Building Description Hotel Waukegan - Chateau Waukegan, Waukegan Illinois

Located at the eastern edge of Waukegan's business district on the northwest corner of Washington Street and Sheridan Road, the Hotel Waukegan is one of only two hotels in Waukegan dating from before 1960 and the only hotel with sufficient integrity to visually reflect a time when hotels played a significant role in the social and commercial life of Waukegan. When construction started on the hotel, in 1927, the twelve story Hotel Waukegan, with unobstructed views of Lake Michigan, was to be a major hotel. After some years of financial hardships, it became one of a handful of the city's most attractive lodgings, both for transient guests and permanent residents, offering single rooms and suites, a ballroom, coffee shop, barber and beauty shops, valet service, and a beautiful lobby. Waukegan's other surviving hotel, the Karcher, built in 1926, was remodeled into a retirement hotel in 1981-2, then badly damaged in a 1984 fire; it has been vacant since. Although the interior upper floors and the storefront openings of the Hotel Waukegan have been remodeled, it retains its elegant Renaissance Revival exterior and sumptuously ornamented lobby.

The city of Waukegan, which is the county seat of Lake County, Illinois, lies on the western shore of Lake Michigan, 45 miles north of Chicago, midway between Chicago and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It is built on two elevations, at 586 and 720 feet above sea level. The lower, called the Waukegan Flats, is a plain along the lake shore, mostly occupied by industry. To the west of this plain, at Sheridan Road, a bluff rises about 50 feet above the lake. A series of fine residences built along this bluff in the late 19th - early 20th centuries, are included in the Waukegan Historic District located to the north of the hotel. The rest of the terrain of the city, west of this bluff, is gently rolling, cut occasionally by deep ravines. In 1990, the population of the city of Waukegan was 69,392. Just over half the housing units are single family homes.

Waukegan's street pattern is generally based on a series of rectilinear grids aligned along major compass points. The Central Business District historically was concentrated on Genesee Street, which runs north/south one block west of Sheridan Road, for three blocks, between Water Street on the south and Clayton Street on the north. The principal east/west commercial streets are Washington Street and Madison Street, with commercial buildings generally one block on either side of Genesee Street. The Hotel Waukegan, 102 Washington Street, at the northwest corner of Washington and Sheridan Road, was situated at a pivotal point. Sited atop the bluff, overlooking Waukegan Harbor it marks the entrance to the business district from the east. The original rail passenger station for the Chicago and North Western Railway was located at the foot of Washington Street on the low lying flats. Passengers disembarking in Waukegan would look west and immediately see the commanding presence of the twelve story Hotel Waukegan. Residents and guests of the hotel had an easy commute into Chicago from the station.

The railroad rights of way on the flats below Sheridan Road were originally much wider than they are today. Both the Chicago and North Western as well as the Elgin, Joliet and Eastern railroads passed through, and both had roundhouses in Waukegan. In the 1960s, some of the western tracks were removed and the right of way used for construction of what is today the four lane, limited access, Lakefront Parkway (also known as the Amstutz Expressway). In the late 1980s the original rail station was demolished and the new METRA station relocated. The tracks remaining include METRA commuter service, whose northern line begins in downtown Chicago and terminates in Kenosha. Washington Street is now one of two access roads from Waukegan to the Tri-State Tollway (194), 6 miles west.

With its strategic location, the Hotel Waukegan continues to have a strong visual impact on anyone driving into Waukegan on Washington Street or the Lakefront Highway, or arriving in the city by train or boat. When built, the site was ideally suited for a hotel, for the 1920s was still a time when rail traffic played a prominent role in American travel. Even today the hotel dominates its location within a business district that has suffered considerable decline in major retail establishments, movie theaters, and other commercial enterprises. Although there is a recent addition on the west non-street facade, and the storefront openings have been infilled, the exterior has its original terra cotta ornamentation, its Washington Street marquee, its wood sash, its cornice and retains sufficient integrity to reflect the hotel's significance.

