The Northway Hotel

On a Labor Day visit to Chicago, I was taking a long, long walk up Milwaukee Avenue, when I suddenly began to see one terrazzo storefront floor after the next – a whole run of them. All of them mid-century renovations. All of them vacant. All of them ringed with original 1920s ornament. I was intrigued! I had arrived, of course, at the amazing 6-way intersection of Milwaukee, Diversey and Kimball.

Milwaukee at Diversey
Photos from September 2015 except as noted

This handsome wedge of a building has held down this lot since 1928. Designed by the architectural firm of Rissman & Hirschfield, it was designed around the hotel-apartment model that would eventually be known as the Single-Room Occupancy hotel.

Red brick makes up the bulk of the building, with cream terra cotta marking key points on the roofline as well as the recessed entryways to the residential portion. The ornament follows a Spanish Renaissance Revival pattern – curvaceous, lush, almost dripping like stalactites.

Milwaukee at Diversey

Milwaukee at Diversey

The recessed entryways occur on both street facades, with the tiny residental lobby running through the building.

Milwaukee at Diversey
September 2008

Erected by the Northwest Building Corporation at a cost of $1,100,000 (on bonds valued at $700,000, CT Oct 2 1935), the Northway opened in April 1928 (CT classified) as an apartment hotel offering furnished 1- and 2-room units with Pullman kitchens, tiled bathrooms, and “24 hour switchboard, refrigeration, gas, light, maid service”. The El, two trolley lines and a bus line offered easy transport to the Loop and elsewhere. As built, it contained 100 furnished rooms (CT Oct 2 1927) as well as a dozen storefronts at street level. Though SRO hotels are often associated today with life on the skids (or just barely off of them), they were once a common and perfectly respectable means of housing. Early tenants here included newlywed couples.

Rissman & Hirshfield were a prolific Chicago architectural firm, designing many apartment buildings around the city including several highrises along the lakefront. Principal Leo S. Hirschfeld (1892-1989) was an Armour Institute graduate, and later became lead principal of the firm. Through various changes, the firm endures today as Fitzgerald Associates.

Northwest Building Corp. went bankrupt and wound up in court on racketeering charges; in the early 1930s the building’s ownership passed to the 3335 Diversey Building corporation. In 1939 it was sold to Albert I. Appleton. By 1952, it was being advertised as the Diversey West Hotel, a name it would retain at least into the 1980s, when it was modified to the Diversey West Apartments.

Milwaukee at Diversey

Milwaukee at Diversey

The building’s many storefronts give it a rich commercial presence at the street. The original ornamental borders survive at most of them, an extreme rarity for a pre-World War II building. On the Milwaukee Avenue side, several of the storefronts underwent mid-century renovations to modernize them, most likely in the 1940s when terrazzo was at the peak of its popularity as an entryway material.

Milwaukee at Diversey

Milwaukee at Diversey

Milwaukee at Diversey

Milwaukee at Diversey
July 2008

The corner storefront, at the base of the building’s prow, has had a number of tenants over the decades:
– 1931: Washington Shirt Co.; still there in 1949
– 1979: Bresler’s 33 Flavors Ice Cream; still there in 1985
– 2009: Costa Alegre Mexican-American restaurant; closed in 2011

Other stores present in 2009 included a furniture & electronics store and barber shop on the Diversey side, and a cell phone store, salon, jewelry store, boutique clothing store, shoe store, and a money transfer outlet on the Milwaukee Avenue side.

Milwaukee at Diversey
The Diversey Avenue facade in July 2008

Around 2011, the building’s fortunes took a turn when ownership was taken over by M. Fishman & Company. Fishman’s company began a long process of renovating the apartments as leases ran out over the course of several years. In a story common to SROs in gentrifying areas, renters faced significant rent increases as their leases came up for renewal (1, 2, 3, 4), compelling many to leave. At street level, the storefronts have been systematically emptied and are likewise undergoing renovation. Marketing materials promote the storefronts as available for rent; most of the former businesses seem to have closed up rather than relocating.

