Green on White, Chapter 2 – More Bakery Brick Facades

Back in April I posted a collection of buildings facades made with white glazed brick and olive green accent brick.  At the time, I put up every one I was aware of.  But as often happens when you have 65,000 digital photographs of a city, sometimes things get lost. I’ve since found and tagged more such buildings – a LOT more.

Sadly, what I have not found is further information on the architectural style or its manufacturers and designers.  As usual, though, I’ve included some of the anecdotal histories I’ve found among the Chicago-Tribune archives and elsewhere.

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3760 Fullerton Avenue at Hamlin – west of Logan Square

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3740-46 Fullerton Avenue – west of Logan Square

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1111 W Wilson Avenue – Uptown – most recently home to Rokito’s Mexican Streetside Kitchen. 

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The Greenleaf Building, Wilmette – home to 9 separate storefronts. The building appears to have gone up in two parts, with the eastern portion replacing a house in 1912. The 1137 Greenleaf storefront housed a Western Union telegraph office from the 1930s into the 1960s, then the Butt’ry Tea Room & Pastry Shop from 1979 until circa 2010.   At 1141 Greenleaf, the storefront housed a tire shop in 1920, Bob’s Radio Shop in 1925, a belly dance studio in 1973, and a coffee soup & sandwich shop today. 

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2906 Central Street, Evanston. This curious case appears to be a 1910s storefront with a later second-story addition. On top of that, a 1960s storefront renovation added a flagstone base under the display window, and an angled entryway.

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741-743 W. 79th Street at  Halsted – built by 1917.

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3650-52 W. Chicago Avenue – Near West Side. Built by 1917, when it was home to J. Faust, dealer of Emerson records. (Records as in 78 rpm singles, with such famous tunes as “He’s Had No Loving for a Long Long Time”, “Some Day I’ll Make You Glad”, and “How Are You Goin’ to Wet Your Whistle?”)

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3814 W. 26th Street – Little Village. Now the 26th Street Medical Center. Built by 1915, this was a family-owned building and business from its construction until the end of the 1970s.  The first name associated with it is Vaclav M. Urbanek, in 1915; V.M. Urbanek & Son were listed as one of the many undertakers called upon to serve the victims of the steamship Eastland disaster that year. His son Edward Urbanek became an undertaker and seems to have opened a full-fledged funeral home around 1930 – possibly when the anomalous first floor facade was added.  A snazzy mid-century side entrance came later still. Funerals were held here in the Urbanek Funeral Home until 1970; by 1981 it was a doctor’s office.

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3916 W. 26th Street – Little Village – Taquerias Atotonilco has occupied the space since the 1980s.

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3519 W. 26th Street – Little Village

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4226 W. 26th Street / 4222 W. 26th Street – Little Village

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1011 N. Western Avenue

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949 N. Western Avenue – Ricky’s Deli

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1730 W. 18th Street  (orig. 756);  1726 W. 18th Street (orig. 754) – Pilsen.  The left-hand building was built by 1912. 

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1623 N. Milwaukee Avenue – Wicker Park – Red Hen Bread. A 1912 ad shows the National Bedding Company at this address. In 1923, Sigman’s Music Store, a short-lived piano dealer, is advertised. Only 2 years later, ads show the Western Brass and Iron Bed Company at the address. Today, fragments of a demolished neighbor cling to the party wall.

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1657 W. 47th Street, Back of the Yards – La Baguette Bakery

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4601 South Marshfield Avenue, Back of the Yards – a curious brick upgrade to a much older building otherwise sheathed in wood siding.

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5048 S. Indiana Ave. Occupied by 1918 – when some inhabitants were arrested for gambling.

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1467 E. 53rd Street at Harper,  Hyde Park. The corner retail store was originally home to a branch of Mesirow & Jacobson Pharmacy, who in 1921 were proud distributors of “Yeast Foam Tablets – A Tonic Food”, and four years later were selling “Vapo Chlorine” as a surefire protection against influenza. By 1940 a grocer occupied the space. 

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4200 W. Madison

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2149 W. Division Avenue – Nabi Cleaners.  Real estate ads show that the upstairs apartments retain some rather lovely woodwork.

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11021 S. Michigan Avenue, Roseland.  In the 1920s, the Peoples Store, a general store.  In the 1940s and 1950s, a Firestone tire dealer.  In the 1970s, a TV store. From the early 80s, Major Motor Auto Supply, whose signs still adorn the party wall, along with a painted over sign in front that remains faintly visible today.
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Elmwood Park’s Sullivanesque Bungalows

In 1926, developer John Mills launched Westwood – an ambitious bungalow development in suburban Elmwood Park, due west of the Loop. Mills & Sons oversaw the construction of homes as well as the improvements to the entire holding, with streets, alleys and sidewalks all going in at the same time. In full swing by 1928, the Westwood development was one of the largest single developments the city had seen and would, when finished, include 1,332 homes and cover many blocks, with what is now known as Conti Parkway as its civic center.

