LOSS: Boston Store Stables Demolished!

Boston Store Stable Building, by architects Holabird & Roche, 4340 S. Vernon Photo Credit: John Morris/Chicago Patterns
Holabird and Roche plans for South Side stable for Boston Store. Copyright Chicago History Museum
Save the Boston Store Stables Building Neighborhood Organizing Meeting, Photo Credit: John Morris/Chicago Patterns

The Boston Store Stables was a well-designed commercial warehouse building at 4340 S. Vernon Avenue in Bronzeville. It was built in 1906 by the Boston Store to support their new flagship department store located at State and Madison in the Loop, also built in 1906. The Boston Store Stables served as a horse stable and parcel distribution station which allowed more rapid and efficient servicing of their south side customer base.

After a long period of vacancy, it was demolished in late November 2018. The Boston Store’s north side parcel delivery stables at 4858 N. Clark and west side parcel delivery stables at 4520 W. Madison have long since been demolished.

The Boston Store Stables were designed by Holabird and Roche with “bright red brick, three large, front-facing quoined arch window surrounds, brick circular portals, and quoined columns. Though lost to time and neglect, the stable originally had decorative terra cotta coping on top of the front facade. The stable building is unusual because these Romanesque and Italianate-era architectural traits popular in the 1880s and 1890s were mostly out of fashion by the time of the stable’s design in 1906.” (Chicago Patterns, 9/24/18)

After serving for many years as the Boston Store Stables, it later became the Black Elks Lodge and more recently a community church. Neighbors can still recall the days when the Checkerboard Lounge was thriving around the corner on 43rd Street. Big names who played the Checkerboard would sometimes hop over to the Black Elks Lodge for another set. Now the stories of the Boston Store Stables’ many iterations can only be told on pages and web sites dedicated to Chicago’s lost built environment.

The Boston Store Stables suffered from years of neglect and abandonment, but the building was not in immediate danger. The property had been on the market for a few years with hope that a preservation-oriented developer would emerge. The building became an urgent preservation issue when a demolition permit application from the recent buyer was discovered and made clear the new owner’s intention for the building. The demolition permit was issued on November 1, 2018.

Preservation Chicago worked closely with neighbors and preservation partners to help organize a preservation effort to bring about a positive outcome. Preservation Chicago would like to extend a heartfelt thanks to Bernard Loyd at Urban Juncture as well as to the dedicated neighbors who rallied to organize and support the preservation effort. John Morris with Chicago Patterns played an integral role in breaking this story and sounding the alarm regarding the pending threat to the building, in addition to conducting outstanding historical research. A series of neighborhood meetings were held, a Change.org petition generated approximately 750 signatures in a little over a week, conversations were held with 3rd Ward Alderman Pat Dowell, and conversations were held with the developer’s broker. The developer expressed a willingness to entertain offers to buy, but would not delay their demolition schedule and would not share their timeframe. Exterior tours of the building were coordinated with potential preservation-oriented buyers, including one foundation that expressed interest. Despite all of these efforts, unfortunately, there was simply not enough time for a preservation-friendly developer to emerge to buy-out the current owners and rescue the building.

A 90-Day Demolition Delay would have provided a modest window of time that community and preservation partners could have used to explore reuse options for the historic building. Despite its history and cultural significance, 4340 S. Vernon lacked landmark status and is notably absent from the Historic Resources Survey. Buildings with Orange Rating (denoting historical or architectural significance) automatically trigger a 90-day waiting period as part of the Demolition Delay Ordinance. (Chicago Patterns, 9/24/18)

Rapid Response preservation efforts are by nature, reactive, and threats often emerge in response to an otherwise stable building suddenly becoming endangered due to change in ownership. The 90-Day Demolition Delay plays an important role in delaying the release of the demolition permit to allow preservation advocacy the time it needs to be successful.

The Chicago Historic Resource Survey (CHRS), which provides an inventory of historic and significant older buildings in its neighborhoods, is aging, has gaps, and is due for a comprehensive update. An updated survey could provide communities, developers, elected officials and preservation advocates greater information from which to work. An updated survey would allow greater awareness and recognition regarding the significant buildings that tell Chicago’s story and to help guide reinvestment in historic buildings, a strategy which has been proven to help build healthy neighborhoods.

Until the time when the Chicago Historic Resource Survey can be updated, Preservation Chicago continues to deepen efforts to partner with communities, preservation advocates, elected officials and city departments to create alternative neighborhood building inventories to recognize places and spaces significant to community members and the City of Chicago.

In his May 4, 1987 second inaugural address, Mayor Harold Washington said, “Throughout Chicago history, when we have faced such crises, we have summoned our resources and developed partnerships. We have reawakened the power to redirect our priorities. Now once again we are called to the challenge. We must apply the lessons of the past to the challenges of today.” In 2019 and the years to come, Preservation Chicago looks forward to bringing to life that legacy called out by Mayor Washington. We hope you will join us.

Additionally, Preservation Chicago would support the Chicago Landmark Designation of the flagship Boston Store department store (more recently occupied by Sears) located at 2 N. State and Madison in the Loop designed by Holabird and Roche in 1906.

Additional Reading
Facing Demolition: The Last Remaining Boston Store Stable, John Morris, Chicago Patterns, 9/24/18

Fight Is On To Save One Of Bronzeville’s Links To Its Past, The Boston Store Stable; the Boston Store Stable has ties to Chicago’s architectural and mercantile history, and also has links to Bronzeville’s rich past, Patty Wetli, Block Club Chicago, 11/16/18

Neighbors Launch Preservation Push in Bronzeville: Save Our Stable!, John Morris, Chicago Patterns, 11/15/18


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