On June 4, 2020, the Commission on Chicago Landmarks voted to award preliminary Landmark designation to the former Schlitz Brewery-Tied House located at 9401 S. Ewing Avenue on Chicago’s East Side. If approved by Chicago City Council, it would become the 10th Tied House Landmark in Chicago. Ownership plans a preservation-oriented restoration and use as a tavern.
Preservation Chicago Testimony Presented to the Commission on Chicago Landmarks by Ward Miller on June 4, 2020
“Preservation Chicago, is very pleased to recommend the Schlitz Tied House, located at 9401 S. Ewing Avenue as a Chicago Landmark.
“We have worked alongside owner Mike Medina, Alderman Susan Garza and DPD-Historic Preservation Staff at the City of Chicago, to encourage designation of this building as a Chicago Landmark. Such a designation and recommendation would join this structure to the other remarkable Schlitz Tied Houses across Chicago and a Schlitz Stable Building, which received Chicago Landmark Designation in 2011.
“The building, designed by architect Charles Thisslew in 1907, is a wonderful representation of these company-owned tied house buildings, once located in communities across Chicago. Thisslew also designed another Schlitz Tied House on Chicago’s North Side at 2159 W. Belmont, which is part of the Schlitz Tied House District of five buildings and the stable. So, there is a precedent for this building to be considered for this honor and designation.
“This Schlitz Tied House structure is located in Chicago’s East Side Community, adjacent to South Chicago, and in an area of the City, which has few Designated Chicago Landmarks. We therefore highly encourage the designation of this structure, in addition to others, looking to the future, as this community was once part of the industrial might and the heart of the steel industry in Chicago, much of which has vanished.
“A special thanks to owner Mike Media, Alderman Susan Garza, the Department and the City for supporting and recognizing this landmark-quality building.” (Preservation Chicago, 6/4/20)
From Chicago Patterns
“How much should be read into the disappearance of a single stained glass window? For the forlorn Bamboo Lounge at 9401 S. Ewing, could it be a warning of worse to come? A distinctive time capsule of a neighborhood tied house tavern, the building clings – for now – to the ragged frontier between the industrial past and the uncertain future of Chicago’s far southeast side. But for how much longer?
“Tied Houses: The corner tavern is a dying species in Chicago. Many of those remaining are on borrowed time, licenses set to expire with their current proprietors. A creeping block-by-block rebirth of Prohibition has overtaken much of the city, leaving a once-ubiquitous Chicago institution on the brink.
“Even more rare is the tied house: a bar built by a particular brewer to serve a particular brand of beer. The efforts of early Temperance advocates led to escalating licensing fees, which advantaged well-financed brewers over small tavern keepers. Tied houses were an ingenious achievement in vertical integration, and boomed along with the brewing and beer-shipping industry of Chicago.
“Tied houses used distinctive and high-quality architecture to carve out brand identity and convey an air of respectability. Their substantial buildings were nearly always sited on valuable real estate at prominent corners, where the side doors that could be kept open overnight and on Sundays just so happened to face a street too.
“Many were built in Chicago around the start of the 20th century, but their heyday was short. Prohibition took a harsh toll, and vertical integration in the alcohol business was made illegal when it was repealed.
“Some tied houses have survived as ordinary bars in extraordinary buildings. Others were repurposed. In 2011, the City of Chicago officially recognized their significance as a category, granting several of them Chicago Landmark status – and the protections and tax benefits it confers. At that time, at least 41 tied houses were known to remain in Chicago, but only five were selected for landmarking – all built by Schlitz.
“Schlitz was the third biggest brewer in America in that era, and while it was based in Milwaukee, it had substantial distribution and business operations in Chicago. Company Vice President Edward G. Uihlein oversaw the most ambitious program of tied house construction in the city, putting up 57 over the course of about a decade. They were widely distributed outside of downtown in neighborhoods with immigrant industrial workers. Schlitz tied houses were instantly recognizable thanks to the prominent use the ‘belted globe’ insignia.” (Rogers, 2/15/17)