There are several academic and advocacy organizations in Chicago that do great architectural history programming throughout the year. I’m a big fan of the monthly Nickerson Lectures at Chicago’s Driehaus Museum that present talks and slideshows on turn-of-the-century architecture and design (visitors also get a chance to take a look at the Nickerson Mansion’s fantastic Gilded Age interiors). AIA Chicago, the Chicago Architecture Foundation, and the Historic Preservation Program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago do some great programming on architectural history topics (SAIC has been doing some great international talks recently).
Probably the most-accessible and well-attended events geared toward architecture nerds are monthly Preservaton Snapshots Lectures presented by Landmarks Illinois in the Chicago Cultural Center’s immense Claudia Cassidy Theater. The talks have always been informative, fun, and, best of all, they’re free! This coming Thursday, Richard Sklenar of the Theatre Historical Society of America based right next door in Elmhurst, Illinois, will be speaking on the fate of some of Chicago’s best showhouses.
Next on the schedule is none other than yours truly. On Thursday, March 15th, I’ll be giving what I think is going to be a really fun talk on Chicago’s commercial “recs” from about 1900 to 1930. These unique buildings have been the subjects of a few of my posts and I’m excited to get the chance to give everybody attending the chance to see some of Chicago’s better examples of purpose-built bowling and billiard halls.
For the past two years, I’ve been really intrigued by these indoor sports facilities and am more convinced now than ever before that they deserve a place in any discussion of American pre-WWII entertainment culture and architecture. I bet this is going to be the first time most folks in the audience will have even heard of this specific type of entertainment structure – not suprising considering the drop in bowling enthusiasm over the past few decades. I really hope that my talk can spur some conversations not only on past modes of working class entertainment but also on the fate of some of these difficult-to-reuse buildings.
For more information on Landmarks Illinois’ 2012 Preservation Snapshots Lecture series, visit http://www.landmarks.org/snapshots.htm. See you in March.