Green on White, Volume 3 – A Baker’s Dozen of Bakery Brick

Another batch of white and green glazed brick storefronts – about a dozen total. At this point I have documented well over 50 of these buildings in and around the city, all featuring the same material and color pallet, and often the same style of design and ornamentation. And still no answer to the simple question of why! Why this color combination, why so many of them, why this style, why right in this one concentrated time period around 1920?

IMG_2894a741-749 W. 79th Street at Halsted. The westernmost of the four storefronts was the Auburn Park Library from the late 1930s until 1963. This building was next door to the corner commercial building demolished several years ago following a wall collapse.

 

Clark Street, Rogers Park7051 N. Clark Street, Rogers Park. Originally the Casino Theater, one of a legion of early theaters, most of which lasted only a few years before larger and more modern competitors overtook them. Cinema Treasures lists the Casino as operating from 1913-14; it was cited by the city in 1913 – along with dozens of other theaters – for a total lack of any ventilation. By 1919, it was a car dealership. In recent years, the building has lost a curved parapet wall.

Before this building went up, the site was home to Patrick Leonard Touhy, an early settler, businessman and land trader in the area, who married the daughter of Phillip Rogers, platted Rogers Park, and lent his name to one of the area’s major east-west arterial streets. Separated from his wife, Mr. Touhy lived at this address alone until he passed away in 1911; his house was demolished and replaced with the theater. His wife’s mansion, at 5008 Clark (old system, 7339 Clark new system) was torn town in 1917 and is now the site of Touhy Park.

Western Avenue

2241 and 2245 N. Western Avenue

 

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2403 W. Chicago Avenue – Liz’s Pet Shop, with thin triangular and diamond patterns surrounding a beautiful bulls-eye of stained glass above, and a completely altered storefront below. In the 1930s it was the office of Dr. Marco Petrone (1902-1966), a gynecologist and city Health Department inspector whose office also seemed to have a knack for attracting crime victims seeking emergency treatment. By 1945 it housed the Roncoli Grill.

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4230 1/2-4234 and 4236 S. Archer Avenue – two adjacent buildings with matching facades.

The lower, longer building on the right contains three retail storefronts; the peculiar 4230 1/2 address indicates that the third was shoehorned in at some point. 4234 was a Brighton Hobby store in the 1970s; recent occupants include the recently departed Vision To You, a pizza parlor, and a salon.

4236 S. Archer opened as the Crane Theater in 1916 – hence the grand archway; it operated as a theater into the 1950s. More recent retail tenants included a Color Mart wallpaper store in the 1970s, the Brighton Flower Shop until around 2007 (with a great neon sign), and the China Spa in 2008.

Both stores were refaced with modern red brick recently, first the theater in 2012 and then the storefronts on either side in 2013. All three came out much the worse – though at least the now-anomalous archway is no longer covered with a giant banner. The renovation included installation of bulbs into the long-disused sockets of the arch; the milky stained glass in the arched window appears to be an earlier addition by the short-lived China Spa. The current tenant, responsible for the red brick ruination, is the Gads Hill Center, a family and community support organization.

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6901 S. Halsted Street – green brick striping punctuated by terra cotta medalions. The building contains apartments above and four retail outlets at the street level. The Family Loan Corporation was a long-time tenant, from the late 1940s through the 1950s. A liquor store came later, in the 1960s.

 

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711 W. 47th Street – another curious specimen, a wood framed house tarted up with masonry accents at the street. The house is likely much older than the other buildings in this post, which likely date from the 1910s.

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IMG_0646a2209 W. Cermak Road, at far right – another apartment-over-storefront configuration. It was a music store in 1919, likely the first tenant. After that the storefront housed a series of doctor’s offices, including one who practiced there for many years before moving out in 1942. The address made headlines in 1977, as another physician operating there was one of several who carried a notable new type of glasses case that the Tribune reviewed. The same doc made headlines again in 1981 under less auspicious circumstances – he and another physician were busted for supplying drugs to street gangs. 

