Friday, February 20, 2015

Singer Building, Chicago
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Singer Building, Chicago (1926) Elmer C. Jensen, Mundie & Jensen, architects /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

When the Singer Manufacturing Company built their Gothic Revival tower in 1926, the firm was at the top of the sewing machine business.

  [Singer Building, Chicago, 120 S. State Street, Chicago /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The building was constructed on the site of an older Singer Building built in 1902. The 25-foot wide lot had one of the narrowest frontages along State Street, Chicago's main shopping district. As skinny as it was, the structure still provided the company with enough room for a Singer store on the ground floor, offices, storage space and workrooms on the floors above, with even enough room left-over for sewing classes which were offered to the public. Although not as wide as its neighbors, when the building was built, the neighboring facades were not as visually overwhelming as the 5-story graphic next door. And the former 11-story Fair Department Store building which stood across the alley, wasn't quite as massively reflective as today's Citadel Center. Still 25 feet doesn't allow much room for a grand architectural statement. But architect Elmer C. Jensen wasn't intimidated by the narrow site and gave the 10-story structure a vertical push by incorporating slim bands of windows rising up the building face, and a more commanding presence with Neo-Gothic ornamentation molded into creamy, glistening, glazed terra-cotta forms.

  [Singer Building, Chicago, Loop Retail National Historic District, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The skinny tower almost didn't survive the city's 1979 malling of State Street because of the alleyway. When the street was closed to traffic, trucks needed access to the alley for deliveries to other buildings, so the Singer was to be sacrificed for a truck turn around, cum cul-de-sac. By then, the Singer's upper floors were vacant, and the ground floor was occupied by the Ferris Wheel Restaurant which provided the owners with enough income to pay the real estate taxes. For the city, the building was just in the way, but the plan to tear down Jensen's little gem was scuttled, and the Singer survived with the Ferris Wheel as a long-time tenant.
In 1984 a new owner proposed a $2.5 million renovation to be overseen by Hasbrouck Hendersen Architects. It wasn't until 1996 however that things really began to happen with the Gothic tower, when Hasbrouck Enterprises' Charles Hasbrouck, purchased the long-neglected building for $240,000. His company spent $3 million to renovate and convert the former commercial structure into nine, 2,100 sq.ft., floor-through condominium apartments, in the same spaces where Singer sewing machines once hummed.

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