THE HISTORIC VALUE
ARCADE (COLT) BUILDING
Oak Park Historic Preservation Commission
Michael Roy Iversen, Architect
August 23, 2005 (Draft)
ARCADE BUILDING: REPORT ON HISTORIC VALUE 08.23.05 (DRAFT) 1
The following report recommends that the Oak Park Historic Preservation Commission consider upgrad-
ing the rank category currently assigned to the Arcade (Colt) Building1 in the Architectural Survey: Down-
town Oak Park and The Avenue Business District (Survey), dated 01.09.05.
The Arcade Building is currently ranked as ‘Contributing’ on the Westgate side, and as ‘Non-Contributing’
on the Lake St. side. It is recommended that the entire building be ranked as ‘Significant’, as the building
has important historical and architectural elements and is worthy of preservation.
This recommendation is based my research on the Arcade Building for the past year, primarily at the Gale
Research Center / Historical Society of Oak Park and River Forest, Local History Collection / Oak Park
Public Library, and the Historic Preservation Commission files. The research was also based on a first-
hand evaluation of the building itself, as well as its surroundings.
The rationale for recognizing the Arcade Building as a building with significant historic and cultural
importance, as well as planning and architectural importance, is based on the following evaluation criteria;
Significant as an example of the many wonderful Art Deco architectural style buildings constructed in
Downtown Oak Park during the 1928 – 38 time period.
Exemplar building design by the architectural firm, Leichenko & Esser, which completed a body of
significant work concerning Art Deco commercial buildings in the Chicago area (Appendix A).
Key building for the Westgate commercial district, which is listed on the “Ten Most Endangered His-
toric Places for 2005", by the Landmarks Preservation Council. (see Appendix D).
Contains a key design and planning component in the use of a pedestrian arcade to connect Lake St.
Contains a key design component in the use of two distinct architectural styles (Art Deco and Tudor
Revival) so as to serve as a transition from the modern and commercial Lake St. to the traditional
English Village of Westgate.
The report is presented as per the following outline.
Survey’s Current Ranking and Description
Original Building Context
Original Building Description
Planning Aspects of the Arcade Building
Current Building Condition
Architects: Leichenko & Esser (Appendix A)
Sanborn Map (Appendix B)
Image Base (Appendix C)
LPCI press release (Appendix D)
1. The name of the building has changed throughout time, but for the purpose of this report will be referred to as the ‘Arcade
Building’. This is the building name provided by Sanborn Maps from 1050 onward. The ‘Colt Building’ name was derived from
when the Robert Irsay Company owned the building. At the time, Robert Irsay was also the owner of the Baltimore / Indian-
apolis Colts, hence the name. When the building was first constructed in 1932, Sol H. Goldberg had a 99-year lease for the
building, so it was also known as the ‘Goldberg Building’.
ARCADE BUILDING: REPORT ON HISTORIC VALUE 08.23.05 (DRAFT) 2
SURVEY’S CURRENT RANKING AND DESCRIPTION
The Architectural Survey: Downtown Oak Park and The Avenue Business District (Survey), dated
01.09.05 provides the following rankings and descriptions for the Arcade Building; one for the Lake St.
side and another for the Westgate side. (Note: Text in red font has been added to note corrections.)
1125 - 35 Lake Street (1144 - 1150 Westgate St.) HPC Survey Rank: NON-CONTRIBUTING
Present Occupant: Retail / Office
Historic Occupant: Hillman’s
Architect: Leichenko & Easer (correct spelling is ‘Esser’)
Builder: Borg & Johnson
Original Owner: Sol Goldberg (Robert E. Nicholas was the
original owner, who then leased the property to Sol H. Goldberg
for 99 years.)
Style: Art Deco (originally on Lake Street facade)
The building is 2 stories and is 124’ x 193.5’. The walls and the foundation are stone. The upper street
walls are covered with EIFS. Second floor courtyard original façade. Plans show the original arcade
remodel found in Elks Club records (in Historic Preservation Commission archives).
