Frank L. Koralewsky, c.1921-24

Iron lock (1911) with inlays of gold, silver, bronze, and copper on wood base by Frank L. Koralewsky (1872-1941) © Art Institute of Chicago

Frank L. Koralewsky was of the group of artisans in the Arts and Crafts Movement associated with the architectural firms of Ralph Adams Cram and Guy Lowell. They needed the best stained glass, ornamental ironwork, wood carvings, stone carvings and sculpture for their churches and grand buildings. The stained glass artist Charles Connick, metal worker Frank Koralewsky, wood carver Johannes Kirchmayer (also spelled Kirchmeyer), stone carver John Evans and sculptor Frederick Allen were all used regularly by architects because of the superiority of their work.

When Allen was designing and building his Italianate sculpture studio at 27 Tavern Road, he decided that ornamental iron work would be a fitting complement. Although he did buy some used from local sources, he also learned to work with iron from Koralewsky. There were lunettes to go over the doorways, fireplace fixtures, a circular stairway, window boxes, a large door latch and door knocker, tall candelabra and wall sconces. The iron work made the studio unique and intriguing.

Ornamental iron grill work by Frank L. Koralewsky (1872-1941). Tavern Road Studios, Boston.

From a college paper by Allen’s granddaughter, Laurel Beetham provides more details from her interviews. “Mr. Allen … found a Boston home being torn down. This supplied the grill work above the inner and outer doors, the spiral staircase which rose up the side of the main studio to the second floor, and window casings for the front windows. To complete his set of iron works, Mr. Allen contracted his friend, Mr. Correluski [sic], to make grill work for the fireplace, including a pair of andirons formed at the top to hold a soup kettle, special latches for the doors, and two sets of candelabrum, one standing, and the other for the wall, from mud guards of a car.

Agnes Allen remembers, “After his death a brother-in-law wrote, ‘I was constantly amazed at how many things Fred could do and do well.’ He not only made his own modeling stands and armatures, but did all his plaster casting, and got an ironmonger to show him how to make wrought iron (making a bust of him in return). He had a forge in both his Boston and Maine studios and enjoyed working with the iron for both practical and ornamental purposes. He could repair almost anything out of order sticking at it when others would give up.”

From reports of those who knew Koralewsky and from a carving of him by the Bavarian woodcarver, Kirchmeyer, it seems that he was a real character with a bushy white head of hair and a large mustache. He ran the F. Krasser & Co. forge employing about 30 blacksmiths who produced exquisite ironwork to his superb and exacting standards. These were men who worked with white hot iron, heavy tools, huge anvils and fire, yet they produced delicate and intricate works of metallic art in addition to the sturdiest, strongest and most beautiful hardware capable of holding up the heavy doors of cathedrals, churches and classical buildings.

Koralewski was an Old World Artisan who was passionate about his work. Carl Close of Hammersmith Studio, the man who knows the most about him and is following in his footsteps, has examples of Koralewsky’s most complex work, some of the best of it done at night in his personal time because he loved his art. He was not the sort of blacksmith who works pounding out simple tools and fences, but an Ornamental Ironworker who “worked iron like butter.” (Otis Skinner of the Connick Studios) He was held in the highest regard by period architects who required work of superior quality, both in metalworking and in artistry.

Dimensions: Presumed to be lifesize
Medium or Technique: Portrait bust presumed to be clay and most likely cast in plaster
Allen’s records do not include any notes about the work

There is no photograph or other record of the portrait bust that Allen modeled for Koralewsky, but sculpting the image of a fellow artist and friend would make it a valuable piece of sculpture. If you know the whereabouts of this work, please contact the author.

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