Halsted and Willow Gateway

  • LOCATION: Chicago
  • STATUS: Saved
  • BUILT: Late 1800s
  • SITE TYPE: Commercial, Neighborhood/Community
  • GEOGRAPHY: Chicago
  • OWNER AT TIME OF LISTING: Private, Developer
  • THREAT AT TIME OF LISTING: Redevelopment and rezoning
  • CURRENT USE: Restaurants and apartment complex
  • LI PROGRAMS & AWARDS: Recipient of a Landmarks Illinois Preservation Heritage Grant in 2018, provided to assist in funding services of architectural historian to prepare City of Chicago Landmark District designation report.
  • Take Action: A Chicago Landmark district hearing is anticipated in 2019. Reach out to 43rd Ward Ald. Michelle Smith to express your support.

(Photo credit: Liz Chilsen)

Historic Significance

The intersection of Halsted and Willow Streets is home to four Victorian-era buildings on three of the corners, serving as a gateway to the Sheffield neighborhood. These distinctive corner buildings were built during the same period as the architecture seen in the adjacent Sheffield National Register Historic District. The buildings at Halsted and Willow could not be included in the National Register District due to a 1970s residential development that separates the residential part of the neighborhood from the commercial area. However, the intersection marks a stylistic and visual entry point to the neighborhood and to the Armitage-Halsted Chicago Landmark District, which was established in 2003 and is one of the few commercial landmark districts in the city.

Remarkably, historic and visually cohesive area has changed little since the first decade of the 20th century, with buildings at the Halsted and Willow Gateway dating back to at least 1889. Of particular note is 1800 N. Halsted, known as the “Black Duck,” which housed Schulien’s Tavern from 1914 until 1949.  The tavern, owned and operated by amateur magician and gag artist Matt Schulien, was a gathering place for noted Chicagoans and many magicians, including Harry Blackstone. The Chicago style of magic, which soon spread throughout the world, was born in this building.

(Photo credit: Liz Chilsen)

Threat at Time of Listing - 2014

In 2014, these historic buildings were included on Landmark Illinois’ Most Endangered list due to a threat of large-scale redevelopment. Although the Willow and Halsted Gateway lies within “Planned Development 149” (a protected area designated in 1982 to preserve the historic character along North Halsted), developers had proposed a new seven-story, mixed-use complex for the northwest corner of the intersection that would demolish the distinctive “Black Duck” Building and the five contiguous parcels to its north. If this proposal had been accepted, the new projects would have destroyed the historic character of this important intersection and gateway to the Sheffield neighborhood, undermining the identity and security of the entire neighborhood.

(Photo credit: Liz Chilsen)

Preservation Efforts

Local citizens and Landmarks Illinois urged the developers to incorporate these distinctive corner buildings into any proposed development. Community organizations Ranch Triangle, Lincoln Central Association as well as 43rd Ward Ald. Michelle Smith joined the effort, which resulted in the owners agreeing to sell the properties rather than demolish them. The new owners, Laramar, worked closely with community organizations, Landmarks Illinois and Ald. Smith to pursue more historically responsible development, protecting the area and supporting local landmarking efforts. In 2018, Landmarks Illinois awarded the Lincoln Central Association a $2,000 Preservation Heritage Fund Grant to hire a consultant to prepare a Chicago Landmark designation for the Gateway. Currently, the historic buildings are home to a number of successful restaurants and the Willow-Dayton Apartment complex.

(Photo credit: Liz Chilsen)

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