Residents and historians want to preserve 1940s terrazzo mosaic floor discovered in Six Corners

PORTAGE PARK — Some Far Northwest Siders residents are hoping the rediscovered remains of an ornate entrance to a former Six Corners clothing store can be saved as a developer takes over the property.

Last week, a local historian and explorer came across an old Art Deco terrazzo floor at 4035 N. Milwaukee Ave. It was unearthed after two long-empty buildings were demolished last summer.

Now, passersby peeking through the fence can see a layer of pink soil amid the rubble of demolition at 4033 N. Milwaukee Ave., land that once housed the famous Mr. Steer Steakhouse. The floor has white and green lines with a circular mosaic of three women.

The terrazzo entrance was part of the Three Sisters clothing store, which was in the neighborhood from the 1940s to the mid-1960s.

Mavrek Development bought the property last month. Company representatives did not respond to a request for comment on what they plan to do with the lot or whether they will keep the terrazzo.

Susanna Ernst, president of the Northwest Chicago Historical Society, said the personalized entry was a spectacular find. The logo depicted the clothing store, which was part of a national chain under Miller-Wohl, a New Jersey company. Miller-Wohl operated from 1938 until 1984, when it was merged with another company.

“They had several other branded women’s clothing stores, so it’s unlikely that there were actually three sisters involved in this project,” Ernst said of the Six Corners store.

Ernst believes the store was active from around 1940 to 1952 — a long time for a store to be in operation at that time, she said.

But longtime Portage Park resident Cynthia Abbinanti remembers the store was still going strong in the 1960s. She grew up in the neighborhood and regularly shopped at Three Sisters with her friends when they were in high school. She bought a ball gown and push-ups from the women’s boutique in the early ’60s, she said.

“That’s when we started the pants. … It was the beginning of women wearing pants,” Abbinanti said.

Abbinanti doesn’t remember the entrance, but she was happy to hear that something from her teenage years is still a part of Six Corners. Abbinanti said she hopes the terrazzo can be kept as an ode to the community’s once-thriving commercial district.

“Anything you can save that’s old…we should save it.” It’s part of the story,” Abbinanti said. “Six Corners has always been a great shopping hotspot.”

The buildings on the land sat vacant for more than a decade and were condemned before being demolished, neighbors said.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
An old terrazzo floor at 4035 N. Milwaukee Ave. was recently revealed in the vacant lot of Six Corners, as seen on March 25, 2022.

An environmental report of the property by former developer Condor Partners shows that the original structure was developed in the early 1920s with a commercial building and detached garage. It was remodeled in the 1940s and housed a parking lot, restaurant, furniture store, dance studio, and clothing stores.

Previous occupants included Paris Furniture, Inc.; Red Robin shops; Maling Shoes; R&S shoe store; the Three Sisters clothing store; Authentic Mideast Belly Dance and finally, the steakhouse, according to the report.

Condor purchased the five storefronts at 4047-55 N. Milwaukee Ave. and three storefronts at 4029-37 N. Milwaukee Ave. in 2015 with plans to open restaurants and apartments across from the Portage Theatre. But the company never redeveloped the land and sold it in February to Mavrek, according to the Cook County Recorder of Deeds’s Office.

Michael McLean, a Condor partner who was in charge of the Six Corners properties, said the company had decided to focus on commercial development elsewhere in the city.

McLean said the steakhouse closed in the early 2000s and a pizzeria tried unsuccessfully to open there in 2005. After years of vacancy, an Arts Alive Chicago mural was painted in 2011 along from the wall at 4037-4043 N. Milwaukee Ave., according to Google Maps. This was the start of the art campaign which has now covered the northwest side with murals by local artists.

As Six Corners sees developments and new businesses, neighbors and local historians want the relics of the past to be remembered and appreciated.

Dan Pogorzelski, local historian and writer from Forgotten Chicago, said terrazzo is a connection to the past that fits with his mission to highlight the neglected environment of the past.

“Many know the landmarks of our wealth of architectural treasures in Chicago, but fewer are aware of the landmarks that are present in every neighborhood of the Windy City,” Pogorzelski said. “This terrazzo is part of the legacy of architectural richness that really helps it show how grand the Six Corners business district was in its heyday.”

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