Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Just down the street from the Overton Hygienic Building is the Chicago Bee Building. It was built by the same man, Anthony Overton, but seven years later, in 1929. It is actually a combination of two buildings, a smaller brick one and a great Art Deco edifice. All the Art Deco ornamentation is rendered in shades of green. From 1929 onward, this building held all of Overton’s businesses, of which the Chicago Bee, one of Chicago’s African-American newspapers, was one. Overton Hygienic, the cosmetics company, continued to be headquartered in this building until the early 1980s.  The architect for both the Overton Hygienic Building and this one was Z. Erol Smith, whom I've never heard of - was he an African American architect? There would have been very few of those in the 1920s.

From the 1980s until the mid-1990s, the building was abandoned until the Chicago Public Library stepped in to save it.The first two floors of both pieces of the building were restored and integrated together into the current Chicago Bee Library.  It’s a weird location for a library because the Martin Luther King branch is only half a mile away, and given its usage patterns, it’s pretty much a glorified computer lab. Still, I’m glad it’s there because they did a nice job of saving the building.

The Chicago Bee Building is another of the nine buildings that make up the Black Metropolis-Bronzeville City Landmark District, which was created in 1998, and has also been on the National Register since 1986.

Posted by Posted by The Loosh at 7:00 AM