Louis Sullivan Elevator Grill, ca. 1894
Appraised Value: $20,000 - $30,000 (2012)
IMAGE: 1 of 3
Appraisal Video: (2:20)
Metalwork & Sculpture
Lillian Nassau, LLC
GUEST: This is a Louis Sullivan grille from the Stock Exchange building in Chicago that was torn down in 1972. And it's an elevator grille.
APPRAISER: Right-- we have a photograph of one of the floors. This was on every floor. And this was above the door. We have it in this photo a similar one, but not this identical one. But I think they varied from floor to floor. Louis Sullivan was one of America's greatest architects. His big claim to fame was that he was the teacher of Frank Lloyd Wright. But in his own right, he was the sort of father of modern architecture in America. Sometimes he's called the father of the skyscraper. Chicago had that big fire in 1871. So there was a tremendous amount of building going on from then on. And the stock exchange is from the 1890s, early 1890s. And how did you come to own this?
GUEST: I lived in a small town south of Chicago. And my mother got a call from a friend saying that a salvage company had pieces taken from this building, and several people in our area went with trucks to the salvage company and tried to take pieces. So my mother was one of those people.
APPRAISER: And she just bought it for the scrap value, for scrap metal?
GUEST: No, no, no, she knew it was Louis Sullivan.
APPRAISER: But when it was being sold, did people...
GUEST: Oh, she bought it for five dollars.
APPRAISER: This is such a great piece. I think it's indicative of American modernism, although it's very early. They feel that these forms are like wheat seeds from the exchange of wheat on the commodity exchanges. It was made by the Winslow Company in Chicago. And it's fabricated from small pieces. Even though they were on every floor, they're fairly rare, and I think a lot of these could have been melted down for the scrap metal.
APPRAISER: So you said your mother paid five bucks for this, huh? Very wise woman. In a retail setting, I think this piece by itself would probably be in the $20,000 to $30,000 range.
GUEST: Really? My word.
APPRAISER: It's a great, great piece of American architectural history.
GUEST: Oh, this is amazing. Thank you so much.
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