CITY HALL — The Egyptian Revival-style building that once played host to the Cairo Supper Club and Nick's Uptown bar was granted status as a city landmark in a hearing at City Hall Thursday, but only the Sheridan Road facade was protected.
Nick's Uptown, 4015-17 N. Sheridan Rd., closed last September and was sold to nearby Thorek Memorial Hospital. Architecture preservationists, including Ald. James Cappleman (46th), took up the cause of the distinctive building, which was designed by architect Paul Gerhardt Sr. in 1920 and served as an automobile showroom before it was the Cairo Supper Club and then Nick's Uptown.
Commission staffer Terry Tatum called Egyptian Revival "an architectural style rarely used in Chicago." It lent itself well to the Cairo Supper Club from 1949 to 1964, and hypnotist Marshall Brodien, later known as Wizzo the Wizard on WGN-TV's "Bozo's Circus," performed there.
Gerhard also designed Cook County Hospital, Lane Tech and Von Steuben High School.
Cappleman eventually prevailed on Thorek to join the call to protect the building, and after being granted preliminary landmark status, it was acknowledged Thursday by the Commission on Chicago Landmarks, but with only the front 20 feet of the building fully protected.
Tatum said Thorek "did not want to preserve the building" and called the final move to protect the facade "a compromise" allowing "flexibility for future use." He compared it to the recently approved renovation project for the Village Theatre, which likewise preserved the facade but left the rest of the property to be redeveloped.
"The owner was very reluctant to even go this far," said Commissioner James Houlihan, adding that "at the end of the day, it was a reasonable compromise."
"We can preserve a facade, but we don't know anything about what's going to go around it," said Commissioner Mary Ann Smith. She said Uptown "has the potential to be a jewel box of unique structures."
Houlihan cited how any development projects at the site will require commission review, adding that Cappleman "supported aggressively" the landmark status and would likely keep a close eye on it.
"Elected officials come and go," said Smith, a former alderman.
"Thank goodness," said Houlihan, who retired as Cook County assessor a few years ago.
The building's landmark status now goes to the City Council for final approval.
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