The Laramie State Bank Building in Chicago is a feast for the eyes. Whether or not you’re a lover of Art Deco, you can’t help but notice this gem while driving by. The butterscotch colored terra cotta, created by the Northwestern Terra Cotta Company, is unlike anything I’ve ever seen.
What started out as a one-story addition and remodel of a modest 1909 building, grew into a massive overhaul which was completed by 1929. Architects Meyer & Cook were responsible for the Deco makeover that features such details as: coins, squirrels, beehives, men at work, and the american eagle sinking it’s talons into the entire globe, all of which are symbols of industry and thrift. The moral of the story appears to be hard work and savings. The building resides at 5200 W. Chicago Avenue, on the corner of Laramie, in the community of Austin.
I found this building quite by accident, while driving to Oak Park to see all of the Frank Lloyd Wright homes and his personal studio last summer. It looked to be a short drive from the friends home that I was staying at. I dipped out early that Sunday morning while my friends slept, using google maps to find my way to Oak Park. The map looked simple, take a left anywhere, turn right at Chicago Avenue, and follow it all the way to Oak Park. As I rolled through the neighborhood, it appeared to be quite run down, and to be honest… downright scary. I saw the ‘Golden Arches’ of McDonald’s on my left and beelined it into the drive-thru for a quick bite. While waiting in line, I started observing the goings on in the parking lot…. hmmm. Drug deals, prostitution, it was very sketchy and I couldn’t get out of there quick enough. As I pulled out of the parking lot, I saw the amazing deco building sitting caddy corner and made a mental note to stop on my way back from Oak Park. If you’ve read previous posts on my blog, then you’ll see some of the other great buildings from my visit there, and I still have a few more to post.
Anyway, as I drove back from Oak Park, I parked my Jeep in the driveway of a different quick service restaurant, hopped out, and took a ton of photos in about 10 minutes. Yes, I was the only middle aged white guy with silver hair in the hood, so I sorta stood out. I simply smiled and said hello to those who looked at me, got my images and then bolted. When I got back to my friends house, I told her about my adventure. She said What! You went where?! Oh my god, don’t ever go there again, especially at night. You know when a fine looking black woman tells you to stay out of the hood, you’d better listen. I know I’m no Anderson Cooper covering some war torn country abroad, but I did feel like a bit of a rebel for being willing to get my blog photos. That said, so often these old buildings are in parts of town that are less than desirable. So you just have to throw on your best New York attitude and go for it. It’s always so rewarding when you come away with so many amazing images. I hope you like them as much as I do.