can amend nothing except under the rules of this constitution. We are not organized at all. The American Institute of Architects does not need to vote now to take in the Western Association of Architects, because by a letter ballot it has already voted to consolidate with the Western Association of Architects. Therefore the original American Institute of Architects-that is, the American Institute of Architects with its list of membership hitherto-having adjourned, as soon as the meeting is called together as a consolidated association, what are we? We are the American Institute of Architects, with an enlarged membership.
[From here he went on quoting the constitution and by-laws to define what had already been done prior to the convention, and what was still needed to be done by the convention to get the new organization off the ground:]
… Now, it was expressly provided for in the report of the Committee on Consolidation, and adopted, that this constitution should govern this convention. It has been voted by letter ballot, and we are powerless to alter or amend this constitution except as it is provided here; and you will find it provided in this constitution that the convention cannot alter or amend the constitution. They can recommend amendments, but it requires a letter ballot to pass them. It is beyond the power of this convention to amend this constitution.”
Having confronted Hunt and his A.I.A. diehards with the fact that the new constitution was, in fact, a reality and was formulated to rule the convention of the new organization, Patton, therefore, seemed to have put an end to the A.I.A.’s last minute attempted end-around. Root then proceeded to take charge of events, once again trying to get the new organization off the ground:
“Mr. Root: That is the idea that was to be covered, that we now assemble as a convention of both bodies under that constitution-that we now assemble under this constitution, with Mr. Hunt as temporary chairman.
Mr. Kendall: Would it not be well to take middle ground and simply take the ground that the joint convention be now called to order and proceed to business.”
Root then again nominated Hunt as chairman and Patton as secretary of the convention. Both were duly elected, and just when it looked as if Root had succeeded, the Committee on Entertainment interrupted the proceedings with a series of local announcements, after which the afternoon session adjourned.
The W.A.A. and A.I.A. committees finally met in New York for three days in January 1889, to hammer out the constitution and by-laws for the new organization. Root and Adler, now abandoned by Burnham, succeeded in getting the A.I.A. to concede the two major points of contention that had led to the formation of the W.A.A. five years earlier: a hierarchical structure of local, state and national associations, and only one rank of membership, that of Fellow. The significant articles of the new constitution and by-laws were:
Art. III. Sec. 1. The Institute shall consist of fellows, of corresponding and of honorary members.
Art. IV. The officers of the Institute shall be as follows: A president, a first and a second vice-president [which the A.I.A. did not have, but the W.A.A. did], a treasurer, a secretary, and a board of directors [the W.A.A. term, instead of the A.I.A.’s Board of Trustees]…
Art. X. The Institute shall encourage the formation and continuance of state and local associations, which shall be known within the Institute as chapters.
Art. XII. The associates and fellows of the American Institute of Architects and the fellows of the Western Association of Architects shall become fellows of the reorganized American Institute of Architects,…
The term “reorganized American Institute of Architects,” that was used in Articles VIII, XII, XIII, and XIV of the By-laws, revealed the reality of the situation, namely that the two groups were forming a new organization that would use the name and charter of the old A.I.A., and not that the W.A.A. was rejoining or being absorbed into the old A.I.A. Article XII, Section 2 further clarified the issue: “All property, belonging to the American Institute of Architects and to the Western Association of Architects shall upon consolidation become the property of the reorganized body.” Article XIV stated when such consolidation would occur: “This constitution and these by-laws and the consolidation of the two organizations into the reorganized American Institute of Architects therein provided for shall not take effect until the meeting of the two organizations in joint convention.” However, Sullivan’s concern over the issue of a previously agreed-to plan to formally disband both organizations was not addressed and would come back to haunt the W.A.A. at the Consolidation Convention, for nowhere in these documents was it detailed just how the two corporate entities, each with its own charter, were to be legally merged into the new organization that would still operate under the existing charter of the old A.I.A.