1144-50 Westgate (1125-1133 Lake) HPC Survey Rank: CONTRIBUTING
Present Occupant: Retail / Office
Historic Occupant: Retail / Office
Architect: Leichenko & Easer (correct spelling is ‘Esser’)
Builder: Borg & Johnson
Original Owner: Sol Goldberg (Robert E. Nicholas was the
original owner, who then leased the property to Sol H.
Goldberg for 99 years.)
Style: Tudor Revival
The building is 2 stories and is 124’ x 193.5’. The walls are brick and stone with half timbering and the
foundation is stone. Plans show the original arcade remodel found in Elks Club records (in Historic Pres-
ervation Commission archives). There is a second floor addition above arcade entrance.
ARCADE BUILDING: REPORT ON HISTORIC VALUE 08.23.05 (DRAFT) 3
ORIGINAL BUILDING CONTEXT
The Arcade Building was built in 1932 by Robert E. Nicholas and Frank M. Pebbles, prominent Oak Park
businessman. Along with Paul F. Desmond, a local contractor, they conceived and built the Westgate
retail district (formerly William Street). Westgate was marketed as a “planned village within a village, a
picturesque court surrounded by English chalets, in which are housed businesses of various interests.”
The Arcade Building was the only newly constructed building in Westgate, as the other buildings con-
sisted of new facades placed on existing buildings. Nicholas stated in his autobiography that they “built
two good buildings of authentic English architecture and others were built, some of modified English, but
all in keeping with our plan.”
The Arcade Building was sometimes referred to as the Goldberg Building, as it was leased to Sol H.
Goldberg (99-year lease). “Hillman’s leased a large part of one of the buildings for a store on a larger
scale with all the equipment that science has created for the preservation and purveying of food. The
new Hillman suburban store, … will occupy the entire basement, a store on the first floor at the southeast
corner of Lake Street and the arcade and a substantial part of the second floor. In addition to the sale of
food products Hillman’s new Oak Park store will have a modern restaurant, a candy kitchen, soda foun-
tain service and will have a bakery to provide fresh goods and specialties for the restaurant and for sale.
All of the walls and countertops will be of tile and marble. The floors will be ornamental terrazzo and the
ceiling of ornamental plaster.” (source: Oak Leaves, 11.27.31: Big Project Here)
The below drawing of Westgate was accompanied with advertisements of the Westgate businesses,
including one for The Blue Parrot Patio and Tea Room, which was designed by William Beye Fyfe on
behalf of the Taliesin Fellowship, under direct supervision of Frank Lloyd Wright. Accompanying this ren-
dering and ads was the following description of Westgate.
A village within a village. That is what someone said about Westgate, the picturesque court surrounded
by English chalets, in which are housed beauty salons, tea rooms, shops retailing unusual juvenile
apparel, shoe shops, recreation rooms – business of varied interests. A most charming spot is Westgate
– and its tiny shops offer unusual values to those who penetrate its portals.
For a more complete description of Westgate, refer to Appendix C.
Caption: An architect’s sketch gives another picture of Westgate, Oak Park’s new and important building project. It is (?)
developments in the Chicago area and has attracted the attention of thousands of persons. This view might be from a
high point near Harlem and Lake. This drawing was prepared by the Theodore Whaples Company.
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ORIGINAL BUILDING DESCRIPTION
The two renderings below were published in Oak Leaves on 01.15.32, with the following description; “It
really is two buildings, separated by a 24-foot passage from Lake to Westgate for pedestrians only. All
buildings in Westgate are designed to suggest a bit of old England so that end of the twin structures will
be that of that appearance. The Lake street frontage will be designed in the moderne style. They will
have three floors and together they will make more than an acre and a half of floor space.”
