Friday, November 12, 2010

Chicago's Miami Beach -- The Fantastical Granville Tower, Part II -- An Spooky Condo Conversion

The fascinating story of the Granville Tower continues. I will be answering none of the questions I posed at the end of the last/first posting on this building. Instead, today we will learn about its condo conversion. Opened in 1966 as a rental building, the Granville Tower was converted to condominium ownership in 1979 and marketed through 1980.

The Granville Tower consisted of one
- and two-bedroom duplex units, just more than half with balconies. The most unusual feature of these units is, of course, that they are on two levels. (See the typical "living level" and two-bedroom apartment floor plans, part of CMS Realty Corporation's promotional materials and in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago's Ryerson & Burnham Libraries). The public areas have a relatively open plan, typical of the time of its design (and through today). A nice feature is the inclusion of a water closet on the lower level, keeping some distance between guests and the bath used by residents.

Perhaps more interesting, or perplexing, is the ambiguous
and misleading advertising for the Granville Tower during its condominium promotion (the advertisements at the bottom of this post were published in the Chicago Tribune in 1979 and 1980). One ad has an amusing image with meaningless text ("If you have waited for us .... your time has come" -- one could rent in this building since 1966, so there was no need to wait). The image is of a white couple in (semi-transparent?) white clothing walking on a beach, holding hands. Is this Maui? Cape Cod? Or are we next to a highway, the continuation of Lake Shore Drive, in Chicago (see bottom photo, of the Granville Tower on Sheridan Road)? Yes, there is a beach, across the highway. Unlike most lakefront neighborhoods in Chicago, the beach in Edgewater is minimal and discontinuous. After darting through the traffic, our lovely couple could walk back and forth along the beach for a few blocks, at most.

Another misleading point in the advertising is the over-selling of the pool. At the bottom of the ad "The duplex style condominium", a man and woman, in an intimate stance, stand in front of the pool, from which a bikini-clad woman is emerging. Compare this romantic/lascivious scene with the photo of the actual pool (top photo). I took this from the sidewalk next to Sheridan Road, hardly a location to encourage love (in most incarnations).

My favorite Granville Tower ads, though, are not those that are misle
ading, but vaguely threatening. One, entitled "Duplex living -- with all the amenities", has an abstract drawing of of a set of stairs with a stair-shaped black space beyond. The image reminds me of a Hitchcock film, where much of the horror is not revealed. What was the developer or the marketer trying to say with this slightly chilling graphic? What are the "amenities"? Murder? This particular copy seems to show a bullet hole in the black space. I have looked at other runs of the same ad, and there is usually some sort of distortion, which is probably just a problem with the printing or aging of the newspaper.

The ambivalence t
owards the Granville Tower continues with the ads "Buyers beware -- of value, uniqueness and affordability" and "Endangered species", in the shape of a dagger. "But, Andrew, you aren't looking at the entire advertisement", you may say to me. "'Endangered species' clearly refers to the excellent, just under 12%, mortgage rate being offered". Yes, you are right, the intention of the advertising is to sell the condominiums in the Granville Tower. It could have been done in a more persuasive way that does not hint at a darkness. In every case, by the late 1970s, the neighborhood was a little troubled, and a spooky apartment might have been in order.


  1. Splendid and spooky. The middle ad - with the faux-Escher staircase - is possibly the bleakest appeal for home buying I've ever seen.

  2. Very funny, Mr. Franklin. I imagine Barbara Stanwyck pushing a woman in a wheelchair down the stairs.

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