Outer Drive East

One of the first truly mammoth middle-class apartment structures to go up after World War II, Outer Drive East still stands out for its size, cost, and location. Its $20 million mortgage was the largest issued in Illinois at the time. With more than 900 units, the building’s construction caused a bitter legal battle over the air and riparian rights of the Illinois Central Railroad, resolved only through the aggressive development skills of Jerrold Welxler. Forty
stories high, with an attended garage housing 850 cars, the giant T-shaped structure was a lonely pioneer. It was sold in 1973 for purposes of conversion to condominiums and now stands amid a number of other large apartment buildings.
Brand new, its huge white and black balconied façade crowned by an undulating penthouse hiding mechanical equipment, Outer Drive East seemed the epitome of modern comfort. Linked to a glass-domed, kidney-shaped swimming pool, there was “no need to dash off to Florida or southern France to escape the wintry weather,” promised the brochure. It also contained, on its top floor, a popular restaurant, La Tour. Today it sums up a distinctly late-1950s design sensibility.