Lincoln Montana Building Ornament Enters New Chapter

Loading Lincoln-Montana Building Ornament onto Illinois Railway Museum Truck, Photo Credit by Ward Miller

After a multi-year preservation effort, the Lincoln-Montana Building at 2454 N. Lincoln Avenue, Chicago is coming down. This historic 1923 corner building is ‘orange-rated’ on the Chicago Historic Resources Survey. It was designed by the highly regarded Chicago architectural firm of Rissman & Hirschfeld (also the architects of the Gold Coast’s Cedar Hotel and the Knickerbocker Hotel). Of particular importance, Lincoln-Montana Building’s terra cotta ornament was produced by the Midland Terra Cotta Company has a “Sullivanesque” style.

Another smaller building, also part of this development project and located across the street, played an important role in Chicago folk music scene and was home to ‘Orphans’ from 1969 to 1990. Additionally, it and was rumored to have been a favorite hangout of John Dillinger. According to a 1990 story on the Orphans closing by Dave Hoekstra in the Sun-Times, before that it was Club Biograph, a rumored hangout of legendary bank robber John Dillinger, who supposedly “always sat on the third stool from the end of the bar.” (Cox, 7/7/17)

Two new four-story mixed use buildings are being developed by BlitzLake Partners and designed by Piekarz Associates. Though Preservation Chicago, Allan Mellis and community partners were unable to prevent the demolition of the Lincoln-Montana Building, we were able to ensure through a signed community development agreement that the building’s decorative ornamental “Sullivanesque” terra-cotta would be carefully removed and donated to the Illinois Railway Museum in Union, Illinois, where it will be incorporated into the façade of their new visitors center and part of its new $7.5 million, two-block Vintage Main Street exhibit.

Preservation Chicago, working with Allan Mellis, neighbors, Alderman Smith, and the new owners and representatives of the Lincoln-Montana Building started work to remove the ornamental “Sullivanesque” terra cotta on July 26th. This work is being coordinated with Jimmy Nuter of American Vintage Reclamation.

We wish to express a special thanks to Fred Ash and David Diamond of the Illinois Railway Museum for their dedication to preserving this ornament, integrating it into their new visitors center, and for coordinating the transportation of the materials to Union, Illinois.

Preservation Chicago would have strongly preferred to see the Lincoln-Montana Building preserved and incorporated into the new development plan. However, Preservation Chicago does wish to thank all the community leaders and owners for their support of the salvage efforts for this decorative terra cotta.

Additional Reading

Redevelopment Plans for 2448 and 2462 North Lincoln Shown to Neighbors, Shawn Ursini, Curbed Chicago, June 2, 2016

Two New Apartment Buildings Going Up At Lincoln And Montana, Ted Cox, DNAinfo, July 7, 2017

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