The Hotel Waukegan features a rectangular ground plan built on a Waukegan commercial urban corner lot. The east lot line meets the south lot line at less than a 90 degree angle, in alignment with the slight angle of Sheridan Road here. The exterior dimensions of the original structure at ground level are 81 feet along Washington Street, 70 feet along Sheridan Road, 76 feet along the rear elevation, and 70 feet along the west elevation. The original building tower rises twelve stories to a height of 132 feet. There is a two-story penthouse of a smaller dimension on the roof. In 1973 a 36' x 70' foot brick addition was built in the building's southwest corner with three floors of useable space and a second interior stairwell. Above the third floor this new stairwell and a second elevator core (which measure 10' x 41' feet) rises the entire height of the building along the south end of the west facade. A scaffold still exists on the roof for the sign facing southwest that once held the letters "Hotel Waukegan".

The Hotel Waukegan can be classified as representative of Commercial Style architecture, generally an identifiable type rather than an aesthetically recognizable style. Within this type, surface treatments in a range of architectural styles could be applied depending upon current tastes. Normally ranging between five and twenty stories in height, the Commercial Style building owed its existence to the development of iron, steel and reinforced concrete framing systems, fire proofing, high speed elevators, and progressive improvements in electrical, plumbing, heating and ventilation systems technology. The massing was characteristically in large multi-story blocks, towers, or set-back towers, each class of this type respectively developing in sequence between the last quarter of the nineteenth and first three decades of the twentieth centuries.

The Hotel Waukegan is a clear example of the a three part vertical block described by architectural historian, Richard Longstreth. Commonly, the multiple stories of this type of commercial block are arranged into a distinct set of three zones, analogous to the divisions of a classical column: the base, shaft, and capital. This was the dominant pattern of tall buildings into the 1920s. The Hotel Waukegan, built 1927-29, is a large block, with a clearly defined three part division, accented by contrasting materials, decorative surface treatment, and some differences in fenestration between the two-story base and the upper stories. Both the two-story base and the two story capital section have elaborate terra cotta detailing. There is also a relatively simple terra cotta cornice at the top. The center section of the building is brown face brick.

The applied architectural ornament of the Hotel Waukegan is generally Renaissance Revival, a style often found in late nineteenth and early twentieth century commercial architecture (1890-1930). In the Hotel Waukegan this style is characterized by refined Classical details including triangular pedimented windows at the building corners, windows at the base and top section with bracketed window cornices, terra cotta corner ornament with a suggestion of quoins, and first and second floor walls faced in larger blocks of mottled, cream-colored, terra cotta, echoing the frequently found rusticated base stories in this style. The ornament, however, is subordinated to the overall architectural character and massing of the building.

The south and east facades of the Hotel Waukegan are the principal facades and are almost identical through to the twelfth floor (the penthouse design being asymmetrical). The north facade on the alley originally was not entirely visible behind other buildings, and only the first bay of windows off Sheridan Road have stylistic detail. The first three floors of the west facade have been completely covered by the 1973 addition.

On the fourth through twelfth floors, a stairwell and elevator core covers the south part of the original west elevation, although decorative terra cotta inset panels still remain in the new stairwell. The northwest corner of the building has a recess with two bays of windows on each face. There is a large smokestack in this recess which stands the full height of the building.

Both the south and east facades are divided vertically into a two-story base, an eight-story shaft (middle section) and a two-story capital section. On the top two floors, the horizontal window arrangement consists of a corner bay with two double-hung windows on each side, and four bays of windows with three double-hung windows each. The composition of the first floor completely breaks this pattern. On the second floor, there are the same number of window bays as on the upper floors, but the sash configuration differs in the windows between the corner bays.

