July 27, 2016
We're going back to the late 50s with this week's edition of Epstein's Throwback Thursday. It was in June of 1959 that the Epstein designed and engineered the Faulkner School for Girls was completed at 7112 S. Coles in Chicago for $350K ($2.9M in 2016). The Faulkner School, which was a private school founded in 1909 for girls on the south side of Chicago, moved in '59 from its location on 4746 Dorchester into this very modern (for the late 50s) facility. At the time the Faulkner School was the only private non-sectarian school for girls offering a complete educational program.
The new school had classrooms for 270 students from Kindergarten through 12th grade and in addition to 16 classrooms, the building contained a gymnasium, auditorium, and science and home economics laboratories. Additionally, the entrance lobby included a collection of tile caricatures depicting famous historic events/personalities. Also, Epstein's design of the Faulkner School elegantly solved the problem of being placed in a very restrictive long and narrow site through the use of a central circulation spine, clerestories and strategic placement of outdoor recreation space.
The Faulkner School was very well received by staff, faculty, trustees and students including this quote from teacher Anna Gwin Pickens who stated, "I am lost in admiration of your skill in designing so attractive a building and in solving what must have been a most complicated set of problems." And, in a letter to Raymond Epstein, our CEO at the time, Howard R. Joseph, the headmaster for the Faulkner School stated that after a tour of the school by the faculty and trustees, "Everyone commented on how complete the school was in every detail. Seemingly, even though most of us had read the plans and specifications, it was felt that we got more than we expected." In addition, the Faulkner School was also beloved by architectural critics and in 1961 Epstein's design received an AIA (South Shore Chapter) Award for Excellence in Architecture.
Alas, the Faulkner School is no longer with us. The School, which began admitting boys in the late 60s, experienced financial hardships during the 90s and even the R&B artist and actor, Common, who graduated from Faulkner and pitched in with fundraising efforts along with his musical friends Lauryn Hill and De La Soul, was unable to stop the inevitable. Which meant the School closed in the 2000's and was eventually demolished in 2011 leaving today an empty lot surrounded by rickety wire fence and overgrown with weeds.