WIN: Sale and Reinvestment in Landmark Germania Club Building

Germania Club Building, 108 W. Germania Place, by August Fiedler in 1889, Photo Credit: Smallbones

The historic Germania Club Building, a Designated Chicago Landmark, was sold to developer R2 Company. Located at 108 W. Germania Place, the three-story Germania Club was designed by architect August Fiedler in 1889. The 40,000 square foot building originally served as the headquarters for the Germania Club social club, the oldest German-American organization in the Chicago.

“The origins of the Germania Club date to 1865, when a group of German Civil War veterans sang at ceremonies held at the Chicago Court House as President Lincoln’s funeral bier passed through Chicago on route to Springfield. In the same year, this informal chorus of 60 singers performed a second concert to benefit wounded Civil War soldiers, and in 1867 staged a concert to benefit a Jewish orphanage.” (Germania Club Landmark Designation Report, August 2010)

According to Chicago guidebooks at the time it was built, the Germania Club was regarded as “one of the most handsome clubs in the city.” The building has first floor retail and a grand ballroom on the upper floor. The building’s Victorian design includes neoclassical and German Renaissance influences. The two-story rusticated limestone base includes a glassy portico and arched doorway. The upper stories include pairs of tall windows, deep red roman brick, unglazed red terra cotta, and pressed-metal ornament, arches and triangular pediments, highly ornate pilasters and a decorative cornice at the roofline. Numerous ornate historic interior spaces are also intact. Most of the current decorative metal elements and the pressed-metal ornament at the pediments date from 1987, when the deteriorated originals were replaced with new material sympathetic to the original design, however historic photos reveal that the original features were more richly ornamented.

The Germania Club Building was designated as a Chicago Landmark in 2010, which was long supported by Preservation Chicago. As a result, all upgrades or changes to the building façade must follow historic landmark standards and plans must be approved by Chicago’s landmark staff. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.

Thanks to an earlier preservation effort, Germania Club Building survived a significant threat in the 1980’s. “In 1985, about a year before the Germania Club voted itself out of existence, a developer had proposed making the Germania Club an entrance facility for a new 45-story condo tower just to the north. The proposal never came to fruition.” (Lynn Becker, 2/25/08) Additionally, a magnificent, first-class relic from the Worlds Columbian Exposition, called the “Porcelain Porch”, had been relocated from the Manufacturers and Liberal Arts Building to the ballroom, but was dismantled in 1986 and has been in storage ever since.

As reported in Crain’s Chicago Business, R2 principal Matt Garrison describes the upper floors as a “hotel ballroom without a hotel. That’s the real impact we can have on the deal. It’s a chance to step back and reconsider that ballroom space and what to do with it and to upgrade it. We think it’s a really interesting opportunity for someone to provide Class A events without the hotel cost structure in a location that’s different but still really good.” (Ecker, Crain’s, 8/23/18)

R2 is also working to redevelop the Jarvis Hunt designed Rector Building/Bell Federal Savings & Loan Building and the historic Morton Salt warehouse at 1329 N. Elston Avenue into an office, retail and entertainment venue complex called “The Salt District.”

Following the completion of the Germania Club, architect August Fiedler accepted the position of supervising architect for the Chicago Board of Education. In this capacity, he designed more than a dozen public schools, including: the Goethe School (2236 N. Rockwell Ave., 1895); the Komensky School (1925 S. Throop St., 1890); the McCosh School (now Emmett Till School, 6543 S. Champlain Ave., 1894); the Bass School (1140 W. 66th St., 1895); the Funston School (3616 W. Armitage Ave., 1895); and the Pickard School (2301 W. 21st Pl.; 1896).

Additional Reading
Germania Club building sold to Chicago investor; One of the city’s most active real estate investors wants to spiff up the Old Town landmark with an eye on making it a premier event space on the Near North Side. Crain’s, Dany Ecker, August 23, 2018 

Germania Club Building, 100-114 West Germania Place, Landmark Designation Report, 8/5/10

The Unprotected: The Germania Club and Chicago’s Endangered Architectural Treasure, Lynn Becker, Repeat, 2/25/18

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