The Belden-Stratford

Chicago, Illinois

The Belden Stratford was constructed in 1922 to the design of Meyer Fridstein, an alumni of the office of Chicago architect Benjamin Marshall. The 16 story steel-framed building, clad in terra-cotta, brick, and granite originally featured 650 hotel rooms, a large 2-story ballroom, two restaurants and a large Louis XIV style Lobby with open mezzanines on the east and west sides. VHA teamed with Chicago-based Solomon Cordwell Buenz (SCB) in the renovation of this National Register landmark, which received a federal restoration tax credit.

VHA'S scope encompassed exterior and interior restoration design. Work included the removal of non-original alterations, the restoration of historic finishes and integration of accessibility features, including ramps, and lifts. A 1980's-era porte cochere was removed and replaced by a cantilevered steel and glass canopy referencing the long-missing original. Granite entry stairs and bronze entry doors and railings were installed at the main entry at Lincoln Park West. All non-original windows and doors were replaced by energy efficient units, finished in the original 1920's teal blue.

Along Belden Avenue changes included the restoration of the original symmetrical side entrances, with replacement terra cotta units by Boston Valley Terra Cotta and new granite stairs and metal railings. New landscaping and lanterns flank the central entry, where a 1980’s marquee concealed the historic double curvature arched entryway. New windows and doors were installed at the ground floor, and original window guards were used as templates for the casting of new units with the "B" of Hotel Belden accented by gilding.

In the 1980's, the original east and west mezzanines overlooking the main lobby were closed off and converted to apartments. These spaces were re-opened to the main lobby and original marble, plaster and ornamental iron details were restored or recreated. The lobby's historic walnut and mirrored glass partitions, hidden by an earlier remodeling, were restored or recreated. New handrails, lighting and decorative finishes were implemented throughout and accessibility lifts were installed at the public entries. The original decorative paint scheme with gilding was recreated and the original Carthage gray marble floor was uncovered and refinished.

Main Lobby - Before

Main Lobby - After

Daylight once again illuminates the Lobby through the large arched window over the main entrance. By restoring the lounge and removing the non-original walls that blocked this space from the Lobby, the historic arrangement of this window and the main entry below is once again made visible.

The 1922 East Lounge mezzanine had been converted into an apartment (left) VHA restored and re-opened this space to the Main Lobby (right).

Working in conjunction with Evergreene Architectural Arts, VHA designed new ceiling murals and a related series of eight overdoor paintings set in gilded plaster frames, that evoke the long lost originals. The murals, painted on large canvases in Evergreene’s New York studios, were applied on site by their installers.


Client: Waterton Residential
Architect of Record: SCB
General Contractor: Bulley & Andrews
Lighting Designer: CharterSills Architectural Lighting Design
Historic Finish Research: EverGreene Architectural Arts
Photographer: © Kendall McCaugherty