- This attractive repeating Art Deco design originally was made in individual nickel plated bronze pieces. The pieces when bolted together formed a repeating motiff lintel across the top of the interior entrance doorway of the Women’s House of Detention.The Jail was located at 6th Ave behind the present day Jefferson Market Public Library which was originally a courthouse.The New York Women’s House of Detention is believed to have been the world’s only art deco prison. It was designed by Sloan and Robertson in 1931 and opened to the public with a luncheon on March 29, 1932.The courthouse, and jail, the latter which was subsequently opened in 1934 (demolished 1973) was the scene of the notorious Harry K Thaw murder trial of renowned architect Stanford White in 1906.I rescued several of the individual bronze pieces, the rest were scrapped during demolition, the original lintel was about 8 feet long. I have made a mold of one of the sections and have several configurations available.I have a book I saw in a list of references in an article on this building, I was hoping for some photos and didn’t know what to expect of the actual contents. Anyway it’s titled Hellhole; the shocking story of the inmates and life in the New York City House of Detention for Women. By Sara Harris, Dutton 1967. It starts out detailing the jail building and the horrid conditions, rats, roaches, overcrowding, the lousy staff/correction officers/doctors and system that was a total failure in every possible way.The city was paying correction officers and doctors on call about $90 a month flat fee, so needless to say the morale to do work wasn’t there, nor were the quality of the medical services. The women only jail saw mostly drug addicts and prostitutes, most all of whom were repeatedly put in there- which clearly shows how the entire criminal justice and court system was a total failure. The book goes on to take general leave of the conditions of the jail and staff treatment of prisoners, and starts diving right into much more detailed case histories and interviews with a number of former and present inmates. Harris’ interviews took her to the worst slums in Harlem. Her subjects recounted their time in this jail and coping with a constant barage of rats, dirty bedding with mice nests inside, toilets that leaked on the floor, the homosexual attacks on new inmates and the gang/protection racket amongst the various factions within the prisoners. They further recounted the lack of medical services and a number of instances where inmates with serious mental or physical problems were not given treatment or given the standard pills they handed to everyone who had a medical complaint of any kind- drug withdrawl pills. Harris’ interviews showed graphically how the entire cycle began, and why the women wound up being incarcerated over and over again- one woman arrested 28 times- for the same crimes.The mystery of why someone in the system didn’t start thinking there had to be a better way, treatment for drug addictions and a help up out of the poverty and lack of skills that resulted in prostitution and stealing. The lack of skilled staff and quality medical care, the city’s dire budgetary shortfalls, and the poorly designed “system” all came together in the most disasterous fashion, and the results were a revolving-door of the same pathetic addicted inmates, and ineffectively dealing with the root causes of the problems that brought them there in the first place. It appears as though the “blame” was largely and inappropriately placed upon The “Women’s House of Detention” building when in reality, the jail was a visible and dark symptom of the much larger, totally ineffective and broken- criminal justice, legal, and social welfare system.The problem was not so much “the building” as it was the city, poor budget and the quality of staff that $90 a month salary could obtain. I’m not so certain that the ubiquitous rats, roaches, filth, overflowing toilets and poorly trained abusive staff were not symptomatic of all such detention facilities given the budget shortfalls, poorly paid staff and overburdoned court system. In the end, as a “solution” to neighborhood complaints it was the building that was demolished, the system apparently was not fixed nor were the budget problems addressed. Indeed, now, as then, the faces appearing in the facilities and courts are young black poverty stricken, addicted and hopeless people caught up in the system and it’s revolving door cycle of arrest, release back on the street with no job, or money with which to buy food or pay rent, and untreated drug addictions for which the person needs exorbitant amounts of money to support. One can’t help but wonder if these issues are the same today, with only the inmate faces and the addiction of choice being the bulk of any change since the 1960’s Harris’ book has no photos or images, but the details of the stories leaves the readers with more than enough of a series of mental images as clear as any photos she could have included.The sculpture is now available in two sizes, large and original;Copyright © 2019 Randall’s Urban Sculptures
Sullivanesque panel, after historic artifacts once on the James W Scoville building, Chicago.
I am excited to offer this interesting Sullivanesque 1884 design after the artifacts that were connected to Adler & Sullivan, George Elmslie, Kristian Schneider, and once installed on the James W Scoville building in Chicago.
Those involved in creating the original 1884 Chicago design are said to have included;
George Grant Elmslie
Significance: The James W. Scoville factory building, designed by Adler & Sullivan contains three different designs belonging to the transitional period (1880 and 1890) of Louis Sullivan’s architectural ornament. This structure was the best and most ornamental of all the few remaining factory buildings by Adler & Sullivan.