Milwaukee at Diversey

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Madison Street West, Part 3: Slip Coverin’ Away

Any respectable commercial street has gone through some cycles of renovation and rejuvenation. In the decades after World War II, that often meant putting a new facade on your building – sometimes tearing off the old completely, but sometimes taking a cheaper route and just hanging something new right on top of the old, an approach known as the slipcover.

West Madison is no exception; some of its seemingly unremarkable storefronts have quite a bit of history behind them.

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4019 W. Madison Street (Shoe Avenue): Two upper floors hide behind that checkered brown granite facade.  A parade of businesses has occupied the building, sometimes more than one at once. Articles from 1941 and 1987 both mention people listing it as their residential address, as well. Businesses I could find, and dates they were definitely there, include:

  • A. Rost and Son shoe store, 1917-1920
  •  Wormser Hat Store, 1930-1940
  • York Women’s Apparel, 1943
  • Jerome Millenery Store, 1948-1962 – the building was renovated by architects Lowenberg & Lowenberg in anticipation of this store’s opening, giving it its current Modernist facade. The upper floors used for making women’s accessories by hand, seemingly run as a separate business, the Una Harvey Shops. Lowenberg & Lowenberg was a prolific architectural firm whose successor is still in business today; the company also worked on the iconic University Apartments in Hyde Park, several sumptuous high rise apartment buildings, the Colony Theater on 59th Street, and a similarly radical recladding job on a building right near my old home in Rogers Park.
  • Two Legs Inc. – 1953
  • Today: Shoe Avenue Family Shoes.

4021 W. Madison Street (Maybrooks) – a two story building, either built or re-built in 1951. A one-story garage and store – visible in the postcard below – stood on the site originally.

  • Keen and Howe clothing store – 1915
  • E. Newman Paint Company – 1924
  • A. Rost & Son – 1927 (moved from next door!)
  • Father & Son shoe store – 1942-45
  • Lynn Niles Shoes – 1946-1950
  • Bond Clothing Store – opened Nov 30, 1951; operated at least through 1968. Their opening seemingly triggered the replacement of the original structure with the present one.
  • Maybrooks – For Men and Women – 1986-2011
  • Present: YOLO Ladies Ware & Shoes, since ca. 2012

 

4027 Madison Street (aka 4025-29 W. Madison) –  James Burns, architect; Henry Ericsson Co., general contractor

4025-29 W. Madison
Postcard view – compare with the previous photo

Towering above the 1- and 2-story stores around it, this blank-walled hulk was designed in 1910 and built by 1911, for the Keelin Fireproof Warehouse Company. On the east party wall, a faded ghost sign still announces the original occupant with a barely-legible “Keelin’s Storage Warehouse”. Fireproof storage warehouses are a whole genre of buildings in Chicago (and the topic of a future post). Like most, this one – also known as the West End Storage Warehouse and the Keelin Brothers Warehouse – was built of reinforced concrete, with steel doors and minimal windows (illuminating only the corridors), and a facade of pressed brick. It’s among the simpler of its kind, with its already minimal ornament now lost to age and a mid-century rehab that covered the facade with a grid of square tiles.

West Madison Street, Chicago

The Keelin brothers were a prominent business family with their hands in coal and grain interests. Two of the brothers were indicted on conspiracy and fraud charges in 1921. Architect James Burns (ca. 1858-1933) was a Chicago practitioner, active from the 1890s into the 1920s, and the designer of various houses, flats, stores, factories, and most prominently, several significant Catholic churches: St. Columbanus on E. 71st, St. Gertrude’s in Rogers Park (Burns’ neighborhood), and St. Keven at Torrence and 105th.

In 1912, the address made small-headline news when a 14 year old boy died in the building while trying to exit its elevator.

