Design Peculiarity: The Farcroft Building

Design Peculiarity: The Farcroft Building

Jason Loper
Sep 15, 2010

From the they-just-don't-build-'em-like-they-used-to file comes The Farcroft Building, on Chicago's far north side. As the northernmost high rise building in Chicago, The Farcroft rises like a beacon amid the low rise buildings just east of Sheridan Road. But as I discovered when I got a closer look, it's the details of the building that are truly remarkable.

I can plainly see the turret of the Farcroft building from my back porch and, as a fan of 1920s and 30s era high rises, it has always intrigued me. When I walked past the building on my way home from a lakefront jaunt I discovered the building's unique properties.

It seems that the architect, Charles Wheeler Nicol (1888-1953), fancied himself a bit of a magician. According to the blog of a former resident, Nicol wanted to design the building as a nexus for magical energy. In addition to decorating the outside of the 13-storey building with reliefs of monks and elves and other sinister looking figures, the inside is a sight to behold. Legend has it that there are no right angles in the building, allowing the magical energy to flow continuously. I was able to peer through the windows at what remains of the lobby and it is breathtaking, even in its current decrepit state. I'm talking about an ornate fireplace and limestone floors and woodwork and yet more reliefs of monks!

After years of neglect (and loads of negative reviews on apartment rental sites) the building was sold in November 2008. Now empty, the building is receiving a much-needed rehabbing. On the day I took these photos I could hear workmen working on a unit on the second floor.

Images: Jason Loper

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