Chicago Tribune, October 13, 1933
State street yesterday just a dusty main street where gaudily blanketed squaws and pioneer women bartered eggs and butter for dress patterns of calico or plunged warily after hours of planning into the rare shopping trip for a Sunday best dress that had to last till the next good season. State street today—a canyon of steel and stone, a street lined with shops and stores; world famous—a street where fashion-wise and fashion-conscious connoisseurs shop for everything from rare jade, French originals, hats right off the last boat from Paris, black pearls, authentic altar brocades from the imperial Russian collection, amethyst rosaries, ikons three and four centuries old, gold encrusted china from the palace of the czar to neat little gadgets called notions that positively stun you with their amazing versatility.
State street, the fashion center of the country—the street where you can buy a complete wardrobe from the hat that tops a newly cut and curled coiffure to the tips of the newest things in suede pumps with glittering buckles—the street where you can find a shop within a shop—a cool green hideout where you can lose all the surplus pounds and extra bulges, recapture the slim silhouette of your youth, all accomplished with rhe aid of experts with the minimum effort on your part and with astonishing results that will make your sister shoppers gasp with awe and envy.
The street where you can find the filmiest of French lingerie or clever American adaptations—the casual tweeds direct from old English mills, the peat smelling Harris tweeds that fashion topcoats that last a lifetime—fabulous silks, and velvets from France, or the finest of American weaves, designed especially for fastidious females that are rabidly patriotic even in their shopping trips. The street where you see the smartest of women, smartest men. Women, impeccably dressed sophisticates that wear the newest hat, the newest dress and coat or suit, practically simultaneously with the premiere of the same models in Paris or London or New York. The street where new things are as exciting as a mystery yarn, where boxes are unpacked daily, filled with exhilarating new clothes that hardly hang a day on store hangers, so swiftly and surely do cruising shoppers discover them and take them out of circulation.
It is the street of a thousand shopping thrills—where even the delivery boxes spell glamour, where labeled merchandise is sent to tucked away countries in every corner of the globe—where you can find rare tapestries, jewels, ancient silver, royal Minton china, first editions, signed etchings, anything and everything for either wardrobe or home.
It is a paradise for the gourmet—for you can find ancient and even hoary cheeses direct from their ancestral caves—spicy gingers and exotic preserves from china—succulent hams from Virginia—pickled beef from England—a wild assortment of Swedish hors-d’oeuvres—pastries from France—teas and Greek honey in their intriguing imported costumes or jars and packages—anything you have ever dreamed about in your hungriest hours.
State street holds no terrors for the returning male or female bearing gifts—a grand collection of anything that might amuse or thrill anybody from precise, pernickety Aunt Em to wee littles ones that gurgle with delight over the newest rattle. And what is service elevated to the highest level—you can take all your homegoing loot and have it wrapped in plain and fancy packages by skillful experts without any more effort than a short walk to this interesting department where such understanding service is available.
In a few short decades—the gauche hobbledehoy country lane transformed into the most fascinating fashion and shopping center of the world—State street today.
Chicago Tribune, October 13, 1933
BY WILLARD EDWARDS.
Not much more than 100 years ago the brilliantly lit, broad artery of commerce that we know as State street was a barely visible mud trail known as the “Vincennes Trace.” The name was descriptive as it was in reality nothing but a trace on the prairie mud, worn by moccasins of Indians and a few fur trappers, indicating the route between Chicago and Vincennes, Ind. Vincennes was one of the few forts in the wilderness of the Northwestern territory.
The trail was also known as the Hubbard trail because it was made popular as a route by Gordon S. Hubbard, a fur trader.
State Road Is Built.
In 1834 the Illinois legislature voted for the establishment of a road between Vincennes and Chicago. Some crude attempts at road-building resulted in a route which became known as the “State road.” Later, most of this road, with the exception of the northern end which was included within the environs of the infant Chicago, was abandoned.
The name of the State road was naturally retained when a street was laid in 1839. The State street was 69 feet wide and extended only from Madison street north to the river. In 1858, the first street car lines were laid in State street from Lake street to Madison.
