Tristan Meinecke and Angel Casey: Life and Times
Urban pioneers hacking a little bit of paradise out of the mean streets of Chicago's Lincoln Park 1958 to 1969

Green Acers in the heart of ChicagoTristan and Angel knew how they wanted to live! From the time they met they planned on purchasing an inner city property, close to downtown and all it contains, then changing it to fit their vision of how and what life should be.

They accomplished this goal in 1958 when they purchased a double lot at 2022 north Cleveland where they built an oasis of brilliance and creativity in the middle of what could then be accurately described as an urban ghetto. (Which fact, they and a few other courageous urban pioneers blithely ignored), Music, art, intellectual pursuits, eclectic and not so eclectic parties, and so on where the order of the day. They largely accomplished what they set out to do and had an enormous amount of fun in the process.

They designed the property to enable their desired lifestyle, which among other pillars, was founded on the belief that work and play should go together as much as possible. Tristan especially wanted to be able to do both as near to simultaneously as as he could manage -- he succeeded.

He built much of the accouterments by hand including an 8' x 1' custom speaker system with baffling he designed. This system was on par with state-of-the art systems of the day. It essentially turned the entire yard into a speaker. If one stood directly in front of the property the music was easy to hear. Walk a few feet in either direction and it disappeared -- it was a somewhat magical effect. His office was his art studio located in the rear building on the first floor. When the remodeling was completed they proceeded to work, create, play and party; all of which they did with abandon.

Lots of people came to 2022 N. Cleveland. Almost all were notable, some were also well known. Some visited only once like Studs Terkel, and some many times: A partial list is as follows: Many local Jazz musicians plus: Lil Harden, Tony Bennett, Jerry Lewis, Orson Welles, Frazier Thomas, Jack Brickhouse, Lloyd Pettit, Rachel Stevenson, Charlie Weber, Eddie Balchowsky (The notorious "Mayor" of Clark Street), Warren "Baby" Dodds, Aaron Siskind, Hugo Weber, Russ Wood, and various local TV and Radio actors like Duncan Renaldo as well as many artists and scholars such as Briggs Dyer, Eve Garrison and Dr. John J. Becker. Intermixed with this group were neighborhood people, artists, art and acting students. Plus, in the daytime, there were usually quite a few kids who were friends of the Meinecke's young sons. All were welcome within the parameters established by Tris and Angel.

Somehow they made it all work. Tristan had a way of letting people know what the boundaries and expectations were and Angel, well as CV Eidson opined after archiving her personal papers: "Angel could accomplish more with a flick of the wrist and a raised eyebrow than most could with an armed squadron". To be sure, there were Meinecke's infamous rages where he would basically throw out whoever happened to be attending, (Eddie Balchowsky would often just walk around the block and come back in as if nothing had happened) and then, his subsequent period of "hibernation", but there was always another party. These were heady times and the oasis on Cleveland was where a certain group of extraordinary people would congregate because there was almost always something extraordinary happening.

Below: Tristan in the attic room in Ann Arbor. The Meinecke brothers, Phil and Tris, shared this large attic room in the family house. Note the drum kit and saxophone, record collection, and various works of art placed throughout the room. It is from this attic room that the Meinecke brothers, Tristan and Philip, would head to the big city of Chicago to play music with the best, raise a ruckus and in general grab life by the tail.

Meinecke in Ann Arbor Michigan

It wasn't long before they met the women they would marry shown in the picture below.

Meinecke brothers late 1940's

During this period the brothers had several different addresses in Chicago. Angel
was living downtown so she could easily get to her shows. When Tristan
and Angel married they moved into a rental apartment on Demming Ct.

Angel Casey

The apartment on Demming Ct. where the newly wedded Tristan and Angel lived before moving to 3025 N. Greenview in 1953.

The Art of Tristan Meinecke -- Abstract Expressionism, Surrealism, Cubism, Found Art, Split-Level Painting -- Crushed Canvassurrealist

Angel in the tiny back yard wading pool on Greenview 1955 -- throughout her life, wherever she was there were flowers -- lots of flowers.

Composer Dr. John J. Becker

Dr. John J. Becker, (center) noted composer and part of the "American Five" with whom Meinecke studied composition, and closest to the camera, Tristan Meinecke, circa 1952, at the Demming Ct. apartment. All were celebrating their birthdays simultaneously. The art in the picture was created by Meinecke -- he was also writing short stories, classical music, creating art, and working dressing windows for Sax Fifth Avenue, a top of the line clothier of the day.

The Art of Tristan Meinecke -- Abstract Expressionism, Surrealism, Cubism, Found Art, Split-Level Painting -- Crushed Canvassurrealist

Tris and Angel's first home, 3025 N. Greenview in 1953. During this period, Meinecke was selling several pieces per month -- some to private individuals and some to or through galleries and agents. This went on for several years until he became obsessed with Architecture, though even then Meinecke kept painting -- just not as much.