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3311 W. Montrose Avenue – Chicago Import, Inc. The storefront has been infilled with blonde brick, and the limestone panels in the center appear to be a Mid Century addition.IMG_9070a

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2107 N. Cleveland Avenue – Custom Hair Lounge + Spa – the green brick is merely a small accent amid handsome corbelling and an arched parapet wall, capped with limestone trim. It opened as a grocery store in 1919, and was the White House tavern in the 1950s (when an out of town patron tried to commit suicide in the restroom.) 

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6241 N. Broadway, Uptown – Green Element Resale. Like the Casino Theater, this building has lost its upper parapet wall – as evidenced by a geometric design that is abruptly sliced off at the roofline. It was the Leon Beloian Rug Company in 1981.

 

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3707 W. 26th Street. Civic Savings and Loan in 1957. Vanek Travel Service in 1960. Mena Mexico Travel Agency today. This is actually a storefront addition – there’s a wood frame house behind it, still in use as a residence in 1964 when Mr. Arthur Vanek, owner of the first travel agency, passed away. The green was painted over some time between 2007 and 2011.

 

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Diversey-Sheffield Building, 946-958 W. Diversey / 2801 N. Sheffield Avenue. Built in 1916, according to Chicago Architecture Info, this one featured an actual name emblazoned on the corner facade.  As with the Archer Avenue buildings, that facade was recently lost. According to the architect’s Facebook page, “the glaze on the brick was failing, the walls were deteriorating and the cornices falling off due to rust.” Modern brown brick replaced the 100 year old white glazed look. Its multiple storefronts have, and still do, housed a variety of tenants.

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IMG_8726aThe fate of the two refaced stores flags up a major issue facing all these buildings – the glazing tends to flake off as the buildings age, particularly if water gets into the walls (due to poor roof or parapet maintenance) and can’t get out (due to a variety of factors.) The glazing is the brick’s finished surface, and without that surface the brick decays faster. These buildings could become an endangered species if owners continue to defer maintenance.

6-Flats on South Harlem

“HONESTY

SINCERITY

QUALITY

WORKMANSHIP

SERVICE”

Around the corner from Cermak Plaza, just north on Harlem Avenue, stands a remarkable run of 1960s apartment buildings – almost 50 of them, standing for four blocks in an unbroken row. With a range of cladding and ornament applied to a long series of virtually identical buildings, they are an almost perfect catalog of the decorative vocabulary of Chicago’s mid-century builder vernacular.

Harlem Avenue 6-Flats

Harlem Avenue 6-Flats

Harlem Avenue 6-Flats

These buildings are primarily the work of one builder: George V. Jerutis & Associates, who put up most of the row between 1958 and 1961.  A 1985 Tribune article gives some details of Mr. Jerutis’s life: a Bridgeport native born in 1924, Jerutis was a prolific builder in the Chicago area; by his own estimates, his firm constructed 15,000 buildings of all kinds in the 1950s and 1960s, touting itself as “Chicagoland’s largest multiple builder”. In the early 1970s, he moved out of building and into land development, spreading out into other states around the country.

Harlem Avenue 6-Flats

This building is one of three triplets in the row – the same design repeated a few lots apart, at 1909, 1921 and 1931 S. Harlem. Several others repeat the same design but with brown or orange brick instead of blue.

In their advertising, Jerutis & Associates repeatedly emphasized the quality of their work and materials, as well as the high value one could obtain by purchasing one of their buildings. Reading between the lines, it appears that most or all design was done in-house, though if a buyer got in early they could choose the design style, brick, colors, etc.

