Efforts made to save building’s style elements
by BRIAN NADIG
The Six Corners Association is leading an effort to preserve some of the decorative elements of a former bank at 4747 W. Irving Park Road before the building is demolished to allow construction of a new retail center.
"Hopefully we can find a place to display these pieces as part of the Six Corners history," Dan Pogorzelski, a community liaison for state Representative Robert Martwick (D-19), said.
The former Bank of America building is on a nearly 4-acre parcel at the southeast corner of Irving Park Road and Milwaukee Avenue, where a police station and town hall were located in the late 1800s. The Milwaukee Irving State Bank opened there in the early 1920s.
Pogorzelski and representatives of the association, the Northwest Chicago Historical Society and Preservation Chicago recently toured the building and found molds that were used to make replacements for terra cotta decorations in the bank.
The association has been working with the developer for the project, Clark Street Development, to save some of the historic elements of the building and to divert other furnishings to local nonprofit groups.
Historical society researcher Frank Suerth said that the ornate character of the bank’s atrium lobby is carried over into the portions of the basement. Suerth said that mahogany woodwork adorned the rooms where customers accessed their safe deposit boxes.
Pogorzelski said that the building once featured a beautiful neo-classical facade with columns but that over the years it was covered up, in part to allow an addition to the building to be constructed.
Suerth said that while there was only one bank on the site in recent years, previously as many as three financial institutions as well as several stores operated on the parcel at same time.
One of those institutions, the Portage Park Safe Deposit Vault Company, 4717 W. Irving Park Road, was site of a burglary in which up to $250,000 was stolen from about 600 safe deposit boxes in 1943.
The burglars entered the vaults from an adjacent storefront, having to break through a 14-inch concrete wall and several steel doors, according to an article that ran in the Chicago Tribune. The vault company was owned by "gambling fixer" William Skidmore, who at the time was serving a federal prison sentence for unpaid income taxes, according to the article.
Before the construction of the bank, the site was occupied by the town hall for the Town of Jefferson, but when the City of Chicago annexed Jefferson in 1889, the city converted the building into a police station.
However, the converting the building to a police station was opposed by the heirs of the original owner of the property, farmer and businessman John Gray, according to Suerth. When Gray gave the property to the Town of Jefferson, he stipulated that it only be used as a town hall, and the heirs eventually won a lawsuit that went to the Illinois Supreme Court, and they took back ownership of the property, he said.
The Gray family then leased the building to the city until it was sold in 1922 for $104,500 to allow construction of a bank and a department store, Suerth said. At one time a branch of Grayland School was located just east of the bank site, he said.
Details of the retail center project have not been released, but it will include the existing Bank of America facility that was built about a year ago at 4671 W. Irving Park Road. When Bank of America announced plans to sell the property, it stipulated that any buyer would have to agree to the construction of a smaller branch facility on the site.
Many residents at a community meeting in the late 2000s objected to the demolition of the bank due to its ornate lobby.
The Six Corners Association is leading an effort to save decorative elements from the former Bank of America building, 4747 W. Irving Park Road, which is slated for demolition. (Photo by Cyryl Jakubowski)
Also show is a photo provided by the Northwest Chicago Historical Society of the town hall for the Town of Jefferson on the site which was converted into a police station when the town was annexed by the City of Chicago.