Thursday, February 10, 2011

That once great street...

Here are links to a couple of articles about the pending destruction of yet another splendid storefront on State Street. What is about to be lost is a beautiful example of 1940's modernism, the entrance to Baker's Shoes which has recently closed this location and will re-open in what the developers hope to be a "new and up-to date" storefront. Lynn Becker's post includes a rendering of the new design which is inoffensive but certainly has none of the elegance or flair of the current storefront. The developers, Thor Equities, also own the Palmer House on the same block. Their recent renovation of the storied State Street hotel has indicated that they have turned their back on what was once Chicago's premier street, reducing the grand entrance on State to a service entrance, and a bland one at that.

Becker says:

"You don't build brand equity for State Street by making it a generic could-be-anywhere. You do it by building on its unique, historic qualities to set it apart and give people a reason to want to take a pass on the local strip mall to go there."

This seems to be a losing battle, especially on State Street as I remarked earlier here in a piece about the unfortunate demise of the splendid banking floor of the (less than splendid) Home Federal/Bank of America Building just to the south.

Chicago Tribune architecture Blair Kamin in his post carefully explains the motives behind the renovations and goes on to point out their short-sightedness.

Becker's post: "Killing State Streets character, one storefront at a time", couldn't be more aptly titled. Although State Street has arguably two of the finest extant examples of the Chicago School of Architecture, the Carson Pirie Department Store and the Reliance Building, it once boasted several magnificent buildings of varying styles that today are either long gone or were remodeled beyond recognition. Becker's post has a few photographs of other great, lost Modernist designs on State Street. Be sure also to check out his link to an archive of photographs of the Loop from the forties and fifties.

See the pictures and weep.

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