1940s Storefront Facades

We cap off our little survey of commercial Art Deco with a style that’s not really Deco: the circa-World War II paneled storefront.

Lincoln Tap Room
Lincoln Tap Room – Lincoln Avenue

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Western Automatic Music – Western Avenue

R.V. Kunka Pharmacy
R. V. Kunka Pharmacy – Archer Avenue

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This one, on Armitage, actually has more in common with the corner Deco buildings from previous posts. But the colors are more 1940s-style.

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Kiltz’s Bakery – W. 63rd Street

Kiltz’s shares a material and finish style with the next two, a sort of smooth-finished texture with a lumpiness to it. For a while it fooled me into thinking it was terra cotta, but if you walk up and tap it, you’ll discover that it’s a hollow metal panel with a baked-on coating, presumably a form of porcelain enamel.

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Parkway Cleaners and Taylors – Diversey Parkway

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Ed & Erv’s Centrella Food Mart – Touhy Avenue

Parkway and Ed & Erv’s also share enough design elements to make them look like the same designer’s work. The white polished cleanliness of the designs is highly fitting for their occupants.

At the other end of the health spectrum, the Rothschild Liquors chain became their own mini-genre of storefront, all paneled in red and finished out with stylish neon signs:

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717 East 87th Street

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1532 West Chicago Avenue

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425 East 63rd Street

A quick Google search turns up two more Rothschild stores with facades of the same vintage, one in red, one in white.

And finally, the black Vitrolite panel storefront, exemplified by two fine northern city storefronts:

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Erickson’s Jewelers, Clark Street in Andersonville

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Paul J. Ouetschke & Co., Lincoln Avenue in Lincoln Square

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Unlike the baked metal panels above, Vitrolite is basically a form of glass, about a quarter inch in thickness, and sadly prone to breaking under impact.

And with those dimensional letters, we’re clearly on the path to full-blown Midcentury. Bring it on!

Gold-Plated Deco Bits

You remember these guys from last week, right?

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Grand Avenue

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Devon Avenue I

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Devon Avenue II

The three buildings share more than just a similar design style; they actually have the exact same gold-hued catalog ornament.

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Grand Avenue

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Devon Avenue I

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Devon Avenue II

And they’re not alone. Several other Deco buildings were designed by contractors with their finger in the same catalog.

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Lawrence Avenue, directly south of the previous two

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Bryn Mawr at Sawyer, west of the river

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It looks like the supplier made the same ornament in multiple finishes. Consider these two details, the first from the Lawrence Ave. building, the second from another Devon Ave. building:
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Devon Deco
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The two designs are identical, just flipped and rendered in a different finish.

Round Corner Deco

The Streamline Deco style really lent itself to commercial buildings. They could be built with extremely simple designs, and still be considered stylish and modern.

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6747 W. Cermak Road, at Oak Park Avenue

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Bryn Mawr, west of Sheridan

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2755 W. 63rd Street at California

This one is the most basic model – rectangular blocks with a glazed, colored face, with horizontal banding lines on top and bottom. This model serves on countless storefronts around the city, both on corners and in the middle of the street wall.

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Clark Street – Lakeview. Whatever this building may have once been, it’s now buried under an awful asphalt shingle mansard roof, except for this forlorn little corner peaking out at the alley.

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Here on Chicago Avenue, the worst slipcover job ever has partially given way to reveal the stock Streamline facade beneath.

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The same idea was used to greater effect on Devon Avenue, where a corner didn’t require the entry to be round.

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Devon Avenue

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The same model is used on a tiny free-standing building where Grand and Chicago intersect.

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And again in a storefront at 6719 Northwest Highway.

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On this North Avenue building, the same effect is achieved with metal panels. This building has had a renovation / add-on that really fights against its host building. Apparently, Streamline just doesn’t have the same allure as rustic Swiss Alpine.

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You could pull the same effect off in concrete or limestone, too:
Gandhi Electronics

Simple and Streamline weren’t the only word in corner commercial chic, however. The varied vagaries of Art Deco offered an array of options for the shopkeeper willing to spend a bit more on his facade, and there are some beautiful examples here and there.

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3001 W. 63rd Street

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3324 W. 55th Street

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Archer Avenue at Richmond Street

Angley Jangley Deco

Two handsome Art Deco specimens from out west.