Gold Point Hosiery Stores leased the ground floor in 1928 and converted it into a retail storefront; they remained there at least through 1930. In 1947, the building was sold, and O’Conner and Goldberg leased the entire building, opening a new store at the location which lasted from 1949 into the 1960s. This major turnover was likely the point at which it gained its  new Mid-Century facade of square panels.

In recent years, the storefront has been home to Cisco NYC, a high-end clothing and shoe store specializing in hip hop culture. Cisco NYC got some unwanted attention in late 2014 when it became the latest victim of a string of smash-and-grab robberies happening all around the city. A gang of thieves used a mini-van to smash through the store’s gated front entrance at 4am on a November night; 20 masked robbers poured into the store, stripped it of thousands of dollars worth of a single brand of designer jeans, and escaped within three minutes. Despite the devastating loss, the store was soon open again and joined in a local Madison Street tradition of opening on Christmas Day.

 

3932 W. Madison (Catholic Charities)

West Madison Street, Chicago

Appears to have been built in the 1920s. Today it’s covered in polished granite panels, a massive frame surrounding 2 stories of windows with a sheltered balcony, and accented with a two-part stainless steel sign. 65 years after the new facade was added on, it still looks terrific.

  • 1925-1930 – Apex Stores (refrigerator dealers)
  • 1936-1963 – Apollo Savings and Loan, who remodeled the building into its current form. Grand re-opening for the renovated structure was November 16, 1950. Apollo moved downtown in 1963, before imploding in 1968. They sold the building in 1967.
  • 1967 – Headquarters and later Credit Union of the Christian Action Ministry
  • Today – The Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago / WIC Food CentersIMG_4786

 

4126 W. Madison Street (Green Star Groceries)West Madison Street, Chicago

This sad little two-story building was built around 1927. It’s barely visible in its original form in the background of this photo of the Marbro Theatre, which stood next door until its 1964 demolition. With its pale green color, the slipcover screams early 1960s.

  • 1926 – Fignter(?) Scott Co. (furniture finishing? hardware?)
  • 1930 – Western Radio & Electric Stores
  • 1932-34 – Lee Radio Stores / Lee’s Radio Shop / Lee’s Radio & Refrigerator Store
  • 1935 – Straus & Schram (Lee’s had moved a few doors away. Or it’s a typo.)
  • 1938-42 – Singer Sewing Company
  • 1956-63 – Little Dutch Mill Candies
  • Most recently – Green Star Super Market Groceries

Due to a text resolution issue (4126 looks a lot like 4128 to an OCR scanner), this address is almost entirely overshadowed in the Tribune archives by the Spiegel store that operated next door.

 

4034 W. Madison – City Sports Shoes & Sportswear

West Madison Street, Chicago

Sometimes slipcovers are just a flagrantly bad idea – they make a building look worse to begin with, and that’s before they start falling apart and exposing bits of the vastly superior facade they hide. Such is the case here, where column capitals and ornate shield emblems in colored terra cotta have forced their way out from beneath a plain grid of rectangles, painted over in white.

  • 1934-36 – Grossman’s shoe store
  • Burt’s shoe store – Burts – then a subsidary of Edison Brothers Stores – opened an outlet at this location in 1937 with a $25,000 “modernization program”, which seems too early to have been the date of the slipcover. In 1956 the chain changed its name to Bakers, in keeping with their shoe line in other cities, and continued on here through 1962.
  • 1971 – Mary Jane Shoes
  • 1977 – A.S. Beck Shoes
  • Today – City Sports Shoes

And finally, a note about some of the trends I’ve seen in researching these places. First is turnover – many stores only last a few years before vanishing. Some of it is just the economy – it’s almost guaranteed a small store present in 1929 will be gone by 1932, wiped out by the Depression. Similarly, many stores had good long runs from the late 40s into the 1960s or early 70s, boom years for the city. Even then, many beloved retail institutions were really only around for a couple of decades.

