The Deco Arts building (aka Hyde Park Chevrolet), an exemplar of HP's ample architectural terra cotta

Spared from urban renewal, this unique structure and example of local terra cotta decoration, continues to play a role in Hyde Park history, realty, and business future

A service of Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference, its Development, Preservation and Zoning Committee, and its website, hydepark.org. Join the Conference, help support our work.

History and Preservation home. Urban Renewal home. Hyde Park Historical Society website.

The Deco Arts on the southwest corner of Lake Park and 55th, which could have been demolished 40-50 years ago as constricting Lake Park and deteriorating, was kept as an auto repair and storage garage and office and retail building contributing to retail vibrancy at a critical corner, reaonably priced office and back-office space (including for the University of Chicago, which has supported the viability of the building), and as a uniquely decorated historic visual adornment. It wasn't often that a builder, Hyde Park Chevrolet dealership, made such lavish use of terra cotta in original, modern-derived designs to advertize its wares in a distinctive and artful way. Also to be commended are those who fourt to spare it with owners who fixed it up c. 1960, Win Kennedy, who bought the building in 1978, and the firm that bought and brought back the building, as an investment and conceivably vote of confidence not long after 9/11.
This site would like to know the story of how a lawsuit settlement c. 1960 spared the Deco Arts building at 55th and Lake Park (in exchange for its fix up, especially window facdes), although the case could have been made that the building mad the street adn sidewalk take a accident causing bend at 55th.
Gary Ossewaarde

Feature by Edward A. Campbell, Architect, Hyde Park Herald, April 4, 2007, on the story of the Deco Arts building and the function of terra cotta

In the article on Winston Kennedy (Hyde Park Herald, March 28) the motor car on his building, the Deco Arts Bulding, was described as being "etched into the ourter walls." Actually, the motor car is formed from terra acotta, which is shaped from clay, glazed and then fired. The entire facades on Lakie Park Avenue and 55th Street are assembled from terra cotta elements.

Terea cotta ornament is borrowed freely from historical periods (Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Gothic, Victorian, art Nouveau and Art Deco) and cultural styles such as American Indian, Spanish Colonial, Aftrican and Orientsal. Original motifs appeared less frequently.

Architectural terra cotta was a very popular building ornament in the United States from the 1890s until the 1030s, used on all manner of buildings, stores, garages, banks, gasoline stations, hospitals, hotels, apartment buildings, funeral chapels, movie theaters, automobile showrooms, post offices and city halls.

In a master's study I identified architectural terra cotta ornament on over 100 buildings of several types in Hyde Park/Kenwood. Included were apartments, apartments with commercial spaces, commercial buildings, hotels, institutions and houses. Notable examples were the Powhatan, Shoreland Hotel, St. Thomas the Apostle church and schol, Picadilly, George Williams YMCA College and,of course, the Hyde Park Chevrolet garage (now Deco Arts Building).

Teh Deco arts Building is a gem--a unique design exploiting elements of the automobile culture including stop lights, spark plugs, engines, dash boards, gears, wheels and pistons. Over t eh windows an open top roadster is speeding along with clouds of dust at the wheels and a young woman with hair streaming in the breeze.

This whimsy reveals the exuberance and bersatility of the terra cotta ornament where possible designs were almost boundless. We can celebrate this delightful building, thankful tht it was spared from Urban renewal.

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Winston Kennedy on the real estate perspective, from Urban Renewal (which he says improved it) days to the early 21st century, evolution of real estate in Hyde Park, and what attracts home buyers to Hyde Park. Also Deco Arts Building.

Hyde Park Herald, March 28, 2007. By Brian Wellner

Winston Kennedy has been selling real estate in Hyde Park for a long time, 40 years to be exact. While planning an anniversary celebration, Kennedy sat down with the Hyde Park Herald last week and reflected on how the neighborhood’s real estate market has changed since the 1960s.

He believes it changed for the better, in large past due to Urban Renewal. “It worked very well. It provided a lot of housing and got rid of a lot of eyesores,” Kennedy said. “It put Hyde Park on the map.”

Mistakes were made, too, he admitted. “There was a clearing of Hyde Park, maybe to much.” The federally-funded Urban Renewal project of the 1950s and 60s converted much of the neighborhood’s retail environment to new housing, especially townhomes and condominium developments that Kennedy said catered especially to homeowners affiliated with the University of Chicago who wanted to live near work.

Before Urban Renewal, Kennedy said there was very little code enforcement in the area and the housing stock deteriorated. Kennedy was manager of the university’s commercial real estate department from 1956 to 1967, when Urban Renewal was at its peak. During that time the university created the South East Chicago Commission [sic-SECC was in its heyday then, but was created in 1952] to enforce codes and track crime in Hyde Park.

Kennedy credited the creation of the SECC—as well as the university’s decision in 1952 to stay in the neighborhood and not to move to the suburbs—with improving the area’s real estate market.

The change was gradual “The financial community had written off the South Side and Hyde Park,” Kennedy said. He said banks often would not give mortgages to Hyde Park homeowners. “It was partly a racial thing,” he said.

Urban Renewal, he said, allowed the Federal Housing Authority to become involved in multi-family housing developments in the neighborhood, such as Regent’s Park.

One of the streets hit hardest by Urban Renewal’s block-by-block redevelopment was 55thstreet, once a major commercial strip in the area. In 1978, Kennedy bought on of the last of the old commercial buildings on 555th Street, the Deco Arts Building.

Hyde Park Chevrolet used to own the whole building, which was built in 1928, and the showroom faced Lake Park Avenue. Drawings of cars are still etched into the outer walls above the windows.

Kennedy, who said he was hooked on racquetball at the time, moved his real estate business, Kennedy, Ryan and Monigal and Associates, from 57th Street to the old showroom. He wanted to build a racquetball court on the roof, but plans never materialized. By 1980 he opened a Century 21 franchise in the showroom, where he still has an office to this day.

Kennedy started his real estate business in 1967 out of a studio apartment in the Windermere building. A year later he bought Parker Holsman Co., one of Hyde Park’s oldest businesses, which handles the management of real estate properties. Kennedy, Ryan and Monigal worked out of one part of the office. Parker Holsman continued to work out of another part. Having outgrown the Parker Holsman office on 57th Street, Kennedy relocated to the Deco arts building.

Kennedy is the last of the partners who made up Kennedy, (Edward) Ryan and (Vernon) Monigal still selling real estate. Ryan and Monigal have retired. Kennedy said his is one of the last remaining real estate businesses to have survived the 1960s. “They’re gone. We’re left,” he said.

Jeanne Spurlock joined the firm in 1981 and bought the company in 1997. She said home buyers are attracted to Hyde Park’s diversity and schools. And she said the neighborhood is perceived as less congested than Lincoln Park, which is typically the draw for people moving to the city for the first time. “Often times we win out because of the congestion of Lincoln Park,” Spurlock said. “We’re still a good value in comparison.”
According to Spurlock, the typical home buyer moving to Hyde Park has a family, one or two cars, and is affiliated with the University of Chicago.

Kennedy said he doesn’t plan on retiring anytime soon. “I’ve stayed on because I don’t know what else to do,” he said.

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