Y.W.C.A. Hotel, South Michigan Hotel
Life Span: 1895-2010
Location: 830 South Michigan Avenue
Architect: John M. Van Osdel II
Chicago Tribune, March 12, 1895
The corner-stone of the new Young Women’s Christian Association Building—the home to shelter hundreds of stranger-girls in the days to come—was laid yesterday afternoon with interesting exercises. Mrs. Leander Stone, the President of the association, placed the box in its resting place, having spoken these words:
- The love of humanity, born of God, has constrained the Young Women’s Christian Association of Chicago to build this house for unprotected girls. strangers in the city and dependent on their own exertions for honorable support. ‘I was a stranger and ye took me in.’ is the motto of this corner-stone; May this association ever oiler a helping hand to the stranger of the street—homeless.
moneyless, with all respectable places walled against her entrance. May the doors of this new home stand open. ever beckoning the wanderer to safety and repose. So we lay this corner-stone to a building devoted to the working girls of Chicago. In the words of the constitution, its purpose is to promote the moral, religious, intellectual. and temporal welfare of women, especially women dependent upon themselves for support. May the benediction of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ rest upon the home, its inmates and supporters.
Dr. Benson Makes an Address.
Prior to the ceremonies a luncheon to participating ministers. their wives, and members of the Young ‘Women’s Christian Association Board was given at temporary headquarters, No. 291 Michigan avenue, which is immediately south of the new building. The program was given in the parlors, adjourn. merit to the new building being made for the final ceremony. After a scriptural reading by the Rev. Mr. Rouse and a vocal solo by Miss Fleming Dr. P. S. Henson was introduced to speak. He said in part:
- This is an occasion of profoundest interest. It is the latest. the noblest work of applied Christianity. It was Napoleon who said. ‘The want of France is mothers.’ Today the want of the world is homes. It any one needs a home it is the stranger-girl bravely battling for bread in a treat city. In all the years I do not believe there will arise a greater monument than the building around whose foundation we stand today.
Bishop Cheney spoke as follows:
- In the British Museum an old scrap of paper, yellowed with age, reads: ‘Aug. 16, 1669. Received of Samuel Simmons in full. John Milton.’ This was the value placed by Samuel Simmons on “Paradise Lost.” As the judgment of that book has been reversed so has the estimation of woman. During the time of the Re. man Empire she was the toy of man: today she carries oil from men the honors of the universities. The need of today is homes for girls. For years I have been impressed with the fact that the tendency of Christianity seems to be the care of young men. How many ministers preach courses of sermons for young women, think you! It seems to be taken for granted that women have reached buch a high standard that they are free from temptation. The building whose corner-stone is to be laid today is testimony that young women do need shelter and guidance.
Hard to Rescue the Fallen.
The Rev. Mr. Herbert, the new pastor of Oak Park Church, said it was bard to rescue the fallen.
“It is infinitely better to do preventive work,” he continued, as does the Young Women’s Christian Association.” Answering the complaint made that the ground purchased by the association was too expensive he said: “Nothing is too good for the work of keeping young women unspotted.”
The greatness of the occasion was declared by the next speaker, Dr. William M. Lawrence, to be in the beauty of the spirit which inspired the home for young women. The Rev. Mr. Harris was of the opinion that the women of the association crystallized more gospel in the laying of the corner-stone than the ministers of Chicago could do in twenty-five years.
The Rev. Mr. Milner of Armour Institute referred to a man interested in an extensive refuge who said: “It will pay if it saves one boy.” A friend asked if the statement was not extravagant. “Not if the boy is my son,” was the rejoinder. On the same principle the new building, however costly, will pay if it saves only one girl.
“I am glad,” he concluded, the home is to be on a Christian basis. The Sunday riot of girls belonging to the State Home for Juvenile Offenders is evidence of an attempt to run a refuge on a heathen basis.”
Addresses were also given by the Rev. W. B. Riley and the Rev. Gow, after which Mrs. Stone with a few simple words consigned the box to the corner-stone. Prayer was offered by the oldest minister in Chicago. the Rev. Luke Hitchcock, and the benediction was pronounced by the Rev. J. H. Barrows.
Commodious and Elegant Structure.
The new building is to be a commodious and elegant structure of seven stories and a basement. It will be equipped with all modern improvements and surmounted with a roof garden. The home, to be completed next October, will cost $125,000. Designed as a permanent as well as a temporary home, it will be equipped with everything that will aid woman’s development physically, mentally, socially, and spiritually. At a nominal cost all these advantages will be accorded the self-supporting girl.
The officers of the association are: President, Mrs. Leander Stone; Vice-Presidents, Mrs. W. W. Aliport, Mrs. A. L. Coe, Mrs. AV. W. Wilcox. Mrs. J. G. Parker, Mrs. I. K. Hamilton, Mrs. F. B. Myers: Recording Secretary, Mrs. A. S. Chamberlin; Treasurer, Miss M. E. True.