Second is consistency – if a storefront started off as a shoe store, it was very likely to stay a shoe store, even as ownership and names changed repeatedly. Clothing stores stayed clothing stores – Cisco NYC, for example, is continuing an almost 90 year tradition of clothing sales in that space.

Third is the abruptness with which a business can vanish. A tempting assumption is that the advertising budget was the first thing to go when times went sour. Many places ran weekly display ads for years – until suddenly they’re just gone from the Tribune, no going out of business notice, no clearance sales, no nothing. Just – poof! Gone!

 

Research log for Keelin’s Storage Warehouse:

  • 1910 – The American Contractor, September 10 1910 p. 30 col. 1 – notice of drawings on file and bids being taken
  • 1912 – Tribune article, Sept. 20
  • Assessor: 1914; CityNews: 1947
  • Appears in “The Transfer and Storage Directory” of 1916.
  • Sold: April 13 1947 article (erroniously gives date of construction as 1900)
  • Gold Point Hosiery Stores – leased Feb 1928 (real estate transaction article); display ad April 9 1928 (4027), through 1930
  • O’Conner and Goldberg – short article Sep 1 ,1949; display ads through 1966
  • 4126: Cook County Assessor puts the date at 1932; CityNews Chicago says 1927; Realtor.com says 1926.

 

Trim ‘n Tidy Cleaners: Dry Cleaning for the New Frontier

Trim & Tidy Cleaners

Trim ‘n Tidy Cleaners at 5939 W. Higgins Avenue has been in business here for decades (since 1963, according to the Cook County Assessor’s database). And in all that time, this New Camelot Space Age creation has hardly changed a bit.

Trim & Tidy Cleaners

Is there anything this richly layered building doesn’t have? Outside, the vintage neon sign is capped with a quivering Googie blob, with cursive neon letters announcing the business’s name, the I’s dotted with starbursts.

Trim & Tidy Cleaners

Inside, it’s a library of Mid-Century tropes – the faux cast iron and lime green elegance of New Formalism, the horizontally cut sandstone walls typical of innumerable Atomic Ranch houses… and a terrazzo floor. Strange baldachin-like hangings “shelter” the counter, hanging on chains from the ceiling.

Trim & Tidy Cleaners

The silvered, overstuffed, deeply-buttoned couch looks like it belongs on a space station, while the patio recliner below seems to be waiting for the Kennedys to sit down and have a cocktail or two in the sun.

Trim & Tidy Cleaners

Another starburst is emblazoned in the terrazzo floor, while the counters mimic the geometries often seen on suburban Chicago garage doors.

Trim & Tidy Cleaners

Trim & Tidy Cleaners

Outside, the building features a flying wing portico for sheltered drop-off and pick-up, supported by three angled metal tube beams. The whole thing is painted white for cleanliness – clean lines, clean spaces, clean clothes, clean lives.

Trim ‘n Tidy is still in business, though the inside is a bit of a mess, with plants and other accouterments scattered haphazardly about. The old neon sign is badly rusting, and the furniture probably needs to be reupholstered. For all that, the original glory still shines. The best renovation the place could have would be simply to move some plants and sweep the floor.

Trim & Tidy Cleaners

Blue on Blonde, Part 2: Stuck Inside Chicago with the Glazed Brick Blues Again

Devon Avenue

A blue-brick accent at the Devon Avenue storefront of Rosen’s Morseview Drugs. Note the vertical stacking pattern of the bricks, as well as the deeply troweled, straight-edged mortar line between them, both of which emphasize the geometric quality of the pier.

The blue-on-blonde brick combo, so common on multi-family residential buildings, can also be found on a few commercial and mixed-use buildings here and there. Three of them are on Devon Avenue:

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6404 N. Richmond Avenue / 2936-2938-2942 W. Devon Avenue – largely a plain box, this mixed-use building has two levels of apartments over retail at the ground floor. The brick shows up in a few framed panels on the side street, and, more interestingly, in the side walls of the shallow balconies. 

