Thursday, October 15, 2009

prairie avenue bookshop closes in chicago

Some sad news today, as this was one of our own favorite architectural bookstores:

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We have closed the doors of THE PRAIRIE AVENUE BOOKSHOP after a glorious era in the history of architecture. The Bookshop is a proud accomplishment and made many other things possible.

We published a magazine on a seminal movement, THE PRAIRIE SCHOOL REVIEW, which defined a period in Midwestern architectural history, published books on Sullivan, Wright and Griffin, wrote a Student Guide leveling the playing field for students in Idaho, wrote a history of the 19C leap of Chicago to the forefront of world architecture, and opened this mecca ("the best architectural bookshop in the world", LONDON FINANCIAL TIMES) for architects from all over the world. All this while Bill was planning and supervising the restoration of Wright's Dana House and Sullivan's Cedar Rapids Bank, among others. The master plan for the Robie House with Getty funding was also part of the mix with too many others to list.

Granted we rode a revival in preservation and historical studies, and a publishing revolution as well: facsimile printing and President Johnson's junior college program in the 60's, the duotone and color technology by the Italians and Japanese in the 60's and 70's, instantaneous ordering by fax and then by the web, the photolithography process for printing THE PRAIRIE SCHOOL REVIEW in the 60's, and self publishing on the computer, all while several new movements in design came to the fore. Why, a couple of my Prairie Avenue Bookshop catalogs with contemporary architectural bibliography were even offered online in England for 15 pounds.

Then of course came the debacle of Amazon and its destruction of 1000's of independent bookstores and the Senate Committee disallowing sales tax on the internet sales which punished brick and mortar businesses, ours included, (which in turn hikes your state's budget shortfalls and local real estate taxes). The unnoticed present and future destruction of publishers is in progress. And critical editing in general will disappear as foretold in the Graham Foundation's seminar several years ago. In Chicago, Cook County's 10.25% sales tax was the final nail in the coffin.

But that's another story.

Bill's book THE CHICAGO ARCHITECTURAL CLUB, Prelude to the Modern, chronicles the change in architectural historiography itself: a club, letters, drawings, blueprints, magazines documenting ideas and design, as opposed to the 20C telephone, e-mail in lieu of letters, the death of magazines, and CAD--the death of drawing. Such a book will not be written on 20C architecture. No one writes or keeps that kind of record today. Alas!! Artistic works such as Sullivan's A SYSTEM OF ARCHITECTURAL ORNAMENT and Wright's WASMUTH PORTFOLIO will not be produced. We donated a "carload" of documentation from THE PRAIRIE SCHOOL REVIEW and later nineteen boxes of research (including too many drafts) for the CAC book to the Art Institute of Chicago, which in turn has skipped nearly all of the 20C of Chicago architecture and cuts Jack Brown's Ryerson /Burnham Library budget first in every financial crisis. Should records we donated be catalogued, at least historians in the future can see how it was done.

But--it's been a great ride. We enjoyed talking for 48 years to visiting architects, architectural historians, architectural critics, students and architectural buffs. We will miss you all, and especially our incredibly loyal staff, particularly Beth, Karl and Emily, known to all of you, who stayed with us to the end.

Now it's time to retire. Marilyn's two new knees and Bill's ubiquitous cane spell the end of exciting professional lives. Bill will be finishing his new book on Dwight Perkins--the man he considers the third in the triumvirate of turn-of-the-century architects, Sullivan, Wright and Perkins--and Marilyn is delving into literary criticism again.

Thank you for your conversations and support.

Marilyn & Bill Hasbrouck

Prairie Avenue Bookshop

1 comment:

Sara said...

Bill and Marilyn,
I am so sad to learn that your wonderful bookstore closed. It is a sad commentary on our times; it's more than the current recession. It's a regression into what may become a dark age. The Internet and Amazon cannot compensate for what we're losing with the close of your bookstore and other similar trends.

Please accept my heartfelt sadness for what has occurred. But know that I wish all the best for both of you in your future endeavors.

Best regards,
Sara S. Patterson
(Daughter of Harry E. Patterson, Jr.)