The Arcade Building is often incorrectly described as a two-faced building, due to the different architec-
tural styles used along Lake St. and Westgate frontages. In actuality, the Arcade Building is comprised of
two buildings, with each building having three formal faces, or frontages. In addition to the Lake St. and
Westgate frontage, is the pedestrian arcade frontage for both buildings. In fact, this pedestrian arcade
frontage is the primary elevation in terms of length, as the arcade runs through the entire length of the
property, which is 193.5’. Since the arcade is double-loaded (frontage on both sides) this results in a total
length of 387’ of arcade frontage. If one deducted ½ of the 45 degree frontage at Lake St., the arcade
frontage would be 185’ for each building, for a total of 370’.
Both the Lake St. and Westgate frontage consists of 50’ for each building, or a total of 100’ of frontage.
The pedestrian arcade was 24’ in width throughout its entire length. If one deducted ½ of the 45 degree
frontage at Lake St., the Lake St. frontage would be 42’ for each building, for a total of 84’.
Rendering of the Lake Street side of the Arcade Building (Leichenko & Esser, 1932).
As shown by the above rendering, the original Lake St. facade is a two-story, 34’ high, limestone clad
building designed in the Art Deco style, which was compatible with other prominent buildings along Lake
St. Geometric decorative ornamental window treatment is above and below the second story windows,
detailed with terra cotta (or pressed metal) and polished black granite. The Art Deco façade wrapped
around the angled corner and continued along the pedestrian arcade for approx. 150’, at which point it
transitions to a Tudor Revival façade for the remaining 33.5’ length.
The ground floor was storefront for the entire length, with what appears to be two building entrances for
second-floor offices located along each side of the arcade. The building entrances are highlighted with
additional limestone vertical banding and ornamental stone.
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First and second floors of this building section never built, probably due to Depression. The lower level was built and exists
today, as the roof is visible at grade, along with its associated mechanical equipment.
Rendering of the Westgate side of the Arcade Building (Leichenko & Esser, 1932).
As shown by the above rendering, The Westgate façade was completed in the Tudor Revival style, which
was compatible with the other buildings of Westgate. Consistent with this architectural style is the steeply
pitched gable roofs, false (ornamental) half-timbering with stucco walls in ends of gables, and detailing
reminiscent of medieval English buildings.
The Tudor Revival façade wrapped around the angled corner and continued along the pedestrian arcade
for approx. 33.5’, at which point it transitions to an Art Deco façade for the remaining 150’ length. The
ground floor was storefront for the entire length.
From a design perspective, the concept of employing two separate and distinct architectural styles is
unique and novel approach. Desmond and Nicholas recognized that Lake St. was being constructed with
Art Deco buildings, which was the architectural style of that time period. In the 1920s and 30s, Art Deco
(and later, Art Moderne) achieved great popularity as modern architectural styles. Although somewhat
different in their overall appearance, both styles share stripped down forms and geometric-based orna-
ment. A limited number of examples are found in Chicago, with concentrations located in the Loop, the
Near North Side, and along some commercial streets.
Between the period of 1928 and 1936, there were 12 other buildings on Lake St. that were built using the
Art Deco style. In fact, immediately across that street from the Arcade Building, the Marshall Field &
Company Store (1929) and the Oak Leaves Building (1929) were just built, two of the most prominent
examples of the Art Deco style in the area.
But in order to set itself apart from the rival Lake St. commercial district, the Westgate designers chose to
select an architectural style that was distinct and different from Art Deco. It was not surprising they chose
Tudor Revival. The trend toward period architecture gained momentum from the 1893 Chicago World's
Fair, the Columbian Exposition, where historical interpretations of European styles were encouraged.
Tudor Revival became especially popular with 1920s suburban homes, loosely based on late medieval
prototypes. Robert E. Nicholas was so enamored with this style, that he used the Tudor Revival style
previously at the 159-169 N. Marion St. apartment / retail building (1927), ranked as ‘significant’ by the
HPC Survey), and built a Tudor Revival home for his family at 723 Clinton Place, River Forest (1954).
