“Chicago author and photographer Lee Bey loves terra-cotta ornament, the endlessly intricate fired clay decoration found on much of Chicago’s early architecture. And he says to truly appreciate the charm of a terra-cotta lavished building, put on your gym shoes and go for a walk in an old neighborhood like Chatham on the South Side.
“We experience these buildings far too much by car. You drive by 40 miles an hour, 35 miles an hour and the details don’t register,” he said. “But these buildings are made to be walked by and to be seen at the pace of a walk, and when you can do that, you get a chance see the rich details of the building, and actually see how these buildings give you a sense of the neighborhood and its history.”
“After the Great Fire, Chicago’s architects embraced terra cotta as a fireproof way to add flourish and character to buildings in the rapidly rebuilding city. One producer, the Northwestern Terra Cotta Company, brought in artisans from Europe to create decorative elements for some of the city’s best-known buildings. Northwestern’s executives even used their own homes in the Lakeview neighborhood to showcase the company’s work. Today, those landmarked homes are known collectively as Terracotta Row.”
Read or watch the full video at WTTW Chicago
VIDEO: Terra-Cotta Treasures Tell Chicago’s Neighborhood Stories, Erica Gunderson, WTTW Chicago, 8/6/19