Louis Sullivan’s Last Commission: Lincoln Square’s Krause Music Store

by Peter von Buol

Located at 4611 N. Lincoln Ave., the 95-year-old Krause Music Building is one of the most significant architectural landmarks in the 47th Ward. It is the last completed design of Louis Sullivan, the groundbreaking Chicago architect.

Beautifully restored 10 years ago by its current owners Peter and Pooja Vukosavich, the building today is the headquarters of their creative-communications firm, Studio V Design. The Vukosavichs moved to Lincoln Square after having spent 19 years in a River North office.

Originally opened in 1922 as the Krause Music Store, the façade of the property was designed by Sullivan. Between 1880 and 1895, Sullivan and his partner Dankmar Adler had designed many landmark buildings, including the Auditorium Theatre, the old Carson, Pirie and Scott Building on State Street and the now-demolished old Chicago Stock Exchange. Their partnership faltered after a great depression hit the United States in the late 19th century and which abruptly ended the demand for large projects.

Adler & Sullivan had created a uniquely American style of architecture. They practiced a design principle which emphasized “form follows function” and their inspiration came from nature, rather than the classical architecture of ancient Greece and Rome.

By the early 1900s, Sullivan had developed a niche business of designing bank buildings for small Midwestern towns. Each one of these commissions included Sullivan’s recognizable design principles and today, these buildings are known as “jewel-box” banks.

In 1921, Lincoln Square businessman William Krause commissioned architect William Presto to design a building that would serve as his home and music store. Presto had years earlier served as Sullivan’s draftsman. Presto convinced Krause to bring Sullivan aboard to design the building’s unique blue-green terra cotta tile façade.

The Vukosavichs purchased the building after they had heard it was available. Shortly afterwards, they undertook an extensive renovation of the property. The interior was completely gutted and numerous elements that had been added by a funeral-home operator were removed.

“It is really the façade that has been preserved. At the time of our purchase, there wasn’t anything of historical value on the inside,” said Vukosavich.

The Vukosavichs are especially proud of their stewardship of the property and are proud their renovation has been recognized by many prestigious architectural-awards.

“Steward is a good word. That is exactly what we feel like. Yes, we are owners, but the building really belongs to the neighborhood. You see that when moms kind of walk up and down [the front] with their strollers. They’ll go up to the façade and touch it. A little toddler will [then] go up and touch it. That’s when we realize that is why we are here,” says Vukosavich.

The building has been recognized as a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service and the city of Chicago. In 1977, it was designated a city landmark. Among those who had advocated for this designation was the 47th Ward’s then-Alderman, Gene Schulter.

“I was involved in making it a landmark. Throughout my career, I took every opportunity to preserve historical structures in the Ward, the Krause Music Store was the first. I was concerned about rumors that the then-owner wanted to redo the facade, and as Chair of the Landmarks Committee, I took a bold move to landmark such buildings,” Schulter said.

Architectural preservationist Ward Miller, executive director of Preservation Chicago, is among those who appreciates that the Krause Music Store has been preserved for posterity, especially because it is the last-ever design by one of the giants of Chicago architecture.

“The Krause Music Store is well-known as the last building commission of architect Louis Sullivan and it’s located in the heart of Lincoln Square. The project was mostly focused on the design of the street façade, but Sullivan’s brilliance always shines through, of even the smallest of his designs. It’s a remarkable building and almost an extension of his famous “jewel box banks,” which are located across the Midwest,” said Miller. While it’s smaller than his more well-known commissions, Miller says that the building is thoroughly a Sullivan design.

“Sullivan’s treatment of the façade beautifully harmonizes, and created a marvelous composition, with its blue-green terra cotta, it’s recessed store window and richly defined and illuminated ornament. This is all topped with a most elaborate terra-cotta finial, which extends beyond the roofline, much like a beautiful flowering tree. Like many works of the master architects and artists, it is among our great treasures, and a fine quality commercial building design, which is seldom matched. Louis Sullivan’s works are among the greatest buildings of the 19th/20th century centuries,” Miller said.

             

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