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As detailed on a post on the indispensable Forgotten Chicago website, this was previously the site of Holabird and Root's 1928's Michigan Chestnut Building, where much of the seven stories were taken by the Chicago outpost of Saks Fifth Avenue, which remained there for less than a a decade before moving to its new store down the street in a building that's currently occupied by Niketown.
Michigan Chestnut was the type of restrained, classically accented, mid-rise architecture that gave the Magnificent Mile its name. Beginning in the 1980's, however, one by one, those buildings were demolished in favor of mega-projects. Michigan Chestnut, itself was scheduled to replaced by a 30-story tower, but when that project fell through, we got Lucien Lagrange's low-rise Plaza Escada instead.
His design, complete with clock beneath a mansard roof, stretched the classical vocabulary like silly putty to accommodate the needs of a modern commercial structure. The surrealism of it all was underscored by the ridiculously large upper window occupied by a massive teddy bear.
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building permit attributes the $5 million project to architect William E. Abbot. I'm sure he was only following orders. Who in their right mind would have ever thought this design was a good idea?
Earlier this year, the owners had refinanced 840 with a $52 million loan. Then, just last month, an East Coast developer paid $144 million for what Crain's Chicago Business called "a stake" in now fully leased structure. So the original investors got a windfall, the new owners got control of a prime Michigan Avenue corner, but as for the rest of us, all we got was this massive eyesore.