“We have and will continue to practice what we PREACH. YOU – our customers have made us the largest multiple builder in Chicagoland because we give you more for each dollar you spend.” – Tribune ad, May 22, 1960

Harlem Avenue 6-flats

1919 S. Harlem – stacked orange Roman brick spandrel panels on the sides; raised brick patterns on the ends

Harlem Avenue 6-Flats

Harlem Avenue 6-Flats

The entryways use a number of devices common to single and multi-family buildings of the era – glass block as a decorative sidelight, geometrically patterned column-screens, built-in planters, and wood doors with delightful patterns.

Harlem Avenue 6-Flats

 

At least five buildings in the row were built by another company called Western Builders. Their generic name does not lend itself to online searching, but the buildings are easily picked out by their vertical stripes, made of stacked Roman brick:

Harlem Avenue 6-flats

1847 S. Harlem Avenue. The geometric glass blocks seem to be a more ornate response to this building’s prominent corner location.

Harlem Avenue 6-Flats

Harlem Avenue 6-Flats

Harlem Avenue 6-Flats

Harlem Avenue 6-Flats

 

A handful of buildings in the row appear to be by other builders, differing in style and not appearing in the classified ads:

Harlem Avenue 6-Flats

Harlem Apartments – a sort of O’Nassis Modern pastiche at 1817 S. Harlem.

Harlem Avenue 6-flats

 

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1809 S. Harlem and its twin neighbor feature 1×1 mosaic tile panels in an abstract pattern. These also appear to be by another builder.

 

Harlem Avenue 6-Flats1801 and 1805 Harlem are a break from the usual model; instead of 6-flats, they are two-level breezeway buildings. Built in 1960, they are not Jerutis products.

Cermak Plaza’s Lost Art and Architecture

It’s not possible to discuss Mid Century Modernism on Cermak Road without bringing up the famous Cermak Plaza Shopping Center.

Cermak Plaza

Cermak Plaza, Berwyn IL

Cermak Plaza opened in 1956, a Modernist styled shopping center primarily noted for its excellent neon signs. After losing its prominence to newer and larger shopping destinations further west, the center gained notoriety in the 1980s when the progressive-minded owner began installing works of modern art all around the grounds.

Cermak Plaza ain't nothin' new to me

Plane Crystals

Cermak Plaza

Moonbells (Bell Tree Quartet). In the distance, the “floating McDonald’s” which was inexplicably altered to no longer float.

Cermak Plaza

Ever-Blooming Night and Day Flowers

Cermak Plaza

Good Time Clock

The first and most notorious piece, Big Bil-Bored, came down in 1993 due to structural deterioration. The most well-known sculpture, the automobiles-on-a-spike installation known as Spindle, was destroyed in 2008.  Various other pieces had also come and gone by the time I made my first photo visit later that year.

Cermak Plaza

Above, the Walgreens outlot building that displaced Spindle.

Cermak Plaza

Pinto Pelt and Windamajig

On a return trip in 2009, I captured several more works, as well as some of the store frontage in the background.

Cermak Plaza

The Embrace

Cermak Plaza

Drum Yard, with the soon-to-be-defunct Circuit City in the background

Cermak Plaza

Millennium Fountain

Cermak Plaza

Kettle Head Choir

Cermak Plaza

Cermak Plaza in 2008 was on its second iteration, with a series of Post-Modern Dryvit structures tacked over its original Mid-Century elements – faux castle towers in a 1980s color palette. Some of the original elements still shone through, particularly the old Service Merchandise store, unaltered except for a shed roof tacked to the front.

Cermak Plaza, Berwyn IL

Cermak Plaza, Berwyn IL

The Walgreen’s also retained some of the 1958 design, too – rough stone at the entrance, and stylized stainless steel railings along the walkways. A handful of the original storefronts survived as well.

Cermak Plaza, Berwyn IL

Cermak Plaza, Berwyn IL

Beginning in 2010, the plaza’s owners gave the aged shopping center a second face lift, dramatically updating it to a contemporary look. That renovation would mean the removal of almost all the remaining artwork, but it also re-established the center architecturally – sweeping away the incredibly tacky Post-Modern add-ons, and replacing them with some dramatic contemporary design.

