Frank Fisher Apartments
1209 N. State St.
I first discovered the Frank Fisher apartments when I lived across the street from them for a semester in college. At that point my interest in architecture hadn’t translated into any kind of purpose, and the Frank Fisher apartments looked shabby and forgotten. Basically, I was living across the street from an architectural masterpiece and it was mostly lost on me. Since then, my interest in architecture has grown into something more meaningful, and the Frank Fisher Apartments have been restored to their original beauty. I am no longer fortunate enough to live in such proximity to them, but I was afforded the opportunity to tour one of the apartments last fall which was exhilarating to say the least.
Frank Fisher, the developer of the building, was an executive for Marshall Fields. He went to architect Andrew Rebori with a challenging problem to solve: squeezing 13 apartments into a narrow lot along State Street. Even more challenging was that this property was in the heart of the Gold Coast (the ritziest of Chicago neighborhoods), so the apartments would have to not only fit in the space, but be fitting for high-class tenants. Rebori came up with an interesting solution. He created a courtyard extending the length (or depth) of the property with two levels of apartments lining the courtyard along its southern side. The result is a private and tranquil space – a secret escape from the hubbub of Chicago.
Completed in 1938, you could call this style of architecture Depression Era Modernism, Art Moderne, or it has elements of the Art Deco genre as well. However, Rebori’s building is so unique that the only box its style can truly fit in is his own. It’s entirely curvilinear inside and out. The glass block walls provide for indirect light while also enhancing the ever-present feeling of privacy. The white painted brickwork is both structural and ornamental – subtly adding definition to the twists and turns of the building. What puts it over the top though is the decorative work throughout the apartments by artist Edgar Miller. His delicate window etchings face the courtyard, and sculptured animals originally accented the facade.
And just in case you’re in the market for a pricey apartment one is up for sale: Baird & Warner, Frank Fisher Apartment