The Laramie State Bank Building is an architectural gem located at 5200 W. Chicago Avenue in Austin. This exuberant art deco two-story building was designed by Architects Meyer & Cook and completed in 1929. The Laramie State Bank was designated as a Chicago Landmark by the City of Chicago in 1995.
The bas-relief art deco terracotta sculpture on the building’s exterior includes many progressive-era representations of industry and finance including coins, beehives, squirrels, heroic workers, and the American eagle astride the globe.
“Architecturally, its terracotta is some of the most spectacular within the city,” according to Robert Bruegmann, an architectural historian and professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. (Zhang, AustinTalks)
The Laramie State Bank Building has been vacant for approximately five years. Prior uses included banquet facility, retail and restaurants. Currently the building is boarded up and is suffering from deferred maintenance. According to a City of Chicago Department of Buildings inspection in July 2017, a number of issues were noted including water systems, elevators, door, windows and historic exterior terra cotta.
Owned by Austin residents John Young Sr. and Earline Ruffin since 1994, they earnestly desire to see the building restored, but the significant costs associated with the terra cotta repair are prohibitive. The building was foreclosed upon by Urban Partnership Bank, and then due the high costs of repair, in an unusual move, the bank later returned the building to the former owners.
“It has great potential to become a West Side tourist attraction. Laramie State Bank is a gorgeous building on the outside. There’s nothing like this that is so strikingly, fully Art Deco. This is unique. This will make a perfect cultural and historical arts museum, something that children could come to and play their art and music.” said James Bowers, a long-time Austin resident and business owner. (Zhang, AustinTalks)
Preservation Chicago has appeared before the Building Court at multiple hearings over the past six months along with the Chicago Art Deco Society, Landmarks Illinois, Austin Coming Together, and concerned members of the Austin community.
Laramie State Bank is a Designated Chicago Landmark, an outstanding example of the Art Deco period, and a highly visible and important landmark in the Austin community. While the challenge to find the resources to restore the building is clear, this outstanding building is worth the effort.
Preservation Chicago, Landmark Illinois, and the City of Chicago, along with our preservation partners are working diligently to secure a patron that could stabilize the building, both physically and financially, and restore this exuberant landmark. We have a strong preference for a community or cultural use for the ground floor banking hall that would ensure public access to this wonderful historic interior.
The next court hearing is scheduled for March 7, 2018 at 2:00 pm at the Richard J. Daley Center, 11th Floor. All interested individuals and organizations are welcome to attend.