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Leiter Building II
Life Span: 1891-Present
Location: State and Van Buren Streets
Architect: William Le Baron Jenney
Leiter Building II
Built in 1891 by Levi Leiter, the Second Leiter Building was designed by architect William Le Baron Jenney,
Siegel-Cooper began as a discount department store on State Street in the Loop. It was founded by Henry Siegel, Frank H. Cooper and Isaac Keim in 1887. Four years later, the store moved into the eight-story Second Leiter Building at State and Van Buren Street, designed by William Le Baron Jenney, who implemented the skeletal frame made of steel to make the design fireproof. The building was leased by Levi Leiter to the department store of Siegel, Cooper and Company who occupied it for approximately seven years. In 1902, Henry Siegel sold the company to one of his major stockholders, who merged the store with B. Altman across the street, creating a mega-store which was ultimately unsuccessful. In 1913–14 J.P. Morgan was involved in combining the company with other retailers as the Associated Dry Goods Corp. Siegel-Cooper declared bankruptcy in 1915, and the New York store closed in 1917, becoming a military hospital during World War and then a warehouse
After Siegel Cooper closed, the building hosted various tenants until it became the downtown flagship store of Sears, Roebuck and Company in 1932.
Leiter Building II
Sears Flagship Store
1933 brochure promoting the new Sears State Street Store during the Century of Progress.
The Sears store cost over a million dollars to refurbish. A 72-foot long electric Sears sign greeted shoppers at the front entrance. A stunning black and white terrazzo covered the main floor. The State street store was the first Sears store in a downtown shopping district, the sixth store in Chicago, and the 381st store the company built.
Opening day for the Sears State Street store took place deep in the Great Depression. Local newspapers reported that 15,000 shoppers visited the new store and several thousand people flooded the store’s employment office. Sears did everything it could to help put people to work, employing 750 Chicago workers for four months during the renovation and staffing the new store with over 1,000 people. Sears closed the store in 1986.
It is now the Chicago campus of Robert Morris University.
Leiter Building in 1963 as the Sears State Street store
BIG FIRE IN CHICAGO
Lost of Three-Quarters of a Million Early Monday Morning.
Chicago, Ill., Aug.3. –Fire involving a loss estimated to be at least $831,000 broke out at 7:30 o’clock this morning in the large retail dry goods ad notions store of Siegel, Cooper & Co., southeast corner of State and Adams streets. The blaze started in the exchange room on the first floor, and spread through the inflammable stock with the greatest rapidity. It was but a few minutes after the first alarm was given till the entire interior was a mass of flames. Every available piece of fire apparatus was called to the scene. Any attempt to save the building was at once seen to be hopeless, and the fire department devoted its efforts toward preventing the flames from spreading to the adjoining buildings.
In spite of the work of the fire department the flames caught in the rear of James H. Walker’s large dry goods store, just back of Siegel, Cooper & Co.’s, and fronting on Wabash Avenue, but they were soon extinguished. The heat broke the plate glass in the Leader, another large dry goods and notion store, on the northeast corner of Adams and State streets, and it looked for a time as if the building was doomed, but it was saved after a hard struggle.
About twenty-five employees were in the store at the time, but all of them as far as known managed to escape uninjured, except one cash boy who was on the third floor. He started to come down by the fire escape but became confused, lost his footing and fell, receiving sever injuries. There were three watchmen in the building at the time the fire broke out, who have not yet been accounted for.
The building was entirely gutted, and the Adams Street wall fell in after the iron interior framework had been softened by the heat. The firm carried a stock of $500,000 on stock and $40,000 on the building, insurance $500,00; “The Leader,” Demberg, Gleck & Harner, loss by smoke and water, $100,000, covered by insurance; James II. Walker, dry goods, loss by smoke and water, $50,000; C Hennecke & Co., crockery and bric-a-brac, $40,000; insurance, $33,000; Costikgan & Redrosin, Turkish rugs, $50,000; John A. Bryant, piano agent, $50,000; I.W. Baird, pictures, $5,000, Woman’s Exchange, $3,000, the Bell, dry goods and notions $2,000: other minor losses, $2,000. Most of the smaller losses are covered by insurance. The Walker building is only slightly damaged. The damage to the Woman’s Exchange building is $10,000, insured. A number of adjoining stores sustained losses aggregating $15,000, on which there was some insurance.
The cash receipts of Saturday aggregating between $15,000 and $20,000 were in a safe in the building, but whether or not they have been destroyed by the heat is not yet known.
Centralia Enterprise and Tribune, Centralia, WI 9 Aug 1891
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