On the flip side, the Service Merchandise building was demolished in 2011; it has been replaced by a Meijers whose Dryvit facade dwarfs the previous building in scale.

Cermak Plaza, Berwyn IL

Above: The renovated space previously occupied by Walgreens; the Pinto Pelt sculpture formerly hung on the wall at left. The stone around the entryway has vanished, but the original storefront panels are still in place.

Cermak Plaza, Berwyn IL

The art may be gone, but some of its spirit is retained in a group of peculiar wind turbines in the parking lot. The turbines generate electricity to power the lights, and sometimes return energy to the grid.

Cermak Plaza

The neon signs, meanwhile, were brought down in 2012 for repairs, but found to be beyond salvage. Backlit plastic signs temporarily took their place. Modern duplicates of the original neon signs were fabricated and installed, and the difference is practically invisible.

Cermak Plaza’s architectural story is among the most interesting a shopping center could have; it is one of continual change – sometimes for the better, sometimes worse. I might mourn the loss of the Mid Century design elsewhere; here, it appears something better has, by and large, taken its place. The disappearance of the artworks is more lamentable, and removes the quirky character of the place – but the restoration of the neon signs keeps the continuity of memory intact.

Other writers have covered Cermak Plaza in more detail than I could hope to; for more on this peculiar strip mall, see:

* Sculptures in the Cermak Plaza Shopping Center

* The Art and History of Cermak Plaza, at the Pleasant Family Shopping blog

Cermak Road’s Mid-Century Riches

Head west out of Chicago on Cermak Road, and at first you may think you’ve come to the end of anything interesting. The first thing to greet your eyes after you cross the city boundary into Cicero is a series of bland strip malls. Nothing could be further from the truth, though. Once you cross Central Avenue, Cermak has many wonders in store as it cruises west through the inner-ring suburbs of Cicero and Berwyn.

Cermak’s buildings gradually transition from pre-War revival and eclectic, to Mid-Century styles. While grand commercial buildings from before World War II are scattered along the Cicero stretch of the road and and into eastern Berwyn – there is no visible transition at the political boundary – the Mid-Century buildings are primarily concentrated in western Berwyn, towards Harlem Avenue.     Cermak Road Mid-Century Architecture Berwyn Western Plumbing, 7100 W. Cermak Road, Berwyn – open by October 1962. Two projecting sun shades with two walls of almost continuous glass between them – an ideal box for displaying a vendor’s wares. With the namesake business having relocated elsewhere, this building’s future is currently up in the air.

Cermak Road Mid-Century Architecture   Rosicky’s National Cleaners, 5818 W. Cermak Road, Cicero. Open by 1966.

Cermak Road Mid-Century Architecture

Laundry World, 6947 Cermak Road, Berwyn – present at this spot since the 1990s. The sign is recycled from Color Tile, the previous occupant, who moved in in 1978 and stayed at least through 1990. It’s not clear when the building was originally built.

Cermak Road Mid-Century Architecture 7008 Cermak Road – The Back Center, Berwyn. Alternately known as the West Suburban Chiropractic Clinic, the business has operated here since 1984.  No word on its original life, but the high windows make a doctor’s office seem like a decent bet; mid-1960s seems a likely construction date. A recent “remodeling” has removed the primary points of interest, including the folded-plate canopy and the stacked stone panel at the ground floor.

7008 W. Cermak

Cermak Road Mid-Century Architecture   6841 W. Cermak Road, Berwyn

Cermak Road Mid-Century Architecture 6534 W. Cermak Road, Berwyn – General Dentistry. Two buildings of red Roman brick with limestone banding. The latter, in particular, is a powerful yet simple geometric composition.

Cermak Road Mid-Century Architecture 6913 W. Cermak Road, Berwyn. The vertical stripe/flag element at left is the primary point of “flare”; the rest of the building is stock 1950s components – orange-blonde brick, limestone banding, bottle glass and metal spandrel panels on the stairwell, and ribbons of metal-framed windows.

