Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Final Curtain: Urban Remains selling the Esquire Theater sign

click images for larger view
Even 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.
So the building that gave Oak Street it's character is trashed and destroyed.  What else is new?

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

If nobody buys it, it won't go anywhere...

never understood the commission's complaints about the new windows effecting the integrity. the alterations are more or less in keeping with the secretary's standards... I think the exterior pretty clearly retains most of its integrity, and the interior wouldn't have been effected anyway. somebody ask Vince Michael...

Andy said...

NOT the original ESQUIRE sign but a close reproduction of the original. Boo. Hiss.