Some of the original historic artifacts that were salvaged from the 1973 demolition are in the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) and were gifted by the Metropolitan Museum, a set of three of these artifacts appears in the St Louis Art Museum’s web site of their holdings.
The artist working on the master clay model of this design from photos and known measurements
How the original artifacts were originally used on the Scoville building’s facadeThe picture above is from a HABS study done before the building was demolished, three of these designs were installed together under the window sills on one floor.
One of my interior cast stone casts in the aged buff yellow finish shown above, the mold for casting was taken directly from the original clay modelSIZE: Nominal 21-1/4″ high by 13″ wide, 3″ deep.WEIGHT:Nominal #35To purchase a cast of this;
https://www.urbansculptures.com/cart/product/sullivanesque-panel-after-james-w-scoville-chicago-nr-ls-2-interior-version/There is also a hand-pressed, kiln fired red terracotta version available;
The terracotta version is;Nominal 11-3/4″ wideNominal 19″ highNominal 4-1/2″ deep
To purchase the fired terracotta version, the link is here;
This James W Scoville building Elmslie “Sullivanesque” sculpture is now out of the kiln, it is still about 200 degrees and had to be handled with gloves, it turned out perfect!
One can see the color change in photos from the previous dry/unfired state and now that it’s been fired to a little over 2,079 degrees, actually cone 2 tipped because I added a 15 minute “hold” at the set temperature, but because of the “heat work” it went a little higher, but the result is better and the color is nice and even top to bottom, whereas in the past the very bottom of large pieces like this would turn out slightly lighter due to slightly lower temperatures near the floor of the kiln.
A Virginia museum has an original, that one still has the old grey paint slathered all over it but the red clay underneath can be seen.
Someone has one they have been trying to sell for quite a while for $5,000 !!
Exterior Ornament from the James W. Scoville Building, Chicago (Primary Title)
Dankmar Adler, 1844-1900 (Artist)
Louis Sullivan, American, 1856 – 1924 (Artist)
Northwestern Terra Cotta Co. (Artist)
probably modeled by, Kristian Schneider (Modeler)
After 4 weeks of drying I placed the pressed clay Chicago James Scoville building “Sullivanesque” panel in the kiln and turned ‘er on.
I changed the program on the controller slightly for this piece by bumping the temperature up and adding 10 minutes soak time to when the kiln reaches that temperature.
About 37 hours from now the kiln will shut off and take half a day to cool down before I see what I get.
Meanwhile, here it is sitting in the kiln when I turned it on. The light yellow colored deals touching the back of the panel are shelf posts and I placed them on both front and back so that should the panel want to tip- it can’t.
The two red pyramid haped deals resting on top of the posts are called “cones” and they will partially melt and bend over at specified temperatures each uniquely is formulated to do that at, so they tell me if the kiln got hot enough- what it was set to, or too hot- hotter than I set it for.
In this case there’s a cone 1 which bends over at 2,079 degrees F and a cone 2 which bends over at 2,088 degrees F, and yes they are THAT accurate that 9 degrees in a furnace that is over 2,000 degrees can be measured accurately.
The temperature and soak time much like baking a cake or making toast in a toaster- also affects the final color and “doneness” of the terracotta. This clay I use is a brick red that as the temperature goes above that cone 1 starts to turn brown- it can take cone 5 (2,167 degrees) at which point it turns a dark chococate brown! I’ve never gone higher than cone 1 but it would be interesting to experiment with a smaller piece.
So far I’ve shown the modelling process, the hand-pressing process and now the kiln firing process will wrap it all up in a sort of educational “How the architectural terracotta was made” in Sullivan’s day and before.
The first hand-pressed clay sculpture is finished and drying now before it can be kiln fired.
Once this is fired in the kiln I will have an exact size and weight and a firm price for these signed, numbered and dated works reproducing this historic George Grant Elmslie/Louis Sullivan 1884 Chicago design featuring a styled webbed lotus.
The design is an early work by these men and it dates to the foundation of what has become known as the “Sullivanesque” style of architectural ornament.
The James W Scoville building was demolished in the 1970s, many of the original artifacts were salvaged, most are in private collections while a few are in museums such as the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts where it appears in photos on their web site still sporting it’s old battleship grey paint that was slathered on the original facade over the rich red brick and terracotta.
Now instead of hoping one of these might come up at an auction, and only finding ONE when you might really need a pair for a project, and instead of paying upwards of $5,000 for one of those, these authentic hand-pressed kiln fired sculptures can be had new, in any quantity, made exactly the same way the originals were made in the 1880s- one can purchase these from me at $349 delivered (48 states only)
As can be seen in the bottom photo, these really ARE made exactly like the originals- including the typical webbed compartments in the back- the portion that was embedded into the wall.
