400 Turns 50

400 East Randolph Street, courtesy of Artefaqs architecture stock photography.

Where were you July 24th of this year?  That’s no excuse for missing the 50th anniversary of 400 East Randolph Street.

The pioneering T-shaped residential building in the city’s New East Side marked 50 years of housing Chicagoans this year.  It was the first building to go up east of Lake Shore Drive, and is so old that the street it was on no longer exists (Outer Drive East).

How has 400 held up over the decades?  Let’s just say… it is certainly of its time.  If you’re into old school 1960’s Chicago, then this might be the place for you.

400 East Randolph Street, courtesy of Artefaqs architecture stock photography.

If you’d like to really immerse yourself in the feel of old-school Chicago, you can visit the restaurant on the fourth floor.  It’s called Seven and is open to the public.

Just go to the security desk in the lobby at 400 East Randolph and tell the guard that you’d like to go to the restaurant.  You then give her your driver’s license, which she will scan into her computer.  Then she’ll type your personal information into the computer.   Then she’ll print out a sticker with your name (misspelled in my case) and a picture of your face and give it to you.  If you stick that to your chest, then you’re welcome to pass down a small hallway to the world’s smallest elevators up to the seventh floor.  Once there, exit to the right, and go halfway down another hallway.  Stop abruptly at the swinging doors on your left.  If it looks abandoned inside – that’s the place!

Get a table on the little platform in the corner so you can fully appreciate the low ceilings, disco balls, and lack of illumination.  Note the barflies holding up one end of a drinking hole so large it must have hosted quite a few great parties back in the day.

400 East Randolph Street, courtesy of Artefaqs architecture stock photography.

There’s also an outdoor deck, but why would you go there?  It’s all shiny Disney-esque Lakeshore East out there. The whole point of making this pilgrimage is to wallow in the past that passed you by, or that you were too young to partake in.

What it lacks in ease of access and ambiance it more than makes up for in the quality of food.  I had a steak sandwich and fries, and both were quite good.  The wait staff is necessarily spartan, but very friendly.

Seven also delivers.

42nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly didn’t miss the anniversary, and issued this resolution which contains lots of juicy factoids about the building:

Congratulations Extended for the 50th Anniversary of 400 East Randolph

  • WHEREAS, 400 East Randolph Street was originally built as an apartment community – opened In 1963, making it the first building built east of Lake Shore Drive – known as Outer Drive East when it opened; and
  • WHEREAS, The architectural firm that designed the building was Hirschfield, Pawlan and Reinheimer and the developer was the Jupiter Corporation. The building was originally built of 955 units that included a rooftop restaurant which was converted into two penthouse units on the 40th floor. In 1973 the building was converted to a conciominium building; and
  • WHEREAS, The building is the largest condominium building under one roof in the state of Illinois, and one ofthe largest in the country; and
  • WHEREAS, 400 East Randolph rises 415 feet and 40 stories, the building features a glazed brick fagade supported by poured concrete and steel superstructure, with 8 passenger elevators and 2 freight elevators; and
  • WHEREAS, Nearly 1900 people reside in the building and it is governed by a nine member elected board of directors and is managed by The Habitat Company of Chicago. It has among its amenities one ofthe very few geodesic dome swimming pools in the country, and has a recently remodeled fitness center known as the 400 Fitness & Spa for its residents.
  • WHEREAS, It has recently completed a 5-year, 27.6 million capital improvement that replaced all of its vertical risers, major infrastructure improvements and the total hallway remodeling of the 32 residential floors
  • WHEREAS, Two movies were filmed in the building – Nothing in Common with Jackie Gleason and Tom Hanks in 1986, and Eyes of an Angel with John Travolta in 1991; and
  • WHEREAS, Recipient ofthe Good Neighbor Award in 2010 for Mixed Use Renovation by the Chicago Association of Realtors. 400 East Randolph now consists of 956 units, including 942 residential and 14 commercial units; and
  • WHEREAS, The Honorable Brendan Reilly, Alderman ofthe 42nd Ward, has apprised this eminent body of this auspicious occasion; now, therefore.
  • BE IT RESOLVED, That we the Mayor and Council members of the City of Chicago, assembled here this twenty-fourth day of July, 2013 A.D., do hereby honor and recognize the fiftieth anniversary of 400 East Randolph; and
  • BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That a copy of this resolution be prepared and presented to the condominium board at 400 East Randolph.

Brendan Reilly Alderman, 42nd Ward

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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