Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Belden-Stratford Apartment Hotel
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Belden-Stratford Apartment Hotel (1923) Fridstein & Co., architects /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

When Charles Henry Lott opened his Belden Apartment Hotel on October 1, 1923 he offered tenants "every convenience" including "maid, bellboy and general hotel service" while at the same time retaining "all of the pleasures and conveniences of your own home." He had given architect Meyer Fridstein the job of making the Belden the most elegant appearing property along Chicago's north side stretch of Lincoln Park West - the jewel in Lott's apartment/hotel crown. The ornate classical coating of terra cotta details, along with Lott's appealing offer of hotel conveniences and a homey lifestyle, attracted enough attention that by the time the $4 million property was ready for occupancy that fall, 95% of the bachelor, one and two bedroom apartments - some with kitchenettes - had been leased.

  [Belden -Stratford Apartment Hotel, 2300 Lincoln Park West, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Lott's building, along with most apartment/hotels of the era, gave consumers the choice of staying for the short or long term, offering daily, weekly, monthly or yearly rates, furnished or unfurnished. And to set itself apart from the rest of the apartment/hotels around town, the Belden provided you with a furniture suite expressly "designed and manufactured by Marshall Field & Company." You could have breakfast, lunch, a light dinner, or even an ice cream soda in the Belden Tea Room. A more formal meal in the Belden Dining Room, or pick up some groceries in the Belden Food Shop. The kitchenette units came equipped with an "automatic electric cooking stove" and "a Frigidaire system refrigerator."

  [Belden-Stratford Apartment Hotel, National Historic Landmark /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The Belden was the third and northern most location of Lott's three hotel empire that ran along Lincoln Park West. The southern most was The Parkway built in 1916 at 2100 Lincoln Park West and the corner of Garfield (today's Dickens Street); then The Webster, constructed in 1919 at 2150 Lincoln Park West and Webster Street; and finally the Belden at 2300 Lincoln Park West and Belden Avenue. The Belden was the largest, and as Lott had intended, the most prominent building along Lincoln Park West's unobstructed view of Lincoln Park and Lake Michigan.

  [Belden-Startford Apartment Hotel, Lincoln Park West, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The building's architect Meyer Fridstein had come to Chicago in the early 1900s after studying engineering at the University of Wisconsin. He worked for a time in the offices of architect Richard Schmidt as well as at the firm of Marshall & Fox. Fridstein then met Chicago real estate developer G.H. Gottschalk, whose expanding property portfolio contained many an apartment/hotel project. Fridstein became Gottschalk's in-house architect while at the same time continuing to operate a separate office outside of his partnership with the developer. Their collaboration in 1926 for the Shoreland Apartment Hotel in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood was the culmination of their design/build relationship, and their last project together.

  [Belden-Stratford Hotel, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The Belden, which was soon renamed the Belden-Stratford, possibly in recognition of the statue of Shakespeare in Lincoln Park that stood directly across the street from Lott's building, ended-up being the apartment/hotelier's last project as well. On June 4, 1925 Lott divorced his wife Cora, who it just so happened was the Vice-President of Lott Hotels, Inc., and she received $1 million dollars of Lott stock in lieu of alimony. He remarried on October 7th, and two years later left Chicago - without telling his second wife or his business partners - and after not hearing from him for several weeks, his financial backers removed him from the presidency of his company. He was eventually found to be living in Detroit, and his wife filed for divorce due to desertion. In 1930 the Lott Hotel properties were put into receivership, and a case was filed in Circuit Court with Judge Philip Sullivan presiding. In 1952, after 16 years under his supervision, U.S. District Court Judge Philip Sullivan was under investigation by a Congressional committee in Washington, D.C. for appointing his brothers and their friends as trustees of the Lott properties having collected thousands of dollars in trustee fees over the years. When the Webster and Belden-Stratford were finally put-up for auction in 1954, Lott's $4 million jewel was sold for $1.6 million. The Belden-Stratford offered apartment/hotel living up until 2011 when the last 68 hotel units were taken off the market and joined the remaining 229 apartment units offered for rent.

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