Cool Building Wednesday: Hotel 71

February 3, 2010

Hotel 71 (photo by Lee Bey)
Hotel 71 (photo by Lee Bey)

Hotel 71 almost never gets name-checked when people discuss the city's better architecture. If it isn't forgotten, it's certainly overlooked.

No reason why it should be, though. Built in 1958 as the Executive House hotel, the 36-story 71 E. Wacker is a slick postwar addition to the mainly early 20th century Wacker Drive streetwall. The original facade was made flush awhile back, removing the original recessed balconies, but the move improved the tower's looks. Designed by under-heralded Chicago modernist Milton Schwartz, the hotel looks fresh enough to have been built yesterday.

Speaking of yesterday, how weird is this? I was watching "The Rockford Files," on DVD last night and in Season 1, episode 23--titled "Just By Accident"--a scene opens with Jimbo heading into an office building. Inexplicably, the filmed-in-Southern-California television show used an exterior of the Executive House as the establishing shot for the scene. Here's the screen grab from the episode (and you can see the original recessed balconies, as well as the broadcast antenna that once crowned the neighboring Mather Tower):

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Schwartz did more than a few noteworthy buildings.‚  One of his best is the 21-story 320 W. Oakdale, built in 1954, with exposed overhanging concrete floor slab and floor-to-ceiling windows:

320 West Oakdale (photo by Lee Bey)
320 West Oakdale (photo by Lee Bey)

Schwartz died in 2007 at the age of 81.