Mid-Century Suburbs Part 3: 8100 S. State Street

Behold: the mother lode of Chicago colored glass block apartments!

8100 S. State Street

This glorious collection of apartment houses stands along State Street, just south of 81st, and overlooking the combined 90/94 Interstate highways’s ten roaring lanes of traffic. They’re in plain view for tens of thousands of motorists every day; that’s where I first saw them last week, and I nearly had a heart attack when I did.

8100 S. State Street

The builder really went nuts on this block, slathering each building with unique designs — perhaps they anticipated the high visibility of the buildings.

8100 S. State Street

Like the Froebel Gifts, the designer took a few simple elements and patterns — the colored blocks, a few kinds of brick, limestone borders — and created a unique series of artworks from them.

8100 S. State Street

8100 S. State Street

8100 S. State Street

8100 S. State Street

8100 S. State Street

8100 S. State Street

The blocks themselves are actually glass block, with a solid color of some kind applied to them at the factory, possibly a baked-on paint. They’re found on multi-unit apartment buildings like these, and on small 1960s ranch/bungalow houses, where they typically are placed in stacked or offset trios. Occasionally, clear versions can be seen; colored translucent versions are more common.

The joy and delight they impart to this otherwise ordinary 1960s row is infectious.

More can be seen at my Flickr space.

5 thoughts on “Mid-Century Suburbs Part 3: 8100 S. State Street

  1. Awesome! I just noticed those same buildings about a month ago, and thats after a lifetime of driving on the Ryan. It just demonstrates how I used to subconsciously ignore anything of 50s or 60s vintage .

  2. This is so totally typical of 50s-now Chicago vernacular residential design – they are still building in a similar vein/style as this on the south side and far south burbs…

  3. I was talking with a glass block guy today and he said that a lot of dealers are making a killing on…salvaged vintage glass bricks like these. In fact, more than on new products.

  4. Wow, where are they being torn down? I have entertained fantasies of snagging a couple from a demolition site, to add to my modest collection of fragments, but I can’t imagine any of these houses coming down — they’re not that old, and by and large they’re not in gentrifying areas.Also, I didn’t even realize till this weekend that they are glass block — I figured they were some kind of glazed solid brick.

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