The first floor of the south facade has a double entry door with a transom in the center and storefronts on both sides. The doorway is framed by an elaborate terra cotta ornament featuring a segmented pediment with a keystone and floral bas-relief inset bands. There is a decorative hanging metal canopy over the doorway which projects over the sidewalk. Original storefront windows are missing but window openings have a terra cotta rope molding framing the opening. The first floor of the east facade is almost the same as the south facade. It has the same double entry door but there is no canopy above it. Each second floor window on the south and east facades, unlike others in the rest of the building, is composed of a large, fixed, center pane and two narrower side panes. All windows have decorative terra cotta casings at this floor but the corner windows are especially elaborate. Floral bas-relief inset panels surround the sash, with a draped swag hanging below, and a bracketed cornice above. On the corners, these windows form a design unit with those on the third floor that have a broken triangular pediment. Some terra cotta pieces are missing on these corner bays and were replaced with concrete block infill in the late 1980s. The east facade has the same type of window configuration as the south facade, except that there are only three of the fixed pane window units. The two story base is faced with large, flat, cream-colored, terra cotta tiles, with a slightly mottled finish to resemble stone. There is a terra cotta stringcourse where the base meets the brick middle section.

The eight-story middle section of the south and east facades is faced with brown, standard size, face brick. It is laid with five courses of stretchers between one course which alternates stretchers and headers. The window bays, in the center section, have terra cotta sills and no other decorative surrounds. The corner bay section is framed by a vertical terra cotta rope molding, and a vertical row of terra cotta tiles with larger blocks every few feet suggesting quoins. This vertical banding continues through the capital section of the facade to the roof cornice. The only difference between the south and east facades is that there are four bays of windows between the corner bays on the south facade, and three bays of windows between the corner bays on the east facade.

The two story upper section (the capital) of the building on the south and east facades has terra cotta ornament which surrounds each stacked set of three bay windows, thus visually uniting each window bay on the eleventh floor with those directly above it on the twelfth floor. The corner window units have a balustrade at the bottom, an inset bas-relief decorative panel between the eleventh and twelfth floors, and a broken, segmented pediment, supported by brackets, on the top. Each non-corner window unit has the same panel between the eleventh and twelfth floors, but a simpler, bracketed cornice on top. As in the middle section, the upper stories of the south facade have four bays of windows in between the corner bays and the east facade has three bays. The building is topped by a molded terra cotta cornice. The cornice consists of a flat frieze with rosette ornaments regularly spaced, a rope molding above that, and a cap on the top.

The north elevation is five bays wide. The northeast corner bay resembles the corner bays on the south and east facades. The next bay consists of a single vertical band of double hung windows. Bays to the west consist of a pair of double hung windows, a bricked-in opening, and a second pair of double hung windows. Window treatment is the same on every level above the second floor. All windows have terra cotta sills. Below this level is a glass block window and large boarded up opening. There are two smaller boarded-up openings and a door opening onto a sloping concrete ramp extending west. The brick addition has two large six pane openings on the third floor.

The south three bays of the west elevation, as seen on a 1950 postcard, originally resembled the south and east elevations. The corner bays were identical to those on the other building corners of the primary facades. There was one center bay which had no ornamentation and contained only a vertical row of double hung windows. This treatment of the fenestration extended from the roof of the adjacent four story commercial building to the west, through to the cornice line. The west elevation above the third floor now has the 1973 stairwell and elevator addition which is solid, brown-colored brick except for one recessed window opening on each floor. The stairwell and elevator addition project beyond the original west elevation creating a recessed northwest corner of the building. On the north wall of this recess there are two bays of two double hung windows each. On the west wall of this recess there is one window bay of two windows and another single window. These windows have the same terra cotta sills as throughout.

The building has a two-story penthouse which covers part of the roof level. The flat roof is a felt and tar, built up roof. The first floor of the penthouse is approximately 62' wide X 47' deep and is located on the northwest side of the building. The second floor of the penthouse is smaller, 17' wide x 30' deep and contains the elevator penthouse. The windows on the upper level are the same size double hung windows that are found in the rest of the building. The vertical terra cotta bands and cornice are also the same. The west elevation of the penthouse was two bays wide with each bay framed by a terra cotta band. The north bay contained a pair of double hung windows, the south a single, double hung window. The rest of the west elevation is red brick with double hung windows and remains unchanged.