The Art of Tristan Meinecke -- Abstract Expressionism, Surrealism, Cubism, Found Art, Split-Level Painting -- Crushed Canvas

Contrast Meinecke's studio on Greenview with the distinctive 50's minimalism of the house.

Sunday Chicago Tribune -- 1958

The Art of Tristan Meinecke -- Abstract Expressionism, Surrealism, Cubism, Found Art, Split-Level Painting -- Crushed Canvassurrealist
Their decor on Greenview -- a study in 50's minimalism.
They moved from the above property in 1958.

Urban Pioneers in the 60's

2022 N. Cleveland, 1958, shortly after purchase by Tristan and Angel. They had just built the concrete block wall but had not yet added the jail gate. Angel is standing in front of the building. One can see the building permit in the first-floor middle window.

Urban Pioneers in the 60's

Here you can see the round windows and the rear coach-house porch. TM enclosed the porch when he remodeled the coach-house. First, he built the wall, then he remodeled the coach-house which is where he and his family lived. Then he built the yard (kids area, adult area, and common spaces) and his studio.

The streets had literally been raised up several feet in the 30's. The sunken entrance to the basement had at one time been at street level. The noted Chicago model maker Frank Peterson lived on the first floor. Noted Photographer Aaron Siskind lived on the 2nd floor and the third floor was rented to Mr. David Miller and his family for several years.

Green Acers in the heart of Chicago

A few years later they purchased the adjoining double lot to the North. In the winter time, Angel would call the fire department who would come with multiple trucks from different stations because they wanted to meet her. While she "chatted them up" Tristan would direct a few to flood the northern yard so he and his sons could skate and play Hockey.

This went on for several years -- surprisingly without complaints or problems from Chicago's building department -- though they may have "paid the fine" to the inspector. In those days, this was a common practice.

Employing African Americans against neighborhood "values"

As strange as it seems now, Tristan took flack from a few Asian and white inhabitants of the neighborhood for using African American craftsmen, flack he aggressively rebuffed.

Selling Art

Tristan added to the family fortunes by selling his enormous paintings for what at the time were enormous prices. At this time Meinecke was painting at an incredible rate, selling privately and through galleries, writing short stories, and long difficult modern classical music under the tutelage of Dr. John R. Becker.

Meinecke Studios After Hours

Above is a shot of Meinecke Studios "After Hours". Robert Bruce Tague drink in hand, Jan Dyer who was married to Briggs Dyer's chatting together, seemingly oblivious to a bit of mutual seduction going on in the background. Tristan's art and tool bench can be seen behind the couple farthest back, while Bill Sienge, Jazz Guitarist, and Artist looks on foreground right. From this office, Meinecke and Tague designed over 800 units in Lincoln Park from this office. Many of their buildings exist today.

Bruno Meinecke was acknolwedgedto ebe the foremost scholar of Latin in his day.  textbooks he wrote were used for decades after is death by the University of Michigan were he taught. . Bruno Meinecke

Above: Bruno Meinecke: Accomplished University of Michigan Professor Emeritus, Latin Scholar, Text Book Author, Calligrapher, Conductor of the UNIV of Michigan's Symphony Orchestra, Composer and Classical Musician who also taught Piano and Violin. Any Latin used on this site is a tribute to Bruno Meinecke who loved Latin so much he wrote poetry in it.

Tristan and Angel Meinecke Lincoln Park Summers in the 60's
Lincoln Park Summers in the 60's Lincoln Park Summers in the 60's

Summer time on Cleveland avenue in the 60's. Chicago's building code did not allow below ground pools on residential properties. Meinecke wanted a pool! So he got around this annoying bit of law by buying a 3-foot high above ground pool and digging out the ground beneath it. The 3-foot deep pool became a 6-foot deep pool in the middle, gradually rising to the 3-foot depth around the edges. The inspectors never caught on. Please note the rows of brick three-flats in the background. They were owned by William "Bill" Hunt who painstakingly and close to single-handedly remodeled them and numerous other buildings in the area.

Meinecke Studios

In the daytime, if the weather was warm, kids were out in the yard. While toned down, the grownups' festivities didn't stop. Adults are Richard Donath and GF.

Meinecke Studios

Yard party 1961 daytime -- hey it's 5:00 somewhere. In the background is a notable Chicago artist and long time friend Eve Garrison. In the foreground are art students, a musician or two, and other Chicagoans enjoying a fine Spring day.

Tris and Angel and Piano

Time to live -- Time to Jam -- Time to play and play -- Time to enjoy each other and the fruits of their labors.

And they lived happily ever after as what they possessed cannot be measured or purchased.
Angel and Tristan 1999 -- 2 Sons, 8 Grandchildren, 1 Great Grandchild.

Rebellem et indomitam ad mortem


The Estate of Tristan Meinecke 2008 - 2022 -- All pages and their contents are under various copyrights. All rights reserved.