WIN: The Belden-Stratford Reopens After Meticulous Restoration

The Belden Stratford fronts directly onto Lincoln Park. The Belden Stratford, 1923, Meyer Fridstein, 2300 N. Lincoln Park West. Photo Credit: Chicago History Museum Hedrich-Blessing Collection, 1939, HB-O5472-B.
The Belden Stratford, 1923, Meyer Fridstein, 2300 N. Lincoln Park West. Photo credit: The Belden-Stratford / Nicholas James Photography
The Belden Stratford, 1923, Meyer Fridstein, 2300 N. Lincoln Park West. Photo credit: Alex Krikhaar, Vinci Hamp Architects
The Belden Stratford, 1923, Meyer Fridstein, 2300 N. Lincoln Park West. Photo credit: The Belden-Stratford / Nicholas James Photography
The Belden Stratford, 1923, Meyer Fridstein, 2300 N. Lincoln Park West. Photo credit: The Belden-Stratford / Nicholas James Photography

“Four and a half years after buying the venerable but fading Belden Stratford Hotel, Joe Mansueto’s team is reopening it with a new look that takes it back a century, with recreated details from the lobby to the mansard roof.

“In late 2018, Mansueto Office bought the old grande dame at 2300 N. Lincoln Park West for about $105 million. In the years since, the firm has spent roughly another $100 million on the project, according to Ari Glass, the firm’s head of real estate who showed a Crain’s reporter around in advance of a June 7 grand opening.

“The work has entailed recreating gilt trim, ceiling murals and other features of the Louis XIV-style lobby, removing mirrored walls that blocked off mezzanine spaces and replacing hundreds of latter-day black-framed windows with new models framed in the same blue as some of the original terra cotta trim. A staircase that cut open the lobby to provide access to retailers in the basement was removed, reuniting the lobby as a sort of grand salon for residents. Also gone is a second floor that had been added to the old ballroom space in order to add apartments; the former ballroom is now a workout space with windows two stories high that look out on Lincoln Park.

“‘We made the decision that in any space where there was no historical fabric, we went contemporary,’ said Alex Krikhaar, a principal at Vinci Hamp, the firm that handled the historic preservation aspects of the building. SCB is the architect of record for the overall project.

“Restoring the lobby, whose last major renovation was in the late 1980s, involved a fair amount of ‘archeological research,’ Krikhaar says. Original photos of the lobby were in black & white, so colors couldn’t be determined that way. Serendipity played a part. Removing very-80s pinkish fabric panels from some of the lobby walls revealed that the original wood paneling and some other details were intact. Similarly, taking out side walls that flanked the entry stairs unearthed original marble. The architects hunted down matches for these unearthed materials.

“Designed by architect Myer Fridstein during a wave of new apartment hotels built in the 1920s this one was, according to historian Julia Bachrach, meant to be ‘one of the North Side’s most elegant buildings,’ with a mansard roof, or rounded roof cap, that gave it ‘a distinctly French flair.’

“The mansard, it turns out, held onto some clues for a century until the latest architecture team detected them. When Mansueto bought the building, nearly all its windows had black frames. But up near the top of the building were a few where the frames showed some blue paint, Krikhaar said. Combining that clue with the sight of old blue terra cotta trim between some windows sparked the realization that all the windows had originally been framed in blue.

“The mansard has purple tile and carved stone flourishes. The remnants of blue ‘told us it had been a polychromatic building, blue with purple,’ Krikhaar said. ‘Polychromatic was popular in the 1920s.’ All the windows are now framed in blue.” (Rodkin, Crain’s Chicago Business, 6/6/23)

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