A Good Run

The exhibit had a good run and it is now closed.  All the items mounted in the display will come down today.  Other artifacts, such as over 150 original blueprints and drawings, as well as over 1000 original documents, and over 300 historical photos are going back into storage or returned to their owners.

(Blueprints and drawings, spread out in my living room, being checked, sorted and readied to be returned or put back in storage.)

The exhibit ran approximately six months, and during that time, visitors were able to view the only comprehensive collection of artifacts and documents of this fine architect’s career that has even been offered.   Several hundred unique and rare items were either on display, made available for viewing in one of our special events or available for private study by other fans or scholars.

I am satisfied by the turnout, and by the comments of many – some who were very knowledgeable experts on the Prairie School – many who were previously unaware of Van Bergen’s contribution –  who walked away revising their own views about the history of that architectural period and style.

A few visitors were blown away by the number of documents, and by the fact that I had been able to put such a comprehensive collection together over the past 15 or so years!  Before I started this project, all other previous scholars and fans, if you will, of the Prairie School (or Prairie Style) had been deterred from studying this architect’s work by their collective assumption that it was impossible to piece together his long past life and career – that most of it would be forever lost to history.

There were also a handful of detractors who visited the exhibit and browsed some of the collection, all of whom were unhappy that the exhibit, and how it was presented, did not, by omission, pay homage to the best known of the Prairie School architects, Frank Lloyd Wright.  That reaction was not unexpected because, just by seeing in front of them the straightforward and simple presentation of the documents, history and photographs in the exhibit, which demonstrated the unique contributions of a previously ignored architect, they were forced to rethink some of the canon of the history they thought they knew.  I enjoyed their visits and feedback as much as the others who came.  It saddened me a bit that there were yet other detractors would not attend at all, because they already had preconceived notions, and were not even open mined enough to have their views challenged.

Most others who viewed the exhibit seemed delighted to see something unexpected and new to them.  A few were awed by being able to handle and study closely some of the rare drawings, letters and other personal items of Van Bergen.

My only regret is that many of the rare items on loan for the exhibit, once they are returned may never again be seen.  These things have a tendency to permanently disappear or degenerate over time if they are not contained in a collection or museum with the resources to properly store and conserve them.  Some things that were loaned for this exhibit were subsequently given to me to be part of the permanent collection, for which I am extremely and humbly grateful, and which I am now preparing for eventual donation to an institution that will make the entire collection accessible to future scholars.  Hopefully someone down the road will add to and enhance the work that I’ve already done.  And hopefully, they’ll also be able to make a dollar or two from it, which has evaded me.  This has been an expensive hobby, and as I look at the effort and cost it will take to properly catalog, digitize and do proper conservation of all the historical materials, I am happy to pass it along to someone else with deeper pockets.

As I said, it’s been a good run.  And in the past 15 years, it’s opened some doors for me, and enabled me to meet some great people I never would have otherwise.  That’s the big win.

Here is a final video as I walked through the exhibit space showing the items and photos mounted on the display walls.  I took this for future reference in case I ever want to recreate the exhibit.  As you can see, the exhibit space is already being readied for some musical recitals and concerts that will be taking place in the next few weeks.  This is something new, and is part of an effort to broaden the role of the History Museum, and have it also be an important cultural center in the Barrington area.

You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video

I am extremely grateful to the Barrington History Museum for partnering with me and allowing me to use their first class exhibit space for such an extended period.  It has allowed me to build a resume for the collection, and myself, that will be invaluable to both.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Van Bergen Exhibit – Last Call

The Heritage Series


“Van Bergen Exhibit – LAST CALL”

Open House:
Wednesday, September 21, 2011 – 5:00pm to 9:00 pm
and Saturday, September 24 – 12:00 to 4:00 PM
Join Marty Hackl as he narrates the life and career
of noted Prairie School Architect


Original Artifacts and Drawings
will be on display
Join us for a Tour and Conversation!

