This gorgeous terra cotta building in Auburn Gresham was constructed in 1925, designed by architect Edward G. McClellan (designer of a number of gracious homes around the South Side). It holds down the busy corner of 79th & Halsted – or rather, held: as reported by the Tribune and others on January 31 2012, four people were injured when a significant portion of this building collapsed. It was vacant at the time it decided to come tumbling down on passersby, but here’s the real kicker: the City of Chicago owns this building, and has since around 2000. I’m not great at deciphering county property records, but it appears that the City acquired the building from the web of organizations surrounding the Nation of Islam (which was and is quite active in the neighborhood). Presumably some of the blame for the demise of this building falls to the NOI, as the City would not likely have taken it off their hands if everything had been rosy. Still, if this is the end result of a decade of municipal ownership, then the City’s boneheaded rush to demolish a comparable building near Midway seems like a mercy killing in comparison. These amazing terra cotta corner buildings are not a renewable resource, and the city needs to quit treating them as such.
Sadly, I only have the oblique and partial photo at the top from a bus tour I took several years ago. The photo immediately above is from the Cook County Assessor’s website, taken in 2008. Here’s a better view of the whole corner.