Washington Irving school, Hammond Ind W1 pier capital model started

Washington Irving school pier capital
Starting the model of the W1 pier capital

To-day I started the process on the Washington Irving school, once at 4727 Pine St., Hammond Ind W1 pier capital model.

I happened to find photos of this interesting 1936 George Elmslie/Louis Sullivan “Sullivanesque” style design at the City Museum in St Louis and decided to create a model of it. I was able to scale the size of the original terracotta artifacts to about 20″ square.¬† Though the originals were actually about 20″ deep embedded into the wall as well as projecting out from the wall about 5″,¬† I needed to modify that original configuration to a more practical one for how my clients would likely use it- hanging ON the wall, or embedded 3-4″ into a brick or stone wall, so with that end goal in mind this model is designed to do both as it will be a nominal 4″ deep.

The original pier capitals projected out from the face of the brick facade by about 5″, as a result the design on the fronts of the capitals wrapped around on the two sides, since doing that configuration would mean making my model 5″ deeper yet (9″ total) it would make it a less than useful design for how it would be used in a non pier capital display, so I will not wrap the design around the sides beyond possibly the smallest amount on the corners.

George Grant Elmslie & William Hutton- architects, and the Midland terracotta  Co with modeller Albert Fritz are said to have executed the original terracotta artifacts for the school in 1936, the school was demolished in 2003.

As the description on a placard at the City Museum says- this is an outstanding example of the Louis Sullivan style of architectural ornament. The Art Deco inspired chevron or “V” is surrounded by thistle leaves and is sprouting leaves of a plant or bud of a flower. The flower which made up of seeds emerges from the plant stalk.

In looking at the design itself, I noticed this curiosity which I circled in red;

The modeller, said to be Fritz Albert, obviously left that little square of material in the center of both larger squares, in actual modelling practice the easiest way to scribe or cut those vertical and horizontal cross lines would be to make one motion top to bottom and left to right with a tool, but Fritz didn’t do that, instead, he made four cuts to leave that little center intact, the question is why?

It’s almost as if it’s a deliberate miniature version of one of the four larger squares, but since the Elmslie/Sullivanesque designs were all based on styled organic plant forms and geometric shapes, it may be the four squares and center square are an Art Deco inspired styled four petal flower and bud.

Since none of those involved are alive to ask, we can only guess, but it makes sense.