The final two steps to consummate the union required the approval of the new documents through mail ballot by two-thirds of the membership of each organization, and then, finally, by the joint convention. The ballots were counted on May 20, the A.I.A. getting just the necessary two-thirds majority, while the W.A.A. overwhelmingly approved the new constitution. Agreeing on a time, and more importantly, a place for the convention, however, would be quite another matter altogether. While the consolidation committees at the joint meeting in January had recommended that the consolidation convention be held in Cincinnati because of its central geographical location, no formal action was taken by the A.I.A. as it dragged its feet for the next seven months. While the W.A.A. directors attempted to get the A.I.A. trustees to respond to the issue during this period, the A.I.A.’s secretary, A.J. Bloor, attempted to sidestep the consolidation committees’ recommendation of Cincinnati by holding out for Washington, D.C. Out of sheer frustration, Adler took the issue to the membership with an open letter that McLean published in the August issue of Inland Architect, that chided the A.I.A.’s trustees for their reluctance to get on with the business of forming the new organization:
“By virtue of the resolutions adopted by the American Institute of Architects and Western Association of Architects, the selection of a convention city rests jointly with the board of trustees of the one and the board of directors of the other. These bodies have as yet had no joint meeting; let us hope that, when they meet, their eyes will be opened to the fact that we are at peace… I take it for granted, however, that it is impossible to induce our ultra-conservative friends of the East to consent to a convention held at the West; and should this opinion be verified by the action of the joint meeting of the two boards, I trust our western representatives will yield readily to the selection of New York as a convention city. For our convention and its utterances must be something more than a repetition of a certain one held once upon a time in Tooley street. [A contemporary reference to a British saying that meant a small group thinking they represent and control the consensus of a larger group of people than they in reality do.] Nor should it be a repetition of the snug and cozy so-called conventions of the institute as held at Nashville, Albany, Newport, etc. It must be a mass meeting of architects from every part of our country-and we’ll get that at New York almost as easily as at Chicago or at Cincinnati.”
Adler’s pressure succeeding in persuading the A.I.A. trustees to meet with their W.A.A. counterparts in New York on September 19 to plan the joint convention. Cincinnati was reaffirmed as the location, with the date of the W.A.A.’s annual convention, November 20, chosen as the time for the event. A joint circular was therefore issued to the memberships of both organizations, inviting them to the joint convention of the “reorganized Institute,” with the following order of proceedings:
First, Separate action by the Western Association of Architects.
Second, Separate action by the American Institute of Architects.
Third, Joint and continuous action by the consolidated organization.
The first public discussion of the details of the consolidation took place at the 1888 A.I.A. convention, held on October 17-19, in Buffalo. The Buffalo A.I.A. convention, however, was not going to be the political cakewalk that the previous year’s Chicago convention had been, for it was now back in the East, where the majority of attendees were old-time A.I.A. members. Because neither Burnham nor Root, both A.I.A. Fellows, were in attendance at the convention due to business conflicts, the sole responsibility for stating the West’s case in the lion’s den of the East fell upon the able shoulders and sharp tongue of Adler (who had just returned from his tour of Europe with Ferdinand Peck), who at this time was an A.I.A. Associate member and chairman of the W.A.A. consolidation committee. He successfully held his ground in the face of strong opposition from such A.I.A. stalwarts like Richard Morris Hunt, one of the founders of the original A.I.A. In this chess game, the A.I.A. had been backed into a corner without any readily available escape route. The W.A.A. now had over twice the number of members of the A.I.A., it was now moving into the old traditional territory of the A.I.A. with the formation of its Western New York State Association in Buffalo, N.Y., and the Chicago convention had put the A.I.A. on record as supporting Burnham’s resolution for the “best and speediest method of consolidating all the architectural societies of the United States.”
Adler’s assertive eloquence eventually took the day, (for the sake of brevity I have only quoted the fierce debate that ensued from the A.I.A. transcript from the 1889 Convention, below) with the debate ending in the wee hours of the morning on a rather promising note with the unanimous passage of the following resolution:
“Resolved, That it is the sense of this meeting that the amalgamation of the American Institute of Architects and the Western Association of Architects is desirable if effected under conditions satisfactory to a majority of the members of the American Institute of Architects.”
