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Saint Elsewhere


Inclined as i am to repurpose borrowed images for Agincourt application, this wondrous pile appeared for the second or third time in my life. But this time it arrived with intent: I’d been looking for something to serve as an orphanage (introduced in a post titled “The Night They Raided Pinsky’s” nine years ago) but hadn’t found anything that would suit my purpose; suddenly here it was on my doorstep!

“The Oaks” was a private club in the Chicago suburb named Austin, later absorbed by the city and surviving as a neighborhood; it’s the area immediately east of the much trendier Oak Park, home of Frank Lloyd Wright. Austin Boulevard is the line between the two areas and there is no doubt when you cross from one to the other. The Oaks is, obviously, long since gone but once anchored the intersection of Waller Avenue and Lake Street.

It was built from the plans of Austin architect Frederick Schock, thirteen years older than Wright and a respectable designer in the Queen Anne mode. Schock’s own home is still located just two diagonal blocks away. The Oaks, however, has been replaced by mid-rise apartments. And though the Oaks clubhouse is perhaps a bit grand for an orphanage, I think its story is still plausible. It only remains to photoshop the adjacent church out of the image and modify the narrative written several years ago.


O.K., so it’s more complicated than I thought it might be.

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