The interesting aspect of this is that period styles, such as Tudor Revival, looked to the past for inspira-
tion. Simultaneous to the rise of period-style architecture, the modern era saw its beginnings with archi-
tects who were instead looking to the future, not the past, with more progressive, modernist styles, such
as Art Deco/Moderne. Thus defines the eclectic movement of the early 20th century, which consisted of
a simultaneous and perhaps competing interest in both modern and historic architectural traditions. It can
ARCADE BUILDING: REPORT ON HISTORIC VALUE 08.23.05 (DRAFT) 6
be readily said, that the Arcade Building is a unique example of this eclectic movement, as it simultane-
ously attempted to reflect the modernity of Lake St., and the picturesque past of Westgate.
I believe the HPC Survey erred in evaluating this building separately on two sides, without benefit of the
context it was designed and built within. Any evaluation of the building needs to recognize the building as
a single entity composed of various elements that are connected via the pedestrian arcade. To separate
the building into two entities fails to recognize the primary and unique characteristics of the building itself.
PLANNING ASPECTS OF THE ARCADE BUILDING
While the two architectural styles of the Arcade Building reflected the stylistic duality of the site, the use of
a pedestrian arcade was the physical representation. Lake St. was the main commercial district during
the 1920s, while William Street (as it was known as) was a service street composed of garages, repairs
shops and a dairy. In order to attract shoppers from Lake St., Nicholas and Pebbles created a pedestrian
arcade through the two Arcade Buildings, that directly linked Lake St. to Westgate. Instead of entering
Westgate from Harlem Ave. or Marion St., shoppers from Lake St. were not a mere 193.5’ away from
Westgate. The arcade was lined with storefront shops on along both sides, to further attract shoppers
from Lake St.
Unfortunately, Sanborn Maps show that by 1952 this arcade was replaced by infill construction Without
this vital link to Lake St., Westgate has been denied the flow of shoppers. Later, in 1997, Westgate’s
western pedestrian entry was replaced by the surface parking lots for the Shops of Downtown Oak Park.
In addition, the Westgate surface public parking lot at North Blvd. and Harlem Ave. was replaced with the
south building of the Shops of DTOP and their private surface parking lot. Today, Westgate it is mostly
leased to dental and medial offices.
From a planning viewpoint, it appears essential to reopen the pedestrian arcade to revitalize the West-
gate commercial district.
The Arcade Building included a pedestrian arcade which connected Lake St. with Westgate.
Pedestrian access was much more attractive from Harlem Ave. as well. With the blocking of the
pedestrian arcade, and the auto-centric entry from Harlem Ave., Westgate became disconnected
from two of its primary pedestrian entry points.
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Another significant aspect from a planning perspective is how the Arcade Building was used as gateway
building to and from the Westgate district. The previous discussion discussed the benefits of employing
two architectural styles between Lake St. and Westgate, but the Arcade Building also worked in tandem
with the Wright Elsom Building located at the southwest corner of Westgate and Marion St.
Although originally built in 1897, the building was purchased by Robert E. Nicholas and
reclad in the Art Deco style in 1932, as exists to today at 117-119 N. Marion / 1103
Westgate. The architect was Roy Hotchkiss. The one-story garage in the rear was
converted to the two story Tudor Revival that exists today at 1109 Westgate (designed
by Arthur Maiwurm), and served as a shop and office building.
At either end of the portals to Westgate, were two complementary buildings that were
designed in the Art Deco style on the pre-existing side (Lake St and Marion St.) and in
the Tudor Revival Style facing the new Westgate district.
The Arcade Building and the Wright- Elsom Building serve as complementary gateway and
transition buildings for the Westgate commercial district.
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CURRENT BUILDING CONDITION
An incorrect perception is that the Arcade Building has incurred substantial modifications to its façade.
This is hardly the case. As with almost every building over 50 years of age, the Arcade Building has
experienced modifications at the storefront level. This typical of almost every building on the HPC Sur-
vey. More relevant, is the condition of the building above the storefront level. In this regard, the Arcade
Building appears remarkably intact and in good original condition.
