Clad in scaffolding, the external grace of the Original Sears Tower is temporarily contained. But head inside, as we did during Open House Chicago, and it's available in large doses. This structurally-sound but forgotten testament to the might of the one-time "World's Largest Store" doesn't let peeled paint or chipped marble obscure the aspirational architecture or the industrial efficiency of its layout. Curbed snapped photos of the 12th and 14th floors. Part of the mess is attributable to the restoration work in progress. A component of the 23-year old Homan Square community development plan, the intent is to incorporate it as part of the neighboring community center.
The hub of an early 20th century workforce of 22,000, this 1905 building still retains an authority over the neighborhood. This has a lot to do with North Lawndale's depressed state. Most of its middle class residents fled in the wake of the '68 riots, and hardly anything- commercial or residential- has been built since. The first gestures toward rejuvenation arrived in the late 80s, when Sears partnered with developer Charlie Shaw to promote a plan for mixed-use redevelopment of several defunct Sears structures. They got the city on board, and along with private funding, broke ground on 350 units of mixed-income housing. That was the neighborhood's first residential development since the riots. In 2007, a community center was built, and most recently, the magnificent Sears Power House was transformed into Power House High. Tragically, the Catalog Facility, once the world's largest wood frame structure, is no longer with us.
Power House High (Henry Ford Academy) is a new charter school built into the jaw-dropping space of the old Sears Power House— the engine for the 55-acre industrial campus. The heroic spaces are ideal for a learning environment. Industrial relics are planted throughout, powerful enough to humble any teen. We were only given ground-floor access, but you get the idea...
·Official Site: Homan Square
·Open House Chicago [CAF]