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Frank Fisher Apartments

2009 December 29
by Caroline Nye Stevens

1209 N. State St.

CNS 2012I first discovered the Frank Fisher apartments when I lived across the street from them for a semester in college.  At that point my interest in architecture hadn’t translated into any kind of purpose, and the Frank Fisher apartments looked shabby and forgotten.  Basically, I was living across the street from an architectural masterpiece and it was mostly lost on me.  Since then, my interest in architecture has grown into something more meaningful, and the Frank Fisher Apartments have been restored to their original beauty.   I am no longer fortunate enough to live in such proximity to them, but I was afforded the opportunity to tour one of the apartments last fall which was exhilarating to say the least.

Frank Fisher, the developer of the building, was an executive for Marshall Fields.  He went to architect Andrew Rebori with a challenging problem to solve: squeezing 13 apartments into a narrow lot along State Street.  Even more challenging was that this property was in the heart of the Gold Coast (the ritziest of Chicago neighborhoods), so the apartments would have to not only fit in the space, but be fitting for high-class tenants.  Rebori came up with an interesting solution.  He created a courtyard extending the length (or depth) of the property with two levels of apartments lining the courtyard along its southern side.  The result is a private and tranquil space – a secret escape from the hubbub of Chicago.

CNS 2012

Completed in 1938, you could call this style of architecture Depression Era Modernism, Art Moderne, or it has elements of the Art Deco genre as well.  However, Rebori’s building is so unique that the only box its style can truly fit in is his own.  It’s entirely curvilinear inside and out.  The glass block walls provide for indirect light while also enhancing the ever-present feeling of privacy.  The white painted brickwork is both structural and ornamental – subtly adding definition to the twists and turns of the building.  What puts it over the top though is the decorative work throughout the apartments by artist Edgar Miller.  His delicate window etchings face the courtyard, and sculptured animals originally accented the facade.

And just in case you’re in the market for a pricey apartment one is up for sale: Baird & Warner, Frank Fisher Apartment


4 Responses
  1. February 2, 2010

    I love this building. I had dinner with my mom across the street at one of those college bars and was totally struck. Thanks for sharing. I love the blog.

  2. Laura Quinn permalink
    October 24, 2011

    I lived in #9 for about three years and loved the place. It was tiny, about 600 sq. ft., but I loved the building. That was before it was remodeled and the place was a loveable dump. I think I paid about $750 a month for my apartment in the early 1990s.. The owners (Supera Properties) put olive green carpet down over beautiful parquet floors (I ripped the carpet in my place up, scrubbed and oiled the floors. The textures all played off of each other, with the parquet floor mirroring the pattern in the glass blocks. The walls were covered with cement, and were a rough texture, but painted stark white, which was another contrast to the dark wood floors and the glass. Across the street was a French bakery and the smells of fresh bread in the morning were sublime. The only drawback to living in that building was looking out at the parking lot next door :).

    When I moved in, the movers called the place an artist crash pad, but even those burly Chicago movers were smitten. It remains one of the favorite places where I’ve lived.

    Thanks for the information on this place. I’m glad to learn that it became a landmark.

  3. nancy katz permalink
    October 13, 2012

    When I was a little girl(I am now 85) I lived at 1159 N. State Street and I remember watcing that building being built. I fantasized about living there instead of above Bonfigs grocery store! I wish I were fit enough to see it once again. Nancy Katz, Wilmette

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