palmolive bldg art deco icon

This story begins in the fall of 2004, as I walked the beautiful north end of Michigan Ave. known as Chicago's Miracle Mile. It was a pristine clear October day and I was spellbound by the beauty of the city I had not revisited in over 24 years since 1980. So many new buildings and changes from those times when I knew every structure and cornerstone of archetechural detail from one end of Michigan the other. I was a younger man then owning the future and enjoying my arena of success in this hustling bustling city. As an aggresive commercial artist turned sales executive for one of Chicago's top retouching advertising studios, my accounts ranged from Leo Burnette to Wrigley and as far up Michigan Ave to the Hancock Building and the new headquarters for Playboy Enterprises. It's here that my story takes place. In my portfolio I carried the photo artwork of a future cover for an issue of Playboy Magazine three months ahead. Racing to meet some deadline, my cab pulled in front of tne dumpster where the discards from the old building were being thrown as Playboy created the black smokey glass and chrome facade. We had pulled up to the very north west corner of the Colgate Palmolive Building where Playboy was creating its new image across the first three floors of this majesty old deco structure. Emerging from my cab frustrated at the delay caused by the scaffolding and construction debris, I passed a worker bundled for the cold winds struggling to lift an object destined for the rim of a huge dumpster. He had missed the momentum of his swing and the heavy object came down to the street in front of me and into view. There in the cold autumn winds I stopped dead in my tracks and hollered at him. "Are you throwing that away?!!! He said "I'm sure trying to." And with that comment I blurted out..."I'll take it!!! "If you can carry it, it's yours!was his answer. And with that I dragged the 80 lb cast iron 2 ft X 2 ft cornerstone icon through a set of revolving doors and into the warm lobby. Having become a familiar face to the security staff I arranged for the piece to be stored behind the elevator shaft until that evening when I made the 27 mile trip back down the site and hauled the icon home. Several years later in 1979 I relocated my family to the Gulf Coast of Alabama to a historic home on a quiet southern river and here it remained for nearly thirty years as a backdrop to a fountain. Then as my tale began I walked the miracle mile again on an October day nastolgic to visit all the former sites of my past career. At the old site of the Playboy location to my amazement the building again was wrapped in scaffolding and construction debris. As I approached the site I asked a worker: " Is this still the Playboy Building?", and his comment was that they had sold out about 10 years ago. He was part of the grand restoration effort to recreate the splendor of this magnificent art deco building into an upscale condominium project. The tall marble granite panels rose to the bright October blue sky, polished back to their sheen, disperesed every floor or two were similar icons of the design I possessed. Similar in theme but not as detailed as my capture. When I photographed the corner where I had exited a cab nearly 30 years ago. and there on the corner about 10 feet above the ground stood two empty areas with rod stock emerging from the original site where seveeral panels once hung. The discolored areas were void of some long gone pieces of cornerstone art. I attempted to contact the architects, marketing group, and developers by email with no responsce. So I have since created several casting molds from my coveted icon from the Colgate Palmolive Buiding which sell extremly well as a wonderful example of Frank Hughes deco masterpiece work. The original icon was solid cast iron that had been nickle plated and painted gray. I proceeded to remove the old paint and was surprised when it polished up as shiny as a new nickle but has since developed a wonderful patina color. Anyone with an interest in this extraordinary piece of art deco beauty contact us for details.

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