Chicago Chronicle, February 22, 1896
Far, far from the home of the lonesome boys the Young Men’s Christian Association building on La Salle street is the home of the lonesome girls, the fine new building of the Young Women’s Christian association at 2S8 Michigan avenue. The new home of this association was christened last night with “frappe” that aided not in keeping out the chill of the outer air. Today it will be thrown open to the general public and a continuous reception will be held. After that the 100 young women who are at present taking advantage of the opportunities of the association will be allowed to rest in quiet.
The opening reception last night was for the members of the association and those who have contributed in the slightest to the erection and furnishing of the seven-story hotel for that is what it is. Three hundred people were present and they included a host of the city’s society leaders. In the auditorium on the second floor they listened to five-minute speeches by the following ministers: Drs. Thomas Henderson Hurst and Ray Dr A Canfield invoked the prayer and the audience united in reading Psalm 23. Besides these exercises there was a song by Miss Lettie Davis and a violin solo by Miss Taylor who are boarders in the home The young ladies were enthusiastically applauded.
After the exercises the audience was invited to inspect the building and spent an hour or more in admiring the cheerful and tasteful way in which the rooms were furnished and in listening to the music of a violin quartet. At intervals the visitors encountered large bowls that looked strange in their environment but were found to contain interesting temperance beverages. This part of the entertainment was in charge of Mrs Ellsworth Gross and she was assisted by Mrs Madison Kennedy and Misses Caroline Fisher. Florence Hutchinson, Marion Martin, Lillian Gillette and Jean Hill.
A prominent feature of the building is a marble bust of the president of the association Mrs Leander Stone, who if she were a man would be called a veteran. She has given sixteen years to the service of the association and has won the love and esteem of her associates to such an extent that the presidency is probably hers for life.
The new home the Young Women’s Christian association contains about 300 apartments for boarders each room being furnished at the expense of some member of the association parlors furnished by various churches and a gymnasium a kitchen and a laundry furnished by churches or ladies interested in the association. The three parlors on the main floor were furnished respectively by the People’s church, St Paul’s Universalist church and Plymouth church.
The seven-story red brick and terra cotta Young Women’s Christian Association Hotel (located at 830 South Michigan Avenue) was designed by Chicago architect John M. Van Osdel II, nephew of prominent Chicago architect John Mills Van Osdel II. construction of the property was completed in 1895.
The late 19th century hotel is one of the oldest Y.W.C.A. buildings in the country, and was the first to be built in the City of Chicago. the Y.W.C.A. originally used to house working women newly arriving in the city following the 1893 World’s Fair. located near the Illinois Central railroad station and within a reasonable distance to the heart of the loop, It was was designed to take advantage of views along Michigan Avenue and the lake, with projecting triangular bay windows on the top floors and a renaissance inspired loggia dressed in ornamental terra cotta on the second floor.
Architectural drawing of the Y.W.C.A. Entrance
Chicago Tribune, December 11, 1925
By Genevieve Forbes Herrick.
Cyrus H. McCormick yesterday translated into enduring form the devotion to girls work which, his wife, Harriet Hammond McCormick, manifested until her death five years ago, when he, with his two sons, Cyrus and Gordon, gave to the Young Women’s Christian association of Chicago, for the immediate construction of a ten story memorial building at the northeast corner of Dearborn and Oak streets.
At the conclusion of the local board meeting yesterday morning. Mrs. Hermon B. Butler, president. announced the gift, and read the letter from the chairman of the International Harvester company which had accompanied it. The letter read in part:
- For some time, my son and I have been desirous of establishing a memorial to my dear wife. We have sought for a work that could be done in her name for women and girls, and have now concluded that we should like our memorial to be a residence for women, given to and conducted by the Young Women’s Christian association.
We have been inspired to establish I this memorial by the knowledge of the Important part my dear wife took in the work of the association, and of her concern for the proper housing and home life of women. This building will offer more than material comfort to the hundreds of young women who come to Chicago seeking education and business opportunity. It will be a place where the ideals of the Y. W. C. A. will be carried out.
The building, as designed by Berlin and Swern, architects, is to be built on the cross plan. with four wings extending from the center and leaving 1 triangular spaces for courtyards and gardens. Private rooms with the latest equipment will be available for more than 500 girls. A special section will be devoted to the housing of transient guests.
Lecture rooms, gymnasiums, club rooms. dining halls and a large solarium will provide a variety of facilities for study. recreation and entertainment.
Miss Theresa A. Clow, director of the Y. W. C. A. residence at 830 South Michigan avenue, who will be director of the new building, yesterday called attention to one more feature of the plans. It is a private model kitchen and dining room where a girl may cook and serve a special dinner to a caller who chances to be fed up on cafeterias. Work is scheduled to start on the new residence in the early spring. Ultimately It is planned to build a series of subsidiary homes, from the Income derived from the main building, but the main- building will continue to be the “mother” house. It will probably be called the Harriet Hammond McCormick Memorial Temple.
