“A treasured but decrepit Prairie Style building on 75th Street that has been on the market for some time may soon have a new owner, although it’s not known whether that portends a better future for the building.
“Built in 1908, the Cornell Store & Flats was the work of Walter Burley Griffin, an architect who with his wife and fellow architect Marion Mahony Griffin left Chicago in 1913 to design the new capital city of Australia. The present owners, whose South Shore construction firm keeps trucks and equipment on other portions of the one-fifth of an acre site, bought the site in June 2015 for $175,000, when the Cornell building was already empty and crumbling.
“The property, which has been for sale on and off for at least two years, has a contract pending with a buyer, Devon Granger told Crain’s. Granger and his brother Ananias are identified in public records as the heads of the legal entity that bought the site in 2015. He said Ananias is the owner of A&D Construction, which uses the site.
“In a brief phone interview, Devon Granger said the asking price for the site was ‘about $850,000.’ He said when they bought the property, ‘we wanted to do something about’ improving the Cornell building at the south edge of the site, but that they have not made any changes to it. He declined to identify the buyer with whom the contract is pending.
“Because the potential buyer’s identity isn’t known, it’s not clear whether the building will be improved of left to disintegrate further.
“Over the past six years, both Preservation Chicago and Landmarks Illinois have put the Cornell Store & Flats building on their endangered buildings watch lists.
“‘It’s a unique and important building,’ said Meg Kindelin, president of JLK Architects, a Chicago firm that specializes in historic buildings and a board member of the St. Louis-based Walter Burley Griffin Society of America. Griffin’s work is known worldwide because of his work in Australia and later India. In Chicago and the suburbs, he designed at least 30 houses, but on 75th Street, the combination of street-level retail space and upstairs rental apartments is ‘the only one I know of him doing,’ Kindelin said.
“Beyond its pedigree, the building ‘is instantly recognizable as a pure piece of Prairie Style architecture,’ a style with deep roots in Chicago, Kindelin said. The horizontal emphasis of windows, roof and sills are visual cues of the Prairie Style The upstairs apartments surround an open-air common space, seen in the photos below.
“The original retail tenant was a small Fox Department Store, according to Paul Kruty, an emeritus professor of architecture at the University of Illinois who is writing a book about Griffin. Each of the four apartments had a concrete staircase to the roof, where Griffin wanted the residents to plant gardens, Kruty said.
“It might have been the first-ever rooftop gardens in Chicago,” Kruty said. The apartments opened six years before Frank Lloyd Wright’s Midway Gardens entertainment venue, which had rooftop green space. (Rodkin, Crain’s Chicago Business, 1/27/22
Will a buyer save this crumbling architectural treasure in Grand Crossing? Vacant and deteriorating for an unknown length of time, the Cornell Store & Flats has a contract pending from a buyer, according to the sellers, who’ve done little to stop its decline since buying it in 2015, Dennis Rodkin, Crain’s Chicago Business, 1/27/22