Monday, February 25, 2008

Devon Avenue changes

The recent posting of the Chicago 7 endangered architecture list left me in some confusion over just what the threat to Devon Avenue was. Sunday I took a stroll down Devon to shoot some documentation photos, and by chance found a bit of information.

Rockwell Square Residences
Rockwell Square Residences

The Chicago 7 list shows a rendering of a strange building at 2556 W. Devon Ave., but gives no indication of what it is -- new builing? Teardown? Reskin? Turns out it's a new 30-unit condo development, "Rockwell Square Residences". It's got a garage built in, and commercial space for lease at the sidewalk. If I'm reading the rendering correctly, the narrow end will face Devon, while the prominent and boldly-colored longer facade will face Rockwell, a residential side street. I like the forms, and I'll be beside myself if they actually decorate it with all that color.

Devon Avenue

Most importantly, the land was already vacant before this project surfaced, serving as a surface parking lot.

Viceroy of India
Viceroy of India Restaurant

The Avenue's most impressive Modernist building is this streamline confection in concrete, now serving as a restaurant. The view above is from early 2006; but today, the building looks like this:

Devon Avenue

The vertical sign and street-level awning have been removed, and the facade has gotten a coat of white paint with maroon highlights, as well as some patching and repairs. Once I got past the shock of the long-exposed concrete being covered up, I have to admit that the change looks pretty good, and stays true to the spirit of the building's form, if not the designer's exact original intent. My one real complaint was that it no longer matches its concrete contemporaries to the east and west:

Devon Avenue

Devon at Western

Devon Avenue

The Wallen Block

Devon Avenue

The Devon Building
The Beaux Arts-styled block starting at 2501 W. Devon was actually three buildings, hidden behind a unified series of facades. With a recent fire, however, it's been tragically reduced to two buildings, with a painful gap between them.

March 2006, looking southeast:
Devon Avenue

February 2008, looking southwest:
Missing tooth

The building's demolition is a serious loss for urban design in general -- this was a magnificent and imposing block, and unless the facade was salvaged for reinstallation, whatever eventually fills the gap is unlikely to match it.


Swedish Colombian said...

Good grief! I think I've read your entire wonderful blog in one sitting! As a north-sider for years and recent Rogers Park-er, many of your posts truly hit home. I love these photos of Devon. Further east of here is a favorite building of mine - the Clark/Devon Hardware Store (a champion for being successfully independent in the age of Home Depot). The huge hardware-designed clock on its facade is a wonderful landmark.

BW said...

The Viceroy building was originally the Cine Theater (

I hate the effect of the painted concrete. It takes all the depth away, it went from streamline to severe. Painted concrete almost never works; just look at the Metropolitan Correctional Center downtown.

Incidentally, the Clark-Devon Hardware store was also a former theater, the Ridge (Ellantee). Across the street, the Assyrian Community Center, with an imposing Terra Cotta Bust, was originally the New Devon Theater.

Unknown said...

The Rockwell-Devon lot has been vacant as long as I can remember. Ald. Stone has long pushed for a parking garage of some kind there, since he's one of those old-school supply-siders when it comes to parking -- i.e., "the more supply, the better, since at least it'll look like I'm 'doing something about it' when my constituents complain." Never mind that parking is absolutely the worst thing to put right in the middle of your thriving business district, and that it rarely makes money.