Award for Preservation Excellence
On May 15, 2014 Dimitrios and Nondas Kourkouvis, president and vice -president of Athens Construction,
were given the great honor of accepting the Award for Preservation Excellence by The Commission
on Chicago Landmarks for the project: Schoenhofen Brewing Co. Administration Building Renovation
Project NarrativeThe Schoenhofen Administration building is one of 4 still standing buildings of the Schoenhofen Brewing Company established by Peter Schoenhofen in 1862 and ceased operations in 1924. At the peak of its time the Schoenhofen Brewing Company had 19 buildings occupying 2 city blocks on Normal Street extending between 16th and 18th Streets in the near south side of Chicago.
The Administration Building was designed by renowned architect Adolf Cudell and exemplifies the late Victorian era ornamental designs. It became a Chicago Landmark in 1988 and has been determined as a Certified Historic Structure by the National Park Service in 2010.
Attracted by the exterior ornate character the current owners acquired the boarded up building in 2006 with the intent to make it shine again as it was in the past. But vacancy for over 40 to 50 years and consequent lack of maintenance had brought the structure to a condition of disrepair. The interior of the building was beyond salvation due to exposure the weather elements. Continuous leaks through the roof and broken windows had destroyed all interior finishes, stairs and even the structural elements of the building. The floor structure was of fireproof telephone tile incasing structural steel which had rusted and became unstable and difficult to preserve. The deteriorated structural steel made the selective removal and reconstruction of the floors very challenging. Since no machinery could be used workers needed to progress s with extreme caution to remove safely the unsalvaged portion without further destabilizing the structure or the historic elements on the main facades of the building. On the exterior the brownstone masonry on the lower level was subjected to excessive wear from the snow melting salt used on 18th Street.
Working closely with architect Irene Zemenides and structural Engineer Theodore Shew new plans were prepared and approvals of materials were granted by the Commission on Landmarks. Because the narrow stairwell enclosures did not allow the reconstruction of the stair way to comply with current code requirements a four story addition was designed along the west side of the building with intentionally selected non competing materials with the historic façade. The addition houses the new stairs, elevator, and washrooms on every floor level. The original building footprint is being used in its entirety as office space by the current tenant.
On the original building, the exterior walls were preserved and the floor framing on all three levels was reconstructed. A new roof was installed with partial green roof and a paved stone deck. The exterior brick and terra cotta trim was cleaned and tuck pointed.
A major challenge was to find matching color of sandstone. Since no identical stone replacement was located, a suitable stained Indiana limestone was used in place of the most deteriorated sandstone ashlar modules. New historic custom wood windows and exterior doors were used with custom brick mold matching the original windows. All new mechanical, electrical and life safety systems are installed.
The building is currently fully occupied as an office building. Over 80 employees working in the building have brought new life and support the local economy of east Pilsen which lacks a strong employment base and benefits from newcomers. To accommodate the tenant’s needs the owner developed an adjacent vacant land parcel into a wrought iron fenced parking with landscaped perimeter further improving aesthetically the surrounds.
When developer acquired this building it was in a state of collapse. It was simply a matter of time for it to become unsalvageable. Nondas Kourkouvis, senior partner in Graceland Development loves old buildings and had a vision of the positive outcome of this one. If not for the efforts, the appreciation of the building’s architectural character and the risk the developer took to invest in and keep it standing, now in its place would be an empty lot in an area of the city where new construction is scarce. This rehabilitation has contributed to preserving not only an architectural gem but also a piece of Chicago history from an era marked by the reconstruction of Chicago after the great fire and the prohibition era which had brought an end to the intended use of the building 90 years ago. From a more practical standpoint the immediate area is revitalized by the new energy and activity the new tenant has brought.