Cool Building Wednesday: Pride Cleaners

March 31, 2010


(photo by Lee Bey)

Imagine the sensation Pride Cleaners must have caused in 1959 when it roared up the northwest corner of 79th and St. Lawrence in the otherwise architecturally-traditional Chatham community. Onto the circa 1920s streetscape, the future landed: like a 1959 Cadillac DeVille--big, fast, tailfins, chrome and Chuck Berry on the radio--pulling into lot filled with vintage Ford Model Ts and Buick Model 45s.

Look at how that giant hyperbolic paraboloid roof sits above modernist, barely-there curtain wall like a big, poured-in-place hang glider. The concrete roof is self-supporting, so there are no supporting interior columns, thus freeing up precious interior space. Function aside, the zoomy roof and glittering show-biz style sign conveyed the kind of Space Age efficiency that promised to get your clothes cleaned--on the premises--within hours, not days, as it was in the past.

Pride is one of the city's best examples of Googie, a postwar architecture that took modernism, advertising and futurist notions and mixed them to exuberant forms. Designed by Chicago architect Gerald Siegwart, the building is still a striking presence on east 79th Street, even 50 years later.


(photo by Lee Bey)


(photo by Lee Bey)


(photo by Lee Bey)


(photo by Lee Bey)


(photo by Lee Bey)

I quietly wish this building could receive landmark status and qualify for some financial incentives for restoration.‚  Put back to its original condition, the building would be an even bigger asset to the community--and the city's collection of postwar design. Still, it's good to see the unique building being used exactly as it was intended. And kudos to the owners who clearly recognize what they have and kept in tact, including the original interior color scheme.

Bonus material: Click on this link to see me talking about Pride Cleaners back in 2003 on the city's Municipal Cable Channel. You'll‚  see the interior, learn more about Googie and you'll notice they even turned the Pride Cleaners sign on for us.