John Morris, a software developer and architecture buff who has helped run the Chicago Patterns blog, had a vision. Create a new kind of Historic Resources Survey that was comprehensive, easy to use and update, allowing anybody to quickly parse relevant city architecture built prior to 1940 by style and neighborhood. Last summer, he began making it a reality with the new Chicago Architecture Data site. The key word is comprehensive, since Morris spent six months coding on weekends and combing through the survey's roughly 16,000 entries. Currently listing more than 13,000 buildings, Chicago Architecture Data is a summation of Morris' love for Chicago architecture, which developed since moving here from Raleigh a few years ago.
Don't call him a slacker for shorting those last 3,000 builldings, however. Many of the entries he started with had incomplete information, and since the survey was completed in 1995, many of the profiled structures have been demolished.
"I'm really interested in historic preservation, and one of the most effective ways to get people interested in preservation is to make people aware," he says. "When I was searching around the city getting photos, there were definitely a lot of buildings that made my jaw hit the floor."
Morris launched the site in mid-December, but already has plans for added features and functionality. The main goal is adding more; including additional buildings that may have been missed by the survey or built after 1940 ("the archivists seemed to have a thing against greystones," he said), replacing assessor photos with original photography and adding features such as geo-location for mobile users. Architecture buffs and city explorers, prepare to geek out.
"I love animals, and art deco, so a relief featuring a cat and a dog made my day," says Morris.
Chicago Patterns did a post on the bizzare history of the building called "The House That Gunpowder Built and the 1886 Explosion That Shook the City."
·Previous Preservation Watch coverage [Curbed Chicago]