Discussion, Questions, and Refreshments
following the program

Old Barrington Center
212 Main Street

Society Office: 847.381.1730

Admission: Members $5.00 Non-Members $7.00
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Found another one

Unfortunately, this is only a photo of a 1945 Van Bergen drawing.  The photograph looks like it was hanging on a wall somewhere.  Right now, it looks like the original is nowhere to be found.  But still, I’m glad to have this photo.  The Chicago Junior School, dining hall was, of course, built.  This is a nice drawing of it from a birds-eye view.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Two more newly found John Van Bergen drawings

Just a couple of weeks ago, I came across these drawings for two unbuilt 1929 designs by John Van Bergen.  The artist for both was his draftsman at the time, Charles Masterson.

They are both for Chicago Junior School in Elgin, Illinois, which recently closed its doors.  Neither structure was ever built.

The first is the design for a girls dormitory.

But girls were not to begin attending the school until many years later.  Only the main building was built starting in 1929, and no other projects were begun, because of the ensuing Great Depression, and then World War Two.

Van Bergen also came up with this design to dress up the abandoned silo – calling it a “water tower” – which stood (and still stands) in the center of the campus:

Here are some other recently found items relating to Chicago Junior School:



Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Two Van Bergen drawings rediscovered

In the past few weeks, a number of tidbits of information have been sent to me, all as a result of the publicity surrounding this exhibit.  These two are the most exciting for me to see for the first time.

Jennifer Stuart, who is kind of the unofficial historian at Chicago Junior School, sent me this:

The drawing is a design for a 1945 addition to the campus that was never carried out.  This picture is from a brochure, sent to patrons, alums, etc., talking about post war plans for the school.  It would be sweet to find the original drawing, if it still exists!

The other drawing – well, a picture of it – was emailed to me by a member of the Highland Park Historic Preservation Commission after a tour of the exhibit I gave them a couple of weeks ago.  She did a little follow-up research and found this picture/caption from a 1935 Chicago Daily Tribune newspaper clipping.  It is of the Chicago Yacht Club:

If you are from Chicago, and familiar with the North Avenue beach house in the shape of a steamship, this earlier design was surely it’s inspiration!

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Two Van Bergen drawings rediscovered

Prairie Style art glass window — restoration videos

Last weekend’s window restoration workshop was a success. We did it in the Creet building, between the exhibit space and the blacksmith shop.

One visitor suggested we make a video, so we did.  I went through the entire process of restoring an art glass panel from start to finish in about an hour or so – and we took some video of it.  It’s kind of thrown together, but we’ll get a little better as we (hopefully) do more in the future!

The windows are from the Allan Miller house.

The video is in nine parts.  Hope you find it interesting!  And if you ever need old windows restored, you can contact me through the Barrington History Museum.

Part 1
You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video

Part 2
You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video

Part 3
You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video

Part 4
You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video

Part 5
You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video

Part 6
You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video

Part 7
You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video

Part 8
You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video

You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

While you’re here, visit the blacksmith shop!

The Barrington History Museum has a working blacksmith shop, and a resident blacksmith, Derek.

Derek, a physics major at the University of Michigan, can be found most Saturdays in the shop working on one project or another.

Today he was working on a leaf belt buckle.  This 15 minute video shows him starting with a rough steel rod, separating the right amount of metal from it, and gradually fashioning the buckle.

You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video

Many of the items Derek makes, like this rose, can be found and purchased through the Museums gift shop.  Hopefully soon, they will be offered online.

If you visit the museum for this exhibit on a Saturday, please take the opportunity to stop by the blacksmith shop immediately adjacent to the exhibit space.  But plan an extra hour or so, because Derek is fascinating to watch at work!

Also, a new section is installed with the light fixture I mentioned in a previous post.

