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Hyde Park Historical Society to Honor the Shoreland, Harper Theater

By Sam Cholke | January 27, 2014 7:16am
 The Shoreland Apartments and the Harper Theater will be presented with the Despres Award for preservation at the annual dinner of the Hyde Park Historical Society on Feb. 22.
Despres Award
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HYDE PARK — The Shoreland Apartments and Harper Theater are being honored by the Hyde Park Historical Society with the group’s annual preservation award.

The two projects will be presented with the Marian and Leon Despres Preservation Award at the Hyde Park Historical Society’s annual dinner on Feb. 22 at the Quadrangle Club, 1155 E. 57th St.

Author Susan O’Connor Davis will be the speaker at the dinner. Her new book, “Chicago’s Historic Hyde Park,” is a meticulous survey of the neighborhood’s many architecturally significant homes and buildings from the present and past.

The restored Shoreland, once a hotel that hosted Al Capone, Amelia Earhart and Jimmy Hoffa, reopened earlier this year to residents after years as a dormitory for the University of Chicago.

“From its opening in 1926 through the 1950s, the Shoreland remained one of the city’s most prominent luxury hotels,” according to a report from the Commission on Chicago Landmarks.

MAC Properties restored the exterior to its glory days as a premier lakefront haunt. The interior was completely gutted and renovated, and the foundation was excavated to create a new parking garage.

“We took out every piece of interior material that was not structural,” Peter Cassel, director of community development for MAC Properties, said when the Shoreland reopened in September.

The Harper Theater reopened in January with half the space and four times as many screens as the original theater.

“In the old theater there were no good sightlines, now every seat has a perfect sightline,” owner Tony Fox said when the theater reopened.

To restore the theater, Fox completely restored the exterior and added a new marquee. The interior was gutted and rebuilt as two stories above a basement, with four movie screens on the first floor and office space for the University of Chicago above.

“You walked in, and it was just like ‘whoa,’ it was gutted two stories up and two stories down,” said Matt Robeson, the theater project manager for Premier Design and Build Group, of seeing the gutted building for the first time in March 2011. “It was just one big hole.”

Tickets for the Hyde Park Historical Society’s dinner can be bought for $70 by calling Janice Knox at 773-317-1520 or emailing janice.a.knox@gmail.com.