The Medical Arts Building, Oak Park

715 Lake Street is hard to miss if you’ve visited Oak Park; it’s a rare tall building in a low-rise suburb. Architect Roy J. Hotchkiss designed the Deco/Nouveau skyscraper near the end of a highly productive career, in 1929; still in use as office space, it’s a contributing member of a National Register district.

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It’s also quite dramatically illuminated at night.

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4500 W. Division

O & G Spring and Wire Forms Specialty Company occupies this low, long factory building, the front facade of a fairly large complex.

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The factory’s entire facade is nicely decorated with mosaic tile and brick patterns, but it’s the entry tower that makes you swerve to the side of the road for a longer look.

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Hey…. aren’t those the same wall sconces as the Medical Arts Building?

O & G was founded in 1966 by a Polish immigrant and employs about 75 people today. The company made unfortunate headlines in 2008, when a supervisor shot and killed an employee after a quarrel.

The Tribune library archives are not working correctly, or I might have more info on the building itself. But maybe it’s enough to just bask in its geometric glory.

Friday Photo Special: The LATE Ride rides again!

Shots from the 2010 LATE Ride, Saturday night / Sunday morning July 10/11:

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I’m not sure how this contraption operated, but it was slow. After I finished the entire ride, and was heading back north on the bike path — now totally empty — I passed this crew, still struggling toward downtown, waaaay up north at Montrose. There were 7 of them on the bike, plus a few more festively lit bikers riding with them, so I guess they couldn’t have been too lonely.

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West on Roosevelt.

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North on Halsted.

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South on the lake front bike path.

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I love the LATE Ride. And it’s about the only time I ever see the sun rise over the lake.

More photos here.

The Artist Colonies of Old Town

Two remarkable enclaves of artistic thought, expression and craft thrived in Chicago’s Old Town neighborhood, starting in the 1920s and peaking in the 1950s. Both sprung from the artistic ambitions of prolific artist Edgar Miller, who spent decades carefully crafting his studio and the surrounding properties.

The first and more extensive compound is the Carl Street Studios on W. Burton Place, a single-block street between LaSalle and Wells (it was renamed in the 1930s.) I will not try to explain their architecture or layout; I can hardly claim to understand them myself. Suffice to say that most of the block is involved in Miller’s work in some way or other. Several tightly wound buildings somehow squeeze courtyard space onto tiny urban lots, each adorned with sculpture, mosaic tile, woodwork, stained glass and more.

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Prairie Style and Art Deco / Streamline are clearly visible influences; on the whole, however, the houses on this block are unique creations.

The second location is on Wells Street, a few blocks above North Avenue. Now housing high-end apartments, it’s frustratingly inaccessible, a bit of a walled fortress compound insulated against the bustle of the city. Sporadic bits of tile decoration and two elaborately carved doors hint at the wonders that surely await within.

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Turns out, Edgar Miller was professionally involved with another luminous Chicago designer, architect Andrew Rebori. Miller’s mini-sculptures line the first-floor cornice of Rebori’s Fischer Apartments, nearby on Wells.

The outside of these buildings is a paltry consolation prize compared to the interiors. Interior photos are well worth seeking out – they are stunning indeed.

A full history at Wikipedia: Carl Street Studios

Lawn ornament extreme

The urge to decorate is, I suspect, fundamental to the human psyche. People like stuff. They like to personalize and elaborate and accumulate. Guys like Mies and Gropius were, truth be told, fighting a losing battle.

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Some folks, however, take their decorating more seriously than others. Some lawn decoration is just that, bits of stuff scattered and arranged here and there about the back yard or front lawn. Sometimes, however, it becomes part of the building, as with this whimsically decorated house on Asbury in Evanston.

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And sometimes, the decoration can overtake the house entirely, redefining it, as with this building in Ukraine Village.

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That’s the House of Crosses, alternately know as the “It’s what I do” house. Sadly, most of this 20-year accumulation of art was removed in 2007.

For my money, though, nothing quite tops this custom-sculpted facade reworking at 6011 S. Ashland. The building and lot belong to a towing company. How they wound up with such a wonderfully decorated building is a mystery.

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