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Landmark Status Urged For Former Brewery

Willis Tower (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Willis Tower (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

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CHICAGO (STMW) — Raise a glass with real gusto for the latest six-pack of landmark buildings in Chicago.

The Commission on Chicago Landmarks on Thursday endorsed landmark status for five commercial buildings that used to contain taverns owned by the Joseph Schlitz Brewing Co. It also recommended landmark status for a former Schlitz stable that’s now part of a microbrewery.

The buildings date from the 1890s or early 1900s. They are among the survivors of a beer-soaked era in the city’s history, during which regional brewers engaged in fierce competition and set up their own taverns to guarantee themselves sales outlets.

The taverns were near factories filled with thirsty laborers. The brewers usually spent extra on architecture and construction to advertise their brands and make the pubs look respectable amid scolding from the “dry” movement.

A city report said Schlitz was the most prolific builder of the so-called “tied houses.” Its logo showing a globe circumscribed by a belt reading “Schlitz” is still visible on some of the buildings.

The properties that got the commission’s endorsement include the popular Schuba’s Tavern at 3159 N. Southport.

Others include a Starbucks at 2159 W. Belmont, a package liquor store at 3456 S. Western, and buildings at 958 W. 69th St. and 11400 S. Front Ave. The former stable at 11314 S. Front Ave. now contains the Argus Brewery.

“What a great piece of Chicago history these are,” said Jim Peters, president of the advocacy group Landmarks Illinois. He praised the commission for protecting the present or former taverns because “a number of them have been torn down in recent years.”

The panel’s vote sends the landmarks recommendation to the City Council for final action.

Landmarks status prevents owners from razing or severely altering the buildings, but tax benefits and other financial incentives are tradeoffs.

The commission held a hearing March 22 for the owners to voice objections, but a spokesman said none showed up and only one turned in a written form opposing landmark status.

Schlitz was brewed in Milwaukee and used to be the most popular American beer, advertised everywhere for its “gusto.” In the 1970s, a decision to adopt a cheaper brewing process ruined the taste in the opinion of aficionados, and it slipped into discount-brand obscurity.

Pabst Brewing Co., with headquarters in Woodridge, owns the label and has revived it as a nostalgic brew with something that approximates the 1960s formula.

Three more former Schlitz taverns are in the landmarks process. Two, Mac’s American Pub at 1801 W. Division and the South-East Asia Center at 5120 N. Broadway, have pending votes in the City Council.

The owner of a building that contains Floyd’s Pub at 1944 N. Oakley has requested more time to give consent, a city spokesman said.

© Sun-Times Media Wire Chicago Sun-Times 2011. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed