The terracotta exterior wall and the story of Chicago
In most Chicago neighborhoods, you can easily see white or tan shining architectural insets in older structures, and many are terracotta panel.
In courtyard apartment blocks drawing from the Chicago School or historical revival styles, many terracotta columns, capitals, parapets and Sullivan-esque tracery panels are made of terracotta material, while many commercial structures and movie palaces have ornate front façades composed entirely of the medium. Although rare, many Art Deco buildings make use of polychrome terracotta material—including the Belle Shore Apartment Hotel in Edgewater, featuring Egyptian-style ornament in golden rod and green.
So the next time you’re walking through a Chicago neighborhood, watch out for that familiar glean; in the terracotta facade lies the story of the Great Fire, of the city’s rebirth and of its engineering and architectural heritage.