T he Clarendon Park Community Center will begin an extensive renovation. The infusion of $6.1 million for renovation for this important but long-neglected building has been widely celebrated. As recently as 2015, demolition was widely considered to be the most likely outcome for this historic building when it was included as a 2015 Preservation Chicago 7 Most Endangered Building.
According to 46th Ward Ald. James Cappleman, “These long-overdue repairs will bring the community center back in compliance with city building codes.”
The total renovation costs are estimated at $10 million. $4.6 million has been raised through the from the Clarendon Montrose TIF District as part of the Maryville Project and the Chicago Park District has agreed to contribute another $1.5 million toward the renovation. The source of the TIF fund generation is the Maryville Project which will be built on multiple sites including the site of the recently demolished Belli and Belli designed Cuneo Hospital, a 2012 Preservation Chicago 7 Most Endangered Building.
The park’s advisory council is seeking donations to fund the remainder of the $10 million project, according to Katharine Boyda, president of the Clarendon Park Advisory Council.
The Clarendon Park Community Center, originally called the Clarendon Municipal Bathing Beach, was built in 1916 as a state-of-the-art facility for one of Chicago’s most popular lakefront beaches. Clarendon Municipal Bathing Beach was once one of “the largest and best equipped of all of the beaches in the city” and was considered one of the most popular civic achievements of its time. It could accommodate over 9,000 swimmers and included a promenade for thousands of spectators. The building remained popular until the 1930’s when landfill moved the shoreline further east and created Clarendon Park.
The building was designed by city architect, C.W. Kallal in a Mediterranean Revival Style. This “Italian Resort Style” became the model for such other highly regarded lakefront landmark buildings as Marshall and Fox’s South Shore Country Club of 1916 (now South Shore Cultural Center) and the 63rd Street Bathing Pavilion in 1919. This style was defined by tall towers capped with hipped-roofs clad in clay tiles, large entry colonnades, porticos, loggias and open-air promenades.
During a 1972 “modernization” effort, the distinctive tall towers fronting Clarendon Avenue and the smaller towers fronting the beach, along with the entry colonnade, verandas, open-air loggias and tile roof were demolished and replaced with a massive flat roof, with an unsightly metal fascia, which greatly impacted both the aesthetics and functionality of original structure. The significant modifications to the building resulted in extensive water infiltration and roof issues, which have proved an ongoing challenge.
Preservation Chicago applauds 46th Ward Ald. James Cappleman for his commitment to seeing the Clarendon Park Community Center protected from demolition and for helping to solidify the necessary renovation funds. Preservation Chicago applauds the Chicago Park District for their support and commitment to this important project.
The Clarendon Park neighbors and community stakeholders played an important role and deserve recognition for their unwavering support for this outcome with a special thanks to Katharine Boyda, Melanie Eckner, and the Clarendon Park Advisory Council.
“Our goal is to keep the integrity of this wonderful structure because it’s beautiful and very historic,” said Cappleman. Further, he said that one-third of the renovation funds would be earmarked for improvements desired by the community.
Preservation Chicago hopes to see this important building’s exterior restored to an appearance more similar to its original design. The distinctive tall towers fronting Clarendon Avenue and the smaller towers fronting the beach, along with the entry colonnade and the verandas and open-air loggias were beautiful and distinctive architecture elements that should never have been removed. Their reconstruction would elevate the Clarendon Park Community Center to its rightful place as a landmark alongside the 63rd Street Bathing Pavilion and other important landmark lakefront buildings from this period.