I’m beginning to question my relationship with the internet. I think a lot of people are. Or at least extremely online people like me who are over 40 years old and no longer recognize the virtual communities and networks they once knew. Whether it’s the slow death of Twitter or Meta’s obsession with turning Instagram into TikTok, I don’t know where I belong anymore. Maybe I’m too old. Maybe it’s time to call it a day and stop pretending the internet is good for me?
While it initially started as a way to manage all my photos, Flickr (or should I say Yahoo Photos) was probably my first real connection to other architecture geeks back in 2005. It was an active photo-centered site where I could find and learn about interesting places that were slowly disappearing from our everyday landscape: neon signs, mom and pop stores, dead malls, midcentury motels, old buildings soon to meet the wrecking ball. Flickr documented just about every specific type of building in whatever area of the country (or world) you could imagine with billions of high-resolution photographs uploaded to the image hosting service. It was an archive of architectural history, as noted by Kate Wagner on The Baffler, with its efficiently tagged and labeled photos searchable across the web. But it is no longer as popular as it once was, losing the social and mobile game to Instagram when it came to editing and sharing photos in a user-friendly app.
I found myself doing what I did best on Flickr and moving over to Instagram, where I created a popular account with almost 95,000 followers. Its focus is what you might call old house porn. Yet over the last year I probably broke the Instagram algorithm. I’ve been bleeding followers for awhile and barely receive any likes or comments on my posts. I know Instagram is trying to be more like TikTok with an emphasis on reels and stories, but I’ve never been much of a video person. So I’m probably being punished for not playing the game. I like to take still photos and share information about buildings in lengthy captions (repeating what I did back in my Flickr days). Obviously I was successful at it…until I wasn’t. But I’m happy to know it’s not just me as I’m now part of a long message thread with other popular old house accounts like archi_ologie who are all commiserating over less engagement on our posts. Should we continue like we did? Or do we have to start making quick cut videos/slideshows to get more eyeballs? I spend a lot of time researching the history of historic homes I share with users. If no one is seeing my stuff, then why bother?
The point of this little rant is to finally admit the internet’s dominant role in my life was to fill the void that was left over from my brief time as a teacher. At long last I am beginning to recognize the internet is not an educational tool. Especially in today’s world. Most people just want to endlessly (and mindlessly) scroll. They don’t want to take the time to read your boring caption. They barely read anything at all. Everything nowadays seems entirely disposable, with everybody having the attention span of goldfish. While it’s nice to get the occasional comment “I learn so much from you,” it’s not enough to keep going on Instagram or other social media platforms. Why dedicate so much time and energy when I feel absolutely nothing at the end of the day!?! I will still tweet etc. for now but something is amiss, changing not for the better. I guess what once felt like an authentic experience is now a distant memory. Like a lot of life since 2020. We’ll all be replaced by AI soon anyway so I don’t know why I care so much. At least I have this corner of the internet where I can focus on my interests, writing lengthy blogs/newsletters/whatever we’re calling it these days. At least for now.
I'm working on an application for City of Chicago landmark status for a 1907 house in Edgewater. (My wife and I have lived in this house for 40+ years.) It is the last still-standing-in-Chicago house of one of the founding families of Edgewater, the Kransz family. It also was built by an important builder (hundreds of houses in Edgewater and Rogers Park), brick manufacturer (National Brick / Illinois Brick), railroader (the Weber Spur / the Chicago and West Ridge RR), and politician. That builder was Bernard F Weber. Weber was married to one of the Kransz's.
The house is a very unusual combination of American Four Square and Queen Anne styles. You can find pictures of the house by searching for Kransz / Edgewater / 1502 Glenlake. It has been featured on a half dozen or so house tours sponsored by the Edgewater Historical Society.
Very early pictures of the house -- one that was featured in a 1907 advertisement for the contractor in the "Inter-Ocean" newspaper -- show that the outside of the house is looks almost exactly as it did in 1907. The original slate roof was irreparable damaged early in the life of the house but has now been replaced with artificial slate. The original roof flashing, valleys and ridge caps have been replaced with period-authentic copper flashing. The railings on the roof top widows walk and 2nd floor balcony are replacements, but match the original railings. Most of the windows are original, though many of the currently are covered with inappropriate triple track storm windows. The front storm door is a custom-made wood replacement. (Two other storm doors are inappropriate aluminum.)
