What do 1920s gangster John Dillinger, actor Johnny Depp, and firm co-founder John Houseal have in common?
This week, Houseal Lavigne Associates moves into its new home on the second floor the Randolph Tower, located on the corner of Randolph and Wells within Downtown Chicago. Here are some fun facts about the historic skyscraper, formerly known as the Steuben Club Building.
It’s a cathedral in the sky.
The Steuben Club Building (1929) was designed in the gothic revival style, an architectural flavor that became re-popularized in the early 20th century. The style co-opted medieval design elements and applied them to the skyscraper in a manner that emphasized verticality. The 45 story building contains pointed arches, gargoyles, quatrefoils, and stylized buttresses commonly found in cathedrals.
It’s a symbol of a German-American patriotism.
German-Americans migrated to Chicago in droves in the 19th and early 20th century. During and in the years immediately after World War I, however, many Americans questioned their loyalty to the United States. The Steuben Club was formed to provide a respectable social and civic organization for German-Americans. Needing a distinctive headquarters, the group financed construction of the Steuben Club Building, which was completed in 1928. It contained an ornate dining room, recreation facilities, office space, a swimming pool, and more.
Its distinctive shape was influenced by Chicago’s landmark 1923 zoning code.
The Steuben Club is essentially a spyglass-shaped tower above a large box. Afraid of creating dark canyons, the City passed a 1923 zoning code to regulate the height and volume of buildings. This had a significant effect on the design of Downtown Chicago, introducing the usage of setbacks and slender towers above the main mass of the building. Take a closer look at the historic skyscrapers within the North Loop, such as the Jewelers’ Building (1927), Wrigley Building (1924), or Mather Tower (1928). All have this “base + tower” massing with a fairly consistent cornice line.
It was a hangout for the prominent 1920s gangster, John Dillinger.
Dillinger once dated one of the coat check-girls who worked at the Steuben Nightclub, and he was a regular in the building during their courtship.
It’s a movie star.
The building’s former Steuben Nightclub was depicted in the 2009 film “Public Enemies,” with Johnny Depp staring as John Dillinger.
It’s a fantastic example of adaptive re-use and is now the home of Houseal Lavigne Associates.
By the end of the 20th century the building had fallen into disrepair, with chunks of terracotta falling off of the façade onto the “L” tracks. Its unique floorplate and lack of modern amenities made it difficult to market. However, with the resurgence of interest in living downtown, the building was ideal for conversion into residences, with office and dining uses on the lower two floors (and Houseal Lavigne occupying part of the second floor). A $148.2 million dollar rehab completed in 2012 has brought back the building’s glory, and today it stands as proud as it did in 1929.