WIN: After Multi-Year Effort to Prevent Demolition, Clarendon Park Field House Will Be Renovated! (Chicago 7 2015)

Clarendon Park Community Center, C.W. Kallal, 1916. Rendering Credit: William Architects
Clarendon Park Community Center, C.W. Kallal, 1916. Historic Postcard Credit: Chuckman Collection
Clarendon Park Community Center, C.W. Kallal, 1916. Historic Postcard Credit: Chuckman Collection

After many years of preservation advocacy efforts for the Clarendon Park Fieldhouse and Community Center, the final decision for the renovation and restoration of this historic building was made by the Chicago Park District with support from 46th Ward Alderman James Cappleman. Since the beginning of this process, the more likely outcome had been the demolition of the historic building and the construction of a much smaller field house.

The Clarendon Park Fieldhouse and Community Center plays a central role in providing many programs and services for the Uptown community and its youth, including after school programs, summer camps, basketball programs, and is home to Kuumba Lynx and the Garfield Clarendon Model Railroad Club. It serves as an invaluable safe haven for teenagers and young adults. It is essential that the building remains open for the community during a multi-phased renovation and reconstruction. The demolition of this building would have endangered or ended many community services and programs that have been based in the Clarendon Park Fieldhouse and Community Center.

The Clarendon Park Community Center, originally called the Clarendon Municipal Bathing Beach, was built in 1916 as a state-of-the-art facility. Clarendon Municipal Bathing Beach was once one of “the largest and best equipped of all of the beaches in the city” and was considered one of the most popular civic achievements of its time. It could accommodate over 9,000 swimmers and included a promenade for thousands of spectators. The building remained popular until the 1930s when landfill moved the shoreline further east and created Clarendon Park. It was further separated from the Lake Michigan shoreline by extensions of Lake Shore Drive in the early 1950s.

The building was designed by city architect C.W. Kallal in a Mediterranean Revival Style. This “Italian Resort Style” became the model for such other highly regarded lakefront buildings including Marshall and Fox’s South Shore Country Club of 1916 (now South Shore Cultural Center), the 63rd Street Bathing Pavilion in 1919, the Edgewater Beach Hotel in 1916 and 1924 and demolished in 1967, and the Edgewater Beach Apartments in 1928. This style was defined by tall towers capped with hipped-roofs clad in clay tiles, large entry colonnades, porticos, loggias and open-air promenades.

Overtime but especially during a 1972 “modernization” effort, the distinctive tall towers fronting Clarendon Avenue and the smaller towers fronting the beach, along with the entry colonnade, verandas, open-air loggias and tile roof were demolished and replaced with a massive flat roof. The unsightly metal fascia greatly impacted both the aesthetics and functionality of the original historic structure. The significant modifications to the building resulted in extensive water infiltration and roof issues, which have proved an ongoing challenge.

Preservation Chicago is thrilled to see this important building’s exterior restored to an appearance more similar to its original design in a multi-year, multi-phased project. The distinctive tall towers fronting Clarendon Avenue and the smaller towers fronting the beach, along with the entry colonnade and the verandas and open-air rooftop loggias were beautiful and distinctive architecture elements that should never have been removed. We hope to see the reconstruction of some of these missing features during a second phase of restoration which could elevate the Clarendon Park Community Center to its rightful place alongside the 63rd Street Bathing Pavilion and other important lakefront buildings from this period.

Preservation Chicago applauds Ald. James Cappleman for his commitment to seeing the Clarendon Park Community Center protected from demolition and for helping to solidify the necessary renovation funds. Preservation Chicago applauds the Chicago Park District for its flexibility, support and commitment to this important project. The Clarendon Park neighbors and community stakeholders played an essential role in this effort and deserve special recognition for their unwavering support for this wonderful outcome with a special thanks to Katharine Boyda, Melanie Eckner, Martin Tangora, Cindi Anderson, Stuart Berman, the Uptown Historical Society, the Clarendon Park Advisory Council, Uptown United and Uptown Chicago Commission.

Additional Reading
Uptown’s Clarendon Park Community Center is getting a $14.8M makeover, The project will spare the 103-year-old building from the wrecking ball, Jay Koziarz,Curbed Chicago, 9/30/19

Clarendon Park Community Center Renovation Design Presentation, September 19, 2019

VIDEO: Clarendon Park Community Center Animated Rendering Video

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