Vision of Potter Palmer.
The present breadth of State street, unusual in business sections of cities a century old, was largely the result of the vision of Potter Palmer, who came to Chicago in 1852. He bought property along a mile of the street and gave much of his property to the city so that the thoroughfare could be widened.
Among the names associated with the development of the street, in addition to Palmer, are those of Levi Z. Leiter, Marshall Field, Leon Mandel, and his brothers, Edward Lehmann, Charles Netcher, Andrew MacLeish, John G. Shedd, Harlow N. Higinbotham, and Abram M. Rothschild.
Chicago Tribune, June 10, 1947
BY PHILIP HAMPSON
State street Is a vital part of Chicago life. It is the city s retail buying center. It Is the corner drug store, the common meeting place; it Is the one street where eventually “you will meet every one you know.”
Today State st. is renowned as the world s greatest shopping center and the world s lightest street. It has more than 1,000 acres of retail store space where anything may be purchased—from a needle to an airplane. Its business last year was estimated to have exceeded 400 million dollars. And when the people take-over as they did on V-J day there may be almost a million persons packing the thorofare.
Builders of Chicago
Many of the men who built Chicago were prominent on State st. In the days of the city s early history. Included In the street’s historic roll call are such names as Potter Palmer, Marshall Field, Levi Z. Leiter, Leon Mandel and his brothers; Edward Lehmann, Charles D. Peacock, Charles W. Pardridge, Otto Young, Charles Netcher, Andrew MacLeish, Harlow N. Higinbotham, Abram M. Rothschild, and Henry C. Lytton, who in reaching the age of I00 survived all the others.
State st. grew up with Chicago. In 1830, before Chicago was incorporated, the name State road appeared in a survey made by the Illinois and Michigan canal commissioners. It actually became a street of sorts in 1833—at a time when bear and deer could be shot within sight of it; when the howling of Indians kept the few visitors awake at night.
When State St. Had Mud and Horse Cars
State Street looking south from Lake Street, about 1870
John Carbutt Stereocard #69
Went to Lake Street
However, State st. was not important as a shopping center In those early days. It was to Lake at. that the fashionable ladles of the ’60s went for their dresses, their hats, and their shoes. In January, 1860, S. C. Griggs & Co., 39 and 41 Lake at. advertised In THE TRIBUNE a new book by Charles Dickens. It was titled A Tale of Two Cities and it sold for $2.50 for a de luxe edition and $1.50 for a cheaper one. In the spring of that same year H. W. Wetherell, 54 Lake at., solicited the patronage of the ladies for his new spring millinery.
It was many years before State st. caught up with its rival. Among the first buildings erected on State st. is said to have been a log school house built in 1833 at the corner of what is now Wacker dr. In January, 1831, the town borrowed $60 to drain State st. It needed it, as evidenced by signs put up by jokers after the rains of the spring and autumn. The signs sald “No bottom,” “Team underneath,” and “Stage dropped thru.” On Jan. 1, 1848, the first building owned by the city came into existence at Randolph and State. It was a two story affair with market stalls on the first floor and city offices on the second.
Potter Palmer Starts Store
In 1852 young Potter Palmer, the son of an Albany county, New York, Quaker, opened a retail dry goods store at 137 Lake st.—the seed from which grew Marshall Field & Co. The young Lake at. merchant was destined to make State st. the city s No. 1 merchandising center.
In 1856 Marshall Field came to Chicago from Massachusetts and went to work as a clerk for Cooley, Wadsworth & Co., a wholesale dry goods house at 205 S. Water at., now Wacker dr. He, too, was to have a great influence on State at. In 1865 Field and Levi Z. Lelter bought interests in the Palmer business and the firm name was changed to Field, Palmer & Lelter. In 1867 Palmer dropped out and the firm was known as Field, Lelter & Co.
In 1868 the firm took a bold step by moving out of established Lake st. to a building erected by Palmer at the northeast corner of State and Randolph. Palmer showed his faIth in the future of the street by buying and selling during his career frontage estimated to have totaled about a mile, he put up n handsome hotel in State st. only to have it destroyed a few days later by the fire of 1871. When it burned he built another. He backed merchants in distress with his own money. He worked hard to build State at.