The structural system of the Hotel Waukegan is reinforced concrete with poured concrete floors. On the interior, the ground floor plan contains two principal entrances, one on Washington Street and one on Sheridan Road. Just inside the double doors of the Washington entrance is a small vestibule with an intersecting segmented barrel vaulted ceiling. Through a second arch is a long corridor with a similar segmented barrel vaulted ceiling leading to the lobby. On Sheridan Road, the entrance leads to a similar vestibule with a segmented barrel vaulted ceiling. Through the next arch is a staircase which has a simple cast iron balustrade and square newel posts with caps. The lobby is in the center, along the north wall of the building. It is a two-story space with a grand staircase that leads to a landing, then splits and curves out from either side of a framed, illusionistic wall painting. These stairs lead to the mezzanine level which has a balcony with a cast-iron balustrade wrapping around the perimeter of the lobby. The balusters have a modified fleur-de-lis pattern near the top. The painting of a rural scene is the focal point of the space. It appears to be oil on canvas, mounted directly to the wall, with a two story Roman arch framing it. The walls have a considerable amount of ornamental plasterwork. There are small arched niches for statuary on either side of the painting, part way up the stairs.

The floor of the lobby and of the mezzanine is terrazzo in a simple, multi-colored pattern. A pair of elevators with ornamental iron door surrounds are located on the east side of the lobby. The suspended plaster ceiling has ornate plasterwork inspired by French designs. It is divided into five long sections, separated by non-structural beams covered with plaster ornament. The ceiling sections have an asymmetrical floral medallion at each end and linear moldings with leaf details that frame one space. Decorative brackets are found in the corners of the rooms.

There are several principal storefront spaces on the first floor. The corner unit has a recessed entry at the corner of Washington Street and Sheridan Road. The spaces along Sheridan have two recessed entrances. The spaces along Washington Street have no remaining visible entrance from the street. The interiors of these spaces vary, but include modern materials such as plywood paneling, suspended acoustical ceilings, colored glass windows, and contemporary tile floors. Beneath some of these wall and ceiling finishes are plain plaster finishes.

The 1973 addition on the first floor contains an enclosed second stairway, a larger elevator, a series of rooms used as small offices, and two toilet rooms.

The second story of the original building contains the upper level of the lobby space forming a balcony and mezzanine. All across the Washington Street facade, where the bays of three fixed pane windows are, is the original ballroom, known as the Crystal Room. A small part remains of an ornate, bracketed, crown molding. In the northeast corner of the second floor is a small room, approximately 16 foot square, which retains all the original plaster, bracketed, crown molding in excellent condition.

In the second floor of the 1973 addition there are remaining cooking and refrigeration equipment. The floor is concrete and wall finishes are ceramic tile.

Floors three through twelve are the residential floors of the hotel. These floors, which originally contained single rooms and one and two bedroom suites, all with private bathrooms, no longer contain any historic finishes or materials. The existing plan consists of a T-shaped corridor, with the elevator and original stairway opening onto the stem of the T. At one end of the top bar of the T, there is access to the new stairway and elevator addition. There are 11 studio apartments of varying sizes per floor, each with a private bath. The third floor of 1973 addition contains five studio apartments. Existing finishes in the corridors include wallpaper on plaster walls and acoustical dropped ceilings. There are no baseboard, crown, or other decorative moldings. Door casings are standard 2 inch wood moldings. The interiors of the studio apartments also have no decorative wood moldings of any kind, nor are there any window casings. Some apartment entries have a segmental plaster arch between the corridor and the main room which may be part of the original design. Generally, most existing apartment layouts do not appear to be original. Closets and bathrooms are contemporary with ceramic tile finishes.

The thirteenth floor is the penthouse. As described in promotional material from the 1930s, this floor contained a roof deck with roof garden and solarium. Local residents remember a night club on thirteenth floor penthouse. The existing layout of this floor suggests that there was a large central space with multi-pane windows on the south, north, and part of the west walls, affording a well-lit space. The eastern part of the penthouse contains the area which faces the advertised roof garden. The western part of the penthouse now contains some kitchen equipment. This was probably a food service area. The roof penthouse also has a small fourteenth floor which basically houses the original elevator penthouse equipment and access stairway.