Sunday, February 22, 2015

451 W. Wrightwood, Chicago
 by: chicago designslinger

 [451 W. Wrightwood, Chicago (1928) Raymond A. Gregori, architect /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

During the mid-to-late 1920s Chicago experienced a boom in tall apartment building construction. Focused primarily along the lake front and nearby neighborhoods, the city's relatively low-rise residential skyline was punctuated by these rising 12, to 15, to 20-story towers. Some were built with large, expensive, 9-room-and-up floor plans, while others provided 1, 2 or 3-room apartments at a more affordable price. But even the developers of these less expensive, smaller-quartered-units spent money on elaborate exterior decoration, providing their buildings with a visual umph that belied their more modest accommodations.

  [451 W. Wrightwood, Chicago, Park Royale Apartments /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

When builder and developer Ben Bogeaus purchased the large corner lot in the Lakeview neighborhood in 1927 where the Williams family mansion once stood, he called on architect Raymond A. Gregori to design two, multi-story apartment buildings. The two structures would share a common courtyard and both would offer smaller sized residential units, but the builder wanted each building to have something distinctive that would catch the eye of a passerby, or make a good first impression on a potential renter. Many developers thought that the spending a few extra dollars on an additional flourish or two would pay-off when it came time to market their investment. So a lot of architects around the city were dressing-up the exteriors of these rather bland brick towers with some sort of interpretative re-imagining of a past architectural era, and the more styles you threw in, the better. Gregori went wild with the tower at the corner of Wrightwood and Hampden Court, concocting a decorative scheme that seems to have been inspired by ancient Babylon, the Middle East, with a smattering of Italian Romanesque thrown in for good measure.

  [451 W. Wrightwood, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The 14-story Park Royale Apartments would provide apartments of 1 to 4 rooms, starting at $40/month and peaking at $140/month. The Park Royale, unlike its sister building the Park Central next door, would provide hotel-like accommodations with furnished apartments, a concierge, and 24-hour switchboard and elevator service. Bogeaus' $2.5 million investment also included an elaborate, 65 X 100-foot long lobby with Florentine-style trimmings, along with a Wizard of Oz themed playroom in the tower penthouse for the youngsters. The building held on to its Park Royale name while going through several changes in ownership and management over the ensuing decades, but by 1983 the name had been changed to the less regal sounding Wrightwood Court. Today, while Gregori's Royale has held on to all of its extravagant decoration, it is now known simply as 451 W. Wrightwood.

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