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A Most Pleasant Surprise

Every night on my way home from work, I drive down Cass Street in Joliet and pass a very nondescript building at the corner of Cass and Chicago. It's a small, two-story commercial building covered in white vinyl siding. (And not even decent vinyl siding, but the cheapest grade available.) The building has clearly seen better days, and can't seem to keep any long-term tenants. The last tenant I'm aware of was the Will County Democrats, who leased the first floor for a few months before last fall's elections. (Will County is pretty conservative -- about 30% of the population, quite incredulously, preferred the wingnut Alan Keyes over Barack Obama in the last U.S. Senate election -- so the Democratic party here obviously operates on the leanest of shoestrings, as evidenced by their sorry digs in this old building.)

Anyway, I never gave this building much thought until last Friday, when I drove past and was pleasantly surprised to see the building undergoing a facelift. The ugly vinyl siding has been stripped away, revealing a once-lovely, red-brick Victorian building with tall arched windows on the second floor (click image for full-sized photo):


Apparently the building was once a jewelry store, as evidenced by the "Hamilton Watches" sign at the corner and the two insistent claims (one facing each street) that "Your Credit Is Good Here":


Two-by-fours were nailed directly (and rather crudely) into the brick surface to affix the vinyl siding. I'm assuming the nail holes in the bricks can be repaired, but I'm not quite as optimistic about the arches above the second floor windows. A few of the arches were removed completely, and the others either have keystones which are damaged (first photo below) or removed completely (second photo below) to accomodate the two-by-fours.



I'm hoping the missing arches and keystones are stowed away in the cellar. My initial research on this building (whose official address is 5 W. Cass St.) is scanty -- so far I've only learned that it was built between 1886 and 1891, per an old HABS/HAER survey. I'll keep digging to see what I can find, and will post more photos later on as the renovations proceed.

It's nice to see classic old buildings like this one getting a new lease on life. This is the second recent instance of a downtown Joliet building being shorn of its hideous 1960s facade to reveal hints of its past glories beneath. Let's hope this is the start of a trend. There are several more buildings around downtown that deserve similar treatment.

March 12, 2007 in Joliet, Photography | Permalink


i'm lurking from your wife's blog...i just hope they try to restore that building. what a gem! (get it jewelry store? gem? heh). the window from the lawyer should be saved to. how great is that? check out this post in apartment therapy...they did some GREAT things with cast offs...

Posted by: robiewankenobie at Mar 12, 2007 6:42:56 PM