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The Fair Department Store II
Life Span: 1892-1984
Location: State and Adams Streets
Architect: William Le Baron Jenney and William B. Mundie
The Fair, 1902
The Fair Store was a discount department store which was founded in 1874 in Chicago, Illinois. Founder Ernst J. Lehmann decided on the name “The Fair Store” as he felt “the store was like a fair because it offered many different things for sale at a cheap price.” Lehmann bought and sold goods on a cash-only basis; he offered odd prices (i. e., prices not in multiples of five cents) to save customers a few pennies on every purchase. The flagship store was moved to the corner of State and Adams Streets in 1875.
The second Fair Store, at the corner of S. State, W. Adams, and S. Dearborn streets, was built in 1892(completed in 1897) as a nine-story and one-basement building to which two stories were added later. Jenney & Mundie were the architects. The spread foundations of concrete, beams and rails, were set nine inches high in anticipation of that amount of settlement and were replaced in 1923 and 1924 by hardpan caissons, except under the north wall, where caissons to rock were used. At the same time two sub-basements were added. The wind bracing consisted of diagonal rods and lattice girders between the steel columns. Foundation, column, and beam. A feature unique at that time in high buildings was the use of an enclosed steel chimney, on account of the lack of space for the foundation for a heavy masonry chimney.
Offering a wide range of goods at low prices, the store offered services such as free wrapping, delivery, and an on-site nursery. In 1900, when annual sales were about $8 million, the store had nearly 3,800 workers; by the 1910s, floor space reached nearly 800,000 square feet. The Fair had 5,500 workers, making it one of the largest employers in the city. During the 1920s, the Fair was purchased by S. S. Kresge & Co., the Detroit-based dime store chain (which would eventually become known as Kmart). Under the new ownership, the Fair opened a branch in Oak Park in 1929; during the 1950s, it added locations in Evergreen Park and Skokie. In 1957, the Fair was purchased by Montgomery Ward, a larger Chicago-based competitor.
One more Fair Store would open, at Randhurst Mall in 1962. However, the Randhurst store would also be the first converted to the Montgomery Ward nameplate, in August 1963; the other locations would convert to the parent company’s name plate in 1964. The flagship building on State Street was closed and demolished in 1984.
The Fair Store Fire-Proof Construction
The Fair Advertisement
June 10, 1897
The Fair celebrated their 42nd year with four bands playing in their store.
E. E. Sheets on the main floor, State Street side.
Paul Biese on the main floor, Dearborn side.
Ralph Foote on the third floor, Adams Street side.
Charles A. Lawrence in the restaurant on the seventh floor
7 October, 1917
A Half Century of Chicago Building
Announcement of the purchase of The Fair Store by S. S. Kresge (K-Mart) on March 17, 1925.
The Montgomery Ward Flagship Store