LOSS: Stop-Work Order Issued After Decorative Terra Cotta Ornament Stripped Without Permit from New Devon Theater Façade

Decorative terra cotta ornament visible on façade of New Devon Theater / Assyrian American Association prior to unpermitted removal. New Devon Theater, 1912, Henry J. Ross, 1618 W. Devon Avenue. Image Credit: Google Maps
Two stop-work orders were issued by the city to the owner of 1618 W. Devon Ave. after the decorative terra cotta bust was removed and destroyed. Photo Credit: Joe Ward / Block Club Chicago

“The city has halted work on a historically protected building in Rogers Park after its new owner improperly removed a terra cotta bust and other features from its façade.

“Two stop-work orders have been issued to the owner of 1618 W. Devon Ave., a former movie house built in 1912. The first order was issued Oct. 4, after neighbors and city officials noticed the building’s decorative figurehead had been removed without proper permits.

“The stop-work orders were issued because of permitting problems, officials said. But the work also runs afoul of city preservation statues that seek to prevent protected buildings from being altered.

“The original terra cotta figurehead — thought to be a bust of the ancient Egyptian goddess Isis — was removed along with glazed bricks because they were in disrepair, building owner Doris Eneamokwu said. The bust has been discarded, she said.

“Had the owner filed for the proper building permits, she would have learned of the building’s historical status, said Ward Miller, executive director of Preservation Chicago.

“The Devon Avenue building is rated ‘orange’ in the city’s historic resources survey, the second-highest preservation status a city building can earn. When developers seek permits for such buildings, city staff usually notify applicants of historic protections and can help with funding and assistance for renovations, Miller said. Demolition permits for orange-rated buildings trigger a 90-day hold to review the building’s significance and options for preservation.

“‘They bypassed an important step,’ he said. ‘There could have been programming in place to fix the building and the problems with it.’

“The building was constructed as the New Devon Theater movie house in 1912 by noted architect Henry Ross. Built with a glazed brick façade and including a large arch and the bust, its design is indicative of turn-of-the-century movie houses in Chicago, according to the Rogers Park West Ridge Historical Society.

“Neighbors and officials with Ald. Andre Vasquez’s 40th Ward office noticed work was being done on the building, and the ward office contacted the Department of Buildings after learning no permits were pulled, said Geoffrey Cubbage, Vasquez’s director of policy and economic development.

“Officials said there is a chance the building’s existing façade can be restored. The local ward office is looking into requiring restoration rather than just fines or other penalties, Cubbage said.

“There are companies that can restore the façade and possible funding sources for historical preservation, Miller said. ‘There could be a really remarkable restoration of the façade. That would be an ideal situation.'” (Ward, Block Club Chicago, 10/28/21)

Read the full story at Block Club Chicago

Historical Terra Cotta Removed And Thrown Out From Protected Rogers Park Building, Leading To Stop Work Order; City officials say workers removed historical façade features from the 1912 movie house at 1618 W. Devon Ave. without proper permits. The new owner said she didn’t know it was protected, Joe Ward, Block Club Chicago, 10/28/21

Cinema Treasures.org

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