Chicago’s Celebrated Schlitz Taverns to Receive Landmark Status

Eight Chicago taverns – all built more than a century ago by the Joseph Schlitz Brewing Company and which bear the brewer’s signature globe logo – may be given landmark status by the City Council.  The former brewery-tied houses were built in the Queen Anne or Baroque styles and “convey important aspects of the ethnic, social and commercial life of the city’s neighborhoods,” according to the Chicago Department of Zoning & Land Use Planning.  The distinctive buildings are reminders of the bygone era when brewers like Schlitz owned and operated their own taverns.  The city’s Commission on Chicago Landmarks says the process of granting the eight buildings landmark status could take as long as a year.

Although some building owners are resisting landmark status, Thomas Magee, who owns Mac’s American Pub at 1801 West Division Street, is eager to receive the landmark designation.  “Obviously, there’s concern because any time I’d want to make a change, I’d have to get (city) approval,” he said.  But, “it’s a beautiful old building and I want to keep it that way.  I’m not opposed to it.”  Magee’s pub was built in 1884 and was one of 57 taverns that the Milwaukee-based brewer operated in Chicago.  After Prohibition was repealed, the state banned brewer-owned bars and Schlitz was forced to sell its buildings.  Today, only 10 of the Schlitz buildings remain, according to the Chicago Bar Project.

In addition to the Division Street building, the proposed landmarks include Schuba’s at 3159 North Southport; 11400 South Front Avenue; 3456 South Western Avenue; 958 West 69th Street; 2159 West Belmont Avenue; 1944 North Oakley Avenue; and 5120 North Broadway.  According to James Peters, president of Landmarks Illinois, “Usually taverns are just simple commercial structures, and these have a lot of attention to craftsmanship and structure.  This shows that there’s some really great architecture in the neighborhoods.”