Harry Weese-designed tower to take a step toward landmark status tomorrow

November 2, 2011

A midcentury modern Gold Coast high rise designed by the late Chicago architectural icon Harry Weese could join the ranks of Chicago's protected architectural landmarks tomorrow, according to city officials.

City landmarks staffers are expected to ask the Commission on Chicago Landmarks to grant preliminary landmark status to the 13-story 227 E. Walton Place, a high rise completed in 1956 and designed by Weese.  If granted, the step would be the first toward permanent landmark status for the 55-year-old residential tower. A city spokesman said the building's condominium association requested the designation. The commission meets tomorrow.

The tower would be the first Weese-designed Chicago building to achieve individual landmark status. It was Weese's first high-rise. The architect, who died in 1998 at 83, designed a run of iconic Chicago buildings including the Swissotel along Wacker Drive, the Metropolitan Correctional Center, the Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist at Wacker and Wabash, the former Time-Life Building and more.  His 227 E. Walton is among his lesser-known works, but is nonetheless significant. Built during the heyday of steel-and-glass modernism, Weese used brick cladding on the reinforced concrete building. He also used bay windows, breaking the flat-faced, slab-like form often used then in modernism. Weese was also the building's developer, a practice that was "generally discouraged by the architectural profession," the city's landmarks designation report said.

More than a half-century after its construction, 227 E. Walton Place is in great condition. The well-preserved exterior even has the original front door.

The photo below shows Weese's building with Mies' 900-910 N. Lake Shore Drive in the background. The buildings were completed only a year apart.

The building could spend a year under preliminary landmark status while the city's landmark staff builds a case to see if full landmark status is merited. If granted, the tower would join a small class of postwar Chicago landmarks that includes the Inland Steel Building, Daley Center and Continental Center.