OLD TOWN — A prominent mural of an ornate skyscraper on an Old Town condo building is slowly disappearing behind a new residential tower.
Though crews have only just begun erecting the massive 35-story residential development known as The Sinclair at the corner of Clark and Division streets, construction is already covering up the bottom of the recognizable south-facing mural.
If work continues as planned, it appears the mural will be completely hidden once the tower is finished.
The developer behind the project, Chicago-based Fifield Cos., released the following statement: "We set the Sinclair back from the Richard Haas mural so that it allows the condo building that owns the mural to keep it intact. Our future north side tenants will continue to enjoy it too."
The murals that cover three sides of LaSalle Towers, 1211 N. LaSalle St., are collectively titled "Homage to the Chicago School of Architecture."
In 1981, prolific artist Richard Haas used his signature trompe l'oeil techniques to paint the murals, including the obstructed south-facing one, which depicts a reproduction of architect Louis Sullivan’s golden door from the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition Transportation Building in Chicago, according to WTTW's history expert Geoffrey Baer.
The east-facing mural depicts bay windows and other ornate details like cornices, while the north-facing one depicts a Doric column.
Haas painted the murals during a renovation of the LaSalle Towers, which was originally built as a hotel in 1929.
At the time the hotel was built, it was assumed that other tall buildings would be built around it, but that changed when the Great Depression hit, according to Baer.
"Haas painted the north side to look like a bank of windows reflecting a building that was never built (and wouldn’t have been anywhere near the LaSalle Towers if it had been built)," Baer wrote.
The irony is tall buildings like The Sinclair are now rising on the Near North Side at a rapid pace.
Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd), whose ward includes the mural, said the project gained approval long before he became alderman.
"I'm personally very found of that mural, and I'm sorry to see it go," he said.
Over the past few months, he's witnessed folks taking photos of the mural in memorial. He said it's impressive that it's so beloved since it's "practically brand new" by historical standards.
"Even though it's really not that old at all, it's already become part of Chicago lore," Hopkins said.
To memorialize the mural, Hopkins and his office are helping compile a photo mosaic.
"We're doing our best to save as much evidence as we possibly can," he said.
Chicago Architecture Blog was first to report the disappearing mural.
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