Augustus H. Burley Elementary School

Burley School

Burley School, 1908. Courtesy of Bill Latoza

Augustus H. Burley School
1630 W. Barry Avenue
Historical profile by Julia S. Bachrach

In March of 1896, the Board of Education proposed to name a newly constructed school in the Lakeview neighborhood in honor of local politician Augustus H. Burley (1819–1903). One of its members objected to the name because Burley was still living, and Chicago’s schools were generally named after the person who was being honored had died. (1) Despite this, the board went ahead and formally named Burley School two weeks later.

Burley School

© 2012 James Iska

Born and educated in New Hampshire, Augustus Harris Burley moved west and settled in Chicago in 1837, the year that it was first incorporated as a city. After working for many years as a businessman, Burley began his political life. He served successively as alderman, town and ward supervisor, county commissioner, state legislator, and city controller. According to the Chicago Tribune, Burley’s “remarkable skill as an accountant and financial expert made his services of the highest importance to corporations, courts and banks where important interests were at stake.” (2)

Burley School

© 2012 James Iska

William August Fiedler designed Burley School. Fiedler had replaced John J. Flanders as the Board’s architect in 1893, a time when the school system was struggling to quickly build many new facilities as well as additions to older buildings to accommodate the growing population of students. (3) During his almost five-year tenure, Fiedler produced plans for more than fifty schools.

Burley School

© 2012 James Iska

A German immigrant, Fiedler was responsible for several buildings that were important to Chicago’s German community. He designed the German Village at the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893. More permanent in nature, his 1889 Germania Club building still stands at Germania Place on Chicago’s North Side. An eclectic expression of the Romanesque style, it has lively brick and rusticated limestone facades that are rich in ornamentation.

Burley School

© 2012 James Iska

Though slightly less fanciful, Burley School shares some architectural characteristics with the Germania Club, such as its bold rusticated limestone base with contrasting red brick facades at the upper levels. Rectangular in plan, the four-story Burley School was designed to house 22 rooms and an auditorium. The building has fine carved limestone details, such as brackets, pilasters, and a decorative frieze with Augustus Burley’s name above the second-story balcony which tops the front door.

Burley School

© 2012 James Iska

The primary façade also has red terra cotta arched hooded window moldings with keystones.  Just beneath these moldings are sashes styled in a trefoil configuration. Along the east and west facades there are three-sided bays with round windows at the upper stories. A decorative copper cornice with dentils surrounds the upper level of the entire structure.

Burley School

© 2012 James Iska

Among Fiedler’s other extant schools that are also of noteworthy design are: Avondale, Goethe, Pickard, Kozminski and Yates schools. Like Burley, these buildings are composed of earth-toned brick with rusticated limestone bases, and share similar details, such as arched windows, limestone stringcourses, bracketed cornices, and brick parapets. Unlike the other schools, and unusual among all of Chicago’s historic schools, Burley School is entirely Fiedler’s original building— it has no additions.

The Board of Education added a playground shelter, made possible through a partnership with the City of Chicago’s Special Park Commission. In 1916, City Architect Charles Kallal designed a standard set of plans for a one-story structure to be constructed on the grounds of dozens of Chicago Public Schools. The shelter housed offices for the playground directors, a small clubroom for activities, and bathrooms.  (4) The structure continues to be used today.

Burley school playground with shelter

Burley School playground shelter, ca. 1935. Chicago Park District Special Collections.

Notes

  1. “Objects to Names of Live Men: Mr. Rosenthal Wants Names of Dead Celebrities on Schools,” Chicago Daily Tribune, March 14, 1896, p. 10.
  2. “Death of AH Burley,” Chicago Daily Tribune, November 28, 1903, p. 14.
  3. Public Schools of the City of Chicago: Fortieth Annual Report of the Board of Education for the Year Ending June 29, 1894, p. 124.
  4. “Real Estate Transaction 1, No Title,” Chicago Tribune, June 28, 1916, p. 22.
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