5304 N. Clark St.
Early 1940s, Remodeling, Architect Unknown
In 1935 America’s aging and dowdy retail areas were suffering from the effects of the Depression; for years merchants had put little money into remodeling. That year the Federal Housing Administration began insuring loans for store improvements up to $50,000, and in June Architectural Record announced a competition sponsored by the Libbey-Owens-Ford Glass Co. to “Modernize Main Street,” with a jury that included Albert Kahn, William Lescaze, and John W. Root. Architects were directed to rethink the typical cluttered storefront as a merchandising device: “The store front with its plate glass show windows establishes the character of the store … It must serve to make the passer buy, inviting him or her to stop and shop.” L-O-F sponsored the competition to promote Vitrolite, their opaque, pigmented structural glass (marketed under different names by other companies). Attached by adhesive to masonry, Vitrolite was a perfect modernizing material for storefronts: low maintenance, extremely durable, sleek and shiny. According to the Record, the properly “modernized” storefront should feature a prominent sign or logo against an unadulterated surface..Although the black-glass background no longer sets off the brushed metal Erickson name and the diamond ring logo, this is still one of the best preserved examples of its type.
Photo and text via AIA Guide to Chicago, 2nd edition.