The Belle Shore Apartments are a powerful example of how historic preservation can benefit a neighborhood and families who live there. With its restored apartments and shops, the building is an anchor for the revitalization of the neighborhood.—Andrew Cuomo, Housing and Urban Development Secretary
Standing kitty-corner from each other on Bryn Mawr Avenue in Edgewater, this pair of ornately decorated buildings characterize, as described by the Chicago Landmarks Division, the “rapid growth and expansion of Chicago in the 1920s and the commercial development of Bryn Mawr Avenue and the surrounding Edgewater community.”
The eight-story Belle Shore Apartments is located at 1062 W. Bryn Mawr. Built in 1929 as an apartment hotel, it was designed by Nathaniel Koenigsberg and Leon Weisfeld, who were influenced by the Egyptian Art-Deco movement (King Tut’s tomb had been discovered only a few years before). It was named for developer Max Malter’s wife, Belle. It is decorated in green-and-cream terra cotta from the Northwest Terra Cotta Company and has many relief figures. The lobby has a mural with scenes from the Old Testament. The Belle Shore was originally intended as studio and one-bedroom accommodations for young, single working people and operated as a residential hotel—with full ammenities—for many years. Over the decades, the Belle Shore was the victim of neglect, and much wear-and-tear was evident. In 1995, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and in 1999 it was designated a Chicago Landmark.
Holsten Real Estate Development Corporation acquired the building and began a massive renovation, transforming what was commonly described as a “flophouse” into small rental units with a lot of historic charm. Holsten maintained the mix of studio and one-bedroom apartments as subsidized housing for Chicago’s working poor. As chronicled on the SWWB Architechts site, the Belle Shore underwent “exterior masonry repair and restoration; window restoration and replacement; new roofing; construction of a new roof-top boiler room; new mechanical, plumbing, and electrical systems; new elevators; lobby, corridor, and apartment renovations; and creation of new commercial spaces on street level for upscale stores and restaurants.” The Belle Shore was awarded the 1999 National Trust/HUD Secretary’s Award for Excellence in Historic Preservation.
The 12-story Bryn Mawr Apartments, located at 5550 N. Kenmore Avenue, was designed by architechts Alexander L. Levy and William J. Klein. It was completed in 1928 and is designed in the Gothic Revival style. An early advertisement read, “Modern in the finest sense of the word. All units have fully equipped kitchens. Low transient rates begin at $4.00 daily. One block to lake and bathing beach. Thirty minutes from Loop via subway or limited bus.” It was a fashionable address, and big Band leader Glen Miller lived here while playing with the Ben Pollack Orchestra.Like the Belle Shore, by the 1990s the Bryn Mawr was in need of renovation and redevelopment. At a cost of $7.5 million, Holsten revamped the apartments, lobby, and corridors; installed new elevators; updated the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems; and repaired or restored the masonry, windows, and roof. The Bryn Mawr has a rooftop garden and air-conditioned exercise room, and the Mia Francesca restaurant is located at the ground level. The Bryn Mawr was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1995.