WIN: Rector Building/Bell Federal Savings to be Renovated

Bell Federal Savings & Loan Building, 79 W. Monroe Street, Photo Credit: CoStar

Rector Building, 79 W. Monroe Street, by Jarvis Hunt in 1906, Historic Photo Credit: The Art Institute of Chicago, Ryerson & Burnham

Rector Building Cornice, 79 W. Monroe Street, by Jarvis Hunt in 1906, Historic Photo Credit: The Art Institute of Chicago, Ryerson & Burnham Archives, Inland Architect, vol. 46, no.5, www.artic.edu

The Weather Bell, Bell Federal Savings & Loan Building, 79 W. Monroe Street, Photo Credit: David Wilson, davidwilson1949/ Flickr

A renovation will soon be underway for the 14-story Rector Building/Chicago Trust Building/Chicago Title and Trust Building /Bell Federal Savings & Loan Building located at 79 W. Monroe Street by developer R2 Company. Designed by Jarvis Hunt in 1906, the neoclassical office building will be renovated as a “premier boutique creative office building” and reverse the trend of vintage office buildings being converted to residential or hotel uses. Holabird & Roche designed a highly complementary and seamless addition to the south in 1924.

The Bell Federal Savings & Loan Building is well-known for its distinctive weather prediction clock. The “Weather Bell” was installed in the mid-1950s and changes colors based on the temperature. It even had its own 1950’s-era jingle:

When Weather Bell is emerald green
No change in temperature is foreseen.
When Weather Bell is glowing red
Warmer weather is ahead.
When Weather Bell is gleaming gold
A temperature drop is foretold
When Weather Bell is in agitation,
Prepare yourself for precipitation.

Architect Jarvis Hunt also designed the Lake Shore Athletic Club at 850 North Lake Shore Drive, the Chicago Tribune printing plant at 430 N. St. Clair, Peoples Trust & Savings Bank at 30 North Michigan, Saddle & Cycle Club, 900 North Michigan Avenue (demolished), and Lake-Michigan Building at 201 N. Michigan (demolished).

R2 Company will purchase the leasehold interest in the 199,000 square foot building for approximately $25 million. R2 has been active in Chicago and renovated the buildings at 542 S. Dearborn Street and 445 W. Erie Street. They are the developers working to improve the landmark Germania Club Building and to redevelop the historic Morton Salt warehouse at 1329 N. Elston Ave. into an office, retail and entertainment venue complex called “The Salt District.”

Originally, the building had an elaborate, multi-story masonry cornice. Preservation Chicago strongly encourages the developer to rebuild the lost cornice and other lost elements to return the building to it historic appearance. This beautifully crafted building by architect Jarvis Hunt with later additions by Holabird & Roche would qualify for a Designated Chicago Landmark. Preservation Chicago encourages the developer to pursue a Chicago Landmark Designation for this important Chicago building.

Additional Reading
Chicago developer buying Bell Federal building; After flipping a pair of downtown loft office buildings for a profit last month, Chicago developer R2 is betting on another one in the Loop, Danny Ecker, Crain’s, 8/14/18

Keep an eye out for the famous Weather Bell, by ChicagoQuirk, 9/4/12

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