Demolition Begins: Uptown Landmark, Lawrence House for Flats Chicago is Underway


Demolition has begun on the Chicago historic landmark, Lawrence House. Take a tour through the new project with us.

Lawrence House has been a cornerstone of Uptown life since it was constructed in 1928. The art deco courtyard tower was once the height of then-modern convenience and luxury with its basement swimming pool, and rooftop theater. The building is being gutted (demolition is underway) and brought entirely up to date – merging modern amenities and preservation of historic elements. In fact, our application for historic tax credits to repair the significant elements is currently under review by the National Parks Service. Our design includes refurbishing and reopening the long defunct basement pool, updating retail spaces on the ground floor and re-configuring some units. Many will remain small, providing the same concept of small but functional individual units.


1020 Lawrence was originally an apartment hotel – many private living spaces with minimal kitchens and small but brightly lit studio living spaces.  The tiny hatches for room service are still located next to each unit door.  Later it was re-imagined as a “Retirement Hotel” as the placard next to the front entry still shows.

lawrence house black and wh

Over time the historic Lawrence House building suffered from poor maintenance and fell into extreme disrepair.  Its fate has hung in the balance for several years of foreclosure, while it continued to deteriorate and violate multiple building safety codes.  What remains are beautiful but dilapidated remnants we hope to preserve.  These are some of the finds we photographed on our most recent visit.

cool details

One of the most beautiful areas of the building is the basement pool area with its complex curved ceiling and antique tile.  We’re thrilled to be reopening this after so many years of disuse and disrepair.

pool area


There is a strong pathos to an empty space in the process of demolition.  If you’ve been wondering what’s going on behind the scaffolding of Lawrence House’s closed doors … here’s a glimpse.  You won’t need a face mask to enjoy these images but as we made our site visit, Chris, Matt and I all needed to protect ourselves from the swirling surface-of-the-moon style dust generaged by atomizing so many square feet of old plaster interior walls and moving the debris out of the building by shoveling it down interior air shafts.

construction dust at Lawrence House

Here are Chris and Matt checking a few measurements that we can take more accurately now that some areas of structure have been exposed.

chris and matt

Construction (and especially the first step of demolition) always gives some fascinating views of the inner workings of a building.  In this case it reveals some seriously out-dated equipment.  This is not the sort of antique quality we want to preserve in an older building.

The original heating ductwork may still be functional but a view down the plumbing shaft shows evidence of years of leaks and drips.  A glance into the old-fashioned fuse box suggest wiring that far below modern standards.  All of this will be resolved by Flats’ investment of updated construction.

aging equipment

A few more details of de-construction.


WATCH THIS SPOT … for further updates on our 1020 Lawrence project for Flats Chicago.  Let us know what you think of the project in the comments!