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The bungalows are handsome and solid – they look terrific over 80 years after their construction – but nothing new or groundbreaking for their time. Mills & Sons’ work would be just a larger-than-average notch in the Bungalow Belt were it not for an unusual decorative decision: these are, perhaps, Chicago’s only Sullivanesque bungalows.

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The terra cotta trim was supplied by the Midland Terra Cotta Company (1), 105 W. Monroe in the Loop. Midland Terra Cotta made an entire line of Sullivan-inspired stock ornament. Their work wound up on quite a few of Chicago’s commercial buildings, though of course the Leiber-Miester was given no credit and, undoubtedly, no compensation. The intent was simply to make the buildings more “ornamental”, in the words of Midland’s own design drawings. Whereas Sullivan carefully integrated his ornament to enhance and reinforce the big idea of the building – developers just dropped it in because it looked nice.

And, well, doesn’t it?

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Blocks of catalog ornament were used to accent window surrounds, the heads of arched basement windows, porch columns, and simple expanses of brick wall. The ornaments are a ubiquitous marker of John Mills’ Elmwood Park bungalows, clearly delineating the extent of his development.

Mills & Sons took pride in their work, touting the “colorful terra cotta trim” and high-quality face brick in their advertisements. Pride could not save them from the onset of the Great Depression, however, and the company went into receivership in 1932, based on a motion filed by the Hydraulic Press Brick company. The company survived, however, and would go on to build wartime housing further west in the early 1940s.

Note 1 – Chicago Tribune display ad, March 11, 1928 – Mills & Sons Westwood. The ad lists all the major suppliers of building components including brick, hardwood floors, fireplaces, door hardware and much more.

Peterson Ave MidCentury Architecture, Part 2

If you are a fan of 1950s and 1960s design, it is well worth your time to park your car on Peterson, just west of Western Avenue, and take a long walk west. You’ll find a variety of architectural gems, both quiet and prominent. Here are some of my favorites:

2440 W. Peterson Avenue

Currently, 2440 Peterson is home to Oral Surgery Associates. Like many buildings along this stretch of road, it has been home to dental practices since it  opened  in 1964.
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2440 is a plain brown brick  building with a wide open east-facing glass facade. Its primary point of interest is the startburst-shaped entry canopy which shelters much of the courtyard and intersects the front facade. The result is a cozy and intimate space – an  ideal setting for the rock garden that currently inhabits it.

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2518 W. Peterson Ave

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Previously Dental Touch.

The winning component on this tiny office building is the concrete screen that shields most of the front windows. This lacy double layer of thin blocks filters light and views, allowing privacy while maintaining connection to the outdoors.

Concrete pattern wall

Best guess for date of construction is 1965, the only time it pops up in the <i>Tribune</i> archives.

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2600 W. Peterson / 2606 Peterson – The Cardamil Building

At first glance, it’s a fairly stock scheme, a 1961 building with blue and cream bricks accented by a random cobblestone wall section at the lobby. Can lights in the overhang illuminate the walls at night.

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Then you move down the street and realize that this extra bonus building is attached to it.

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2606 W. Peterson is (or was) home to the architecture firm of Simon & Co. Generous windows are screened by heavy curtains, and the upper walls are given interest and volume by the addition of a screen of metal hoops.

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Early tenants in the main building at 2600 Peterson included F.C. Power, an appliance distributor, in 1961; Wilbur-Ellis Co, beverage distributors, in 1962; by 1965 it was home to Engler, Schwechter & Associates, a legal or accounting firm.

2722-26 W. Peterson – Fairfield-Peterson Cosmetic Dental Center

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Opened circa 1961, this building shares a similar scheme to 2440 Peterson – a rather plain brick box, open on one side, facing a courtyard sheltered by an elaborate canopy. In this case, rectangular steel tubes old up a thin covering. The fence seems like a later addition, as the gate forces one to enter from the Fairfield side rather than the more logical axial approach from Peterson. This building was home to a variety of offices, but over time – like many others nearby – it has settled into a suite of dental practicesIMG_1898a

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The dark bricks are a thin facade – on the west face, a few of them are peeling away, showing that they are less than an inch thick.

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3414 W. Peterson Avenue – 3414 Professional Building

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3414 Peterson is another suite of dental offices. Past inhabitants have included medical practices. The building is a mini-grab bag of stock 1960s design elements – the folded plate roof that shelters both the exterior porch and part of the interior lobby; hanging globe lamps;  brown brick arranged in a dimensional pattern; and a wall of rough stone.

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There is precious little information available about any of these buildings – the names of their architects have not found their way online – but together they exemplify the commercial exuberance of the Mad Men era.