Field, Leiter and Company Building
NE Corner of State and Washington
The Finishing Touches
It was the 1871 fire that put the finishing touches to Lake st. as the shopping center. In the rebuilding of the city State at. moved into first place.
In 1881 Leiter retired from the retail store business and the company became known as Marshall Field & Co.
Meanwhile other names that were to become a part of State st. were figuring in the news of the Chicago business world. In the 18SOs three brothers, Leon, Simon, and Emanuel Mandel, were starting careers which ultimately led to the establishment of the firm on State at. now known as Mandel Brothers.
In 1866 Andrew MacLeish joined the retail business of Carson & Pine which was to become Carson Pirle Scott & Co. In January, 1875, the firm advertised In THE TRIBUNE a clearance sale at its store at Madison and Peoria sts. The firm moved to State st. In 1886. In 1904 it bought from Harry Gordon Selfridge the building which housed the establishment of Schlesinger & Mayer. The building was designed by Louis Sullivan, noted Chicago architect, and continues to be a main attraction for visiting architects.
In the 1860s C. W. and E. Pardridge came to Chicago, bringing with them a lad named Charles Netcher. They opened a store on State at., gave young Netcher a share and thereby participated in the birth of the Boston store.
Schlesinger & Mayer Building II
Establishes Silk House
Charles A. Stevens came to Chicago in 1889 and established a silk house on State at. He was joined by his four brothers and the firm now is a leader in women s apparel.
E. J. Lehmann, born In Germany in 1849, came to Chicago as a youngster and got a job as a hotel bell boy. He founded the Fair store.
Henry C. Lytton, born In New York, July 13, 1846, came to Chicago in 1887 and pioneered by opening a store at the northwest corner of State and Jackson. Later he built the present Lytton building at the northeast corner of State and Jackson. He retired in 1920 but when his son George died in 1933 he returned to business.
In 1902 Maurice L Rothschild opened a Chicago store at the southwest corner of Jackson and State.
The old Rothschild company store at State and Van Buren sts. passed into the hands of Marshall Field & Co. in 1923 and was operated for a time as the Davis store. It is now the downtown store in the Goldblatt chain. Across Van Buren st. on State the former Siegel, Cooper & Co. store is now the downtown store of Sears, Roebuck & Co.
Many Other Shops
One of the oldest names In State street is that of C. D. Peacock, jewelers.
Besides the many large department stores, State st. has dozens of specialty shops and “five and tens,” mostly catering to the women, tho a few specialize In men’s wear. The street possesses a number of fine movie theaters.
A few prominent dates in State st.’s long history follow:
April 25, 1859, first horse car;
Jan. 28, 1882, first cable car;
July 22, 1906, electric trolley cars substituted for cable cars;
Oct. 19, 1897, elevated trains started operating around the loop;
Oct. 16, 1943, first subway train;
Oct. 14, 1926, became brightest street In the world when President Coolidge started new $100,000. lighting system.
As to the future? The State Street council has announced a 25 mIllIon dollar improvement program.
Chicago Examiner, November 6, 1910.
A SLASH of sky and cloud above, a living thread of street beneath, and sharp on either side towering human hives of steel and brick and wood and glass— that is State Street—Chicago’s billion-dollar canyon!
Under this stretch of slated skylighted roofs on the scant six-block sweep that begins at Randolph street, on the north, and is choked off short on Van Buren street by the elevated loop, and under one big one Just outside, Chicago keeps her giants of retail trade with her department store, nine that clips coupons and carries off pennants every year in the world’s series of shops!
Wonderful marts are these! Boiled down and dished up for family use are samples of [Eastern caravans and bazaars and far-off jewel mines and harem-looms, and both Occidental factories and Oriental weaving-shops, and Irish peasant cabins, and Norwegian homes and French and Italian and Mexican convents, and fur fisheries, and everything in the world that is artistic and useful and practical and necessary.
