The Vesemen Building: 444 North LaSalle Street – One of a kind architectural orphan saved

By 2005, it became quite apparent that the days of the tiny little Art Deco 444-n_-lasallegem located at 444 North LaSalle were numbered. Although the building was a vital part of the downtown streetscape, its diminutive two stories sat between two giant parking lots spelling certain doom as soon as the inevitable redevelopment plan emerged for the entire parcel.

Preservation Chicago took action by listing the building as one of its 7 Most Threatened structures that same year, bringing its perilous fate citywide attention. The organization then appealed directly to then-Alderman Burt Natarus (42nd) to preserve the building based on its truly unique architecture.

Designed by George F. Lovdall in 1930, 444 N. LaSalle is an integral part of the pedestrian-scaled, commercially-oriented Lower River North district. It enlivens the streetscape through its intricately detailed polychromatic terracotta in hues of gold, navy, pink and green, making it one of downtown’s most colorful façades.

Somewhat unusual for Art Deco, the façade is ornamented with floral shapes, in addition to the more conventional Art Deco geometric abstractions. The effect is quite distinct from the stark and virtually unadorned limestone towers, or curvaceous, abstract mid-rises often associated with Art Deco.

Art Deco was a style flourishing in Chicago and elsewhere until the onset of the Great Depression. During that time, construction virtually ceased, as funds were scarce. The country’s prevailing malaise might be part of the explanation for the overtly cheerful character of 444 N. LaSalle, a rare example of architecture executed literally during the Depression. Art Deco would survive, but would never regain its full prominence, as the more progressive Art Moderne and International styles became favored shortly thereafter, making its presence downtown all the more rare and therefore worthy of preservation.

On December 12, 2007 the Veseman Building became a designated city landmark. It currently houses a British-themed pub and restaurant called English.