American Book Company Building: 320-330 E. Cermak – Ready for Reuse

Although it remains vacant and awaits a redevelopment plan, the 2_american_bookAmerican Book Company building is protected with a landmark designation, thanks to the advocacy ofPreservation Chicago and the action taken by 2nd Ward Alderman Robert Fioretti.

An integral component in the trio of historic warehouse buildings located at the intersection of Cermak Road and Calumet Avenue, The American Book Company buildng is an ideal candidate for adaptive reuse once the economy returns to health.

However, back in 2008, when Preservation Chicago identified it as one of its 7 Most Threatened buildings, its fate was not so assured. At that time, a local development company announced its intention to construct a new hotel complex on the 3.7 acre site which ensured demolition for the American Book Company building. That proposed project has since been shelved.

The handsome brick building, which is located at the corner of Cermak Road and Calumet Avenue, was constructed in 1912 specifically for the American Book Company. At that time, American Book was the leading publisher of textbooks. American occupied the site for several decades with their longtime neighbor, R. R. Donnelly & Sons being the most recent occupant.

The structure features Romanesque arched windows at the pedestrian level and vernacular three-bay windows on the upper levels. The bulk of the building is sensitively lightened by horizontal stone bands at the base and upper levels. A recognizable architectural feature is the 2-story tower that extends above the main entrance. The tower is highlighted by tapered corners and features several ornamental carvings, including the winged-book logo of the American Book Company. Architect N. Max Dunning was responsible for numerous Chicago buildings in the early decades of the 20th Century. His facilities struck a pleasant balance between the industrial needs of manufacturing facilities and the enlighting and human-scale aesthetics appreciated by workers, residents, and visitors.

Since becoming a landmark on July 29, 2009, no viable redevelopment proposal has come to light. However, Chicagoans and visitors alike will appreciate the sense of history that is retained. The restoration of the American Book Company building will one day result in the enlivened trio of historic publishing and printing buildings that surround the northwest side of the convention center.