Living walls of art

Go to the 3100 block of W. 36th Place – between Kedzie and Albany – and you’ll find a display of public art unlike any other in the city.
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This elaborately detailed, fantastically complex composition is one of dozens – perhaps hundreds or thousands – that, over the last decade,  have graced Chicago’s Aerosoul Walls – home of Chicago’s biggest and best collection of graffiti art.

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Standing at the corner of 36th Place and Albany – a dreary industrial zone south of the Ship & Sanitary Canal – the otherwise undistinguished Crawford Steel Building is Ground Zero for the Chicago graffiti community. Here, aspiring and prominent taggers practice their art, devising and executing larger-than-life works in the open air.

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The display is ever-changing; new works are constantly underway, layered over the old.  Quite a few works had vanished between my first visit, in May, and my second, in early July. Photos posted a few years ago on local discussion boards show works that have all since vanished.

Each wall is “owned” by a group of particular artists, whose works are not to be painted over; violators will find their own work quickly painted over.

The most common subject of a tag is the artist’s own adopted name, often stylized beyond legibility. The message can be difficult or impossible to decipher. No matter – the art is in the craftsmanship and the creativity. Cartoon figures often augment designs, such as an appearance by Dragon Ball‘s Kami…

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…and a rabid Ewok from Return of the Jedi nearby in the same composition.
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The influence of the Aerosoul Walls extends well beyond the Crawford Steel property. One rule of thumb about graffiti artists – they have no interest in staying inside the lines. Give them an officially designated canvas and they will inevitably fill it up and move beyond it, as St. Louis learned when it invited taggers to decorate its industrial floodwalls some years back, and got tags on vacant historic buildings downtown.

So it is here – except that instead of damaging historic architecture, here taggers have bombed a group of run-of-the-mill industrial buildings. Several anonymous buildings on the same block, facing the  emptiness of the railroad tracks, are heavily slathered with layers of tags. These solid walls of graffiti are highly visible from passing Amtrak trains, which is how I first became aware of the place.

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These more obscure locations tend to invite works of lower quality, as well as somewhat diminished respect for the better paintings that are done there.  A piece may last for several years, or only a few months or weeks. Technical craftsmanship and artistic originality are no guarantee of survival, though they sometimes help. More useful is getting your tag into a spot that’s harder to reach – above the nine-foot reach of the typical tagger, for example.

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There are elements of gang activity to some of the tags – though most gang tags lack the artistic quality of dedicated taggers’ work.

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I will make a half-hearted concession that this work is illegal and, essentially, is vandalism. Certainly, Crawford Steel is furiously vigilant in their efforts to prevent this lawless scourge from infecting our fair land:

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Notice to Spray Painters: The City of Chicago has made it illegal to spray paint any walls with or without the permission of the property owners. In order to adhere to this law, please do not spray paint anywhere on Crawford Steel’s property. Thank you for your cooperation. March 2002

But I can’t say it really bothers me much. Truthfully, about the worst outcome I can see here is that this area acts as a prepping ground for writers to tag other walls elsewhere, with perhaps less harmless results.

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I have seen works of far lesser craft and quality enshrined in museums. The Crawford Steel building looks much better with its ever-shifting array of artworks than it would without them. The adjacent buildings cannot be said to have any artistic merit – why shouldn’t they be used as a giant canvas? In my opinion, the city should have places like this – designated tagging grounds, places where artists can express themselves and stretch their creativity unencumbered. In this depressingly drab industrial section of town, it is a breath of fresh air and one of the few sources of beauty.

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For good or ill, the graffiti valley on either side of the railroad tracks represents an outpouring of the community’s voice – a chorus of souls striving to be heard. Perhaps I’m putting a benign spin on a malevolent force – but in the aggregate, I find this collection of tags to be overpoweringly wonderful.

1×1 Tile Mosaics

I love finding convergent architectural elements scattered about the city. Geometric glass block, Midcentury 2-flats, green-on-white glazed brick storefronts – whenever I see something popping up in a variety of places all over town, I’m hooked.

My latest find in this vein – 1960s-era 1×1 tile mosaics. Using common construction materials, which could be installed by commonly-skilled workers, 1×1 tiles allowed an artist to create colorful additions to a building’s exterior. For curves and added levels of detail, the titles could be cut in half with a 90-degree angle.

I have found about half a dozen examples of note scattered around Chicagoland:

169 Grove Avenue, Oak Park

An apartment building from circa 1960 turned condo, with wonderful projecting balconies on two of the corners, trimmed out with blue metal spandrel panels.  Inside, the lobby features  a wonderful abstract mosaic along one side. The mosaic extends through the glass front wall into the vestibule.

