HYDE PARK — A pair of original elevator doors from the Hyde Park Bank building have gone up for sale for $12,000, offering buyers a rare piece of a landmark Chicago building.
Stuart Grannen, owner of Architectural Artifacts, said he’s decided to list the doors he’s had in his personal collection for 25 years.
He said Monday he now doesn’t remember how he got ahold of four of the elevator doors, but he said he originally intended them to be part of a Chicago architecture museum he had hoped to start before starting the architectural salvage company.
Grannen said the doors were an early addition to his collection when he started saving bits of old buildings in 1987.
“There were lots of them available — I still see them from time to time,” Grannen said.
Grannen has two sets of doors, but there are likely at least two more sets floating around the city somewhere from the bank at 1525 E. 53rd St.
He said he saw one other set approximately 20 years being used as a screen to separate two booths in a Chicago restaurant.
They’re not hard to recognize once one knows the details. The doors are big and clearly heavy, made of iron and bronze, with the distinct motif of two kissy-face dolphins repeated a dozen times on each door.
The doors were part of the lavish interior of the Hyde Park Bank building, which was the second largest bank in Chicago when it opened in 1929. It sits on the site of Hyde Park’s original city hall before it was annexed into the city and cost an estimated $2 million to build in 1929, the equivalent of $28.7 million today adjusted for inflation.
The bank is a city landmark, but that designation doesn’t protect the interior of buildings in most cases. Much of the interior, including the massive vault, has been maintained, but details have escaped into the private market.
Grannen said things like elevator doors are typically the easiest things to find from city landmarks because evolving safety standards mean they have to be updated over time to safer and more modern equipment.
He said he doesn’t think he got the doors from the bank directly, even though in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s building engineers would sometimes sell off old pieces of the buildings that had been replaced and relegated to storage in the basement.
Grannen said it’s unheard of now to get a piece of a landmark building directly from the building’s owner.
“That does not happen,” Grannen said.
There’s nothing illegal about it, but Grannen said people now realize the value of these architectural details more than they did in the ‘80s and ‘90s, even then two decades after the passage of the city’s landmark protection ordinance in 1968.
He said the majority of pieces of Chicago landmarks that people will find for sale today were likely taken out of the buildings decades ago and have either sat in storage or passed between collectors.
The bank elevator doors are listed on eBay for $12,000 or best offer.
At least two more sets of doors are floating around in the city somewhere, with one set last spotted as part of a restaurant's decorations. [Courtesy of Architectural Artifacts]
The Hyde Park Bank's lobby remains nearly as lavish as it was when this photo was taken in 1940, but pieces have been removed as elevators and other systems were updated. [Courtesy of the city of Chicago]
When built in 1929 for $2 million, the Hyde Park Bank building was the second largest bank in the city. [DNAinfo/Sam Cholke]