Gold Coast SRO Marks its Twain Between Old and New

We’re huge fans of affordable housing.  Possibly because in the past we’ve been poor: sold blood to pay the rent poor, lived in the windowless basement of a 7-Eleven poor, taped used cardboard boxes together for furniture poor, etc.  And while all that is (hopefully) behind us now, we’re haunted by the fact that the majority of Americans are just an unexpected medical bill away from living under a bridge.

So any time a run-down Chicago SRO can survive a wave of gentrification and come back to continue to serve the housing needs of those who need housing the most, we get out our New Year’s Eve noisemakers and make some noise.

Construction at the Mark Twain Hotel (Courtesy of Gold Coast Spy Joel)
Construction at the Mark Twain Hotel (Courtesy of Gold Coast Spy Joel)

Recently Gold Coast Spy Joel took the photograph above showing progress on the Mark Twain Hotel at 111 West Division Street.  For a long time this was a pretty grungy corner of the city, but the construction of The Sinclair, the renovation of the CTA’s Division Red Line station, the rebuilding or 1201 North Clark, and the cleaning up of a strip of nearby bars really seems to be making a difference here.

Amid all that 21st century transformation, the 1932 Mark Twain Hotel is also changing.  But instead of becoming swanky condos, it’s being refreshed and returning to its previous mission of being apartments for 152 people of exceedingly modest means.

Ya gotta terra cotta!
It’s Chicago, so ya gotta terra cotta!

We first told you about this back in 2016 when the non-profit  NHP Foundation bought the Harry Glube-designed building.  In the photograph above, you can see the exterior above the retail line is pretty far along, sporting freshly pointed brickwork, gleaming terra cotta, and new windows.  20 pieces of the old terra cotta were so badly damaged they had to be replaced. 

There’s still lots of visible work to do downstairs in the 9,000-square foot retail space, but construction permits keep being issued, so that’s a sign of continuing progress.  

And while progress is slow, the pace is necessary because this renovation is being completed without displacing the residents.

Location: 111 West Division Street, Gold Coast

Author: Editor

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

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