FULTON MARKET — The former home of La Luce Italian restaurant is now a step closer to being preserved as a historic landmark, following a community uproar that erupted last year when the owner sought to demolish the building.
Built in 1892 as a Schlitz brewing saloon and tied house, the Queen Anne Victorian building, 1393-1399 W. Lake Street, was La Luce’s home from 1989 until the restaurant closed in 2016.
The building is “one of the few remaining and best preserved early examples of a Schlitz Brewery tied house,” said Kandalyn Hahn, a staffer with the Department of Planning and Development.
The Commission on Chicago Landmarks unanimously approved preliminary landmark status earlier this year after listening to pleas from preservationists and dozens of residents.
The Committee on Zoning followed suit Tuesday, advancing the landmark designation to the full City Council for final approval. It is likely to be approved at Wednesday’s City Council meeting.
Ald. Walter Burnett (27th) noted Tuesday the building also once was home to a G.O.A.T., former Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan.
“One of the things that I think makes it more historical is that there used to be Michael Jordan’s office upstairs,” Burnett said. “But the Schlitz thing is cool, too.”
In November, city officials revoked a demolition permit for the vacant building at the corner of Lake Street and Ogden Avenue after saying it had been issued in error.
Veritas LLC, co-owned by Anthony Giannini and Steven DeGraff, bought the building with the intention of razing it, their zoning attorney told the landmark commission. They said they were unaware the city would consider landmarking the building.
After the city yanked the first permit, Veritas immediately filed for another one. As news of the potential demolition spread, Preservation Chicago launched an online petition to save the building, which gained over 8,000 signatures. Then the city’s Department of Planning and Development moved to obtain landmark status for the 130-year-old building.
The city’s landmarks commission sided with the preservationists in April, granting the building protected status and rejecting the owners’ application to tear it down.
An attorney for the owners argued there was no proof the building operated as a tied house because it lacks the iconic Schlitz globe of others operated by the brewery. But the city found evidence of a “ghost sign” on the side of the building showing the Schlitz cursive signage faded from the brick. The globe logo wasn’t there because the company unveiled the logo at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, two years after the building was constructed.
Maurice Cox, the city’s planning commissioner, said the building was a “pretty rare asset.”
“You lose them one building at a time, until you are hanging on to one or two exemplars,” he said at the time. “I would encourage the development team for this particular site to embrace those assets that will in fact enrich [development].
If approved by the full City Council, the building will join at least 10 other tied houses that have been landmarked by the city.
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