LINCOLN SQUARE — The owners of a nearly 100-year-old Lincoln Square building are holding out hope they will find a buyer after more than two years on the market.
The Krause Music Store building, 4611 N. Lincoln Ave., has been a retail storefront, a funeral parlor, a boutique and a marketing business since it was built in 1922. It’s possibly the last building in Chicago designed by famous architect Louis Sullivan.
Owners Peter and Pooja Vukosavich bought the building in 2005 and renovated for two years before opening Studio V Design there. They closed the business in July 2019 and have tried to sell the building since. They recently started selling knickknacks, housewares and office supplies out of the storefront, leading some neighbors to think they’ve opened a pop-up store.
Their search for a buyer hit a snag during the pandemic, but the couple feels optimistic they can find someone to buy the property, preserve its history and become its caretaker for the next few decades.
“We had two gentlemen come by and look at the building last week. I think the way the real estate market is picking up again that interest in our building is picking up, too,” Peter Vukosavich said.
The building’s origins start with William P. Krause, a businessman who sold pianos and phonographs. Krause commissioned architect William C. Presto to design a small building in Lincoln Square that would serve as his store and home, according to “The Complete Architecture of Adler & Sullivan.”
Presto served as a draftsman under Sullivan during the “jewel box” design and construction of the Farmers and Merchants Union Bank in Columbus, Wisconsin. After the bank was completed, Sullivan’s firm didn’t have much work for Presto, so he struck out on his own. One of his earliest commissions was the three-story building for Krause.
By 1920, Sullivan had been without substantial work for some time, had lost his office on the 16th floor of the Auditorium Building in the South Loop and was reduced to living in one bedroom being supported by friends.
“Sullivan really fell on bad fortune at the end of his career. He was an alcoholic and was couch surfing,” Peter Vukosavich said.
When Presto was designing the facade of the Lincoln Avenue building, he contacted his old boss to see if he wanted to take on the project. Presto worried Sullivan would not want to work on something so small, but Sullivan accepted the job.
By 1922, Sullivan completed the design for an ornate terracotta facade with an ornamental “K” for Krause that still stands out along the Lincoln Avenue commercial corridor. He oversaw the creation of the blocks at American Terra Cotta and Ceramic Company in suburban Crystal Lake and then their installation on the front of building.
“Sullivan’s contribution is limited to just the facade of the Krause music store. But it was Louis Sullivan’s last big commission, and it uses the beautiful ‘jewel box’ design similar to the jewel box banks he designed that are scattered across the Midwest,” said Ward Miller, Preservation Chicago’s executive director.
Some of the unused clay blocks were tossed into the property’s yard by workers; it’s unclear why. Crews completed construction of the building at a cost of $22,000.
After Krause moved in, he ran the first retail shop on that stretch of Lincoln Avenue and lived and worked out of the building until 1929, when when died by suicide in his apartment.
For the next 60 years, the building operated as a funeral parlor. Later, it was a boutique named the Museum of Decorative Arts, according to WTTW. When Pooja and Peter Vukosavich bought it, they found the old terracotta blocks Sullivan’s workers left in the yard more than 80 years earlier.
“We dug them up and now we have them in our office as a little piece of history,” Peter Vukosavich said. “They’re going to stay with the building because I really think they are still part of the building and should belong to the next owner.”
The property has been a city landmark since 1977 due to its facade being “representative of Sullivan’s masterly use of ornament” and the “meticulous attention” he paid to the decorative elements.
Now, the first floor is filled with an eclectic set of items for sale, like a hand-carved Indonesian mirror frame, office cabinets, a vintage optometrist exam case and colorful antique cabinet door knobs, among other things. Many are items the couple has collected in 30 years of traveling.
“We had a friend of mine call the other day and ask if we’d opened up a new pop-up shop there. The ‘storefront’ is actually where our conference room was, and it’s the perfect place to put all that stuff we’re selling,” Peter Vukosavich said. “But if you pass by, it does sort of look like a Pier One imports or something, honestly.”
The building is for sale for $2.25 million. For more information about the building and items being sold, click here.
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