PORTAGE PARK — Some Far Northwest Siders are hoping rediscovered remnants of an ornate entryway from an old Six Corners clothing store can be saved as a developer takes over the property.
Last week, a local historian and explorer came across an old Art Deco terrazzo floor at 4035 N. Milwaukee Ave. It was unearthed after two long-empty buildings were demolished last summer.
Now, passersby peeking through the fence can see a layer of pink flooring amid the demolition rubble at 4033 N. Milwaukee Ave., a lot that was once home to the famous Mr. Steer Steakhouse. The floor features white and green lines with a circular mosaic of three women.
The terrazzo entryway used to be part of the Three Sisters clothing store, which was in the neighborhood from the ’40s through the mid-’60s.
Mavrek Development bought the property last month. Company representatives did not reply to a request for comment on what they plan to do with the lot or if they will preserve the terrazzo.
Susanna Ernst, president of the Northwest Chicago Historical Society, said the custom entryway was a spectacular find. The logo represented the clothing store, which was part of a national chain under Miller-Wohl, a New Jersey company. Miller-Wohl operated 1938-1984, when it was merged with another company.
“They had several other branded women’s clothing stores, so it is not likely that there were actually ‘three sisters’ involved with this,” Ernst said of the Six Corners store.
Ernst thinks the store was active from about 1940 to 1952 — a long time for a store to be in business during that era, she said.
But longtime Portage Park resident Cynthia Abbinanti remembers the store still going strong well into the ’60s. She grew up in the neighborhood and regularly shopped at Three Sisters with her friends when they were in high school. She bought a prom dress and pedal pushers from the women’s boutique during the early ’60s, she said.
“That was when we started slacks. … It was the beginning of women wearing pants,” Abbinanti said.
Abbinanti doesn’t remember the entryway, but she was happy to learn something from her teen years is still part of Six Corners. Abbinanti said she hopes the terrazzo can be saved as an ode to the community’s once-thriving shopping district.
“Anything you can save that is old … we should save it. That is part of history,” Abbinanti said. “Six Corners was always a big hot spot for shopping.”
The buildings on the lot were vacant for more than a decade and were boarded up before they were torn down, neighbors said.
An environmental report of the property done by former developer Condor Partners shows the original structure was developed in the early 1920s with a commercial building and detached garage. It was redeveloped in the 1940s and housed a parking garage, a restaurant, a furniture store, a dance studio and clothing stores.
Prior occupants included Paris Furniture, Inc.; Red Robin Shops; Maling Shoes; R & S Shoe Store; the Three Sister’s clothing store; Authentic Mideast Belly Dance and lastly, the steakhouse, according to the report.
Condor bought the five storefronts at 4047-55 N. Milwaukee Ave. and three storefronts at 4029-37 N. Milwaukee Ave. in 2015 with the intent of opening restaurants and apartments across the street from the Portage Theatre. But the company never redeveloped the land and sold it in February to Mavrek, according to the Cook County Recorder of Deeds’s Office.
Michael McLean, a partner with Condor who was in charge of the Six Corners properties, said the company decided to focus on commercial development elsewhere in the city.
McLean said the steakhouse closed in the early 2000s, and a pizza restaurant unsuccessfully tried to open there in 2005. After years of vacancy, a mural by Arts Alive Chicago was painted in 2011 along the wall of 4037-4043 N. Milwaukee Ave., according to Google Maps. That was the beginning of the arts campaign that has now blanketed the Northwest Side in murals from local artists.
Dan Pogorzelski, local historian and writer of Forgotten Chicago, said the terrazzo is a link to the past that fits with his mission to highlight the overlooked environment of the past.
“Many are familiar with the landmarks of our wealth of architectural treasures in Chicago, but less are aware of the landmarks which are present in every neighborhood of the Windy City,” Pogorzelski said. “This terrazzo is part of the legacy of the architectural wealth that really helps it hit home how grand the Six Corners business district was in its heyday.”
Listen to “It’s All Good: A Block Club Chicago Podcast”: