Skip to main content

Powhatan

Address

4950 S. Chicago Beach Dr.

Neighborhood

Hyde Park / Kenwood

Architects

Robert de Golyer and Charles L. Morgan, 1929

Description

The Powhatan is among the most exuberantly-detailed of Chicago's Art Deco apartment houses. The landmark 22-story building stands out for Charles Morgan's decorative details, including the colorful mosaics that decorate the facade, lobbies and swimming pool, where they suggest the mural abstractions at Frank Lloyd Wright's Midway Gardens. The building retains its original elevator cabs, decorated in burled wood, aluminum panels and etched mirrors. The eclectic Art Deco elements include references to Lake Michigan and Chief Powhatan on the exterior, scenes from around the world in the outer lobby and exuberant flowers and birds decorating the inner lobby. All the luxuries of an ocean liner, marveled a Chicago journalist at the time of its opening.

Both outside and in, The Powhatan features copious examples of Art Deco design. Native American references are numerous and eclectic, with only occasional reference to the actual Powhatan tribe. These Native American references also abound in the entrances on the east and south facades. On the glass entrance doors, the silver metal outlines of two Native American men face one another, flanked by light fixtures punctuated by vertical arrows topped with gold feathers. During a recent restoration the stamp of the distinguished Chicago firm Victor S. Pearlman & Co. was found on the fixtures. Above these lamps, the original supports to a replacement canopy feature the head of a Chief, again like the historic Chief Powhatan.