Preservation Chicago Objects to Potential Loss of Essex Inn Historic Rooftop Signage

UPDATE: The 1961 mid-century modern, steel and glass, Essex Inn at 800 South Michigan Avenue designed by A. Epstein and Sons is close to final landmark designation approval and addition to the National Register Historic Places.

Preservation Chicago voiced its support for the project, but also objected to the potential loss of the historic Essex Inn signage at the December 1st Commission of Chicago Landmarks hearing.

Preservation Chicago strongly encouraged the developer and Commission of Chicago Landmarks to retain and restore the historic Essex Inn rooftop signage. Our testimony addressed the importance of this sign and others like it, including the iconic Drake Hotel and Santa Fe Signs. It was assumed that the landmark designation covered the Santa Fe sign until it was removed. Our organization opposed the removal of the historic Santa Fe rooftop sign from the Railroad Exchange Building, which has been relocated to the permanent collection of the Illinois Railway Museum in Union, IL.

Preservation Chicago has strongly advocated for the landmarking and full restoration of the Essex Inn since late 2014, when the building was sold to Oxford Capital Group. We have testified on behalf of the building at many public meetings and have been in communication with community members, public officials and the design team to advocate for preservation-sensitive renovation.

The landmarking of a mid-century building would represent an important addition to the Historic Michigan Boulevard District which initially protected buildings from 1880 to 1930, leaving the fate uncertain for the mid-century Borg-Warner Building, Johnson Publishing Building, and the Essex Inn.

Suggested Reading
Developers Reintroduce Essex Inn Redevelopment and Tower Addition, Curbed Chicago, 3/1/16

What Makes A Michigan Ave. Landmark? Panel Extends Time, Welcomes Essex Inn, DNAinfo, 5/5/16

Essex Inn: Featured a rooftop garden & pool atop a 4-story, 200-car parking garage, Epstein, 12/17/14

Essex Inn Building History by ChicagoDesignSlinger

Essex Inn Historic Landmark Designation Report


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