The Animal Court at the Jane Addams Homes, Chicago, Edgar Miller, 1938

The Jane Addams Homes were a 1930s demonstration project of the Public Works Administration Act, drafted to alleviate the unemployment of the Great Depression. Designed by a team of architects headed by John Holabird, they offered child care, employment counseling and a variety of other pioneering social services in addition to housing.  AND they had the fantastic creatures of what became known as the Animal Court, a set of limestone carvings by Chicago artist Edgar Miller arrayed in an avenue grand enough for any palace and enlivened by what must be an early example of a splash park.  (For more on Miller, see the recently published book: Edgar Miller and the Hand-Made Home: Chicago’s Forgotten Renaissance Man)

By 2005, they were in an advanced state of deterioration, isolated in a razed landscape, no trace of the water playground.

By 2007 the community organized to save them, and there was fund-raising and splashy press releases and hoorays and congratulations and the sculptures were moved to a conservation studio for restoration.  Where they have sat for now three years, without the funding promised by developers Related Midwest.

But a better idea is afoot, to resite the statues at the only remaining building from the historic Jane Addams Homes, which has been preserved to become a National Public Housing Museum, and which I’m sure would be happy to receive your designated contribution towards their restoration, which is estimated to cost $100,000.  (Or about the same as two of the boringly similar, primary colory metal playgrounds installed every day of the week somewhere in America, so donate already!)  I hope they’ll be able to reinstall these beautiful creatures in their original playful context.

[images from Nancy Lorance’s site about Jane Addams and the WPA and the National Public Housing Museum.  Original reference found at the blog prairiemod]

3 Responses to “The Animal Court at the Jane Addams Homes, Chicago, Edgar Miller, 1938”

  1. Edgar Miller Animal Court Update! | Playscapes said:

    […] is a different sort of animalia in Chicago:  the beautiful Edgar Miller sculptures  at the WPA-era Jane Addams housing complex (c. 1938), once part of a splash pad for the resident children.  Since I posted about […]

    September 19, 2013 at 2:42 pm

  2. Michelle said:

    Hmm. . . when you put the cost comparison like that, I can't help but think there is a better middle way, that creates dozens of playgrunds rather than just one. While I do love these sculpture animals, I'm not a big fan of throwing lots of money at preservation when more people could be served by spending the money elsewhere.

    July 14, 2010 at 6:59 pm

  3. cyngen said:

    These are magnificent. I can just imagine the magic in the minds of the children who got to climb on them.

    July 14, 2010 at 12:04 pm

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