Devon Avenue

2955 / 2957 / 2959 W. Devon Avenue / 6347/6357 N. Sacramento Avenue – opened in 1962. Four stores with one level of apartments above. 

The colored brick pops up a lot more on this one, showing up in a window band, turning a corner, and covering all the building’s retail-level columns, piers and storefront bases.  Limestone trim frames the upper level.

This building has been home to Rosen’s Pharmacy (and its successor, Rosen-Morseview Pharmacy) since the building’s opening. It moved in from across the street, where it had operated since at least 1949.  As a bonus, here’s a shot of the fantastic Rosen Morseview Drugs neon sign shining bright, as it still does to this day; it is the last surviving vintage neon on Devon Avenue.

Devon Avenue

Devon Avenue
3120/3122/3124 W. Devon Avenue / 6401/6411 N. Troy Street – opened by 1960, when the real estate dealer for the building – Bernard Katz & Co. – moved in to have larger quarters. They had previously been located about 9 blocks east; they remained here until moving to Skokie in 1978.

The building is a close sibling of the previous one, with one level of apartments over four retail outlets, one on the side street and three on the main avenue. Also repeating are the blue brick piers and storefront bases at street level, the banded windows, and the limestone framing; this time, however, there’s a far more harmonious composition of windows, infilled not with the usual blue brick but with matching blue pattern blocks.

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These two buildings have a pair of close cousins out on Bryn Mawr, in the commercial district that’s sandwiched between the North Branch on one side and the old TB sanitarium on the other.

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3412-3420 W. Bryn Mawr Avenue – appears in one of People’s Gas ads, nailing its date down to 1963. Architect Irwin A. Sugarman, an Armour Institute graduate in practice since the 1930s; builder Broadway Construction Co.

The building form is the same – 12 solid-walled apartments over 5 glass-walled storefronts – but the color scheme is inverted. Glazed white bricks form the piers, the infill panels, and the base of the storefronts, while a dull blue brick is the primary wall material. The doorway to the apartments upstairs is dressed up with 1×1 mosaic tile and a snazzy mid-century door.

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3401-05 W. Bryn Mawr / 5552 N. Kimball Avenue – open by 1963.  The address made headlines in 1982 when a resident claiming to be a sea captain, and to own a vessel in Florida, offered to transport local residents’ relatives from Poland. The cops arrested him in a full captain’s outfit.

The color scheme here becomes cream-on-blonde, but the form is the same. This building has lost the piers, and the windows are inexplicably smaller than their decorative brick surrounds, leaving L-shaped patches of cream brick.

 

California, south of Devon
6329-6331 N. California, south of Devon – opened 1965?

A sad and tattered little specimen. Three piers of blue brick demarcate two bays, with angled storefronts between; the building is utterly bereft of ornament or interest otherwise. Those actually are a couple of apartments over the stores, accessed through a little door in the right-hand storefront bay.

 

IMG_2007
6259 W. Touhy Avenue, Chicago –  1966.

Taking a big leap west, we come across this lovely specimen on the northwest city limits. The blue brick accents the building multiple times: at a single window band on the second floor, on a couple of outlined rectangles on the side, on a pier at the entrance, and in a delightful little geometric design over the door that combines brick elements and geometric glass block with limestone frames. The primary brick is a much dirtier blonde than on previous examples.
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Howard Street
4348-4356 W. Howard at Kostner – open by 1965

An unusual mixed-use building. At ground level, the building is currently home to four storefronts including the Kostner Korner convenience store, a dry cleaners, a barber shop, and a daycare center. Above, it houses four breezeway apartments with front and back access, reached by a single-run stairway projecting out from the building; thanks to that stair, it has a most curious relationship with the storefront building next door (4346 W. Howard), as they share a wall and are both part of the same daycare business. Somehow I missed their symbiotic relationship when I was standing in front of them and hence never got a shot showing them both, but from the Google Streetview it’s obvious, and makes it seem likely they went up together.