The webbing gives considerable structural strength and stability, and when kiln fired to almost 2,100 degrees F it becomes vitrified and has less porosity than even modern hard brick. As a result these can be built into a brick or stone wall or displayed in the garden too.
These will probably be around 50 pounds in weight as this one took 60 pounds of clay.
I pressed the first LS2 panel today, it took 60 pounds of clay, the sculpture will need to firm up a little and dry a little before I can finish cleaning up and refining the surface details.
It takes about 2- 3 weeks of slow, careful drying of pressed clay sculptures of this size before they can be kiln fired.
The firing process in an electric kiln takes approximately 36 hours and the high quality clay I use is fired to what is known as “Cone 1”- about 2,100 degrees F which vitrifies it nicely to become harder and less porous than standard hard bricks are.
Once the sculpture was removed from the plaster mold as shown, I have to spend considerable time going over every milimeter of the surface to model-in any missing details, sharpen edges, eliminate any surface defects, mold seams etc.
Each is a signed, numbered and dated work of art.
A timelapse video of the whole process is here;
The new mold for pressing terracotta from is finally dry, it took 2 weeks in front on a box fan on high. The main base piece weighs 90#, the other 6 sections probably adds another 50# to that.
George Elmslie and Dankmar Adler’s 1884 Chicagoan James Scoville building “Sullivanesque” design is sure to be stunning in kiln fired red terracotta. There are a few originals out there, at least one is sitting in a Virginia museum, and others as well as other designs from the same building have been spotted on already sold live-auction sites after having sold for an insane $5,000- $15,000, but when people have NO lower cost options and want a particular design then they have to pay through the nose, they also have to accept whatever condition and quantity is available.
It would really suck if someone had a great design in mind for their project, but it takes 4 identical pieces and they can only find 2 at a salvage yard! That’s a common delemma whe dealing with antiques- you need 2 someone only has 1 for sale, or you find 2 but one is so damaged it’s almost unusable.
That’s where I have an advantage, because if a client needs 4 of these or 44 of them, they could have them, and at a far more reasonable cost! At this time the interior-cast stone version of this panel is priced at $229, shipped to any of the lower 48 states;SIZE: Nominal 21-1/4″ high by 13″ wide, 3″ deep.
WEIGHT: Nominal #35
When these are pressed from terracotta, due to clay shrinkage, the fired terracotta version will be slightly smaller- approx 10-15%, so those will wind up around 19″ high and 11-1/2″ wide which will be a nice residential scaled sculpture that can be displayed indoors or outdoors, it can be embedded into a brick, concrete or stone wall.I expect the terracotta version will probably be priced around $329https://www.urbansculptures.com/cart/product/sullivanesque-panel-after-james-w-scoville-chicago-nr-ls-2/
The plaster-piece mold for this is done, waiting for the last section to set before taking it apart, and finishing up the last segment of a time-lapse video of it.
It took 125# of plaster and some 7 gallons of water, about half of that water will evaporate out.
It will be probably 2 weeks with fans blowing on it to dry it out enough to use for pressing the clay into.
This is exactly how the working molds were made for all of the Elmslie “Sullivaesque” terracotta, and all of the similar architectural terracotta as well.
About the biggest difference between then and now is only in my using a rubber positive copy instead of taking this plaster mold directly off the original clay model. With the rubber positive I could make additional or replacement molds from that whereas the clay original master is typically destroyed in the process.
Back in the old days these kinds of designs were typically custom made for each building job, so they tended to only need a few of each, a dozen maybe. If they made terracotta cornices and windowsills, these were typically made by extruding the clay thru a die under mechanical pressure for small ones, for larger ones they used a system of running a template along the clay which was the same way they did the elaborate plaster ceiling crown moldings- shaped in place using wood runner strips and templates.
As I look around in google and flickr’s images, there’s certainly no lack of a large variety of Sullivan & Elmslie designed architectural terracotta, both pictured on building facades as well as stripped-off artifacts such as those found at the City Museum in St Louis from demolitions.
As I find interesting designs that I like and think will sell, I’ll be working on more models of these unique and interesting designs.
I’ve already identified at least two pieces I want to model next, the first one was from the same James Scoville building as the recently finished design with the webbed lotus leaf design.
The original shown below was sold at an auction site a few years ago for a whopping $11,250 plus the usual buyer’s premium which tends to add about another 20% and sales tax on top which brought the final price on this to an insane $15,000;
I’ll probably work on developing the design and starting the model of the main section of the above in the next 2-3 weeks, I may make the side pieces as well since it’s MUCH easier to make them and have them fit properly if they are done together, it would take 10 different uniquely shaped moldings for the surround, but they were nothing but flat blocks with a half-round design on the surface acting as a nice visual border.
