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Hamburger History: City Honors White Castle Rehab

By JoshMogerman in News on Sep 4, 2011 8:00PM

This former White Castle at Wabash and Cermak was honored as one of the City's finest historic rehabs [jmogs]
This week the Commission on Chicago Landmarks doled out honors to more than a dozen projects for excellence in historic preservation. Among the mansions and noted civic buildings was an unlikely honoree: a former White Castle.

The rehab of the Chef Luciano and Gourmet Chicken restaurant on Cermak in the South Loop has garnered all sorts of attention this year for bringing back the iconic elements of the building's earlier hamburger history. Back are the glittering white tile tower and understated signage that marked the building 80 years ago when it was a cutting-edge fast food pioneer. Thankfully, a return of the sliders that made the chain famous was not part of the project. But that doesn’t mean they did not figure into the award -- check out this excerpt from the City’s description of the project:

Known as White Castle #16, the building was among the first generation of restaurants which made eating hamburgers widely accepted and paved the way for modern fast-food franchises transforming American eating habits and streetscapes in the twentieth century.
Yikes, not exactly something to celebrate, though we certainly love the building and agree the award is well deserved. The building was also granted historic landmark status earlier in the year (check out Lee Bey’s night shots of the restaurant taken at the time). It is ironic that a restaurant specializing in grilled chicken and relatively healthy (and tasty!) fare is helping preserve the legacy of a chain that has left its mark on the American waistline for the better part of a century... especially with a contemporary White Castle slopping out those iconic mini-burgers just down the street (from a noticeably less snazzy building).