Chicago Landmarks

White Castle #16

Overall, 2011     Address: 43 E. Cermak Rd.
Year Built: 1930
Architect: Lewis E. Russell (with Lloyd W. Ray)
Date Designated a Chicago Landmark: October 5, 2011

Detail, 2011 West elevation, 2011

Built in 1930, the White Castle #16 building remains the best-surviving example in Chicago of the buildings built by the White Castle System of Eating Houses, Inc., a trailblazing, national fast-food company in the history of the United States. White Castle was the first national chain to popularize hamburgers, and the building exemplifies the company's pioneering standardization of menu and service; its focus on affordable and tasty food intended primarily for take-out; its emphasis on cleanliness; and its use of extensive newspaper advertising and outreach to middle-class families.

The building is a visually-distinctive, white glazed-brick building with unusual medieval-inspired massing and details, including a corner tower, abstracted buttresses, and crenellation. As such, it is an early Chicago example of "programmatic architecture" visually-distinctive buildings that served as "bricks-and-mortar" advertising for their companies, often through visual cues that tied into company values or even actual products sold from the buildings. White Castle's use of white, "castellated" buildings was a visual reinforcement of the name, "White Castle," which advertised both permanence and cleanliness, two virtues that set White Castle apart from its smaller competitors in the company's early years.

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