February 14, 2022
Project #22 in our Centennial Year Top 100 Projects Countdown takes us back to 1936 for the completion of the Caspers Tin Plate Office and Production Facility located within Chicago’s famed Central Manufacturing District. The Central Manufacturing District, the first true industrial campus development in the United States, was known as the ‘city within a city’ and featured a wide variety of manufacturers all located within the CMD’s borders on Chicago’s southwest side.
Caspers Tin Plate produced lithographed metalware and this building was designed to help increase production and efficiency. Organized into two main components – office and manufacturing – the Caspers facility was planned to follow a rational production flow. The first floor provided for shipping, receiving and storage in the rear, manufacturing was located in the center and secondary assembly/production operations as well as office space were located in the front. Efficient daylighting was achieved through a continuous strip of windows in the office area as well as wall windows in the manufacturing space.
In the January 1938 issue of Architectural Record, this building was lauded for its unusual attention given by Epstein to details generally ignored in Industrial design – including brick, terra cotta and metal detail, as well as to interior finishes, equipment and landscaping.
The Caspers Tin Plate building was also considered by Architectural Record as one of the best examples of the Art Moderne style of architecture. The Art Moderne style arose during the 1930s in reaction to the ornamental Art Deco style and as a reflection of the austere economic climate brought on by the Great Depression. The streamlined style was influenced not only by the rise of specialized industrial design in America, but also by the rise of European Modernism and the growing recognition of the International Style of architecture practiced by Le Corbusier, Walter Gropius, and Mies van der Rohe.
Additionally, some of the best representations of Art Moderne-style industrial buildings in Chicago were designed between 1935 and 1950 by Epstein. In addition to the Casper Tin Plate Building, the Sprague-Warner Company Building (1940 - & #30 in our Countdown) on Sacramento Avenue in Humboldt Park, and the Walgreens Company Headquarters at 4300 West Peterson Avenue (1947 - #29 in our Countdown) were also considered classic Art Moderne buildings.