WEST GARFIELD PARK — Emergency repairs are underway at the vacant Guyon Hotel in Garfield Park after bricks fell from the exterior, forcing neighbors to evacuate, officials said.
Witnesses reported bricks had fallen from the property, 4000 W. Washington Blvd., Monday evening, said Mike Puccinelli, spokesperson for the city’s buildings department. The bricks “caused significant damage” to occupied residential buildings next door, and firefighters evacuated residents in the damaged homes, Puccinelli said in a statement.
A Fire Department spokesperson said there were no injuries. Photos provided by a witness on Twitter showed large holes in the roof of the nearby homes.
The building’s owner is making temporary repairs and is hiring contractors to fix the loose masonry, Puccinelli said.
The building failed an inspection in February 2022, Puccinelli said. The buildings department cited the owner for doing work on the first floor without a permit, without submitting plans by a licensed architect and with no registered structural engineer to approve the project, Puccinelli said.
The city’s law department is prosecuting the owner for those violations, Puccinelli said.
“The city will seek to add any additional violations to the court case and will request that the court order the property owner to submit a structural engineer’s report to the Court,” Puccinelli said in a statement. The Buildings Department “and the city will hold the property owner accountable in this matter.”
Owner Patrick O’Flaherty declined to comment. The next court date for the case is April 20.
The hotel was designed in 1927 by Jens J. Jensen and commissioned by J. Louis Guyon, a local businessman and dance instructor of French origin, for $1.6 million, according to Chicago Magazine. That’s about $27.5 million adjusted for inflation.
The hotel hosted various radio programs over the years, including the WGRB gospel radio station and WFMT classical music station.
It was once part of a thriving commercial, business and entertainment district on the West Side, which included Paradise Theater nearby. Disinvestment in the community and changes in ownership caused further degradation with the property.
The hotel was converted into affordable housing in the mid-’80s. It received a visit from former President Jimmy Carter when he came to Chicago for a building rehabilitation project with Habitat for Humanity. The property had problems even then, with reports from Crain’s saying Carter stayed “in a roach-infested room, furnished with only a couch and a milk crate.”
Though the building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it is not a Chicago Landmark and therefore has no legal protections against demolition.
The Guyon Hotel has been listed on Preservation Chicago’s 7 Most Endangered List three times, more than any other property on the list.
Ward Miller, Preservation Chicago’s executive director, thinks the building should be refurbished into affordable housing units and preserved rather than demolished entirely.
“We need the city to step up to the plate and be a good leader,” Miller said. “It’s so wrenching for a city that needs housing that this is deteriorating. We really need to get this building repaired.”
Miller said the building’s state is a symptom of systemic disinvestment in the neighborhood, and he hopes to preserve it.
“This administration knows we want to renovate this building and [Chicago Housing Authority] should step in and do the right thing,” Miller said. “It could cost tens of millions to demolish it, so it would be better and more cost-effective to simply make it into housing again.”
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