RANCH TRIANGLE — A stately, elegant, but long-abandoned Chicago school, a city landmark that survived a "devastating fire" 2½ years ago, completes the transition to apartment building later this spring.
Mulligan School, 1855 N. Sheffield Ave., is preparing to welcome its first tenants June 1, according to Nick Vittore of Svigos Development, which is handling three such school-to-apartment transitions in the city.
"They have not gone on the market yet, but we do have people seeking us out," Vittore said.
Small wonder, because not only did the building attract news coverage from what Vittore called the "devastating fire" in November 2014 that began on the third floor and moved up through the roof, but CTA Brown and Purple Line riders have been able to monitor the progress on the conversion from the rear of the building ever since.
Mulligan School was completed in 1890, designed by Board of Education architect Charles Rudolph, and like schools of that period — not two decades after the Great Chicago Fire — it was built to last. It lasted longer than the students, in fact. Chicago Public Schools closed it in the 1990s, and and independent school that briefly used the building followed suit in the 2000s.
Svigos Development bought it in 2013 and welcomed its designation as a Chicago Landmark the following year before the blaze turned it into what one fire chief called "an ice castle." Vittore said at the time that fire had been his "biggest fear" in the conversion. Firefighters poured water on it for more than 16 hours, and it froze, increasing the damage.
Yet they've managed to remake it in pristine condition. Although some flooring couldn't be salvaged, much of the original maple wood floors were taken away, dried out, treated and reinstalled. Indoor tuckpointing returned brick walls to top condition. The dark pine doorways and original wainscoting were retained.
"They certainly were built very solid," Vittore said of Mulligan and the two other schools his company is converting. "They're nice bones to work with."
A gymnasium and 23 classrooms have now been converted into 24 apartments, with some student coatrooms turned into baths. The kitchen and bathroom fixtures are brand-new, of course, but chalkboards, cabinets and closets have been retained wherever possible (a couple cabinets still bear dark marks where they were licked by flames).
"We were trying to stay as true to form as we could," Vittore said.
"It's turned out to be a nice project," he added. "We've learned a lot."
Some of the classrooms became two-bedroom apartments, with a curved entryway leading to a large kitchen and dining room and bedrooms along the hall, usually with sizable walk-in closets.
The top-floor gymnasium and another major meeting room below it have been turned into larger apartments, with the former gymnasium getting something of a loft gallery in the process above the kitchen. Both have western views of the sunset. A communal rooftop deck has an impressive view of the city skyline to the southeast down the Clybourn Corridor.
There's even something of a garden apartment in the former basement boiler room, although that level is the last being completed.
Vittore said his company is working on retaining a real estate agent to rent the apartments, but the two-bedrooms are expected to be priced about $3,600 a month.