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“Pull down #53 and put a bay window in it for the lady.”


Hindsight may be 20-20.

Looking back over the past four years, I can see why several approaches to the Sullivanesque library challenge didn’t interest me. Witness the so-called Sullivanesque libraries of the years 1900-1920.

Madison, Wisconsin, architects Claude & Starck produced a passel of libraries between 1900 and 1920 (one of the partners had a close relative on the Wisconsin State Library Board, which didn’t hurt). But their approach was surprisingly formulaic. “Pull down number 53 and put a bay window in it for the lady.” The Carnegie-financed library at Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, is one of a half dozen that are virtually interchangeable–not that this is cheating (i.e., unethical professional behavior). Clients were often reassured that their design had a verifiable price tag, since it had just been constructed down the road for a different client. Other building types like churches and schools worked pretty much the same way. I guess my point here is simple: This building may be “Sullivanesque,” but Sullivan would never have done it this way.


Clearly I cannot be Louis Sullivan; no one can. Even Louis had a tough enough time being himself. I had to create an avatar; someone strongly influenced by Sullivan; someone working in his milieu. Enter Anson Curtiss Tennant [1889-1915], local-boy-makes-good. With sufficient backstory, Tennant would design Agincourt’s new public library during 1914-1915. And he would evolve in as complex a fashion as has the design I attribute to him.

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