It may not look like it today, but the building at the southwest corner of Lee Street and Prairie Avenue is a streamline moderne gem.
Constructed in 1949, the building was originally home to the Prairie-Lee Paint Store. Founded in 1929 at 718 Lee Street, Prairie-Lee advertised itself as "Des Plaines Oldest and Most Complete Paint Store". Besides paint and supplies, Prairie-Lee carried wallpaper, custom venetian blinds, window glass, and pictures & picture frames. The last item would prove key, as Prairie-Lee survives to this day as Prairie-Lee Print and Frame.
The building originally featured a curved corner, giving it a sleekness rarely seen in downtown Des Plaines. The recessed, angular storefronts made a stark contrast, putting much of the interior on display like a fishbowl while eliminating glare. This would have been considered a cutting edge design in 1949. Three attached storefronts along Prairie are less eye-catching, but also feature recessed, angled display windows.
The building expanded to the south in 1954, after the old Des Plaines Moose Lodge was demolished. The addition would house three storefronts; in early years, these included a Firestone dealer, the Des Plaines Chamber of Commerce, and Wm. Kunkel Real Estate, which would come to occupy all three storefronts until 2009. While it has been vacant since then, Mario Tricoci Salon recently expressed interest in opening a beauty school there. It is unclear if these plans are progressing.
Prairie-Lee Paint left the corner of Prairie and Lee in 1970. The corner space then briefly became home to Circus Discount, a toy and electronics store. It was soon after remodeled with a new mansard-style roof for First Maine Travel, a subsidiary of First National Bank. Since then, it has been home to New Milieu and, currently, Madden Hair Salon.
Prairie-Lee Paint moved several times; in 1970, it moved to 1058 Lee Street, a storefront now part of Giuseppe's La Cantina. Its warehouse was at 1307 Oakwood, the former Oakwood Dairy. In 1977 it moved to 709 Center Street, and in 1983 it returned to its namesake street at its current location, 1381 Prairie, and refocused its business on framing.