Retrospective

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Bird Cage Apartments

Charles Matthies had a house on Murphy Lake in Park Ridge, Illinois. Designed by Don Erickson in 1958, the house was featured in the Chicago Daily News on July 18, 1958 in an article entitled, "Wright Influenced this Luxury Home."



Mr. Matthies later commissioned the "Bird Cage" apartments, named for its' free-standing spiral staircase featured on the outside of the building, which was surrounded by a coy pond at the bottom of the stairs.



Don's father was a master staircase builder who immigrated to the U.S. from Sweden. E. Gunnar Erickson, a man with a third grade education, was driven to succeed. Traveling from Ellis Island through New York and on a train to Chicago, Gunnar first began working as a carpenter in a barrel factory where he applied wooden staves to metal barrel frames. Later, Gunnar worked for a pin ball machine company, and made wooden cabinets for the machines. During the depression, Gunnar began to work with a partner, designing and crafting kitchen cabinets and wooden staircases. Surrounded by the sweet smell of sap leaking from the wood, and sawdust, it seems that Don's love of design originated from his father. Or, perhaps design was "in his blood," a genetic predisposition for making buildings, and other things.

Thus, the influence for the free-standing staircase outside the Bird Cage apartments probably came from Gunnar.

Having visited the Bird Cage apartments in 2007 (at which time the building was for sale), the building required loving care and mortar . . . the building can be seen at: 6069 N. Ridge Boulevard, Chicago. Please add your comments to this blog, should you visit the building. Photos would be appreciated.

Photo of the Matthies house by Jim Herrlin, Barrington, Illinois.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is a totally unique apartment building exterior. I lived in the neighborhood for many years and considered Ridge to be a truly wonderful street. I believe that the address as shown is incorrect.

arketect said...

Thank you for the address correction. The correct address is 6901 N. Ridge Avenue, Chicago, IL. The apartment is also listed in the AIA Guide to Chicago by Alice Sinkevitch.

Larry Shure said...

The Rogers Park/West Ridge Historical Society is going to include this building in their housewalk fundraiser this Sunday. This is very dramatic for the neighborhood and a great addition to the walk.