Historic Structure Report



JUNE 7, 2012


CONTACT: GARY KELLER, 773-251-8214,

CHICAGO, Illinois – St. Augustine College has engaged in the initial phase for the restoration, renovation and reuse of historic areas of the St. Augustine College campus, formerly home of Essanay Film and Manufacturing Company (Essanay Studios).  Essanay Studios, 1333 -1345 West Argyle Street, was designated a Chicago Landmark by the Commission on Chicago Landmarks on March 26th, 1996, and acknowledged as “the most important structure connected to the city’s role in the history of motion pictures.”


A community planning kickoff meeting will be held at St. Augustine College in the Charlie Chaplin auditorium on Saturday, June 30th from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm for anyone who what to learn more and participate in the restoration and reuse project.


After a selection process among historic architectural firms, St. Augustine College has retained Johnson Lasky Architects to prepare a Historic Structures Report (HSR) Preservation and Reuse Plan. The perspective of Walker Johnson, FAIA, a principal in the firm is that “The production studio is a great space and has tremendous potential for supporting future events.  Its modern reuse will echo its original use”.


The renovated facility will serve as the home for an Essanay Center for Cultural Performance and Essanay Center for Early Film, as well as a multi-use educational space for the college and private events.  “The Essanay Complex has a rich and wonderful history, and we look forward to reviving an exciting, lesser known part of Chicago’s past,“ states Andrew Sund, President of St. Augustine College. The completed report will be released at St. Augustine’s Inaugural Essanay Gala on October 6th, 2012 at the Essanay Studios facility.


The project is being led Gary Keller, CEO of Xomix Ltd., historic preservationist and former community resident who comments, “This project honors Essanay Studios as a cornerstone of the beginning of the film industry and the development of entertainment in Uptown in Chicago.”  The school has partnered Preservation Chicago, and the Niles Essanay Film Museum in Niles, California, home of the west coast Essanay Studios production facility where many of the company’s films were produced.


The studio was founded in 1907 in Chicago by George K. Spoor and Gilbert M. “Bronco Billy” Anderson (“S and A”) who both received Oscars for their pioneering work.  Essanay moved to its famous 1333–45 W. Argyle St in Uptown in 1909 and produced silent films with such stars as Ben Turpin, Wallace Beery, Francis X. Bushman, Gloria Swanson and is well known for its “Broncho Billy” westerns and Charlie Chaplin films.


After Essanay Studios, the facilities were in continuous use for film production into the 1970’s, with tenants including Wilding Pictures (a subsidiary of Bell and Howell formed by two former Essanay Studio employees), WTTW Corporation and Midwest office of Technicolor. Now home to St. Augustine College, the future of 1333 West Argyle as a center of culture, entertainment and early film holds new life for this Chicago treasure.



St. Augustine College is an independent, bilingual (dual-language) institution of higher education created under the auspices of the Episcopal Diocese to make the American system of higher education accessible to a diverse student population with emphasis on those of Hispanic descent; to strengthen ethnic identity; to reinforce cultural interaction; and to build a bridge to fill cultural, educational, and socio-economic gaps.


Johnson Lasky Architects was incorporated in 1992.  The individual practice of the principals extends over a 30-year period.  Their project experience is extensive, ranging in scope from new design projects such as office buildings, performing arts centers and museum additions to the restoration and rehabilitation of all building types. They have a special expertise in bringing together planning, engineering and architectural disciplines for each project.



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