Thursday, April 7, 2011

Stanleigh Apartment Hotel, 6800 N. Sheridan

I found this building while tracking down sources for my project on courtyard apartment buildings.  Thanks to various scanning projects you can suddenly find rare books and journals online that few people have the patience or leisure to track down at a conventional library.   I was suprised to discover this illustration of a Rogers Park apartment hotel from 1917.  And yes, it's still there at the northwest corner of Pratt and Sheridan...

At first glance apartment hotels have a lot in common with courtyard apartments, but there are some notable differences.  Apartment hotels are generally taller and of fireproof construction (steel-reinforced concrete frame).  Most of them make use of an interior corridor to access the units and therefore need fewer stairs (see plan below).  They often have generous areas on the first floor which could be used for communal activities.  

You can view the original 1917 publication here.

I wanted to get the exact same angle, but I would have had to stand in the middle of Sheridan Road.  I try not to risk death when taking photographs.

Not much has been written about the apartment hotel in Chicago.  They were intended to function as a step between a full-service hotel and a long-term rental apartment. They came fully furnished complete with maid service.  Most units had kitchenettes and shared facilities for dining and recreation.  It's worth reading the description:

Click for a larger version.

I like that they had a "special" wing for bachelors. Wouldn't want them mixing with the normal residents.  These buildings required use of the Murphy bed, which folded up into a cabinet or closet when not in use.  This idea still sounds brilliant, but perhaps reading about a Murphy bed and sleeping on one is an entirely different experience.
Stanleigh floor plan.  Click for larger version.

It seems to me these buildings were instantly converted into Single Room Occupancy apartments as soon as the rental market heated up after the second World War.  Perhaps earlier.  I once lived in one of these former apartment hotels in Edgewater for a year.  It was my first apartment without a roommate, which nearly made up for being able to touch every wall from the center of the living room.  And finally I understand why my closet was insanely enormous-- it was a dressing closet, as if that makes any sense.

The Stanleigh was designed by Chicago architect Ralph C. Harris.  A quick search of the Chicago Tribune online archives shows that he was responsible for many buildings in the 20s and 30s, some of which are still around.  He then became the Illinois highway architect for 10 years, returning to private practice in 1944.  None of his buildings were highly rated in the Chicago Historic Resources Survey, but The Aquitania was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2001. Most of the photos below are photos from the Cook County Assessor.

1356 E. Madison Park, 1925

The Antone, 1926
7. E. Ohio
5819 W. Roosevelt, 1927

1220 N. State, 1927
60 homes at 5800-5900 N. Ottawa and N. Oriole, 1947
This is a representive example.

1350 N. Astor, 1949

The Aquitania
5000 N. Marine, 1923
Photo from Wikipedia
It's worth mentioning that the building at 1350 N. Astor is smack in the middle of the Astor Street Historic District.  I'm trying not to hold a grudge.  After all, this building probably helped convince the neighborhood of the need for a district.

Want to see some more apartment hotels in Chicago?  Click here.


  1. Interesting line of research. Have you seen the other 1917 book called "Directory to Apartments of the Better Class - Along the North Side of Chicago" ? It appears to be similar in style to the reference you are using. I have scanned a few pages, including the index, if interested in seeing.

  2. Yes! That's a great book. There are 7 Rogers Park apartment buildings in there that I would love to post about. How good are your scans? I have access to a copy, but I don't want to risk having it fall apart on me. I was going to try and photograph it, but that never turns out well for me.

  3. I just scanned a few pages of interest so probably don't have what you are interested in. I got my copy through an interlibrary loan so perhaps you could try to get a better copy that way. If not, let me know and I will do for you.

  4. Thanks so much for your offer. I'm amazed you can get that book through an interlibrary loan. But I don't want to put you through the trouble. I'll see what I can do with the copy I flipped through previously.

    Also, thank you for leaving a comment. It's nice to know people find this blog on occasion.

  5. Hi - I live near Sheridan & Pratt. I'm curious about that floor plan. It looks like the right side of the floor plan is Sheridan Rd (given the balconies), but I'm wondering where that angled wall is. It doesn't _seem_ like the south wall of the building (along Pratt) angles away from the corner like that, but...?? Thoughts? Thanks! Chris S.

  6. Yes, that's Sheridan on the right, which makes a slight bend north of Pratt. If there was a north arrow it would be pointed up and to the right. Not sure why they oriented the plan in that way, although maybe it takes up less space on the page. I had a oblique aerial photo from Bing, but I couldn't attach it for some reason.

    Huge patio potential at this building. But maybe not for the liquor store.

  7. I grew up and lived in east Rogers Park from the late 1950's to the late 1970's.
    In the early 70's I and a group of friends used to order sundaes from the drug store/soda fountain that was on the corner of the Stanleigh Apartment Hotel. One time the soda jerk informed us that it would cost 5 (or 10) cents additional for the whipped cream topping.
    The next time we gathered enough friends to fill the counter and bought our own whipped cream.
    The soda jerk did not bat an eye and said nothing. It was fun, but of course we were hoping for a reaction.
    I know this has nothing to do with architecture, but a love for Chicago architecture brought me to your page in the first place, and just read the link about the Rogers Park Manor Bungalow District from the National Register Nominations for Chicago.
    I have lived in the West Ridge area for six years now and enjoy reading about all things Rogers Park/West Ridge.
    I am looking for any information about 1526 W. Devon, as I have some family stories regarding the drug store/soda shop that once stood there in the 1930's and 1940's. I believe it was owned by a man with the first name of Jack.
    Please let me know if you have any pointers as to where I could find any such information. I actually mentioned this to you in a Facebook message to Ultra Local Geography, but what the heck, I'll mention it again.
    Thank you for all the fascinating information you have provided all of us.

  8. Susan, I do actually have a tiny bit of information about 1526 W. Devon. For a time (late 1920s, early 1920s) it was the office of A.E. Norman, the architect who designed 1536 and 1540 W. Devon, just west of Bosworth. I wouldn't be surprised if he designed that buiding as well.

  9. I was not sure where to put this, but I wanted to mention the "rehab" that's going on at the northwest corner of Sheridan and Farwell. I recently spoke with the former owners, who sadly lost their home in foreclosure. They told me that the new owner has gutted the inside, tearing out the woodwork, molding, French doors, hardwood floors. They said he just chopped up the stuff and threw it out. It is such a tragedy. He will probably turn the 3 units into 6 or more (using the basement). I am devastated by the loss. I was wondering if you had any information about the building and its original plan.

  10. Sorry, Save Street End Beaches. I don't know much about this building.

  11. Your "insanely enormous" closet may at one time have held a Murphy bed. My first apartment in Chicago, a studio on Haskins, still had a Murphy bed when I lived there 1960-62. When not in use, it was stored in a very large closet, where there was room for hanging clothes as well as dressing.

    1. Interesting. It's really time for Murphy beds to make a comeback...