A Lincoln Park Building’s Grisly 1890’s Inspection, The Little Tramp and “Nucky”

Brewster Apartments Looking Up From Lobby

Brewster Apartments Looking Up From Lobby

For better or worse, my historical references are usually influenced by pop culture. That was obvious during the October 19-20 Open House Chicago tour of Brewster Apartments (2800 North Pine Grove Avenue).

Brewster Apartments Lobby

Brewster Apartments Lobby

The Chicago Architecture Foundation volunteer stationed in the second floor of the eight-story Lincoln Park building offered up this tidbit: It was designed by one Enoch Turnock in 1893.

“Enoch?” I replied. “I wonder if they called him Nucky!”

The volunteer looked at me as if I might be deranged or dangerous.

“You know—like Nucky Thompson on ‘Boardwalk Empire,’” I said.

She and the other tourgoers evidently were unfamiliar with the HBO prohibition-era drama. Ah, well. I did learn some other interesting facts about the building, though.

Brewster Apartments Interior

Brewster Apartments Interior

For one, you can see all the way up to the skylight from the lobby, since the landing areas on each floor are actually suspended catwalks made of glass block. The light coming in from the top offers just enough illumination to cast an eerie glow down below.

“Nucky” Turnock, as I like to call him, used this lighting technique to bring more light into the building and down to the lower floors, since electricity wasn’t sufficient back then to do the trick.

One of the more famous residents of the building around 1915 was Charlie Chaplin. And, the structure got off to a bad start—the original building inspector fell through the skylight, all the way down to the lobby.

Brewster Apartments Floor

Brewster Apartments Floor

Author: Bill Motchan

Bill Motchan is a writer and photographer, and a former resident of the West Loop. He can be reached at bill@ChicagoArchitecture.org.

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