Every new apartment development seems to focus on amenities like a media room, rooftop deck, outdoor grilling, dog run and tech center. The only thing they can’t offer is history. There is one remarkable old north side building that does: the Edgewater Beach Apartments.
The 300-unit co-op apartment building at 5555 North Sheridan Road is on the National Register of Historic Places. It opened in 1928 and hardly looks like it’s aged a day. The neighboring Edgewater Beach Hotel (which opened in 1916) didn’t survive, closing in 1967. The hotel was pastel yellow, the apartments a stunning bright pink. Inside, the opulent, wood-paneled lobby offers a portal to the past.
E.B.A., as the apartments are known, was on display during the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s 2014 Open House Chicago. As soon as I climbed the steps to the pool area, the pungent aroma of chlorine filled the air. The shimmering blue 60-foot-long indoor pool offered a stark contrast to Lake Michigan just to the east. The pool deck and most of the ornamentation has an art deco motif.
It’s true—this is not like paying $300,000 for a 1,300-square foot West Loop pad. E.B.A. listings show $99,000 for a one-bedroom unit and $135,000 for two bedrooms. A $14 million renovation of E.B.A. was completed in 1999. That brought the facility into the 21st century with energy-efficient windows and an overhaul of the pink stucco exterior.
Like the more modern apartment developments, E.B.A. boasts its share of amenities, too. They include an exercise room, library, craft room, outdoor gazebo and a two-acre garden. Of course there’s also the lakefront and city views.
Famous guests at the hotel included Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Charlie Chaplin, Bette Davis, Lena Horne, Tallulah Bankhead, and Nat King Cole. Franklin D. Roosevelt and Dwight D. Eisenhower stayed there. It also played host to a number of big bands: Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, and Artie Shaw.