Scherer Building: 1201 N. State – Preservation Chicago’s First Triumph

In 1886, pharmacist Andrew Scherer acted as the developer of a stunning building at the northeast corner of State and Division Streets, which would stand at the gateway to the brand-new Gold Coast. The battle to preserve this important corner building would be Preservation Chicago’s first battle and its first success.

Designed by architects Frommann and Jepsen, the Scherer Building was scherer-buildingconstructed in a Queen Anne style with a beautiful copper corner turret. Housed on the building’s first floor, the Scherer Pharmacy served Chicago’s elite and ultimately became the longest operating pharmacy in the city prior to its closure in 1943.

In 2001, coinciding with the birth of Preservation Chicago, the organization learned that a plan for a new CVS pharmacy would demolish this and two adjacent historic buildings on the site. Although told by city officials that the demolition plan was unstoppable, the group forged ahead making the Scherer Building its first major preservation effort as a formal organization.

Under the banner of the “Vanishing Urban Corner” campaign, Preservation Chicago took to the streets and organized a massive and unrelenting petitioning drive to save the Scherer Building. Many longtime local residents joined them on the streets of the Near North Side. Ultimately, 2,552 signatures were obtained opposing the demolition.

Finally, due to this public outcry, city officials brokered a deal with CVS to preserve the Scherer Building and one of the two other historic buildings and adaptively reuse them for the new pharmacy.

However, the fight was not over. During conversion of the structures, CVS construction teams dismantled the ornament on the corner turret, leaving behind bare and sterile flat surfaces. This was a violation of a previous written agreement by CVS to preserve and restore the ornamental detail of the turret. Preservation Chicago again took action and began pressuring city officials for restoration of the turret. Numerous letters, phone calls, and emails led to the city finally taking action.

Ultimately, city officials threatened to revoke CVS’s Permit of Occupancy unless the turret was restored. The result of the city’s mandate was that an expert restoration team hired by CVS painstakingly restored the turret. The Scherer Building is now seen in all its glory by thousands of visitors to the Near North Side from all over the world. It stands over the busy intersection of State and Division as a beautiful reminder of the Victorian era in Chicago.