Adler ended the debate on the issue the following day with a successful motion that the consolidation committee should complete its work with its W.A.A. counterpart within the next six months. For efficiency purposes, the size of the committee was reduced from five to three members, one of them being Burnham.
As the steadfast supporters of the A.I.A. had taken the opportunity offered by the convention to try to scuttle the consolidation scheme, it was feared that a similar attack would take place at the coming W.A.A. convention in Chicago by those Westerners who did not agree with Burnham’s apparent capitulation to use the A.I.A. name for the proposed new organization. This was the crux of the matter from the W.A.A. viewpoint. If the name of the organization continued to be A.I.A., the old A.I.A. would naturally appear to history not to have been reformed by the actions from the West. The old A.I.A. could then always avoid the truth and claim later in history (which it still does!) that the W.A.A. had rejoined it, instead of the fact that the W.A.A. had, indeed, succeeded in reforming the old A.I.A. and both associations had formed a new organization in 1889 with a new constitution, based on the W.A.A.’s constitution. No one seemed to perceive the historical significance of this subtle, but vital, difference in interpretation better than Sullivan:
“There is one little point, while this matter of details is up, that it may be well for the committee to understand, that is to say: It is to be definitely understood by these two committees that when the new organization is formed, each of the old associations shall formally disband. I speak in this way for I think I detect in these proceedings a disposition for absorption; I feel the Western Association has either got to be gobbled up or the Institute; I think it a matter to be understood by both institutions that they formally disband…”
4.5. THE FALL OF BURNHAM
Throughout all this debate, the voice of Burnham, who had been the most publicly-forceful proponent of consolidation, had been uncharacteristically silent. As he was on the A.I.A. committee, Burnham was formally requested by Adler to speak to Sullivan’s concern, that turned out not only to be, very uncharacteristically, the only words spoken by Burnham during the entire three days of the W.A.A. convention, but more importantly, seemed to confirm the suspicion that he had, indeed, sold out to the A.I.A.:”
“Gentlemen, this is what I hoped would not happen. Being on the Institute Committee on Consolidation, I feel myself bound by its views, and not at liberty to advocate here, what might seem opposed to them. I am, however, clear in regard to the matter: that the machinery of the final body should be simple as it can be made… I would like to say, I hope this convention will not instruct its committee. A little reflection will show everybody that no man can come to any definite conclusion today or tomorrow. I hope the convention, then, will not attempt to instruct them definitely on any of these points we have had under discussion. I believe this is the safest course to pursue. Certainly, if your committee is a competent one, you will be safe to leave all these details in their hands.”
The distrust of the A.I.A. among the W.A.A. was not limited to just Sullivan, however, for it became even more apparent on the third day of the convention with the election of officers for the coming year. Apparently, according to a plan agreed upon by the W.A.A. directors, Burnham had been nominated by both nominating committees as the official candidate to be the last president of the W.A.A., a suspicious coincidence to say the least, but a fitting tribute to his efforts. Such was not to be his destiny, however, for somehow, professional envy of his success or perhaps a revolt by “true westerners,” who may have viewed Burnham as a traitor, triggered opposition to his uncontested nomination. William W. Clay, a fellow A.I.A. member from Chicago and the current president of the Illinois State Architectural Association, objected to the lack of an alternative candidate and nominated William Carlin, the leader of the Buffalo group who had been responsible for the successful formation of the Western New York Society. The opposition to Burnham must have been deep-seated, for he lost the election 26-22, in his own town no less. At the same time that Burnham was rejected, LeRoy Buffington was elected Vice President. (He was still basking in the publicity surrounding his recent patent and his “Cloudscraper.”)
Humbled, and no doubt embittered, Burnham could reconcile himself inwardly only with the fact that he and Root still were on the two committees that would ultimately decide the shape of the new A. I. A. Even so, following such public humiliation at the hands of his colleagues in his hometown, nonetheless, Burnham completely withdrew from all involvement in professional organizations for the next three years, leaving Root alone to see the consolidation process through to its natural conclusion and to reap the corresponding accolades for its success. (Yes, this contradicts the “conventional wisdom” that it was Burnham, and not Root, who was the “business-oriented” glad-handed partner.)
