Monday, May 18, 2009

Somerset Place Gets A Facelift

A reader writes: "I didn't see a mention of the re-facing of Somerset Place [Argyle and Sheridan] on your site and thought these images might be of interest. I only wish I had taken a picture of the plan they have for refacing this lovely old girl, which were completely uninspired by the way. You can see in the bottom image some of the original detail that has been covered by a false brick front. I wish there were some TIF dollars, a historic plaque and a desire to restore the facade to its former glory."

We have to admit that we have trouble looking at the current version since we saw how gorgeous the building used to be when it was built. Seeing how the Somerset was stripped of its beauty makes us appreciate the ones we still have and the ones that have been restored: the Uptown Broadway Building, Bridgeview Bank, Borders, and the Bank of America/Riviera Building.


  1. It's become painfully obvious that the power structure in this town could care less about the architectural history of Chicago.

    Once a major player in the world of design - inventors of the skyscraper, no less, we're now a complete laughingstock.

    Burnham, Atwood, Root, Wright, Fellows, Nimmons.

    Ghosts who are long dead with no one to stand in their footsteps.

    Decent design and any thoughtfulness of what we leave behind has been replaced by cheap/quick/affordable and wholly lackluster architectural laziness.

    Not to mention the cheap-ass work ethic of Daley-unionized labor.

    Seeing another classic bit of architecture be plastered over by the current cadre of uncaring, uneducated and unromantic political clods is enough to make even the most amateur architect buff want to vomit and are the main reason this city is falling apart.

    But, hey ... it's all for a good cause, right?

    (that cause being getting some extraneous zygote re-elected, of course)

  2. Wow! What a shame they're not restoring it. I'd be interested in seeing what the current plan is.

  3. i am happy to see development in the direction of a updated and decent fa├žade. i hope the facelift will inspire the smoking zone to move into the private garden...

  4. I noticed last year, they had a poster in the window to
    'vote for your favorite facade', and 3 (I think) different renderings were shown. All of which are improvements.

    I always chuckle at the "merry Christmas Charlie Brown" decorations in the window, I saw last August!

  5. I would agree 'yo', that thoughtful renovation takes a back seat to realistic economics.

    While Somerset Place, ain't no Farnsworth House, hopefully the renovation will be better than what is there now.

    Speaking of which......Big Chick's facade, across the street is a gorgeous example of preserved art deco!
    Thanks Ms. Fire!

  6. Wow. I didn't think any of the terra cotta elements were left. Unfortunately, replicating all that ornate stonework would cost a fortune, something I don't see happening with the building's current use.

  7. Yo. Time to pony up. Get out your check book. Oops. Sorry, you just want other people to pay for it so you can enjoy it. If its so important to save these stuctures and elements you deem worthy, get some money together and do it.

  8. You're absolutely right Toto...
    If we wanted to spend on money on restoring grand old edifaces (sp?) we would do that instead of building $400K+ luxury accomodations for gang-bangers; paying "task force" members $250K+ to mve across the street; giving politacally conected developers prime real estate.

  9. Toto, my point being that the city rests on its architectural laurels to deem itself a world class city, but has given up on maintaining the structures that differentiated this town from so many others.

    That's more of an "us" issue than a "me" issue.

    As towards your comment re: other people paying for my wants, I'll defer to Bradly's comment.

    There's plenty of cash in this city to make everyone happy - not just the clouted. And we all pay more than our fair share.

  10. I think Somerset is in MA Smith's ward. Most of her architectural focus seems to be on using any TIF money for the Uptown Theater.

    There are just so many beautiful buildings that need restoration in this area. But even if you had a pile of public money to help preserve these buildings how would you when they are privately owned? There is a political layer to all of this as well.

  11. If an alderman can give a business $200k+ to relocate across the street, I'm sure something could be worked out.

  12. Its a shame to erase the history of the building thats been there for ages. The good old days are gone. I been inside once to visit a resident and they really need a facelift in there too. Its really is so dirty and smells enough to make you sick. Hope the inside is cleaned up too..........

  13. Yo, my point is there are plenty of worthy buildings. However, when people want every old building saved they are being mighty unreasonable. This building had some archetectural elements on the ground floor, but the rest of it is rather pedestrian. The money spent gussying up the old Somerset House would be a waste when there are plenty of high quality significant buildings that could use it.

    The trouble with preservationists is they want to save everything.

    Unless the city wants to earmark money for preservation in the city budget, there will be no money. Especially when preservationists come off with a lot of whimsey notions like saving crap like the Somerset House.