For some fifty-odd years, this lovely 1960s structure was the home of Fortuna Brothers Funeral Home, at 4401 S. Kedzie. Begun in 1946 by brothers John J. and Stanley P. Fortuna, the site also included their home (a later addition to the rear may have replaced this). Stanley died young at age 46 in 1956, and John passed away in 1969; but the family business continued on for many decades. Death notices at the address first appear in the Tribune in 1952 and are prolific from then on, continuing until 2007. The building went up for sale in 2008.
Then, in 2011, new owners Kiddie Kare Daycare got hold of it, and… well, here’s the before and after:
It’s not just that they took a unified, handsome vintage design and obliterated it. It’s that the result is so incredibly bad. The Fortuna Funeral Home building was built to the highest standards of its time, and some 50 years later, it still looked great. Against this high standard have now been set the cheapest, most low-quality materials possible: Vinyl siding butted up against vintage cut limestone. Fake shutters for the tiny windows (which replaced much more generous ones). An asphalt shingle skirt masquerading as a mansard roof – without even the most perfunctory attempt to make it look like a “roof”. A single tiny vent floating dead center on the facade, as if it were the most important design element – replacing the concrete block pattern window which was the most important design element. At the ground floor, split concrete block has replaced polished granite, and at-grade flower beds have replaced integral planters.
It’s impossible to know how much was covered up and how much was removed, but at very least, the building’s original base, and original window configuration, have been destroyed – gone forever. This hatchet job cannot be easily undone.
I can’t fathom the thought process. Was this intended to make the place look more inviting, more homely? It fails miserably. Was it a cheap way around costly repairs? Nothing on the original facade indicates any problems. Was it meant to make the former funeral home look less like a funeral home? In this it succeeds, but only because now it looks like cheap junk. At any rate, I would have suggested two alternatives: accept the building as it is (nothing about it really screams “funeral parlor”), or find another building.
All the rest is either buried for now, or gone forever.