Karcher Hotel recommended for protected status
By Dan Moran email@example.com August 27, 2013 9:32PM
The Karcher Artspace Lofts located on the corner of Washington Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in Waukegan. | Thomas Delany Jr.~ Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 27, 2013 2:25AM
Fresh off its $14.6 million renovation, the Karcher Hotel on Washington Street is in line to receive landmark preservation status from the city for its “significant value as part of the historic, heritage or cultural characteristics of the community.”
Now known as the Karcher Artspace Lofts, the nine-story modified Italian Classical Revival building opened in 1928, was closed following a fatal fire in 1984 and reopened late last year as a live-work community for artists.
The City Council’s Judiciary Committee issued a recommendation for the protected status on Monday, Aug. 26, and the proposal now goes before the full council for approval on Sept. 3.
A report to the council from the Waukegan Historic Preservation Commission praised the Karcher as “a highly significant structure in the commercial and social history of Waukegan.
It was built during a time of tremendous growth in Waukegan’s history and played a major role in the city until the mid 1980s.”
“(The Karcher) is an excellent example of the Classic Revival style which dominated American commercial construction at that time and was popular in Waukegan until about 1930,” the report states, adding that the structure “epitomizes the Classical Revival Style with friezes, rows of eggs and dart moldings, dentils, acanthus leaves, and the repetition of the anthemion pattern in different stylized forms.”
Among the details about the Karcher included in the report:
• The building was developed by George W. Benfer of Freeport and built by architect BK Gibson of Chicago. When construction on the hotel was completed in October 1927, the Waukegan State Bank valued the Karcher at $515,000.
• The doors opened to the public on June 28, 1928, with 150 rooms and 120 bathrooms. The Karcher also boasted five retail spaces, two dining rooms, a banquet hall and a billiard room.
• Architectural details include “an elaborate classical frieze around the outside of the top and lower section of the building as well as leaf, egg, and dart patterns.” Red brick covers the exterior from the third through eighth floors, and a terra cotta cornice on the upper elevation was taken down and put into storage during the 2012 renovation due to fears about crumbling.
• At nine stories and 100 feet, the Karcher is the fourth-tallest building in the downtown area, behind the Waukegan Hotel, the Waukegan Building and the Lake County Building.
The Karcher was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in August 2002, but that federal designation places no restrictions on the use, treatment, transfer or disposition of private property.
The city’s landmark status, enacted in 2003, comes with regulations governing the construction, alteration, demolition and use of a designated structure. Any proposed changes require a “certificate of appropriateness” that must be approved by the preservation commission and the City Council.