Photo gives a glimpse into the history of the parcel targeted for senior living at Six Corners
by BRIAN NADIG
A recently released photograph from the Northwest Chicago Historical Society shows the ornate bank which once stood at Six Corners and where a 10-story assisted and independent senior living complex is now planned.
Alderman John Arena (45th) will hold a community meeting this week on a plan to build 141 assisted living apartments, 86 independent living units and 38 memory care units along with 50,000 square feet of retail space on the vacant site. The meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, June 21, at the Filament Theater, 4041 N. Milwaukee Ave.
The $120 million project would include nine affordable apartments for seniors, while the rest of the units would be offered at market rate. There reportedly would be an employee cafeteria for the estimated 120 workers, and in-house dining options would be available to the residents living there.
The removal of the dedicated bike lane on Milwaukee Avenue reportedly is under consideration to accommodate motorists seeking to pull up in front of the building’s first-floor storefronts.
The approximately 90-yer-old picture shows when Inland Bank occupied the 3 ½-story building at 4747 W. Irving Park Road. The building, which was constructed in 1922, once featured a neo-classical facade with columns, but that exterior was later covered with a modern-looking facade that existed until the building was demolished in 2016.
At a meeting on the site’s potential sale in the mid-2000s, many residents said the building should be preserved due to its atrium lobby, which included terra cotta elements and mahogany woodwork.
However, recognizing that the building could come down, the Six Corners Master Plan, which was created in 2013, suggested a new four- or five-story development for the site which would “reflect the height and scale of the (nearby) Sears Store and Klee Plaza” and possibly include a courtyard which would serve as a community gathering space.
Before the building’s eventual demise, the historical society, Preservation Chicago and Six Corners Association removed some of the decorative elements and other furnishings from the lobby and basement. They were later given to nonprofit groups.
Historical society researcher Frank Suerth said that in the building’s basement were 200-pound molds which were used to make replacements for the terra cotta decorations.
The site, which is located at the southeast corner of Milwaukee Avenue and Irving Park Road, has played a pivotal role in the community’s development, dating back more than 160 years, Suerth said.
In 1857, John Gray, a farmer who later held the post of county sheriff, donated a building on the site to the Town of Jefferson with the stipulation that it be used as the Town Hall. For a brief time a portion of it housed the township’s high school, which later moved into a new building at Wilson and Knox avenues.
Gray’s heirs sued to get the land back after the City of Chicago annexed the township in 1889 and had the hall converted into the 26th Precinct Police Station, Suerth said. As a result, the city ended up leasing the property from the Gray family, he said.
In 1922, the Gray family sold the building for $104,500, and the Milwaukee Irving State Bank was built. A year later it was taken over by Inland Bank.
At times the building housed as many as three financial institutions at once, and in later years its occupants were Northwest National Bank, LaSalle Bank and Bank of America.
A 1943 burglary at the site was featured in the Chicago Tribune, as 600 safety deposit boxes in the vault room were opened, with up to $250,000 reported stolen.
The burglars entered the vault room from an adjacent storefront, having to break through a 14-inch concrete wall and several steel doors.
At the time the vault company was owned by gambler fixer” William Skidmore, who was serving a federal prison sentence for unpaid income taxes, according to the article. The vacant storefront used by the burglars was once a gambling house.
Some of the victims were believed to have been gamblers themselves, who were known to keep large sums of cash in safety deposit boxes, the article states.
“Gamblers by the very nature of their business need cash where they can lay their hands on it,” police captain John Boland said in the article. “It is certain a number of them lost a lot of money in this cleanup.”