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
This view of State st., looking south from Lake st., was made a few years before the Chicago fire of 1871, when horse cars pulled shoppers along the muddy streets at three miles an hour. The sidewalks were of planking.
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.
State Street Illumination Festival
Archway erected against the “L” road station at Lake Street.
October 14, 1926