Update: Bakers Shoes Building

Bakers Shoes Building

The scaffolding is down at the Bakers Shoes Building (133 South State Street).  You’ll remember this was the store that the Chicago Tribune described as a “late 1940’s retail gem” before having a conniption fit in February, 2011 about its then-impending renovation.

While the old Bakers Shoes was a great piece of history, it was not preserved as such.  If it was kept in pristine condition, people might have appreciated it.  But the fact of the matter is that it was another dark, grundy, dirty storefront that didn’t fit into State Street’s increasingly squeaky clean image.  Whether the owners should have cleaned it up instead of ripping it to shreds is a discussion I’ll let academics and newspaper reporters have.  I’m just glad to see progress being made toward finishing the project.


  • Originally opened November 26, 1948 as a Chandler’s Shoes store.
  • Designed by Holabird, Root & Burgee
  • Going to be two stores instead of one when it’s done.

If anyone is willing to fly a flag for the poor bastard of a building next door at 127, I’m all in.


Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at chicagoarchitectureinfo@gmail.com.

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  1. This is much better. The postwar storefront was an unlovable eyesore. Sometimes architecture critics have a certain selective nostalgia. The building to the left in the photo could make an extremely attractive addition to the collection of of early modern buildings from the late 1800s Chicago is famous for if the siding materials where removed. Having had long discussions about the building with employees there, Ive been told theres some sort of old ballroom space on one of the high floors.

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  2. both the original post & marko comment on selective nostalgia & the dark “grundy” (whatever that actually means) facade … while at the same time & in the same breath calling out to fix the building next door … which is in far worse physical condition (and more substantially altered) than the shoe store was prior to this remodel …

    the shoe store wasn’t the greatest piece of architecture in town, but it certainly was worth considering restoring vs. demolishing.

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  3. From the look of things, I would wager that Blair Kamin is wishing Thor Equities had actually renovated the property using the “tasteful but forgettable” original renderings with their “bland consistency.” LOL!

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  4. Yes, what in the world is going on with the building at 127?! Random windows with shutters? And is that vinyl siding? Eww. Even worse is that it is positioned right at a CTA entrance/exit, so it has to be noticed by visitors wondering what is wrong with us.

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  5. another lost Chicago gem. typical.
    there is no question that restoration was preferable to remuddeling.
    what has occurred in Chicago (and continues relatively unabated is criminal.

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  6. I’m with Kamin on this one. True the old Baker’s facade was neglected but with some repairs and TLC it could have been easliy brought back to its original splendor. As for State Street’s image, what are we to make of the same developer diminishing the State Street entrance of the Palmer House to little more than a service entrance? Potter Palmer for the most part created State Street as we know it and his namesake hotel’s turning its back on the once great street is a shame, in my opinion.

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    • Editor

      The impetus behind the move of the Palmer House main entrance from State Street to Monroe Street is the city. At several levels, the city has been pressuring hotels to move their entrances off of main streets. What I suspect happened is that when Hilton wanted to renovate the State Street facade to remove the fire escapes and flesh out its ground floor retail space, the city would only give its blessing if the main entrance was permanently moved around the corner.

      I’ve seen this a couple of times in the last few years. Most recently, with the new Japanese hotel about to go up on Canal Street in the West Loop. The city won’t approve a bell stand on Canal because of the rush hour traffic, so guests will drive up a ramp onto the second floor of the hotel parking garage where valet services and baggage unloading will happen. There will be no standing allowed in front of the hotel (though that probably won’t stop the taxis from improvising their own cab stand).

      And it’s not just hotels. This was one of the factors in the planning of both 410 East Grand in Streeterville, and the new Old Saint Pat’s Tower in the West Loop. In both cases, the designers were required to pull arriving cars off of the street. The OSP tower will bring arriving cars up to the second floor to get their parking tickets before going on to actually park.

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      • Good points, I wasn’t aware of the connection. Still I feel the constraints you mention did not preclude the design of an appropriate, well designed pedestrian entrance to the hotel that befits State Street, its relevance, and the hotel’s to the city.

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        • Editor

          I agree — It would only be appropriate for there to be a grand entrance on State. But I don’t know how you do that without making a traffic mess with all the cabs stopping and out-of-towners stopping to unload their luggage thinking (logically) that this is the place to check in. If you look at places like the 900 Shops and the Westin on Michigan Avenue, no number of “No Stopping or Standing” signs will discourage taxis from camping out wherever they want.

          What is really amazing, though, is that the JW Marriott has its main entrance on Adams Street, right across from the W Hotel. It’s one of the craziest bottlenecks in The Loop. I don’t know how this got approved, other than the city not wanting the entrance to be on LaSalle, and Marriott not wanting it to be under the L tracks on Wabash.

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