Cermak Road Mid-Century Architecture Kenilworth Arms Apartments, 6850 W. Cermak Road, Berwyn – a 1959 building by George V. Jerutis & Associates builders, who will be covered in an upcoming post. This one features the glazed baby blue brick which appears on dozens of north side apartments, and an offset grid of projecting bricks on the otherwise blank end wall. 

Cermak Road Mid-Century ArchitectureBank of America – 5801 W. Cermak Road, Cicero. Originally the Western National Bank of Cicero, a bank founded in 1913. They moved to this, their new location, in May 1960, vacating a NeoClassical building which still stands two blocks east.

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6901 W. Cermak Road, Berwyn – a mixed-use residential/commercial building, opened in 1957. Among the first ground floor tenants was a Niagra massage chair showroom. 

 

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Clyde Savings and Loan Association
Sharon Beauty Supply – 5817 W. Cermak Road, Cicero, 1959 – originally Clyde Savings and Loan Association, founded in 1914. The left-most portion of the building dates back at lest to the 1940s; the current look dates to a 1958 remodeling designed by Chicago Bank Building and Engineering Company, which extended the building west to the corner. The remodeled building opened in January 1959.

Cermak Road mid-century bank Charter One Bank – 6201 W. Cermak Road, Berwyn – a pre-war building remodeled in the International Style. Originally Olympic Federal Savings and Loan Bank, founded in 1937, the building was expanded and remodeled in 1962, opening in June. The post-remodel building sported a tall round sign over the corner.
Olympic Savings Bank, Cermak Road

Harris BankBMO Harris Bank – 6655 W. Cermak Road, Berwyn, 1957 – originally Lincoln Federal Savings and Loan. Angled walls of flagstone, alternating with metal panel spandrels and a storefront system, as well as sunshade fins, mark it as a high Mid-Century design. See a 1958 postcard view of it in its original glory here, just after it opened. The bank had previously been Lombard Bank, but a custodian working there passed along his interest in President Lincoln to the bank’s president – who changed the company’s name, had two statues of the President commissioned for the property, and included a Lincoln library in the new building.

Cermak Road, between the wars

Travel the major commercial streets of Chicago, and you’ll find a particular breed of structure that I have short-handed as the “corner commercial” building –  2- and 3-story structures with brick exteriors and terra cotta ornament, trending toward the Gothic in their details, more often than not sited on a corner lot. Apartments or office space on the upper floors, small storefronts at the sidewalk.  They are plentiful on streets like Western, Lincoln, Cottage Grove, and many others.

A particularly large and outstanding collection of corner commercial buildings can be found on Cermak Road as it passes through Cicero and Berwyn, both of which boomed in the 1920s.  The population at the time was dominated by Czech immigrants, whose immigration to the US had reached a peak just before World War I; their descendants have largely moved onwards, replaced today by Hispanic populations – but some traces of their presence remains in their buildings.

Virtually all of the examples below were erected between 1921 and 1929. Curiously, I can find no record of them in the Tribune before 1930 – and yes, I did check under Cermak’s prior name, 22nd Street. I suspect that, in the tightly wound immigrant community, advertising in a regional paper like the Tribune simply wasn’t necessary to fill your apartments and hawk your wares.

Cermak Avenue pre-war commercial

Queen of them all is the Sokol Slavsky building (“Slavic falcon”), constructed in 1927 to the designs of architect Joseph J. Novy (6130 W. Cermak). The building takes up the entire block; in the center is the Olympic Theatre, built as a grand ballroom and concert hall, and later converted to a movie theater. The theater is decorated with sprawling painted murals. Built as a home to the Sokol youth fitness and community movement – a Bohemian equivalent to the German Turner clubs – the building was a center of Bohemian life in Chicagoland, with a gym, pool, restaurant and more. The movement reportedly didn’t last long in the building, which was foreclosed on in 1933, but the Sokol maintained a presence there at least into the 1950s, and theater has continued on in various incarnations to the present day.

