Before the bulldozers: The architecture of old Kennedy-King College

January 23, 2012

While loading up my new computer's hard drive yesterday, I ran across a batch of old photos I took of the former Kennedy-King College at 69th and Wentworth.

A connection at the City Colleges of Chicago granted me permission to roam the interior and exterior of the then-closed junior college in July 2007. The big concrete building was torn down in 2010--an act this blog reported and then revisited during demolition.

Looking now at my five-year-old images of the doomed school, I'm struck by what was lost. A building, yes, but also the stuff in it. The weathered building boasted two theaters, a gymnasium, a large day care center, a six-lane swimming pool, a library large enough to hold 50,000 volumes, art studios and more. The architecturally Brutalist structure designed by the now-defunct firm of Fitch, Larocca, Carrington & Jones was built in 1972 for $31.1 million. It cost $6 million to demolish it.

A new Kennedy-King College was built in 2008 at 63rd and Halsted, more than a mile from the old site. But if you look at the old images--and stare at that yawning two-and-half-block wide and three-block deep lot the demolition left behind--and you can't help but wish the building could have been reused.

One last thing: Last week, I took a look at the Illinois Service Federal Bank, a modernist building at 46th and King Drive. I couldn't find out the name of the building's architect. Even a call to the bank itself yielded nothing. But cheers to reader Dan O'Brien, an intern for my architectural fellow traveler, WTTW's Geoffrey Baer. O'Brien is pursuing a master's degree in Historic Preservation at the School of the Art Institute, and found an April 17, 1961 Chicago Defender article that identified the architect and builder as a company called Bank Builders Corporation of America, a national outfit based in St. Louis.