Probably when it’s done in fired red terracotta the pricing for each main motif sans the borders will run around $325, but it will be available in interior cast stone as well. The borders will be modelled and stored away in case a client wants them, I won’t automatically just make molds of those as there may not be any interest in the border pieces.
The other design I liked is at the City Museum in St Louis MO., I once went to St Louis to visit a friend of mine there, and to exhibit at a dog show sponsored by Purina, my hotel was some distance from the show grounds on the Purina property, but I visited St Louis.
So this is a pier capital from the Washington Irving public school that was demolished in Indiana, it was about 20″ square, with an interesting repeated design. I’ll be starting a model of this soon as well. Probably when it’s done in fired red terracotta the pricing will run around $325, but it will be available in interior cast stone as well.
With the plaster backing done for the rubber positive I made yesterday, I removed the assembly from the rubber mold. Once the plaster backing on this master positive is soaped up well, I can make the plaster piece-mold of this for pressing the terracotta into, The piece mold will be made in at least 5 pieces, most likely about 8 pieces.
It won’t happen very soon as I used up the very last bag of pottery plaster I had on hand and I’ll have to order more along with some other materials and I need some more clay, but I don’t want to order clay when it’s below freezing, so I may order the clay in the spring and order the plaster and other stuff I need now- soon!
I’ve begun the process last night to take my design towards making it in hand-pressed kiln fired terracotta, that requires two additional mold making steps, the first of which is making a rubber positive master cast using the new rubber mold, the second step is making a plaster piece-mold taken off the rubber positive.
Shown below is the rubber positive that was poured in last night- the remaining cavity not filled with that amber colored rubber will be filled with plaster to save on expensive rubber since only the face is the important portion of the design.
The amount of rubber shown in the mold was 2 gallons total, and this cost just about $200, so it’s easy to see how much it would cost to fill this the rest of the way up with this rubber!
Once this rubber is cured and the cavity filled to the top with plaster, it’s taken apart and the plaster and rubber master positive can be used to make the plaster piece mold.
This is similar to the way this was done for the originals my work is based on, though the final plaster piece molds are made identically to the way they were for these pieces back in the 19th and early 20th century when these ornaments were used on building facades.
All of the Sullivan/Elmslie designed terracotta ornaments were made exactly the way I make them- hand-pressed clay into plaster piece-molds, and then final finishing and detailing all done by hand one at a time.
The Virginia Museum of fine art which has a few artifacts from this building also has at least one of these lunettes with a very similar design on it as the spandrel panels have.
I like the shape of it as well, I have no plans to but easily could make the surrounding flat pieces for it if a client wanted them.
I will be working on this model very soon, of course it takes time and this type of work is done when I have time, and more time for the various mold making processes to get done, but progress photos will come along here soon enough.
This would most likely be priced around $325 in fired red terracotta.
The museum has their artifact sized 18-1/4″ x 18-1/2″ and 4″ deep, this size would fit into my existing kiln, so this is another design I can keep my model of full sized like the originals and offer both interior cast-stone this size but less deep to hang ON the wall, and hand-pressed terracotta which will be slightly smaller due to the shrinkage of the clay but made a nominal 3″ deep which can be additionally used outdoors in the garden or embedded into a brick or stone wall of any type.
Dankmar Adler, 1844-1900
Louis Sullivan, American, 1856 – 1924 (Architects) Northwestern Terra Cotta Co., probably modeled by, Kristian Schneider 1884-1885
A photo of the grey painted artifact in the museum which is not on public view at the museum, appears here; https://www.vmfa.museum/piction/6027262-7946023/
The artifact they have is a gift of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
I just ordered the two gallons of pourable mold rubber I need to “convert” my “Sullivanesque” design that was recently finished- into a form I can take a plaster piece mold from for pressing terracotta into. Two gallons is not enough to fill the mold, it is only enough to pour about 1″ deep, the rest of the depth will have to be plaster to save on the costs of not having to buy two more gallons of expensive rubber.
At last the mold is finished along with the complete time lapse video for that process;
I also cast the first interior cast from the mold and gave it a weathered antiqued wash so I could get a photo.
It will be available in brick red, kiln fired terracotta as well.
To purchase a cast of this design;
Now with the clay model done and ready to make the mold of this interesting webbed lotus flower motif, I have begun that process today and will be finishing it to-morrow
A timelapse video of the process; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CBhOYdwVyhU