Bertrand Goldberg's Hidden Gem

March 11, 2010


(photo by Lee Bey)

The late Chicago architect Bertrand Goldberg was best known for his iconic mid-century Marina City complex and its 1980s cousin, River City, just south of the Harrison along the Chicago River.

Lesser known--but worthy of attention--is the above Goldberg-designed house located in the southern suburb of Blue Island.‚  (Yes, Blue Island.‚  So put those eyebrows down. The town has a fine collection of historic residential architecture, particularly from the 1920s. Many of the streets are indistinguishable from those found in neighboring Beverly.)

Built for Dr. Aaron Heimbach, the house would be a perfect example of postwar modernism, except for one thing:‚  It's a slightly pre-war house built not in the days of tailfins and beehive hairdos, but in 1939; back when the "Wizard of Oz" played in theaters, postage stamps were only three cents and FDR became the first president to give an address on television.

And while Marina City and River City are essays in curved forms, this early Goldberg shows he also knew how to work a right angle. With its horizontal lines and that great brick chimney jutting up, it's a masterful and mature work from an architect who was then only 26 years old and fresh from his studies at the Bauhaus. The house originally had an x-ray room, a dark room and a doctor's office. I'm loving that chimney:


(photo by Lee Bey)

The home's latest owners restored the masterpiece. Work included tuck pointing, reglazing the home's 90 individual windows and putting in new heating and electrical systems. The project won a Landmarks Illinois Driehaus Award in 2009.‚  And read more about the home and check out some classic black-and-white Hedrich-Blessing photographs at the Bertrand Goldberg Archive.