What’s That Building? Chicago City Bank & Trust | WBEZ
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What’s That Building? The Chicago City Bank & Trust

Over the past 90 years, Englewood has gone through a lot of physical and demographic changes. But an Art Deco building at the center of the historic South Side community has remained largely unchanged.

The US Bank building stands in contrast to the surrounding short, modern buildings. Designed by Abraham Epstein, the building opened as the Chicago City Bank & Trust on Feb. 24, 1930. It was the latest in Englewood's dazzling streetscape that included the nearby Southtown and Englewood theaters. 

Inside, a small lobby with a handsome brass staircase opens to a giant bank floor. The ceiling is intricately carved and tall windows let in natural light. The elevators and doorway leading to the vault are designed with ornate brass details.

Here's a closer look at the bank, its operators and its role in a changing Englewood.

City Bank and Trust Lobby
Jason Marck/WBEZ

City Bank and Trust Bronze work
Jason Marck/WBEZ

City Bank and Trust Wall
Jason Marck/WBEZ

A reminder of a decadent era

Frank Rathje ran the bank through the 1950s and led a plan to drastically change the intersection when black residents began to move into the neighborhood. Called the Englewood Perimeter Roadway and Shopping Circle, the city built a circular road around a ten-square-block shopping district, with the bank at 63rd and Halsted in the center.

The change seemed like a very modern idea at the time, but the plan ultimately failed to stem the tide of middle-class whites flowing out of the city. The streets were eventually re-straightened to fit back into the urban grid, but there’s still one remnant: a three-block stretch of Halsted Parkway that curves around the northwest side of the old shopping district.

Chicago’s second downtown

In the 1930s, the streets of Englewood were lined with hat theaters, stores and hotels. In addition to the fabulously ornate Southtown Theater, the neighborhood featured a Masonic temple with soaring columns and a massive Sears store. 

Historic 63rd and Halstead Street Englewood
Courtesy of the Chicago History Museum
This historic photo shows what the intersection of 63rd and Halsted Streets looked like in the 1920s, just before the Chicago City Bank & Trust was built.

Over the years, virtually all the older buildings in this area have disappeared. Most recent to go was Masonic Temple, which was demolished in 2018. But a renewed interest in the area over the last 15 years has brought the Kennedy-King College campus, Englewood Square, Whole Foods and Starbucks.

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