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The railings, and the screen separating the apartment balcony from the roof of the one-story building, are particularly lovely.

Howard Street

Reflecting the walk-up vocabulary of the Rogers Park buildings, blue brick is used in a corner pier, accent stripes, window bands, and ornamental rectangles, all in stacked bond. The awning overhang has been painted to match, approximately.

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And that’s not all. Tune in next week for Blue on Blonde part 3, when we’ll be bringing it all back home!

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. 

 

clyde-bank-cicero-cermak-road-grand-opening-1959
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.

The Terrazzo Entryways of Chicago

Sherman Shops

Sherman Shops – 3113 Lincoln Avenue. Now the Kabbalah Centre, this was originally an part of a clothing store chain with dozens of stores across the Midwestern and Southern states, including more than 20 in Chicagoland. This one was open by 1940.

Look down in the right parts of town, and you’ll see them – stylized, stylish lettering in the pavement outside of a store, usually proclaiming the name of some long-gone business – maybe a well-known regional chain, maybe a one-off store that has drifted into obscurity.

2514 Devon - *LLAY'S

2514 W. Devon Avenue. In 1938 this was home to Robertson & Co., “The House of Liquid Tiling”, “the modern finish” for woodwork and walls; they left some time after 1944. By 1949, Gollay’s, Inc. had moved in, imprinting their name on the entryway. Gollay’s was an interior decorator and furniture store for “lamps, gifts and occasional furniture”. The founder, Charles Gollay, passed away in 1955; the store continued as Gollay’s Gifts. Gollay’s Lamp and Gift Shop ran a Going Out of Business sale ad in early 1962, and by 1964 they had been replaced by J.C. Cooper, a men’s clothier (later David Cooper, Inc.) which lasted into the late 1970s. Most recently it was home to Bombay Electronics, which has since gone out of business. Today the entry is partially covered by an alteration to the storefront as well as a thin concrete coating that has mostly been removed (or worn away). The legible portion of the name reads “LLAY’S” and gives the street address.

Terrazzo is a pourable substance with fragments of a material – marble, stone, etc. – embedded in a cement-like adhesive, then ground smooth after it has set. Thin metal strips are used to create patterns by separating different colors or materials.  The material enjoyed widespread popularity at midcentury, peaking in the 1940s when it appeared in numerous storefront entryways. They were added to many styles of buildings – both older buildings with post-War remodelings at street level, and on newer, smaller commercial buildings, almost always in conjunction with a modern style of storefront. They aren’t always fancy; they may be as simple as a solid color with no design at all.

photo

A typical terrazzo entryway on Devon Avenue. Photo courtesy of Joan Sillins.

Chicago had dozens, if not hundreds, of examples, many of which survive today. They can be tough to spot, though – you won’t see them if you’re driving or even biking; you have to be on foot. They are very frequently hidden by door mats, sometimes obscured by display racks or shelves, and occasionally covered up entirely by later remodelings. But their durable nature means they are rarely removed – in fact, in almost every case, they far outlast the businesses that they advertise.

Anchor

3433 W. Fullerton Avenue – an anchor inscribed on a stylized letter “B”. Home to a tavern in 1955 (license revoked in 1961 because it was reportedly “a hangout for sexual deviants”, 1960s-speak for a gay-friendly bar.) Now the Acapulco Night Club, opened in 1987.

Milwaukee Avenue is one of the city’s most architecturally rich streets, and one of the best  for finding terrazzo entryways. Along its considerable length may be found many markers of successful commercial strips – jazzy storefronts, elaborate neon signs, and many stylish terrazzo floors.