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1040-1044 Ontario Street,  Oak Park

A curious little courtyard apartment building from around 1963, with 4-Plus-1 style parking under one wing, and the other wing at ground level. On the street facades, two tile mosaics reflect Native American or Aztec themes. Unfortunately, the eastern mosaic was mostly covered by climbing vines when I photographed it.
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El Lago

A residential highrise at 6157 N. Sheridan, by architect Irving M. Karlin Associates (J.J. & I.M. Karlin). Planned in 1957, El Lago broke ground in Sept. 1958, built on the site of the George Leahy home, president of Republic Coal and Coke.  The structure was built utilizing federal housing insurance that covered mortgages. 22 stories, 268 apartments.

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The El Lago tower was built with a “Mexican motif” meant to convey a warmth missing from contemporary buildings. The primary result seems to be the two tile mosaics flanking the entrance, portraying a man and a woman of Mexican heritage.
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5850 Lincoln Avenue, the Simgreen building

This multipurpose commercial building was built for real estate developers  M. Suson & Associates, circa 1959. Inside the curvaceous lobby, a tile mosaic depicts the building trades at work, reflecting the primary tenant’s occupation. Other offices located here over the years include  Vacations Enterprises in 1959  and Simgreen Jewelers by 1989. Today it houses an alderman’s office and a gold shop.

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2411 W. Fargo / 7420-7428 N. Western

A mixed-use building with commercial spaces facing Western Avenue, and access to the upper-floor residences on the side street. The apartment entry is marked by an abstract design in 1×1 tiles.

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1809 N. Harlem Apartments

his  pair of 6-flat apartments is  part of a long row on Harlem Avenue of the same vintage and scale. These two  feature an abstract pattern of colored tiles, with a minor echo of the motif around the entrance.
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West Leyden High School

1000 Wolf Road, Northlake. A 1957 building with somewhat workmanlike mosaics decorating its wings, portraying the various areas of academics, learning, athletics and high school life.
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And the kitchen sink

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The year is 1964. After his latest round of projects, a contractor finds he still has a lot of little architectural decorative bits left in his supply yard, none of them enough to work on any one building by itself. What to do, what to do? Find the next client that walks in the door and just throw everything at their project!

At least, that’s the story I picture behind the building of North American Heating and Air Conditioning, 5915 Lincoln Avenue in Morton Grove.

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The tiny office portion of this building packs a grab bag of architectural materials, including a brown brick, black lava rock, and metal spandrel panels. Adorning it are a bronzed window screen, funky Mid-Century address numbers, and three columns of randomly spaced colored glass block dripping down the side. If that ain’t enough, a brick and pattern block fence once lined the parking lot, too, with brick posts topped by lamps. IMG_9475a IMG_9469a

The end result is just way too much stuff packed into one tiny facade, but I love it.

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It seems that North American Heating & AC eventually moved further west; the building has looked empty and for sale since at least 2010, though the name “Service Packaging Inc.” remains on the door and on that company’s enigmatic website. (Curiously, all the real estate ads peg the construction date as circa 1970, a good five or more years later than the actual date.)

St. Demetrios and the Pod Buildings From Beyond!

This is the older portion of St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church (1929, 2727 W. Winona), a touchstone of Greek cultural life in Chicago for eight decades:

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And this is the interior of the sanctuary:
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It’s nice and pretty and all that. Yadda yadda. What really makes this church pop, though, is the St. Demetrios Cultural Center – a pair of gleaming pod-like additions to the north and south sides.

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On both sides, a round vestibule section greets visitors, acting as a foyer for larger adjoining spaces. The north wing houses an auditorium (with some cool funky recessed lighting), a library, and various smaller rooms. The south wing is part of the church’s affiliated school, and contains a gym, locker rooms, game room, classrooms, and stairs.

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Ground was broken on the Cultural Center in October 1962, and the motherships opened their doors in 1964. The additions are almost symmetrical, and wrap the full backside of the church, save for the southeast corner of the block. There, a single house stands untouched. Was it a holdout? Was it used by the church?

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The buildings are exquisite – covered in a shimmering aqua blue tile highlighted with flecks of gold, set amid stainless steel window mullions and broad expanses of glass, and decorated with fabulous dimensional lettering, also in stainless steel.

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The north pod features this cool curvy fountain. If you rent out the auditorium for an event, you can pay a bit extra to have the fountain running too.

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This is complete design, top to bottom – the tile and stainless steel set the motifs and are carried to the interior, and even onto the entry overhangs. When was the last time you saw a tiled overhang?

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The tile has seen better days – in quite a few places, individual tiles are missing. One panel on the south pod has almost fallen off entirely.

The pod buildings were designed by the still-extant firm of Camburas & Theodore; they submitted an earlier design illustrated in the March 9, 1960 Chicago Tribune, a more staid stand-alone building which was discarded (and looks too big to fit on the portion of the block left open by the church building.)