Cermak Avenue pre-war commercial

Cermak Avenue pre-war commercial

If Sokol Slavsky is the queen, then the prince is the Majestic Building (6114-6126 W. Cermak, Cicero), just to the east.

Cermak Avenue pre-war commercial

This lovely mixed-use building features apartments on the side, stores at street level, and office space in the front upper floors. It presents a more domestic aspect to the side street, where a U-shaped courtyard faces the street, somewhat softening the transition from commercial Cermak to the bungalows of the neighborhood.

Cermak Avenue pre-war commercial

Fantastic Gothic detailing marks the office entryways on the Cermak side. Tudor Gothic elements show up elsewhere as well, such as the faux quoins around the windows and the plentiful medallions and battlements along the roofline.

Cermak Road, Cicero IL

Cermak Road, Cicero IL

Cermak Road, Cicero IL

A healthy run of storefronts still surrounds the base of the building, some with 1950s or 1960s storefront installations featuring terrazzo floors and Roman brick.

Apart from these two grand dames, there’s a whole cavalcade of brick and terra cotta encrusted buildings lining Cermak.

Cermak Avenue pre-war commercial

Cermak Avenue pre-war commercial

The Berwyn Building, 6440-6450 W. Cermak

Cermak Avenue pre-war commercial

 

Cermak Avenue pre-war commercial

6500 W. Cermak Road, Berwyn. (Inexplicably, I have never photographed this building’s beautifully ornamented corner, so go have a look on Google Streetview instead.)

Cermak Road

6424-6436 W. Cermak Road, Berwyn – featuring Gothic-styled window heads on the third floor, and battlements on the roofline.

 

Cermak Road, Cicero IL

5953 W. Cermak Road, Cicero

Central Federal Savings has a been a corner tenant at this building since 1939 (they replaced a Sears when they moved in.) Their original mid-century storefront has been remuddled into something far less interesting, but they still have an excellent Moderne rotating clock that projects out from the building’s corner.

Cermak Avenue pre-war commercial

The building itself is in a handsome shade of blonde brick, with plenty of white glazed terra cotta Gothic details on the two upper floors. Those floors were most likely apartments when the building was constructed, but the former entrance – at middle-left in the photo above – has been bricked over, and it seems that Central Federal Savings has occupied the entire building.

Cermak Road Mid-Century Architecture

 

Cermak Avenue pre-war commercial

6318-6324 W. Cermak Road, Berwyn – another blonde brick three-story building, with a much more intact ground floor. The rounded corner acknowledges the corner site, while several Sullivanesque terra cotta medallions enliven the roofline. The courtyard apartment building at left is a separate structure, though designed in a harmonious style and built directly against its commercial neighbor.

 

Cermak Road, Cicero IL

The Ruth Building, 6011-6025 W. Cermak, Cicero – a third blonde brick structure augmented with white terra cotta. Like the Majestic Building, this one has an integrated apartment courtyard facing the side street, with this lovely tripartite arcade providing some separation from the sidewalk.

Cermak Road

Cermak Road, Cicero IL

Cermak Road, Cicero IL

 

 

Cermak Road, Cicero IL

6127-6133 W. Cermak Road – a red brick building with cream terra cotta ornament in a Classical vein, with faux ballusters and dentalated cornice over the corner window, and vase-shaped finials and large cartouches at the roofline. Down on the ground floor, some of the storefronts have been bricked in, leaving only small 1940s Modern windows. An apartment courtyard faces the side street.

Cermak Road, Cicero IL

Cermak Avenue pre-war commercial

6241-6243 W. Cermak Road, Berwyn – orange-toned brick with carved limestone ornament in the classical mode. The crest over the round corner includes a faux ballustrade, capped with a medallion.

