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David J. Unger/MEDILL

The owners of Chef Luciano restaurant and their loyal customers praised the building.


Old White Castle slides onto Chicago landmark list

by David J. Unger
Oct 05, 2011


CASTLE-old

Courtesy of Commission on Chicago Landmarks

The building as it appeared after its construction in 1930.

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The city's landmark designation report

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Customers of a South Loop restaurant will now be taking a bite out of history.

On Wednesday City Council granted landmark status to the unique building that is currently home to Chef Luciano restaurant.

The building was constructed in 1930 as the city’s 16th branch of the White Castle fast food chain. When the current owners bought it in 1982, the building’s ornamental tower and other unique features had disappeared.

According to the Department of Housing and Economic Development, the building's design was inspired by Chicago's Water Tower and features programmatic architecture, a movement that connected the architecture of a building with the product being sold.

The current owners were pleasantly surprised when they first learned of their role in fast-food history.

"We had taken a set of plans for some renovations into the city and they came back with comments saying 'no, no, no, you need to do a historical restoration to it,'" said Rocky Gupta, co-owner of the restaurant.

"You wouldn't have even guessed prior to the restoration that it was a White Castle," he added. "It was deteriorated and covered in other signage."

With the help of the city and White Castle Co., Gupta restored the building to its original form in 2010. It now stands as the earliest fast-food building remaining in Chicago built by a chain, according to the city.

"I think it's a neat, quirky thing to be an old building, and we'll show up on the city of Chicago literature and the map that has the Chicago landmarks," Gupta said.

Gupta's father, Dave, was pleased with the restoration. "The neighborhood is changing and we're happing to be preserving a part of history," Dave, who is known to everyone as Chef Luciano, said. "White Castle, if you really look at it, is the great-great-grandfather of the fast-food industry."

"They're part of the history of this country," he said.