Chicago To Lose 1948 Storefront

In Chicago, a 1948 facade designed by Holabird, Root & Burgee for Chandler's Shoes will soon be lost.

The building is being remodeled by its new owner, Thor Equities LLC, and the unique curved, recessed facade will be altered to accommodate two tenants on the ground floor.

"This is an early example of progressive modernist retail design," says Anthony Rubano, project designer at the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. "In retail architecture, you have to keep up with the times. The fact that it has survived is really remarkable."

It won't survive for long. Work is underway in the interior of the building now. A sign in the window announces that the remodeled Bakers Shoes will reopen this fall. Nothing stands in the way of Thor's redevelopment plans: Although the building is a contributing structure in the National Register-listed Loop Retail Historic District, it is not a city landmark and is therefore not protected.

"This one is quite beautiful. It would be a real shame if we lose it," says Jim Peters, president of Landmarks Illinois.

When the city's Commission on Chicago Landmarks heard of the impending alterations last month, it contacted Thor Equities. "We did talk to the developer about the incentives that are available for National Register properties, but they weren't interested," says Peter Strazzabosco, spokesman for the commission. (Thor's spokesman could not be reached for comment.)

Three years ago, Thor Equities completed the meticulous restoration of the Palmer House, located on the same block as the 1948 building.

"The preservation community—and everyone in Chicago—was very pleased with the renovation of the Palmer House," says Chris Morris, program officer at the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Midwest Office, based in Chicago. "It turned out beautifully, and was a wonderful refreshing of a historic hotel that was deserving of the detailed treatment that Thor lavished on it. We would hope that they would do the same here. It could be a real show-stopper."

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Submitted by colodude at: February 23, 2011
A good architect could easily make this facade accommodate two businesses. But don't toss it out altogether! We need to start preserving no all, but GOOD, design from the mid-century

Submitted by suzy at: February 23, 2011
Growing up in Chicago, my friends and I patronized this store almost every weekend in the 1960s. When there recently I couldn't believe it had survived to this point. What a bummer that it cannot continue to surprise and delight us.

Submitted by Posty at: February 22, 2011
Hiw disappointing! I hope there is still something that can be done to save the facade. I used to buy all of my shoes there when I lived and worked in Chicago 1959--63.