Chicago Tribune, November 3, 2009
If South Michigan Avenue’s so-called Streetwall, a strip of historic buildings on the western border of Grant Park, must be weaker, at least maintain its impressive facade, a preservationist and residents say.
The city and the owner of a seven-story property at 830 S. Michigan, known to preservationists as a historical gem for its impressive attention to detail on one of the oldest YWCA buildings in the country, are trying to figure out how to best deal with the long-deteriorating building.
The owner, Michigan 830 LLC, has filed an application to tear down the structure, a move that some in the area say is a shame given the rich history of the building. Last week, nearby residents, along with staff from Ald. Bob Fioretti, 2nd, attended a court hearing in which the city was given a Nov. 12 deadline to come up with a plan for the structure. Exactly what those plans are have yet to be revealed.
The building was designed by John M. Van Osdel II—nephew of prominent Chicago architect John Mills Van Osdel—to fit in line with some of the nearby extravagant hotels of the time. Construction of the property was completed in 1895.
Instead of having the look of a typical charitable organization, the YWCA building was lavishly ornamented with brick and terra cotta and used to house working women newly arriving in the city, said Jim Peters, president of the nonprofit advocacy group Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois, which placed the structure on its endangered landmarks list last year.
The roof of the former YWCA building has several holes. The rest of the abandoned structure, built in 1895, is also in disrepair, Among the problems are loose or rotting bords in the walls, water damage, collapsed walls and large holes in the ceilings, court records show.
Now, the building is dilapidated, abandoned for at least 20 years after having been a hotel since 1929, Peters said. Although saving the integrity of the entire building seems too costly at this point, Peters and others would like to save the facade, now hidden by scaffolding, to keep with many of the surrounding historic buildings. The strip of buildings is known to some as South Michigan’s “Streetwall” and encompasses buildings on Michigan between 11th Street and Randolph Street.
“We’d love to see the building be rehabilitated. But it may be beyond that point of no return,” Peters said.
The city’s Department of Buildings lists several problems with the structure in a complaint filed last year with Cook County Circuit Court’s municipal department, said Jenny Hoyle, a spokeswoman for the city’s Law Department. Violations include accumulating debris, holes, breaks, loose or rotting boards in the walls, extensive water damage, collapsed walls and large holes in the ceilings, court records show.
Peters said that if approached, Landmarks Illinois could conduct a study to further examine options.
The building’s owner could not be reached for comment Friday.
Andy Pierce, an assistant to Fioretti, said it is too soon to tell what will become of the lot if it is demolished.
Underneath shabby gray-blue paint is gorgeous red brick, parts of which are now exposed to show the facade’s original charm. “Young Women’s Christian Association” still reads in a faded white outline above the doorway.
Peters said great attention was paid to the design of the facade, including the triangular-shaped bay windows on the upper two floors. They are designed in such a way as to allow a person to look north and south on South Michigan, a detail not often found on buildings, he said.
The design also has a mix of Italianate and Flemish-derived details, and the second floor featured an open-air loggia, where residents could sit in a secured area and enjoy the lake’s breezes, Peters said.
“It was very much in the style of a large-scale residential building. The idea was to dress it up, make a very fancy place for what was considered low-cost housing,” Peters said.
Harvey Choldin, 70, a retired University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign sociology professor, moved into a neighboring condo in the former Crane Co. Building at 888 S. Michigan in 2002 after the structure went under a desperately needed makeover.
When he was growing up in the 1940s and 1950s, he said, few people dared to live in gritty downtown.
“When I was growing up, I came here for the Field Museum or the aquarium. But it wasn’t much of a place to live,” Choldin said.
But he was excited to find his condo now, in the middle of downtown’s action, where one could easily shop, take in the opera, and where the lake was easily accessible.
Although the residents at 888 S. Michigan cannot see their neighboring building without trying, if one leans over the ledge of the complex’s rooftop patio, several holes and crumbled brick can be seen scattered about the roof next door.
The vacant building was a draw for taggers who used the property to deface another building nearby. Last year, Choldin said, vandals broke into the YWCA property and used the access to tag graffiti on the wall of the Johnson Publishing Building on the other side. The damage has since been over.
Choldin accepts that not much may be done to completely restore the YWCA building, but he said completely demolishing it would ruin the balance of the historic neighborhood.
“It would be like someone with a really nice smile with one tooth missing,” Choldin said.
Gayle Veltrop, 56, an artist and technical writer who lives on the eighth floor of the Crane Co. Building, said that if used creatively, the old YWCA building could be a prime location for boutiques or restaurants that already dot much of the historic strip.
“If you look, everything else is all rehabbed — and then you have scaffolding on that building,” Veltrop said. “It is a nice neighborhood. … The more this area is redone, the more the place stands out.”
Sanborn Fire Insurance Map