September 1, 2009
Uptown Broadway Builing and Walter Ahlschlager
By Eve M. Kahn
Unverifiable legends persist about the Uptown Broadway Building on Chicago’s North Side. Al Capone allegedly built the place and ran a speakeasy in its basement, which extends deep below the Broadway sidewalks. But the truths about the Uptown Broadway are as interesting as the tales.
The Spanish Baroque 1926 building is engulfed in terra cotta depicting rams, musical instruments, military trophies, garlands, volutes, Medusas, fruit, fringed curtains and tasseled ropes. The roofline bristles with urns and Poseidons, and the building’s triangular footprint, which backs onto the Red Line elevated tracks, narrows to an improbable 9-in.-wide point.
The Uptown’s now-underappreciated architect, Walter W. Ahlschlager (1887-1965), was prolific and charismatic. He ran offices in Chicago, New York and Dallas, working in a variety of Classical Revival modes (and after World War II, he segued gamely into curtain-wall Modernism). His 1920s masterworks are as high profile as Cincinnati’s Carew Tower, Manhattan’s Roxy and Beacon theaters, and Chicago’s InterContinental hotel...
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