Feltman & Curme

Feltman & Curme shoe store – 4049 N. Milwaukee, Portage Park neighborhood. In 1926, this had been Frost’s Men’s Shop; by 1929, it was a Loblaw Groceteria, a grocery chain with many outlets across the city; by 1934, a Jewel food store, which lasted until 1940. The spectacular storefront was installed when Feltman & Curme moved in circa 1941, and is similar to an outlet on State Street which got a full-page grand opening ad in 1942.  This entry and the one next door (below) harmonize but are not the same design at all. Both speak of the streamlined elegance common in commercial settings before World War II. Feltman lasted through 1955, and the real long-term beneficiary of their superb taste was Siegel’s Shoe Store, who had taken their place by 1958 and lasted well into the 1980s.

Bernard's

Brandt’s Shoes – 4047 N. Milwaukee Avenue, Portage Park neighborhood. In 1926 this was a Wurlitzer musical instrument store; by 1928, a Lyon and Healy radio store, which seems to have closed in 1932. In 1938, the social pages mention a “Goldammer’s Garden recreation” here, in connection with a bowling tournament. By 1940, Brandt’s Shoes had opened here, the most likely candidate for having installed the stylish terrazzo floor and display cases; they were replaced in 1947 by Kinney’s shoe store and most recently by Bernard’s Electronic Outlet.

This particular motif – a circle with offshooting lines, which can represent several letters including B, D, J or P  – was common enough that I recently saw the same design on a floor in Washington DC.

Nu-Dell

Nu-Dell Apparel Shops – 1341 N. Milwaukee – a local clothing store chain, in business here by 1940, replacing the W.L. Douglas Shoe Company which had operated here previously since the 1920s. Now Milwaukee Furniture. A razor-thin sans-serif font gives the air of 1940s moderne, as does the off-yellow color. Another Nu-Dell terrazzo floor exists on Archer Avenue.

Wein

Wein’s Department Store – 2994 N. Milwaukee, open in 1959 but surprisingly absent from the Chicago-Tribune. Later Buen Hogar Furniture, now closed.

M.J. Petrie

M.J. Petrie – 2768  Milwaukee Avenue – part of the Petrie Stores chain of women’s clothing shops; later Rainbow Shops – now Shoe Source Shoes and Clothing. A scan of the classified ads pegs this location to a 1946 opening. The simple style and the use of initials hearken back to the conventions used on modest commercial buildings of the 1880s and 1890s.

Though it’s not as rich a source of terrazzo floors as Milwaukee Avenue, there are still a few to be found in the vibrant Little Village corridor along 26th Street.Malina

Malina apparel, 3625 W. 26th Street – first appears by 1951; lasted until 1971. Now Happy Dollar Plus. The stripes give it a bit of Streamline flare, an effect diminished by the revised storefront which covers part of the design.

Three Sisters

Three Sisters, 3407 W. 26th Street – originally a clothing chain, opened here in 1948 and still in business in 1960; now Game Time Soccer Store.

A third hot spot for terrazzo entries is Archer Avenue, a lengthy boulevard running diagonally southwest, from the edge of downtown to far out into the countryside. Along the way, it passes many neighborhoods and holds an almost endless parade of fascinating architecture – and so many terrazzo storefront floors that I was originally going to limit this post to Archer Avenue only.

Archer Avenue Terrazzo
Brighton Specialty Shop – 4220 S. Archer Avenue – now Courrier Agency Insurance Group. This clothing store was in business here from 1942 to 1959, give or take. Sadly, this one’s days are numbered; the owner of the building’s current business plans to have the surface patched and repaired, then painted over with his company’s own logo.

Archer Avenue Terrazzo
4241 S. Archer Avenue – Nu-Dell Apparel. The name is covered up by the welcome mat; the brick is newly applied. Nu-Dell operated here from at least 1935 to 1956. In the 1980s, Palatine Draperies was here. Today it’s home to Gabrielle’s, a florist.

Archer Avenue Terrazzo
4271 Archer Avenue – originally a men’s clothing store, which only appears in the Tribune archives in a series of crime reports involving stolen clothing. Now an auto insurance company.

