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Milton Schwartz (1925-2007)

Dates of Interview:

October 2005

Location of Interview:

Schwartz's home in Chicago, Illinois


Harvey M. Choldin

Length of Transcript:

113 pages
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Biographical Summary

Milton Schwartz was born in Chicago in 1925, studied architecture at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1943-1947, apprenticed in Chicago and received his license in 1952. He opened Milton Schwartz and Associates in 1951, which was in business continuously until 1985. His career was unorthodox insofar as he was simultaneously a contractor, developer and an architect. His buildings were concentrated in Chicago and nearby towns such as Waukegan, Illinois, and Indianapolis, Indiana, where he designed apartment complexes. In Chicago his buildings included hotels, motels, and high-rise apartment buildings. In the decade of the 1960s he was also the architect for the Dunes Hotel in Las Vegas, where he designed several projects including a 22-story addition and two large restaurants. His work was included in a 1993 exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago. Schwartz died in January of 2007.

Interview Highlights

Schwartz speaks about his boyhood in Chicago and about being influenced by his immigrant father who was a plumbing and HVAC contractor; exposure to building construction at an early age creating his desire to become an architect; education at the University of Illinois, where he heard presentations by Frank Lloyd Wright, who was an inspiring visiting lecturer; construction contracts his company had after World War II for the Navy on installations in the Chicago area; the story of his first major design and construction project, a 21-story condominium building, 320 Oakdale, adjacent to Chicago's Lincoln Park, which he built as a young man; the excitement of building Executive House, a modern hotel, in the heart of Chicago, which was then one of the tallest reinforced concrete buildings in the world; Schwartz's memories of his work in Las Vegas as architect for the Dunes Hotel in the decade of the 1960s, during which time the owners reopened a shuttered property and continually added to it, with Schwartz as their designer; architectural stories plus personal anecdotes.

320 N. Oakdale, Chicago, IL, c.1953-1954.
Department of Architecture and Design, The Art Institute of Chicago. Gift of Mrs. Audrey K. Schwartz.

Chicago Airways Hotel, Chicago, IL, 1957.
Department of Architecture and Design, The Art Institute of Chicago. Gift of Milton M. Schwartz.

Interview Excerpt

Interviewer: "Is there anything we've missed on Las Vegas?" [Schwartz had been the architect for the Dunes Hotel in the 1960s.]

Schwartz: "Oh, I don't know. There are so many stories I could tell you over and over again about Las Vegas: some wonderful, some very sad, some thrilling to experience. It was probably the most exciting time of my life. I enjoyed every minute of working there and at the same time I was happy when it was over because it was the end of 'round-the-clock working for me and I was able to settle back and relax and do these other large buildings that I went on to do. I think one of the nicest things that I enjoyed doing was the Timberlake Apartments in Waukegan under Mayor Sabonjian. There were over eight hundred units that were designed-one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments-with strip shopping centers with gas stations on either end of it. That, too, was an experience because I had created a lake. There was a dam to create the lake; I ran the water right underneath one of the buildings and it still is running under the building to this day. They were low-rises. They were only two- and three-story buildings, at best, but they were still exciting times. I enjoyed architecture tremendously. I enjoyed designing." (page 79)

The Statesman, Chicago, IL, c.1961.
Department of Architecture and Design, The Art Institute of Chicago.
Gift of Mrs. Audrey K. Schwartz.

Additional Resources

Milton Schwartz images in the R&B Archives
Related archival materials in the R&B Archives
Works by Schwartz in the Department of Architecture and Design