Nowhere in the world do the lions lie down with the lambs as in a twentieth century department store! Jewels from the Indiesand silks from Persia and China own the same shelter as breakfast foods from Battle Creek, Mich., home-made pickles, choice cuts of beef, fancy candies, hair-dressing shops, bureaus for theater and steamship tickets, rest rooms, dentists, chiropodists, garments ready to wear and fabrics ready to make! And on the other side of the scale? What can balance all this picturesqueness, pray? Look at the
In the past twenty years the annual business of State street department stores has swelled from a paltry fifty millions to more than one hundred and fifteen millions! That’s State street!
This, too, in the face of the fact that Chicago”s retail district wears both halter and hobble! The withe of the elevated loop throttles and the gird of insufficient surface transportation pinches. And so, unable to grow sideways and outwards, Chicago, as becomes a philosopher and a lady, has made the best of things and played quits with circumstances. She has shot upward and downward. Results show an unparalleled sky line of star-scrapers and a brigade of ever-increasing basements.
Siegel Cooper and Hillman’s Department Stores Advertisements
SHOPS BELOW STREET
Three basement shops, one beneath the other in well-regulated sequence, is not at all an unusual family of cellar stores for a State street department store to boast. Aided by modern invention and science, with pipings of pure air drawn from the clouds, lighted and controlled by applications of electricity and with millions of minor modern inventive conveniences, the work of conquering the bowels of the earth is proceeding with twin-sister rapidity to the victory over the heights of the air.
Thrifty Captain Kldd work on the space below the street surface on the part of downtown merchants has even aroused the City Fathers. It is but agenerous year since the Chicago Council sat down and worried over the fact that merchants and business houses galore had basemented under sidewalk space and street space and weren’t paying rental therefor to the city treasury. That all happened, so they say, on a day when the administration was slightly bothered about resources.
One thing is certain. If the mania for both shooting up and digging down preserves its present ratio for the next ten years State street will soon be a big dumbbell, with a city of stores above and another below the street line, with the thoroughfare itself nothing but a lever with which to pivot either end.
State street’s success is a fine example of moral suasion. Chicago, with true Western spirit, early demonstrated a tendency to spread all over as much space as possible. So she scrambled and sprawled out to the north and the south and the west as far as she could. Eastward Lake Michigan intervened, but the city took the deli and put its water cribs and intakes as far out as was advisable and let it go at that. As Chicago bubbled and ran over its early limits and commenced to build homes farther and farther out, at least a dozen different sections began to show streets which boasted well-stocked, well-kept shops with prices and grades of goods that compared favorably with the downtown establishments.
State street said nothing. It sat and took counsel together and looked wise. Then State street got to work. The result? Each of the nine giants— Carson, Pirie, Scott & Co., Marshall Field, Mandel Bros., Charles A. Stevens & Bro., The Fair, Siegel Cooper & Co., the Boston Store, Rothschild’s and Hillman’s— is in itself a great club, a co-operative community. Every article needed in any part of the world, in any emergency and at any time for any purpose can be had under the roofs of these stores.
To catalogue what these sky-scrapers hold wouldbe to call off a third of the dictionary. To be brief, you could be born, live and die in these State street doors as to-day has made them. The State street shops spread their baitfor the love of ease and the foibles of human kind most neatly.
State Street looking north from Randolph in 1911.
EVERY KNOWN LUXURY.
There are telephone booths galore, rest and recuperating rooms for the tired shopper or wearied business woman who must be down town all day. There are even “silence rooms” that are as quiet and possess all the properties of a similar apartment in a first-class sanitarium. There are children’s play rooms, recesses where the toilet may be freshened and furbelowed, shoe shops, hat shops, manicure parlors, tea rooms,lunch room grills, dressmaking departments— everything— anything. Waiting rooms stocked with magazines and libraries— a better place for Mrs. Wife to meet Mr. Hubby than the cafe or the hotelparlor— facilities for purchasing theater tickets or railroad tickets or steamship tickets or a combination of both to any part of the world.