Archer Avenue Terrazzo
4243 Archer Avenue – originally Katz Exclusive Millenery, a local chain of women’s fashion accessory stores with several outlets around town, founded in 1921. This location opened in 1944.  Their run here lasted through the 1950s; Katz went out of business when its founder Samuel Katz retired in 1964. Now Lucy’s Women and Men’s Wear.

Archer Avenue Terrazzo4249 S. Archer Avenue – A Mid-Century storefront marked by a stylized O shape in the pavement and lot of turnover in occupancy. It’s not clear who installed the entryway. In 1929 it was Brighton Park Clothiers. In the mid-1940s it housed a Spiegel catalog order store, followed by a Grayson clothing store starting around 1947. By 1960, Flagg Brothers Shoe Store; by 1972, O-Kay Shoes was here. Today it’s the campaign headquarters of Jesus Garcia, Cook County 7th district commissioner.

Archer Avenue Terrazzo
Archer Motor Sales – Established 1944 – 3945 S. Archer Avenue. W.K. Archer Motor Sales was in business by 1926; in 1944 they relocated to this new building to sell Fords, lasting through 1957; the next year they were replaced by Power Ford Sales, Inc, who remained there until at least 1968. Now Image Hand Carwash and VP Real Estate.

Malina Shoes

Maling Shoes  (not to be confused with Malina clothing stores) – 4269 S. Archer  – a chain with several outlets around the city; this one opened in 1946 and remained in business here until 1974. Now Cannella School of Hair Design

York

York – 4315 S. Archer Avenue. York Women’s Apparel moved in in 1947. Today it’s conjoined with the building next door, which was an A&P grocer from the 1930s into the 1970s. Now Snow Discount Carpets. The font is a classic no-nonsense typeface used on many International Style buildings in the 1940s and 1950s.

Neisner's

Neisner’s – 4255 S. Archer  – Neisner Brothers was a nationwide chain of five-and-dime stores; “your neighborhood 5 and 10” had opened this location by 1951. The chain closed in the 1970s. Now Archer Discount Furniture Store

Archer Avenue Big Store

Archer Avenue Big Store – 4181-4193 S. Archer Avenue – originally a local department / dry goods store (with a given address of 4187 Archer) –  founded in 1922, operating at this address by 1939, and still going 50 years later. Founder John Brdecka passed away in 1990. The location is now Zemsky’s Uniforms. The stripes are adhesive anti-slip strips, not part of the original design.

And finally, the quasi-famous entryway of Cushman’s on Broadway – proof that a terrazzo installation can outlast not only the business that commissioned it but also the building that housed it.
Cushmann's

Cushman’s Rug Cleaners – 6310 N. Broadway – this carpet cleaning business moved in from a couple of blocks south around 1948. In 1971 a Cantonese restaurant named China Doll moved into the space; in 1984, Santino’s on Broadway, an Italian restaurant, moved in; in 1986, a nightclub called The 86 Club; by 1987, it was back to Chinese with the Bik Har restaurant and lounge. Some post-1990 disaster leveled half the block. In the last few years, a community garden has sprouted up on the slab of the demolished building.

Cushmann's

Terrazzo entries leave no clue as to their creators. Plenty of contracting and flooring companies could install them, and there’s no evidence regarding who did what job – though it seems possible that several of the more stylish ones may have come from a single designer.

I am acutely aware that this is a rather woefully incomplete list, but as they say, sometimes you go to blog with the photos you have, not the photos you wish you had. I don’t have shots of some of Chicago’s most interesting and impressive terrazzo installations, including the “What Petersen Promises, Petersen Does” on Belmont, the Art Deco patterns on the patio of the Davis Theater, and any number of the entries on this Flickr set, which includes some real beauties both in Chicago and elsewhere. If you need an excuse to take a long stroll when the weather lets up, head out to one of the city’s grand commercial streets and treat yourself to a day of terrazzo hunting.