I have consciously avoided events in Chicago following the Haymarket Square bombing, with the exception of the construction of the Auditorium (there were few other notable events) with a purpose: to create a psychological sense in my readers similar to how this two-plus year hiatus in construction in Chicago was actually experienced by the local architectural community. There was a “great divide” in Chicago’s architecture during this decade: what was built prior to May 4, 1886, was different in many ways from what was to be built when the local building economy began to rebound in the summer of 1888. I have used the 1888 Republican Convention, June 19-25, as the temporal pivot between these two periods. We have seen that Root took advantage of the slowdown to take a European tour to catch-up with events in Britain and on the continent. (No itinerary of his trip has survived, but based on his interests, I assume that it included Britain, Paris, Albi Cathedral, and Venice.)
When he returned, he found the construction of the office’s four projects in Kansas City, including the Board of Trade, under the firm control of Burnham, who also had a bevy of construction sites in Chicago, including the Rookery, to deal with. The contest of over the design of the Auditorium was just beginning to heat up but would not peak until December-January 1887 that resulted in the loss of his chance to design Chicago’s largest building. (The loss of the Board of Trade that had robbed him of the design of Chicago’s tallest building I’m sure still sat in the back of his memory…) With little else to design in Chicago at the time, he seems to have directed his energies once again to reforming his chosen profession. (As far as I have been able to research, the story of the consolidation of the WAA and the AIA has never been published. The event has been shrouded in misleading assumptions and broad generalizations, until now. I have read all of the transcripts of the meetings that took place over this event and have summarized the 1887 and 1888 AIA and WAA conventions that led up to the 1889 Consolidation Convention in Cincinnati, that I have transcribed in great detail so you can make your own decision about what actually had transpired. Enjoy!)
4.1. THE CHICAGO ARCHITECTURAL SKETCH CLUB
On the evening of Nov. 15. 1886, two nights before the first day of the W.A.A. Annual Convention, to be held in Chicago, the Chicago Architectural Sketch Club (founded only one and a half earlier; see: Vol. 3, Sec. 9.6)) held its first Annual Banquet. Root was honored not only by the appearance of his name at the top of the guest list, but also by giving the first toast after dinner, one of the highest privileges at this time, for it set the mood of the evening, that could easily go until 5 in the morning. It was reported that “Mr. Root’s response was an unusually fine address to the draftsmen. It will long be remembered, and merited the enthusiastic manner in which it was received.” To top off what could be considered to have been a rather successful evening, Root was also voted as the Club’s first honorary member. (Three days later he would be voted President of the W.A.A.)
Root returned to the front of the Sketch Club six weeks later to give the first lecture of the new year, the subject of which was “Style:”
“The paper was listened to with the deepest attention by the largest attendance of members ever assembled at a meeting of this club, there being over sixty present. The paper was probably the best ever written upon the subject, and the deep silence of the listeners was only broken at the close of the reading, when it was most enthusiastically applauded. Remarks were made… and a vote of thanks was responded to by Mr. Root, in a manner that will always be remembered by the members of the Club, and add to the esteem in which the speaker is already held by them.”
Over the next four years, Root would emerge as the most revered personality by the group’s members. An example of this was that he was the subject of one the group’s favorite drinking songs, “The Jovial Crew,” that contained “many personal allusions in the verses that were complimentary to Mr. Root,” that were always followed with the chorus, “When John Root Gets Through My Boys, When John Root Gets Through.”