As previously stated, the Arcade Building is actually two separate buildings with three formal facades;
Lake St., Westgate and the arcade itself. The total building façade linear frontage is 554’. Of this total,
the building façade has been modified only at two places; a) the 42’ Lake St. façade, and b) the second
story addition at the Westgate side, along 33.5 of both sides of the arcade. In fact, only 25% the total
building façade appears to have been modified. I emphasize the word appears, because to my knowl-
edge, the existence and condition of the original façade at these two locations has never been evaluated
and/or confirmed. Until this has been undertaken, there is still a reasonable chance the original façade is
salvageable under the existing EIFS finish.
Various current photos of façade along the second story
of the pedestrian façade.
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Exposed limestone panels at west
façade edge along Lake St.
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LEICHENKO & ESSER APPENDIX A
The architect for the Arcade Building was the firm Leichenko & Esser. Although research has not yet
been completed for this firm, it is known that Leichenko & Esser completed a significant body of work with
Art Deco style commercial buildings in during the late 1920s and early 1930s.
According to the Chicago Landmarks Historic Resources Survey, Leichenko & Esser are credited as
architects for the following list of buildings in Chicago, all of which ranked (color coded) orange, which
signifies that the buildings possess potentially significant architectural or historic features.
The Narragansett: 1640 - 1640 E. 50 St., Chicago, started in 1928.
22-story apartment building in the Kenwood neighborhood. Leichenko
& Esser are also credited as the structural engineer.
At the fourth-floor level, front and east side piers are supported by trios of
stone elephants; one large elephant and two babies in profile.
3127 N. Milwaukee Ave. Chicago: (Lakeview), started in 1932.
Similar to the Arcade Building, the entire first floor
storefront has been modified from its original design.
Despite this, the building is still ranked (color coded)
orange, which signifies that the buildings possess
potentially significant architectural or historic
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1600 - 1608 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago: (Lakeview) started in 1930.
Located at a the prominent corner intersection of Belmont
Ave., Milwaukee Ave. and Ashland Ave., this mixed-use Art
Deco building is unique in the use of black and decorative
silver colored terra cotta for its three-sided façade.
2800 - 2808 N. Milwaukee Ave. Chicago: (Avondale) started in 1930.
Located at a the prominent corner intersection of
Diversey Ave., Milwaukee Ave. and California Ave., this
six-story mixed-use Art Deco building employed the
same Egyptian motif (camel) in the terra cotta spandrel
panels as their 3127 N. Lincoln Ave. building.
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Bnai Israel: 5433 - 5435 W. Jackson Blvd., Chicago, (Austin) started in 1927.
Located in the Austin community less than a mile from
Oak Park, this synagogue represents a departure from
Leichenko & Esser’s mixed-use Art Deco style buildings.
The building is a Classical-style, highly-detailed in stone
Siegal Apartments: southeast corner of Jackson Blvd. and Central Park Ave., Chicago, (Austin) 1925
Another Leichenko & Esser building
located in the Austin community, this
multi-family apartment building is
similar in style to other buildings in
Oak Park. Photo from the American
Terra Cotta Company archives.
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SANBORN MAP (MAY, 2003) APPENDIX B
Sanborn Map shows the original footprint and building materials for the two buildings of the Arcade
Building, separated by a 24’ pedestrian arcade connecting Lake St. to Westgate. Hillman’s food shop
leased out the entire lower level basement and the southeast corner of Lake St. at the first floor and a
substantial part of the second floor. Unique at that time, an air conditioning system was installed, with a
series of cooled rooms and counters for various foods. Hillman’s included a restaurant, candy kitchen,
soda fountain service and a bakery as well.
Walls and counters were made of tile and marble, floors of terrazzo, and ceilings of ornamental plaster.
Note the underground structure at the east side of the building along Westgate, which remains today.
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IMAGE BASE APPENDIX C
Various images of the Arcade Building
Oak Leaves article, “Bond’s Opens This
Morning” (03.11.37).: Bond’s, a men’s
clothiers, occupied the entire second floor of
the west building, in addition to store
frontage along Lake St.
Undated photos (in the
late 1930s) showing the
Arcade Building with
Hillmans and Bond’s as
Undated photo (approx.
mid-1970s) showing the
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