click images for larger viewEven though it's been closed almost four years, the distinctive profile of the Esquire Theater, its marquee and soaring sign, remained Oak Street's most iconic landmark. Designed by architect William L. Pereira and opened in 1938, it was a unique and indispensable alternative to the Baroque fantasy movie palaces of the 1920's, done in a streamlined Art Moderne style as elegant as an ocean liner.
Of course, our crack Commission on Chicago Landmarks never lifted a finger to protect it. The 1,390 seat auditorium was destroyed in 1989, re-engineered for retail on the ground floor and above it a two-level multiplex with ungainly shoebox theaters that were already obsolete the moment they were built. A proposal to replace the building with a 10-story hotel went nowhere when then Alderman Burton Natarus refused to support the necessary upzoning. After the collapse of the real estate market, the property was foreclosed on last November, and eventually wound up in the hands of currency trader Donald Wilson, Jr., obviously not a man of excess sentimentality.
But a big piece of the Esquire can now be yours. The sign is being sold by Urban Remains.