A good friend recently introduced me to her peculiar hobby – photographing historic tile foyers. And ever since then, I can’t help but notice them.
On pretty much any block in Chicago where the buildings of yesteryear have been left in peace, you’ll find vestibules with their floors adorned with elaborate mosaics. Often it’s just the address of the door behind. Sometimes it’s the name of a long-forgotten company that cared a lot about its public image. Occasionally it’s a bona-fide piece of art. In the photo above, it’s all three.
The Illinois Terrazzo & Tile Co. (formerly at 53 West Hubbard Street) was proud enough of its product to not only adorn the space in front of its front door, but to also embed a work of art into the public sidewalk.
The building is from 1901, but it’s hard to tell if the mosaic is that old without a bit more research. Still, the font and style and wear are enough to let you know this is from another era.
The entire block is slowly being redeveloped. The AMLI River North apartment tower just opened immediately west of this building, and the old grubby old buildings that were lined along State Street have been knocked down and replaced with a new 291-foot-tall hotel. In fact, 53 is one of only three properties on the block that isn’t part of the redevelopment.
That may be good, as it preserves a bit of Chicago’s artistic history. Or it may be bad, as 53 is currently the home of one of downtown’s few pornography stores.