Chicago’s hotel boom has provided a major boost for historic preservation, breathing new life into aging downtown buildings designed by such legendary firms as D.H. Burnham & Co., Holabird & Root, Jenney & Mundie, and Rapp & Rapp. Now the trend has expanded beyond the Loop, turning a tiny Art Deco office building in the hip Wicker Park neighborhood into a boutique hotel, the Robey. Yet this conversion does more than save the brick and Indiana limestone skin of this charming flatiron building. It departs from the boutique hotel norm of the aggressively decorated, historically themed interior, opting instead for an understated, curated approach that layers the new on the old and effectively fuses influences from both sides of the Atlantic.
Designed by Chicago architects Perkins, Chatten & Hammond and originally called the North West Tower, the 12-story skyscraper was shaped by the six-corner intersection on which it sits, as well as a desire to bring a touch of downtown grandeur to a neighborhood business district. “The Skyscraper Leaves the Loop,” proclaimed the February 1929 issue of The Greater Chicago Magazine, reflecting the exuberance that prevailed before that year’s devastating stock market crash. In the characteristic Chicago manner, structurally expressive brick piers shot skyward, leavened by patterned concrete spandrels that extended the building’s concrete frame. A copper-roofed cupola, illuminated by floodlights, was the cherry on top of this “roaring 20s” party cake.