January 31, 2022
For project #24 in our Centennial Year Top 100 Projects Countdown we take a trip back to 1954 for the opening of the Jewel Tea Executive Office Building located at 1955 West North Avenue, west of 19th Avenue, in Melrose Park, Illinois. This 72,000 sf modernist jewel (pardon the pun) won numerous design awards and was chosen by Office Management magazine as 1955’s ‘Office of the Year.’ This building had numerous unusual features for the time including cork floors, a spiral entrance stairway with terrazzo treads and landscaped exterior with reflecting pool and heliport.
This structure, which was constructed for $4M (the equivalent of $41M in 2022) featured double-glazed windows with insulated porcelain enamel spandrels. Jewel used the building for its merchandising, operations and administrative services and brought executive staff from two other locations (Barrington and Chicago) to this new headquarters.
In addition, this building featured a furniture design Epstein collaboration with Steelcase and Harper Richards which resulted in the Jewel Tea Desk. The first straight-line, contemporary metal desk to have wood and steel pedestals with a Formica top. The desk was also the first application of the concept of easy convertibility of contemporary office tables to desks.
In addition to the accolades from Office Management Epstein’s design was honored by the Chicago Chapter of the American Institute of Architects and the Chicago Association of Commerce and Industry.
Lastly, this building still stands, minus the reflecting pool and heliport, and is the administrative center to the Jewel Warehouse & Distribution Center, a 550,000 sf structure that Epstein also designed and engineered, located directly behind this facility.