Armitage-Halsted Landmark District
The purpose of these guidelines is to provide the owners and occupants of buildings within the Armitage-Halsted Landmark District (AHLD) with information as to what the AHLD Community Advisory Committee regards as positive and negative factors in its review of proposed new signage and alterations to existing signage within the AHLD.
For guidance, the AHLD Community Advisory Committee looks to a variety of source including the U.S. Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation of Historic Buildings; the Landmark Designation Report of the Chicago Commission on Landmarks for the Armitage-Halsted District; City of Chicago Design Guidelines for Commercial and Industrial Buildings. The Committee also looks to existing examples of signage within the district and in other areas of the City of Chicago and elsewhere with buildings of a similar character.
- The original design elements and additions made long ago characteristic of the district should be preserved to the greatest extent possible. Elements should be repaired if possible. Restoration of lost elements are encouraged.
- New materials should match original materials in composition, design, color, texture and other visual qualities to the greatest extent possible.
- The buildings of the district are of a particular time, place and character. Signage should not be done in an uncharacteristic style even if that style attempts to create a historic appearance, if that appearance is not characteristic of this particular district.
- Fences, benches, landscaping and other elements should be compatible with the design of the adjacent buildings.
The bulkhead is that portion of the façade of the building at the lower level of the storefront, below the display windows. Bulkheads should be preserved and restored. Elimination of bulkheads for larger windows or other reasons are discouraged as uncharacteristic of the district (e.g. Benetton Store at Armitage and Dayton).
AWNINGS AND CANOPIES
Backlit awnings are not characteristic of the district and are discouraged. Awnings should not obscure architectural features of a building. Retractable and shed type awnings are encouraged. Bubble awnings are discouraged. Awnings should be of cloth not vinyl, metal or rubber.
- EXISTING SIGNS: Existing distinctive older signs should be preserved and restored if possible. There may be pre-existing signs in the district that would not, if proposed now, be considered appropriate for the district. Thus, in designing a new sign for the district, a designer or owner should not assume that just because there is an existing sign of a certain size or type that another similar sign will be approved.
- SIZE: Signs should be designed to fit within the architecturally allotted space. Signs should relate to the district as a pedestrian-oriented street. Signs that would be appropriate for other more automobile traffic-oriented streets in terms of their size, location and lighting may not be appropriate along these streets.
- BACKLIGHTING: Backlit signs are uncharacteristic of the historic character district and are discouraged. Some backlit signs may be allowed particularly if the signs are of a dark color and white or other bright colors are limited in such signage.
- LETTERING AND SYMBOLS: Lettering should not be too large so as to be out of scale with the building’s design. The type of lettering used should be appropriate for the district. Clutter and overload should be avoided. For national retailers the historic character of the district takes precedence over any sign uniformity standards of the retailer.
- COLOR: Color should compliment the building’s colors. Large white areas or other bright colors particularly for illuminated signs should be avoided.
- COMPATIBILITY: Signs that are compatible with other signs nearby in size, shape, style, material and placement are encouraged.
- SIGNS PAINTED ON GLASS: Signs painted on the interior surface of glass were typical of this district for many years and are suitable if in appropriate size, colors and lettering.
- ACCENT LIGHTING: “Goose neck” and other lighting fixtures projecting light on building façades and signs can be done in a sensitive manner and may be encouraged where appropriate. Indirect lighting such as flood lights in concealed fixtures may be appropriate in some cases but care must be taken to make sure the lighting is not too bright or applied to more of the building façade than is appropriate.
- CAST IRON PIERS AND LINTELS: Cast iron piers and lintels should be preserved and maintained. Reference to this element in new buildings is encouraged.
- TRANSOM: Transom windows above doors and windows should be preserved. New construction that includes reference to this element is encouraged.
- GLASS BLOCK: Glass block is uncharacteristic of this district and is discouraged.
- SYNTHETIC STUCCO (EFIR or DRYVIT): Synthetic stucco (EFIR or DRYVIT) is uncharacteristic and is discouraged.
- ELECTRICAL TRANSFORMER BOXES: Electrical and transformer boxes, conduit, etc., should be concealed.
- PAINTED SIGNS AND BILLBOARDS: New billboards on the side of buildings are opposed. Existing billboards should be removed if possible. Such billboards are contrary to the Chicago Municipal Code even though some continue to exist within the district. Painted signs on the sides of buildings, especially if they do not relate to the business within the building are discouraged unless they are of some historic significance.
- BANNERS: Temporary banners of limited size and number are usually acceptable. Banners that are in essence permanent signage are regarded with the same considerations taken into account as other types of signage.
POINTS TO CONSIDER (courtesy of National Park Service)
- Signs should be viewed as part of an overall graphics system for the building. They do not have to do all the “work” by themselves. The building’s form, name and outstanding features, both decorative and functional, also support the advertising function of a sign. Signs should work with the building, rather than against it.
- New signs should respect the size, scale and design of the historic building. Often features or details of the building will suggest a motif for new signs.
- Sign placement is important: new signs should not obscure significant features of the historic building. (Signs above a storefront should fit within the historic signboard, for example.)
- New signs should also respect neighboring buildings. They should not shadow or overpower adjacent structures.
- Sign materials should be compatible with those of the historic building. Materials characteristic of the building’s period and style, used in contemporary designs, can form effective new signs.
- New signs should be attached to the building carefully, both to prevent damage to historic fabric, and to ensure the safety of pedestrians. Fittings should penetrate mortar joints rather than brick, for example, and signloads should be properly calculated and distributed.
OTHER POINTS TO CONSIDER
- Just because there is a something already like it within the district doesn’t mean that it is acceptable for a new project. Some signage predating the creation of the district and even some subsequent to the creation of the district is not very compatible with the character of the district and should be phased out or at the very least, no new out of character signs should be allowed.
- Just because a national retailer has signage guidelines for its stores doesn’t mean that they should be permitted in this historic district. National retailers should expect that the district standards take precedence over their desire for sign uniformity.
- Armitage and Halsted are pedestrian oriented streets. Signs should be geared with walkers in mind, not drivers, so signs do not need the same type of visibility as they might need on a highway or arterial street.
- Giselle’s on Halsted
- Gepperth’s Meat Market on Halsted
Alternatives on Halsted (no longer there)
Older Signs and New Signs with Traditional Appearance
- Old Town School of Folk Music on Armitage
- Gepperth’s Meat Market on Halsted
- Four Farthings on Cleveland*
- Active Endeavors on Armitage (new)
- Ethel’s Chocolate on Armitage (new)
- Glascott’s Grogerry (Halsted and Webster) use of gooseneck lights
- Ethel’s Chocolate
Lettering on Windows
Tabula Tua on Armitage
Lettering and Symbols Compatible with Building Character
- Art and Science on Halsted
- Pasta Palazzo on Halsted
- Café Bernard on Halsted
- Leader and Sons on Halsted
Read more about the Armitage-Halsted Landmark District.