It’s been a very long time since we would stand in the shadows outside of 937 North Rush Street and startle passing tourists who only noticed us out of the corners of their eyes. Good times.
Back then, 937 was the home of Le Colonial, one of the Gold Coast’s social touchstones. A frequent haunt of shopgirls and their clients, ladies who lunch, and people trying to channel their inner Graham Greene or Somerset Maugham over rice crepes and under palm fronds.
After 20 years in this location, the restaurant moved around the corner onto Oak Street. Today, the only thing on the menu at 937 is a demolition permit. McDonagh Demolition is taking down the building to replace it with a generic storefront, the like of which you’ve seen spreading across this retail district like zits across a sweaty back.
The new 937 North Rush will be a two-story affair that tries so hard to blend in with its neighbors it pretty much disappears. There is nothing notable about the new structure. It will be a 47-foot-tall value engineered placeholder. The architectural equivalent of the wall art at a Holiday Inn.
The previous building was no stunner, either. But it was at least interesting. A red brick townhouse with a triangle slice of colonial Indochinese facade slapped on the front at a mismatched angle. It was an awkward mating of the Majestic Hotel in Saigon with the Wheeler-Kohn mansion on Calumet Avenue. From any viewpoint, it simply didn’t work. And because of that, it worked beautifully.