“When it comes to Art Deco architecture, especially in the Midwest, one tends to think of the skyscraping commercial edifices and the grand WPA projects of the 1920s and ‘30s; however, Chicago is home to hundreds of smaller-scale works in many of its neighborhood’s residential buildings that have often gone overlooked by casual observers. As an urban center, Chicago never wholly bought into the early-Modernist design language in the implementation of the construction of private buildings, as opposed to what you might find in other great Deco neighborhoods like Miami Beach and some boroughs of New York. Instead, Chicago architects often opted to display Art Deco features sparingly, as an incorporated element, or as a way to contrast new construction with the Victorian and Classical Revival home designs more popular amongst the city’s upper-middle class in the early part of the twentieth century.
“However, there are still great examples of Art Deco and Moderne design-work that pepper many Chicagoland neighborhoods. As is the case in most other American metropolises, Modernist influences were often seen in multi-unit apartment and townhouse building construction in the denser urban residential areas. In Chicago’s Near North Side neighborhoods, for instance, scattered examples of smaller single-lot, three-flat buildings exhibit some of the city’s most exquisite Deco architectural details.
“The demi-block of Schiller Street between Wells Street and LaSalle Drive offers a couple of great examples of tucked-away Modernist design. Two apparently contrasting apartment buildings stand across the street from each other almost as if in conversation, each made with completely different materials and with distinct construction methods. One of them is defined by its streamlined, sheer white stucco Art Moderne form, while the other is much more an eclectic Deco and Arts & Crafts amalgamation. Both of them, however, exhibit quintessential design elements of mid-1930s Modernism: flat roofs and balconies with accented metal coping; horizontal lines that highlight geometry; asymmetrical façades with tall windows; and modern flourishes, like cruise ship portholes and unique brickwork.”(Kruse, 4/28/20)