Much of the inside of the house also is in near original condition (though with updated utilities and updated baths and an updated kitchen). Most of the woodwork is original as is, it appears, most of the interior hardware. The house retains all of what appear to be original wall-paper "panels" in the first floor rooms. A leaded glass window in the dining room is original. However, a set of three smallish windows in the parlor that originally had leaded glass now have single panes of glass. The plan is to replace the leaded glass in those windows when finances permit.
The inside of the house is very unusual in that the house was originally wired / plumbed for gas - electric "combination" light fixtures. (These fixtures provided BOTH gas and electric lighting.) Though these kinds of combination fixtures were popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in Chicago, research suggests that hardly any of them still exist in Chicago landmark houses or buildings from this period.
Almost all of the original light fixtures ion this particular house are long gone from the house. However, the replacements in this house -- some period and some reproductions -- are historically appropriate for a 1907 house in Chicago. (Even on the reproduction fixtures, many of the glass shades themselves are period.) The only remaining original gas - electric fixture in the house now is above the stairs leading toward the 3rd floor maid's room. It now has a stunning set of inside-painted period glass shades.
The house has a working early 20th century non-dial wall telephone and a "speaking tube" from the kitchen to the 3rd floor maid's room. The wall phone is a period replacement and the hardware for the speaking tube is period replacement. The speaking tube itself, however, is original.
The originally unfinished basement and 3rd floor attic space have been finished. (The original 3rd floor finished maids room has been incorporated into the overall finished attic space.) In both the attic and the basement, the original framing has been retained (albeit in modified form), and is now exposed.
Here's why I'm writing you. I'm anticipating problems with the City of Chicago Landmark Commission because the Landmark Commission people seem to be very much fixated on "name" architects. In fact, if you inventory Chicago landmark houses, 95% or so of them have name architects.
Unfortunately, the house I'm working on, and in which my wife and I have lived for 40+ years, does NOT have a "name" architect. Rather, it appears that the builder of the house, Bernard F Weber, who was also brother in law to the first owner, probably himself designed the house. Weber -- who built hundreds of houses and buildings in Edgewater and Rogers Park -- himself probably designed the house.
Weber likely was "influenced" in designs he saw in "House Plan" books that were very popular in the late 19th / early 20th centuries. I(n particular some of the "plans" of the Chicago based publisher William Radford suggest the same characteristics as the characteristics of this house. For example, Radford's books contain numerous examples of "symmetrical" Queen Anne houses, that is, houses where the front and one side more or less match. (Queen Anne houses, of course, almost always are asymmetrical.) Further, Radford's book contain numerous examples of houses that are oriented toward corners (of two intersecting streets) rather than toward address streets. Corner-oriented houses are quite rare in cities like Chicago because (1) only about 5% of houses in cities are on corners and because (2) when houses in cities ARE on corners, the corner lots for these houses usually are narrow but long. A narrow but long corner lot necessitates that the house on it will have a "front" -- on the address street -- and a "side" -- on the side street. Radford -- and Bernard F Weber -- designed houses for very rare wide corner lots on the city. (The house involved here is on a double corner lot at Glenlake and Greenview in Edgewater.
Though this orange-rated house is NOT currently at risk, it is in a neighborhood that is now starting to experience lots of rehabbing. And, tear downs are starting to occur around it. Further, and importantly, the house is on a double corner lot so the parcel that it is on is a rare parcel in this part of Edgewater that could potentially be developed with multi-unit housing. (The zoning is, surprisingly for a lakefront SFH area, RS-2 rather than RS-3.) So, after my wife and I ultimately sell -- we're both in our mid 70's and can't live here forever - the house surely could be threatened. Hence, we want to lock down landmark status for it BEFORE it goes into other hands.
Could you help me contact people or entities that might be able to help me overcome the likely prejudice that the Landmark Commission people will have about this house because of its lack of architectural "pedigree." (I'm already working with, incidentally, the Edgewater Historical Society.) It would be a terrible shame if this house ultimately becomes threatened simply because it wasn't designed by a "name" architect,
Thanks. Paul Wangerin
I’m finally burned out on social media this spring, there’s just too much and I’m basically taking a peek each day to keep on top of news, rather than trying to look at everything I’m interested in. I don’t use the Feed on Twitter, I use lists, so I don’t even see most of the accounts I follow. Instagram shows me videos of kittens, furniture refinishing and folding clothes, even though I ”follow” (but rarely see) about 2 dozen celebs, none of whom have anything to do with the things I see in the timeline.
It’s all the algorithms, they’ve ruined it.