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Look Inside Wicker Park Apartments Untouched Since 70s

WICKER PARK — The manager of a vintage-inspired camera shop on Milwaukee Avenue that’s located at the base of an apartment building untouched since the 1970s got a peek into the structure’s history on Thursday.

The apartments have mustard green and white doors, with wallpaper adorned with roses, according to images posted to Piper Robbins’ Instagram.

“It feels almost like someone was getting ready to go to work one day, but never came back home,” said Piper Robbins, owner of the Emulsion Gallery and Lomography Embassy Store, 1422 N. Milwaukee Ave.

The 1890s-era building was sold for $4.2 million in March to Cedar Street Co., which has converted several distressed Uptown and Far North Side vintage buildings into residential dwellings

Cedar Street co-owner Jay Michael previously said he plans to reopen the apartments, mostly renovated into one-bedroom convertibles between 400 and 600 square feet, next spring.

After getting permission to go inside the apartments, Robbins captured images of empty hangers on the walls, playing cards scattered on the floor, and “stickers that kids probably got in trouble for putting on doors,” she said.

A major highlight was a wheat paste of former United States president Richard Nixon, who resigned from his post in 1974.

“It’s all very straight from the 70’s,” she said.

Michael’s firm got a zoning change approved last month to allow the building’s two upper floors to be subdivided from 12 to 20 units. Construction is underway.

“We love the building because it has been untouched. It was ready for someone to bring it back,” Michael said of the building at 1422-26 N. Milwaukee Ave.

The 18,450-square-foot, three-story building — in a busy retail corridor two blocks south of the Milwaukee, Damen and North avenues intersection — was owned by the three children of the late Ben Neuman, who founded Ben’s Shoes at 1424 N. Milwaukee Ave.

Scott Neuman, one of Ben Neuman’s sons, said his father had a good reason for keeping the apartments boarded up.

“My father didn’t want to be a landlord,” he said. “When he took over the building in the 1960s he realized he didn’t want to be a slum landlord. It is a lot of work to keep up apartments but he wanted to have consistent rent from the retail storefronts, which he always did.

The retail stores, all of which have long-term leases, will not be affected by the renovations, Michael has previously said.

Michael said that while his firm plans to gut the interior of the two upper floors to create 20 apartments from the existing 12, the goal is to keep “a great deal of the vintage character intact.”

The vintage character is apparent from photos of the units, which have some time capsule-like qualities. One still held a yellowed newspaper from 1978.

All photos, below, courtesy of Piper Robbins/Lomography Embassy Store

DNAinfo | Alisa Hauser