You can give a dinner party or a luncheon to your friends in the restaurants of the department stores and find them arranged with all the precision and daintiness that you would have required from your own personalservants. Given a modern State street department store and a purse and you can do anything— yes, you can even do your banking there, and Uncle Sam has so smiled on these enterprises of modern commerce that his branch post-offices too are there, and added to cable and telegraph facilities help out the efficiency of the woman’s own business world.’
Flowers and fountains and music and even art exhibits! You find all these in the modern department store, the educated and cultivated great-great-granddaughter of the wampum trading of New England and the village store of the frontier where codfish traded perfumes with kerosene and plug tobacco, crackers, cheese and cabbages were neck and neck with calicoes, delaines, writing paper and churns. Truly we arrive at great estates and at devious ways in these days of our refinement and aestheticism.
Rothschild and Charles A. Stevens & Brothers Department Stores Advertisements
This was not done at a single bound, and no great man’s interest therein had much chance for sleep during the process either. Every move on State street has been carefully planned by men who can feel the pulse and diagnose the future of that elusive but powerful thing in every nation’s Iife— TRADE!
That $115,000,000 mark was reached gradually. Spanning this colossal sum for 1910 and the $50,000,000 in 1890 stands the $70,000,000 of 1900. To-day the sales force stands doubled over what it registered a score of years ago. And so has the quality! It takes trains to be a salesman or saleswoman in a State street department store in 1910. And as for the buyers— these keen-headed, clearsighted men and women must be shrewd financiers, must possess quick business judgment and commercial ability or they fail— fall flatter than a bride’s biscuits, and are put out with the terrible brand “Incompetent.”
The increase in the floor space over that of twenty years ago is 67 per cent! Ten years ago these stores, Chicago’s big nine that never fails to win, figured in the composite 3,77G,559 square feet of floor space. To-day they have 0,495,925 square feet. Figured into percentages floor space to-day runs 149.1 acres to 86.G9 acres ten years ago. Ten years ago the employes rostered 15,700, to-day the roll reads “33,900.” And every day the whole corn-belt sends in people and people and people to shop on State street. Ten times as many visiting shoppers throng Chicago now as did ten years ago.
The Chicago department stores are not a cause, they are an effect. They are tbe result of the net of careful buying, selecting, and even exploring that comes from the efforts of hundreds and thousands of men and women who scour all the capitals and the highways and the byways of every country in the world for the best of its products and the finest of its merchandise. On State street the Chicago woman finds a huge, carefully selected magic bag spread open for her careful culling. System outsystematized. That is what time and brains and attention have brought to the modern merchant.
The chronicles of the “street” are tragedy, farce, comedy and opera bouffe. In State street the two sides have exceeded the pivot in power. For they talk now of destroying State street, of puttinga tiered thoroughfare’in between the big stores, of having story on story of streets as well as stores, and perhaps of even roofing over this vast tenement of commerce!
But while architects argue and people plan, the street, a silent, insensate asphalted thing, cut and slashed by car tracks, groaning under the weight of traffic and the trample of many feet, lies silent. All day the big policemen, the “brass-buttoned beauty squad,” whistle and shout and cleave the human stream that besets it, and disentangle horse and child and once in a great while a stray dog, from wagon and car and cab and automobile!
From 6:30 in the morning till 6 o’clock in the evening, State street is about the busiest place on this continent. But the babies’ bedtime hour seems to ring -a proper curfew for State street. After that, barring a few crossing theater patrons seeking street cars or cabs. State street is practically deserted. There never was a street in the world that went to bed and stayed in bed as beautifully as State street. If it has any troubles at all, it tells them to the stars, for on State street there are no night policemen.
In May, 1911, The Police Were Removed from This District, State and Madison Streets, for Three and One-Half Minutes For a Traffic Congestion Study.
State Street Illumination Festival
Archway erected against the “L” road station at Lake Street.
October 14, 1926
State Street Mall (1979-1990)
The nine-block State Street Mall, the longest of its kind in the nation, circa 1979. The designers attempted to blend the new with State Street’s magnificent turn-of-the-century architecture, Bus stop shelters with transparent roofs, trees, shrubs, flowers, mini-plazas and street furniture lined the pedestrian mall.