Mid-Century Office Space on Lincoln

Lincoln Avenue’s western reaches benefited from the same office construction boom in the early 1960s that blessed Peterson Avenue with so much great Mid-Century design. Between Western Avenue, and its intersection with Peterson, Lincoln holds quite a few fine examples of 1960s office design (in addition to its famed skeezy motels):

5700 Lincoln Avenue
Lincoln Avenue Mid-Century

Opened in 1962 as the headquarters of Liberty Federal Savings (then celebrating 75 years in business), this bank building is today home to a Charter One branch. It follows a common basic scheme for 1960s banks – a big wall of glass, with a double-height atrium behind it, and a mezzanine balcony above. A surprising amount of the original fixtures are still in place, including railings and check-writing stands.

Lincoln Avenue Mid-Century

Lincoln Avenue Mid-Century

Lincoln Avenue Mid-Century

5940 Lincoln Avenue
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This angular little building first appears in the Tribune classifieds in 1953. Today it houses a Christian Science Reading Room, and still has its original ceiling vents inside.

EDITED TO ADD: This was originally the Slick Chick Drive-In restaurant, open for about 10 years (it drops off the classifieds after 1962.) It was robbed in its first year by three teenagers. In 1965, it was converted to the CS Reading Room – so the interior likely dates to that year. Thanks to reader Brian W. for identifying the original occupant and their matchbook ad campaign (see here) which they shared with the motel next door.

Lincoln Avenue Mid-Century

5875 Lincoln Avenue – Lincoln Office Building
Lincoln Avenue Mid-Century

Comprising several sections, the Lincoln Office Building is dominated by a long International Style facade. This main portion went up in two parts, the second built in 1957 to the designs of architects Eugene A. Meyers & Associates. At the corner of Richmond and Lincoln, two other sections at 5865 Lincoln continue the building’s materials and style, in a different design.

Lincoln Avenue Mid-Century

Lincoln Avenue Mid-Century

5850 Lincoln Avenue – Simgreen Building
Lincoln Avenue Mid-Century

Following the same pattern as the bank building, this little office building includes a delightful tile mosaic in its lobby – as covered here.

5757 / 5765 Lincoln Avenue – The Executive North Building
Lincoln Avenue Mid-Century

A stylish International Style building in blue-black paneling, this building opened in 1961 and retains much of its original decor in the lobbies – stainless steel railings, geometric railing screens, and wood paneling.

Lincoln Avenue Mid-Century

Lincoln Avenue Mid-Century

Lincoln Avenue Mid-Century

Lincoln Avenue Mid-Century

The nearby Stephen Tyng Mather High School is yet another Mid-Century complex, done entirely in white brick. Designed in 1957 by Loebl Schlossmann and Bennett, it appears to have had a small addition or two, but mostly remains as originally built.

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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.

Peterson Avenue Mid-Century Modernism, Part 1

My attention span is like the beam of a lighthouse – narrowly focused, always roving. I write about a topic; it’s out of my head and I’m on to the next thing, and the old topic is over and finished, left behind in the dark. But sometimes, like the lighthouse, it comes back around for another look. Case in point: I was surprised to look back on one of my earliest posts and discover just how little I’d written about Peterson Avenue and its amazing post-war architecture.

St. Louis has its Hampton Avenue – a major commercial artery that seemingly sprung into existence all at once in the decades after World War II. And Chicago has Peterson Avenue – essentially the exact same thing, in northwest Chicago instead of southwest St. Louis.  Both are at the start of early suburbia (or last-gasp urbanism); both are lined by a collection of one- and two-story buildings that individually range from forgettable to remarkable, and  together form an astonishing collection of late Modernist architecture.

The architectural integrity of the buildings on Peterson have been slipping in recent years, as original businesses close up and move out, or new owners decide to “freshen up” their aging buildings. A prime example is the Executive Building, 3530 W. Peterson, built circa 1962 with 17 office suites inside.
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It contained one of the most wonderful hanging light fixtures to be found anywhere, a multi-colored confection. Now, it’s been replaced by something bland and gaudy.

A recent realtor’s ad for the building claims it was “designed by [a] famous architect” but doesn’t specify who. The building is currently “bank owned” and will be auctioned off 3 days after this writing, on August 9th.
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Further east, Shaw Electric Co. has recently departed the premises of their long-time home at 2539 W. Peterson Avenue. The building’s facade features a lower portion in rough-cut lava rock, with glossy black brick above; the company’s name and services offered a counterpoint in precisely spaced lettering. Shaw Electric was not the first business at this address; MinitMart grocery store ran ads in 1950, and the furniture and appliance dealer Gerry Moberg & Co. was here from 1952 until 1964.  At that point they vanish from the listings; my guess is that the Shaw company bought the lot and built their building at that point. The building has two parts. On the right, 2541 W. Peterson is a separate storefront that was home to Arlene’s Interiors, opened in 1972 and in business until the owners retired in 2002. The larger portion used by Shaw Electric Company contains a garage and workshop in back.

Shaw Electric moved or closed up around 2010; the building was sold in 2011. Since then the lettering, and even the attached globe lamps, have vanished.
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Hopefully, the new owner will retain the primary elements of the building’s astonishing lobby, with its time-period clock, chairs, globe lamps and reflective wall:
2539 W. Peterson Avenue lobby

The wonderful 1958 building at 2617 W. Peterson  was also remuddled within the last few years, with the glass block panels replaced by open glass.
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The former main hallway has been chopped off and turned into a tiny waiting room:
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Above, 2009; below, 2011.

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Worst of all, however, is the loss of the original doors; they were removed and replaced with a glass wall, while the entrance was moved to the side:
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The insertion of the large vertical beam indicates some kind of roof failure was underway.

Opened in 1958 as “The Office Promenade”, 2617 Peterson was touted by its marketers as “excitingly different”. Special features included natural light from the skylights and individual Hi Fi systems and air conditioning in each office suite. More recently it was home to Appell Dental Group, PC; they left around 2010. The post-remuddle occupants are Windy City Orthopedics and Sport Medicine.

Fabulous entrance

Despite these and various other afflictions, Peterson Avenue still retains a great deal of Mid-Century architecture worth celebrating. We’ll look at some of the stand-outs next week.

A Mid-Century Cornocopia

Western Avenue long marked the western boundaries of the city of Chicago. And today, it remains something of a dividing line — an identifiable centerline to the amorphous region where the city’s urban environment begins to weaken, falling apart into 1950s suburbia.

This means, however, that streets to the west of it have treasure troves of Mid-Century Modernism.

Most awesome showcase lamps ever.

The whole shooting works

Concrete pattern wall

Peterson Avenue, west of Western, offers one 1960s building after another, with a nearly complete array of the stock design elements and styles common to the period. Delicious details abound, easily overlooked as motorists zoom past at 50mph, but easily found if you make the trip by foot or bike.

Colored glazed brick, raised metal letters, funky stainless steel railings, crazy hanging lamps in the lobby, jagged fieldstone contained in limestone borders on brick walls… it’s all here.

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1960s stone and brick

Even the side streets offer the occasional find:

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And sometimes, the MCM creeps east of Western:

One day, I'm coming back after dark for this shot.

There’s no knockout buildings out here, nothing to make a MCM preservationist stand on the mountaintops and shout; instead, there’s a collection of buildings that reinforce each other, crying out the optimism and elegance of the 1960s, achieving far more together than any one of them does alone.