4.2. THE REFORMATION OF THE A.I.A.: ACT ONE
Once having succeeded in seceding from the A.I.A. in 1884 with the formation the W.A.A., Burnham and Root had then set their sights on merging the two organizations, under the W.A.A.’s new constitution. Their campaign, together with R.C. McLean, the editor of Inland Architect, was designed as thoroughly as any Burnham & Root building, and at its start, unfolded like clockwork. Root had been elected at the 1886 W.A.A. convention held Nov. 17-9, 1886, in Chicago as its president, a position we will see, Burnham would never attain. Root had then been named as the official W.A.A. representative to the A.I.A. convention to be held the following month in New York City. As only Richard Nixon could open the door to China, Root as President and one of the founders of the W.A.A., was the Western leader who alone could start the ticklish process of reunification with the East. He, therefore, took the liberty, undoubtedly pre-meditated, to first extend the olive branch of peace: “Do not understand that the Western Association is in any way a rival of yours, but is established to carry forward the work you are engaged in in the ‘Wild West.'” Then he revealed the purpose of his attendance, by extending an opportunity for the A.I.A. to continue the reconciliation process by inviting its leaders to hold the 1887 convention in Chicago. He slyly gave no hint of the ultimate agenda, however. The trap had been set.
After months of avoiding the invitation, the A.I.A. eventually accepted Root’s invitation and scheduled its 1887 convention for Chicago, taking the bait. Thus, the West had launched its campaign to unite the two organizations, and in good old Chicago political fashion, the opening round was to take place in a convention in Chicago, where the voting membership could easily be stacked. In order to be able to vote in the upcoming convention, W.A.A. members individually began to apply for and were granted A.I.A. membership. Burnham and Root had already decided that while Root would manage the campaign from within the W.A.A., Burnham would play the Trojan Horse and manage the politics from within the A.I.A. He had already begun distancing himself from the W.A.A. in order to be able to more openly approach the A.I.A.
4.3. ACT TWO: THE 1887 CONVENTIONS
Thus, the stage was set for the A.I.A. to come to Chicago on October 19, 1887, to meet for three days in Burnham & Root’s newly completed Art Institute. Of the 58 A.I.A. members who attended the convention, only 25 were old-line Easterners. The W.A.A. had stacked the membership roll effectively, for of the 33 members from the W.A.A., 26, one more than the entire Eastern contingent, were from Chicago alone. Any item of business the Westerners wanted to pass, including consolidation of the two organizations, would be assured of a majority vote. In addition, the interests of the W.A.A. would be well-managed, for the Board of Directors had appointed President Root and Dankmar Adler, to be the W.A.A.’s official representatives at the A.I.A. convention.
The convention schedule listed Burnham as the A.I.A. member who had volunteered to introduce the issue of consolidation on the floor. This was a clever maneuver on the part of the Chicagoans, for rather than officially broaching the issue of consolidation in a W.A.A. forum, the idea would, therefore, be formally presented as an A.I.A. idea. This was evidently a tactic employed not only to placate the ego of the A.I.A. members, but also to allow the W.A.A. to say in later debates that consolidation was an A.I.A. idea to which the W.A.A had graciously consented.
On the second day of the A.I.A. convention, Burnham and Root launched into their characteristic Damon and Pythias routine. While Root, the president of the W.A.A., played the great diplomat and succeeded in being elected to the A.I.A. Board of Trustees, the first Westerner to be so honored, Burnham was the point man on the third day in giving an inspirational speech that laid out Chicago’s plan for a truly national, newly-formed organization of the country’s architects, that included a new constitution based upon the W.A.A.’s, and the controversial proposal to reuse the name, American Institute of Architects, (this was not in the W.A.A.’s original proposal but a politically necessary compromise to move the project forward). He concluded with a motion that a committee of five members be appointed to meet with an equivalent committee from the W.A.A. to work out the final details of consolidation. The motion was approved, and Burnham was one of the five named to the A.I.A. committee.
The following month when President Root opened the 1887 W.A.A. convention in Cincinnati, Burnham was nowhere to be seen. Apparently, he had indeed withdrawn from visual participation in the W.A.A. to work from within the A.I.A. It was Adler, as Chairman of the Board of Directors, who introduced the issue of consolidation with the A.I.A. and moved that a committee of five be named by Pres. Root to meet with Burnham and the A.I.A. committee. Louis Sullivan quickly responded with an amendment that Root should appoint himself to the committee. While Sidney Smith was elected president of the W.A.A. for the coming year, Root was promoted to Chairman of the W.A.A. Board of Directors at the same time that he was also sitting of the Board of Trustees of the A.I.A. So much for conflict of interests. The campaign was well under way.