SULLIVAN, Louis Henry
(b. 1856, Boston, d. 1924, Chicago)

Van Allen Building

1912-14
Photo
200 5th Avenue South, Clinton,

During the period when Sullivan designed banks (the "jewel boxes") in small towns in the Midwest, he also designed the Van Allen Building (1912-14), Clinton, Iowa, and two large houses, the Babson House (1907; destroyed), Riverside, Illinois, and the Bradley House (1909), Madison, Wisconsin.

The Van Allen Building, also known as Van Allen and Company Department Store, is a four-story building commissioned by John Delbert Van Allen (1850-1928). Constructed as a department store, it now has upper floor apartments with ground-floor commercial space.

The exterior has brick spandrels and piers over the structural steel skeletal frame. Terra-cotta is used for horizontal accent banding and for three slender, vertically applied mullion medallions on the façade running through three storeys, from ornate corbels at the second-floor level to huge outbursts of vivid green terra-cotta foliage in the attic.

There is a very slight cornice. Black marble facing is used around the glass show windows on the first floor. The walls are made of long thin bricks in a burnt grey colour with a tinge of purple. Above the ground floor, all the windows are framed by a light grey terra-cotta.

As with Sullivan's late Midwestern banks, the Van Allen Building indicates the vigour and inventiveness of the architect during his late years. The play of the rich projecting terra-cotta ornament (particularly the three flowerlike cartouches above the fourth-floor windows) against the plain horizontal brick surfaces of the building was a design theme that he utilized in a good number of his late buildings.