The Glasner Studio, a true Chicago gem
“It’s beautifully intact,” said Tim Samuelson, Chicago Cultural Historian emeritus. Edgar Miller “worked on it over a long period of time, so it’s like a museum of his development.”
Although the owners of condominiums in the building where the Glasner Studio is housed at 1734 N. Wells St. are fighting each other in court, one thing that they agree on, along with historians and art enthusiasts, is that the unit is a Chicago treasure and Edgar Miller’s masterwork.
The condominium where it is housed consists of three adjacent buildings that share a courtyard, but the gem is Unit 8, a four-story, 3,000-square-foot space adorned with artwork — on its walls and in the construction of the unit itself. Known today as The Glasner Studio, it has hand-wrought woodwork, bas-relief friezes, painted frescoes, tile mosaics and art glass windows all created by Miller, many of which are recognized as important artworks in their own right.
“It’s beautifully intact,” said Tim Samuelson, Chicago Cultural Historian emeritus, who talked with Miller before the artist died in 1993 at age 93. “He worked on it over a long period of time, so it’s like a museum of his development.”
While the Glasner Studio is not the only building in the area with Edgar Miller designs — a complex known as the Carl Street Studios at 155 W. Burton St. is another — it is the most intricate and beloved.
“He called them his handmade houses because they were handmade, even out of found objects and refuse,” Samuelson said. “When they were widening LaSalle Street and tearing the fronts off of buildings to make the street wider, he salvaged a lot of the beautiful material and recycled it.”
Inside are a plethora of those handmade details: frescoes and murals, tile friezes, iron railings, light fixtures Miller built himself and built-in fireplaces surrounded by tile mosaics. Additionally, a carved ceiling on the first floor depicts the world’s greatest scientists and inventors. As one ascends the stairs, hand-carved railings featuring flora and fauna stand out. On the top floor is the Garden of Paradise stained-glass window, 9 feet tall, 20 feet wide, featuring jungle animals, birds and nude people in a beautiful garden.
The current owner is Zac Bleicher. His uncle, businessman Mark Mamolen, a friend of Edgar Miller’s, bought the Glasner Studio unit in 2000 and would will it to the Bleichers after he died in 2013.
Mamolen became close friends with Miller after tracking him down in San Francisco in 1984 with Jannine Aldinger, the now-deceased wife of Glenn Aldinger, who owns four units in the Wells Street complex. Aldinger and Mamolen persuaded Miller to return to Chicago and help restore the Carl Street Studios. He also was provided an apartment in the building, according to Zac Bleicher and Glenn Aldinger, and would remain living in Chicago until his death.
Even before Mamolen bought the Glasner Studio unit, he and Miller began restoring the unit, which had become neglected. After Miller died in 1993, Mamolen teamed up with Chicago artist Bob Horn, who did a lot of restoration work on the Carl Street Studios.
After Mamolen died in 2013, his nephew Zac Bleicher took over Mamolen and Horn’s work, and in 2015 formed The Edgar Miller Legacy, an organization dedicated to preserving and spreading awareness of Miller’s work. It had offered tours of the Glasner Studio — tours that now remain on hold while the legal dispute between the three Wells Street condominium owners plays out.