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BY CHARLES FREDEEN — Before there were McDonalds and Burger Kings, any high school or college kid knew about chowing down on cheap burgers from White Castle. And now Chicago’s City Council has now given landmark status to its original White Castle beefy site.
Built in 1930 at 43 E. Cermak Road, the one-story structure was operated by White Castle System of Eating Houses until 1944. It remains Chicago’s oldest known fast food restaurant building.
The turreted, castle-like structure reflects the pioneering use of programmatic architecture by White Castle, considered “the father” of U.S. fast food chains. The design was intended to advertise the purity and permanence of the business of selling hamburgers which, until then, was largely considered by the public as a “carnival food” of questionable quality.The 150-square-foot structure was restored to its original appearance in 2010. It continues to be operated as a fast food restaurant although not as a White Castle. Strangely, there is a modern White Castle restaurant just across the street from the original.