Finally, I had to throw in one extra photo of my daughter visiting the exhibit today.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Prairie window restoration – workshop/demonstration

On Saturday and Sunday, June 11 and 12, I’ll be at the Barrington History Museum, in the room next to the exhibit space.  I’ll have a workshop set up and will be restoring six 96-year-old-casement windows with their art glass panels.  The windows are from the Allan Miller house which was designed by John Van Bergen in 1915.

The price for admission will be $10.00, will be good for both days, and will also get you into the exhibit.  I don’t think you’ll find many better deals than that on that weekend!  I’ll be there from 10 AM until 4 PM on Saturday, and 12 noon until 4 PM on Sunday.  I’ll also be available to talk with anyone about the windows in their own houses that might need restoration, or other issues dealing with windows and art glass restoration.

I’ll also be able to answer any questions about the exhibit that you might have.  Hope to see you there!

I will be working on the windows in various stages of restoration.  That will will include:

Removing the existing art glass panels from the sashes.

Removing paint from the sash exteriors, in preparation for paint, and reinstallation of the glass panels.

Restoration of the shellac finish on the interiors of the sashes.  From dismantling the panels, to cleaning and or replacing glass, to reassembling the panel with new zinc, soldering and finally puttying the art glass.

Restoring 4 existing art glass panels with zinc caming, and reproducing two panels that are missing.

Salvaging antique glass from other old windows for the replacement of missing or damaged glass.

Reinstalling and glazing the panels into the sashes, ready for installation back into the house.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Some architectural history…almost

Sometimes the history of architecture that was never built is as interesting as architecture that was. Case in point, this fascinating project by architect John Van Bergen from the early 1960’s.

John Van Bergen had retired to Santa Barbara in the 1950s, only to find his career rekindled after clients, impressed by the house clinging dramatically to a mountainside that he designed and built for himself , began soliciting him for commissions for their own homes and businesses.

John and his wife Ruth also became involved in many civic and social organizations around the city, thereby building relationships with city officials and other prominent citizens. Then Santa Barbara Mayor Abbott was one of those people.

MacKenzie Park in the city of Santa Barbara, California has been well known for decades because of its popular public bowling green. Beginning with a request from Mayor Abbott around 1961, Van Bergen toyed with an idea of finding a practical use for an old abandoned water tank in this public park in. He worked up with several schemes, but the project never was carried out.

These drawings show a building that has almost a nautical theme, though the park is in the midst of the city, and not particularly close to the Pacific shoreline. Or maybe, it is idiomatic of the many modernist forms peculiar to the 1960’s. Kind of “the Jetsons meet Santa Barbara”. A similar design by Van Bergen is one for the Santa Barbara airport terminal from 1957.

The old water tank must have been a well built, solid structure for it to be considered as the basis for a new structure. From the sketchy information I have been able get, the tank was built to supply drinking water for the city in its early years, but by the 1950s or ‘60’s the area had outgrown the tank’s capacity. The structure still stands today, used by the Park and Recreation department as its main storage facility.

A separate small building used to house pumps, that Van Bergen also proposed incorporating into the new structure, has since been removed. An new club house has been built adjacent to the water tank and bowling green. Here (below) is a modern view from atop the water tank looking over the park’s ball fields, opposite the bowling green. The view also looks out to the Santa Ynez mountains, Santa Barbara’s gorgeous vista to the north:

Van Bergen’s unbuilt structure was not only designed to include locker rooms and a club house with kitchen, but also to house an auditorium and a small branch public library.

The idea of the library brings us to an interesting connection back to Chicago, Van Bergen’s home city (he grew up and began his career in suburban Oak Park). Maybe Van Bergen was drawing partly on history with this design. Chicago’s first public library was housed in an old iron water tank before the new one (now the Chicago Cultural Center) was built on Michigan Avenue in 1897.

These drawings were left to me by Nancy V.B. Brigham, John Van Bergen’s daughter, when she died last year. I am forever grateful to her, and I miss her.

Thank you Jason Bryan in Santa Barbara for information and current photos!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The exhibit space


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment