Mixed Use Midcentury

New Urbanists like to make a fuss over the notion of a mixed-use building, touting it as a revival of a long-lost art. While the basic, common-sense notion of people living and working in close proximity certainly did fall out of favor in the 1960s through the 1980s, it never really vanished entirely. And at the height of the 1950s suburban building boom, small-scaled mixed use was actually surprisingly common in Chicago’s southern and western neighborhoods.

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Harlem Avenue

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Main Street, Skokie

“Mixed-use” generally implies some combination of office, retail and residential, and that’s generally what you’ll find on these commercial buildings. Some feature apartments above storefronts, with generous porch space marked by wood or decorative metal railings.

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Cermak Avenue

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Western Avenue – more photos here

Others feature upstairs space of a less clear nature. Behind those walls could be office space, either separate or joined with the retail space below, or living space.

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Bryn Mawr

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The most exciting ones share a similar design vocabulary of materials and style, with an emphasis on angles: angled brick wing walls, angled panels of Roman brick with limestone borders, angled wood roof overhangs.

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Cermak Avenue

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63rd Street – Midway Lounge

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63rd Street

You can find a crop of one-story, single use commercial buildings in the same neighborhoods that use the same design vocabulary, with angled sections of facade and roof overhangs, often trimmed in red wood or red Roman brick.

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6 thoughts on “Mixed Use Midcentury

  1. Most of these seem to be in urban settings, where the zoning code never prohibited mixed use. I think the New Urbanists are more concerned with those places where it was made illegal to build mixed use buildings. Fun pictures though.

  2. I had to help survey some old (still current) doctors practices – they often built fantastic apartments above their offices with super 50's kitchens which are often still intact with metal edged countertops and stainless cooktops and wall ovens, etc. Often the showplaces of the neighborhoods.

  3. Pingback: Cermak Road’s Mid-Century Riches | A Chicago Sojourn

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