Saturday, February 21, 2015

203 North Wabash - Old Dearborn Bank Building, Chicago
 by: chicago designslinger

 [203 North Wabash - Old Dearborn Bank Building, Chicago (1928) Rapp & Rapp, architects /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

C.W. & George L. Rapp were well known for their exuberant movie palace designs when they were asked to draw up plans for an office building across from one of the famous Chicago "L" loops.

 [203 North Wabash - Old Dearborn Bank Building, Chicago, 203 N. Wabash Avenue at Lake Street, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

One of the brothers' movie theater extravaganzas stood just around the corner, but since this was an office building they showed some restraint in the overall body of the building. But if you look closely, you'll find evidence of typical Rappian decor on the facade.

   [203 North Wabash - Old Dearborn Bank Building, Chicago, City of Chicago Landmark /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The building was built by the officers of the State Lake Bank, and by the time the tower was finished in 1928, the bank had changed chairman and names. Now known as the Old Dearborn Bank, the new name was in reference to the fort that stood nearby. The military outpost didn't literally put Chicago on the map, that had already happened in 1673, but once Fort Dearborn had been established in 1803, there was no looking back. The story got even better when officials claimed that a cabin once stood on the site, rented by one Jacob Astor in the 1820s, for his American Fur Company. One thing's for certain, Astor did have a stake in the non-existent city. He purchased several acres of brush and scrub along Lake Michigan which became Astor's Addition to Chicago, and which is why the Gold Coast's Astor Street is named for the New Yorker.
Unfortunately the bank's fortunes weren't as plentiful as the fur trappers. Soon after the financial institution moved into their second floor banking hall, the institution was purchased by Chicago Trust, which went into receivership during the Great Depression and was out of business by 1934. In the 1940s the building's lobby directory contained the names of a majority of the midwest's entertainment booking agents and agencies, including for a time, the William Morris Agency. In 2011, most of Rapp & Rapp's office tower sits empty. There was talk of converting the building into housing, either for condo dwellers or students, but with the onset of the Great Recession, those plans came to a halt. A new owner has stated that the 27-story building will remain an office building, though a permit has been submitted to the City Council to change the zoning to residential.

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