PARTIAL WIN: Adaptive Reuse Advances for Prairie Farmer/ WLS Studios Building at 1230 W. Washington Boulevard

1230 W. Washington Boulevard, Conceptual Rendering, Rendering Credit: Hartshorne Plunkard

The Prairie Farmer Building/ WLS Studios, 1230 W. Washington Boulevard, Historic Images Rendering Credit: www.WLSHistory.com

The Prairie Farmer Building/ WLS Studios, 1230 W. Washington Boulevard, Photo Credit: GoogleMaps

The redevelopment of the three-story Prairie Farmer/ WLS Studios building at 1230 W. Washington Boulevard at Willard Court in the Fulton Market District is moving through City Hall hearings including Chicago Plan Commission and Committee on Zoning, and City Council. The proposed development by New York-based investors RCG Longview and CLK Properties would retain the historic building at the corner and build a new nine-story glassy office building behind, beside and above the historic structure. Chicago-based Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture is the design architect.

Preservation Chicago applauds the development team and architect Hartshorne Plunkard for retaining the historic building and incorporating it into their new construction development. The new glassy building will be set back from both historic facades on Washington Boulevard and Willard Court. This visually respects the historic structure and allows for an expansive rooftop deck amenity. Additionally, the new construction’s architectural mullions reference the cadence of the historic brick piers below.

The loft building at 1230 W. Washington Boulevard was built in 1928. Known as The Prairie Farmer Building, it was the longtime home of WLS Radio Cornstalk Studio and WLS Radio Barn Dance Studio. In the 1960s, it was converted to the famous “Rock of Chicago.” The two-story Barn Dance Studio more recently served as the photographic gallery and archives for The David R. Phillips Collection and the Chicago Architectural Photographing Company archives. The Phillips Collection, assembled over a 40-year period, includes vintage prints and archival fiber silver prints made from original negatives by David R. Phillips. Recently, it was home to the Marilyn Miglin Cosmetics Company.

Preservation Chicago advocated to the former owners of 1230 W. Washington Boulevard to Landmark the building prior to its sale in 2012. The current proposal includes the demolition of the two buildings to the west. The façade of the two-story, red-brick building with limestone ornament at 1248 W. Washington could be incorporated into the base of the new construction.

“Since the station’s main concern was the farmer, much of WLS’ broadcast day catered to the rural areas of the Midwest. Informing the farmers was as equally as important as keeping them entertained. Market reports aired twice daily direct from the Union Stock Yards through remote broadcast lines. WLS used these new remote lines extensively, and promoted themselves accordingly as being on the cutting edge of this new medium. State fairs, corn husking contests and even live coverage from the 1933 World’s Fair in Chicago were just a few of the many remote broadcasts that WLS aired.” (WLSHistory.com)

“Then make your way out to 1230 West Washington Boulevard and walk up to the third floor. Enter the world of WLS, the Prairie Farmer station. You’ll receive a warm greeting. And if you walk into the legendary ‘Cornstalk Studio,’ you will very likely find some of your favorite radio artists performing on the air. (They might include Gene Autry, Pat Buttram, Little Georgie Gobel, Lulu Belleand Scotty, Mac and Bob, the Cumberland Ridgerunners, the Prairie Ramblers, Patsy Montana, Rex Allen, Bob Atcher, ‘Arkie’ (the Arkansas Woodchopper), Hermann Felber and the WLS Orchestra, the Maple City 4, or ‘Jolly Joe’ Kelly—to name a few whose names pop into mind).” (www.richsamuels.com )

Additional Reading
Plan to build offices above historic West Loop loft building clears key city vote: The development will breathe new life into the former home of “Prairie Farmer” magazine and WLS Studios, Jay Koziarz, Curbed Chicago,  May 21, 2019

New Yorkers propose nine-story office building in Fulton Market: RCG Longview and CLK Properties want to join in on the fun in Fulton Market, where about 6 million square feet of office space is under construction or in the planning phase, Alby Gallun, Crain’s Chicago Business, 9/25/18

The Prairie Farmer Station, WLSHistory.com

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