|Longman & Eagle Tavern|
While boutique has become an increasingly slippery word while becoming an equally ubiquitous concept, a few properties still boast the true nature of its impetus—exclusive, small and ingenious.
Longman & Eagle, a tavern and inn that just opened last month in Chicago, is serving up fantastic fare amid seriously stripped-down style. Four friends, Bruce Finkelman, Cody Hudson, Robert McAdams and Pete Toalson, used equal parts cunning and creativity to convert an old apartment building into a hip haven.
“I own a woodworking company, Mode Carpentry, and a general contracting firm, Circle Contractors,” explains McAdams. “Along with Cody's design talents, we decided to tackle the project ourselves. Pete actually had the toughest job of dealing with the city for all of the official stuff.”
The project began with the first floor bar, a rustic, rather monochromatic space serving up daily-inspired food sourced from local markets as well as more than 30 different kinds of whiskeys. Featuring a wooden floor, a staggered wood-scrap ceiling, brick walls and utilitarian pendant lighting, the industrial chic of the tavern is decidedly masculine yet undeniably cozy.
“Once we had the bar, we had to figure out what we were going to do with the 2nd floor,” says McAdams.
“It had an apartment that was hardly livable and one that was partly gutted. We all keep up with designs and spaces that are being created in other cities and boutique hotels are a recent favorite.”
The team began discussing the possibility of turning the upstairs into something resembling a boutique hotel, evoking the old-school notion of a Chicago tavern where patrons could crawl upstairs after a long night of carousing.
“We were able to get the tavern part of it done in three months, nine months before the inn, but we opened the downstairs with the full intention of continuing this vision,” says McAdams.
“We simply needed something to start generating revenue to make our endeavor possible. We opened the downstairs of Longman & Eagle with the words ‘EAT, SLEEP, WHISKEY’ on the window, which covers the entire package.”
The foursome soon came up against budget issues, recalling that the price of plumbing, tile and glass for the six bathrooms upstairs was “staggering,” and only through patience, teamwork and clever shortcuts did their original vision survive.
Although McAdams explained that all of the bedrooms have plentiful natural light and all of the showers and toilet areas have glass so that the small spaces seem more open and bright, additional lighting still remained an issue.
“We knew what we wanted but we couldn't get it to fit our budget,” he says. “Cody actually came up with a great alternative to a light we were looking at when he found lizard lights at a pet store. We used the shade and guts of those and rewired them with nylon cord and hung them from the ceiling. We made a light for $30 that would generally cost $129.“
The six bedrooms all boast different design schemes but heavily feature original local art with intricate uses of wood like rough walnut and hickory as their mainstay. Kitsch and eclectic ephemera also find their way on the shelves, serving as a stylish surprise to guests.
“Pete is an avid collector and Cody is a local artist, so both have many close ties with the art community here in Chicago,” explains McAdams. “They asked a few of their favorites to do pieces specifically for a room.” Stephen Eichorn’s piece on the wall in room 55 features a rather whimsical collage of blossoms and vines, while in room 07, artists Nick Butcher and Nadine Nakanishi of Sonnenzimmer crafted a kaleidoscopic graphic wall installation behind the bed that truly defines the room.
"The artwork will continue to change throughout and, for us, that will be nice to be able to keep the space fresh,” McAdams says.
One of his favorite elements of the property is the staircase at the main entrance, which was a collaboration with Kujawa Architects, who helped McAdams create an utterly unique structure. “I had always intended on opening up the side of the building and putting in industrial style windows, but the staircase was a struggle,” he says.
“I was starting a job downtown and the general contractor on the job had a stockpile of old beams that he traded for cabinets. We used those as treads, and my friends at Active Alloys took on the steel structure of the staircase and window. It really came out great. It's a new look at an old idea.”