By Bob Uphues
Back in 1970, the entire village of Riverside was placed on the National Register of Historic Places for its landscape design by Frederick Law Olmsted. And for many years, the only two structures on the National Register individually were two homes — the Avery Coonley Estate and F.F. Tomek House — designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
But in March, a third Riverside building was quietly added to the National Register of Historic Places. The Arcade Building at 1 Riverside Road, the only commercial building designed and constructed as part of Olmsted's original plan, was added to the National Register on March 8.
The village of Riverside was notified via a letter sent out March 30 by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency.
"It means a lot," said Giuseppe Zappani, the man who bought the building in 2010 and restored it over the next two years.
Just seven years ago, the Arcade Building sat vacant and derelict after it became ensnared in an international securities fraud case. The building had been purchased in 2004 by a subsidiary of Wextrust Capital, which planned on renovating and expanding the building into a mixed-use commercial, condominium development.
That plan went out the window in August 2008, when the head of Wextrust Capital, Steven Byers, and another company official, Joseph Shereshevsky, were indicted for perpetrating an elaborate Ponzi scheme on investors.
Both Byers and Shereshevsky pleaded guilty to securities fraud and are serving their sentences in federal prison.
After real estate owned by Wextrust, including the Arcade Building, went into receivership, it languished. In 2009, Landmark Illinois named the Arcade Building one of the state's 10 Most Endangered Historic Places.
But Zappani swooped in a year later to buy the building and painstakingly restored the exterior, adding copper finials and a central cupola which had been features of the original 1871 design but had been removed over time.
The Victorian Gothic-style building's architect, Frederick C. Withers, shared offices with Olmsted, Vaux and Company, which was hired by the Riverside Improvement Company to design the village. The Riverside Improvement Company set up its own offices in the Arcade Building.
Withers also was the architect for Union Church, which burned in 1879, was rebuilt and is known today as Riverside Presbyterian Church.
In 2014, Margaret Guzek and Brian Wolf of the Chicago-based firm Preservation Real Estate Advisors, a company that had assisted Zappani in obtaining Cook County tax breaks for the historic building, submitted an application to place the Arcade Building on the National Register.
The new designation doesn't offer any greater tax benefits for the property, said Andrew Heckenkamp, National Register coordinator for the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency.
Zappani said he wasn't sure whether he would have a marker noting the building's inclusion on the National Register placed on the façade of the Arcade Building.
The National Register application emphasizes the Arcade Building's importance in the Riverside plan and as "one of the first, if not the first, commercial structures in the United States specifically conceived as an integral part of the design of a planned residential community."
The application also highlights an important role the building played as a resource for those displaced by the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, who took up residence in the Riverside Hotel, which at the time was located immediately south, across East Quincy Street.
"Many people fled Chicago and the Riverside Hotel was a popular refuge for temporary living quarters," the Arcade Building's National Register application stated. "This influx of new residents depended on the tenants in the Arcade, including the post office and the pharmacy, for their necessities."
The Arcade Building remained the only commercial building in the village until 1888, when the Malden Block was built partially on the former site of the Riverside Hotel, which burned to the ground in a fire in 1887.