Cermak Road

 

 

Cermak Road

6226-6232 W. Cermak Road, Berwyn – Tudor Gothic in red brick and carved limestone. A pressed tin cornice in need of paint sits above the third floor windows.

A number of smaller buildings also contribute to the area’s architectural significance.

Cermak Avenue pre-war commercial

Cermak Avenue pre-war commercial

Cermak Avenue pre-war commercial

The Great Depression put a sharp halt to construction on Cermak; large-scale building would not resume until the 1950s – in a new and different style, influenced by the newly dominant Modernism.

Klas Bohemian Restaurant

Cermak Avenue is a fascinating road. It begins at the convention center on the south edge of downtown, heading west. It forms one of the major arteries of Chinatown shortly thereafter, then becomes an industrial corridor south of Pilsen – and then a commercial strip that’s part of Pilsen. Then another mile or two west it becomes one of the two commercial spines of Little Village, then a residential boulevard. And then, a few miles further along, it marks the terminus of the Pink Line El – at which point it becomes one of Chicago’s most rewarding places for hunting Mid-Century commercial buildings.

Then, apart from all that, there’s the Klas Restaurant.

Klas Restaurant, Cicero

Standing at 5734 West Cermak Road in Cicero, Klas’ Restaurant would be an institution by virtue of its age alone, having been open since 1922. Founder Adoph Klas was a native of Bohemia, who established his Czech restaurant at a time when Cermak bustled with Eastern European immigrants, and was known as the “Bohemian Wall Street”. On a 1939 return trip to Czechoslovakia, Klas was reportedly imprisoned by the occupying German government, which prohibited the carrying of money out of its territories. No word on when or how he was freed.

The elaborately decorated restaurant was a neighborhood fixture, hosting everything from 50th wedding anniversary parties and Dale Carnegie speaking courses to famed gangster Al Capone, who dined regularly on the second floor. Klas passed away in 1962 but the restaurant has persisted. More recently, President George Bush (the elder) also dined there.

Klas Restaurant, Cicero

Klas Restaurant, Cicero

The restaurant was built in at least three stages, visible in the three distinct facades along the street, as well as in the parapet walls separating each section through the length of the building. The eastern-most section appears to have come first, appearing by itself in an early black and white postcard photo. All three sections were completed by 1954, when they appear in a Chicago Tribune ad.

Klas Restaurant postcard

Klas Restaurant, Cicero

The front facade is a riot of architectural detail, overwhelming in its volume, which makes the exterior a treat to visit time and again. The westernmost section, rendered in smooth gray limestone with steep copper roofing, takes its cues from the grand civic architecture of Prague, folded down to the scale of a neighborhood funeral chapel; the other two sections are both variations on medieval German house styles, embellished with every Eastern European trope imaginable – from faux half-timber and plasterwork to elaborate battenboard trim, and lots of sculpted detailing tacked on – including a little bronze Statue of Liberty in the niche of the central gable as a tip-of-the-hat to the new country.

It’s not all Ye Olden Style, however; steel beams support a massive vertical sign with plastic backlit components spelling out the restaurant’s name and mission.

Klas Restaurant, Cicero

There have been some minor changes since this circa-1950s postcard view was taken.
Klas Restaurant postcard

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The little cupola at right, once a bell tower and later a clock tower, is now blank. A few bits of trim have vanished, and some of the colors have become more muted. The copper roof, seemingly new in the postcard view, has gained the green patina of age. The woodwork needs a new coat of paint. But overall, the place is remarkably intact.

I have never had the good fortune to venture within, but the interior is reportedly tricked out to match, with heavy woodwork that’s a reflection of the heavy food served there. I offer up instead a couple of vintage postcard views, featuring Mr. Klas himself in an inset.

Klas Restaurant postcard

Klas Restaurant postcard

Klas Restaurant is open for lunch and dinner on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, with the bar only open on Wednesdays.

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