I stumbled upon it while I was Googling around, looking for images of one of my favorite, late great works of Chicago architecture - the Schiller theater and office building.
In case you’re not familiar with it, the Schiller - later renamed the Garrick - was one of Dankmar Adler’s and Louis Sullivan’s most renown Chicago structures. It stood stoically at 64 West Randolph Street from 1892 until 1961.
It was on one of Willowbrook High School’s web site history pages - a photo of a terra cotta head with its nose knocked-off.
Even without its nose, I immediately recognized it as one of the dozen terra cotta portrait heads which originally adorned the second floor exterior balcony of the Schiller.
“The terra cotta head of Thomas Jefferson, stuck in the southeast wall of Willowbrook (and minus its nose), originally ornamented the Louis Sullivan-designed Garrick Theatre in downtown Chicago. It was transferred to Willowbrook by Mike Venezia (Class of 1963). Mike’s father and uncle were contractors for the razing of the theatre building (1961), and Mike was able to retrieve the Jefferson head for Willowbrook.”
Fascinating! And somewhat thrilling - at least to me. This meant I had located another one of the 12 original heads from the now-demolished theater building. (One of my meager life goals is to find each of the 12 terra cotta heads from the Schiller/Garrick’s second floor balcony facade, as well as to determine each of their identities.)
But wait, there’s something wrong. That’s not the head of Thomas Jefferson (minus its nose) stuck in the southeast wall of Willowbrook High School in Villa Park, Illinois. And I think I can prove it.