The Schlesinger & Mayer Building II, Selfridge’s, Carson, Pirie Scott and Co., Target
Life Span: 1899-Present
Location: 1 South State Street
Architect: Louis Sullivan
Schlesinger and Mayer moved into the Bowen Building in 1881; building demolished in 1902, making way for Schlesinger and Mayer buildings which would later become the Carson Pirie Scott and Company Store
Chicago Tribune, June 10, 1897
Schlesinger & Mayer—In 1872 this store contained 2,500 square feet of selling space. In 1881, 32,000 square feet. In 1885, 60,000 square feet. In 1890, 90,000 square feet. In 1892, 120,000 square feet. In 1897-8 this Store will contain 300,000 square feet—with more to follow.
Chicago Tribune, May 28, 1898
A marble building to cost $1,000,000 will be erected by Schlesinger & Mayer on the site of their present establishment at State and Madison streets. Construction will be begin within a year, and it is expected that the building when completed will be unique among structures of its kind.
Louis H. Sullivan, the architect who, in conjunction With Dankmar Adler, designed the Auditorium, is at work on the plans, and it is to be the intention to construct the exterior wholly of Georgia marble and bronze, the material being the same as that used in the construction of the Corcoran Art Gallery in Washington.
For some time past Schlesinger & Bayer have been quietly securing leases of property in Madison street, between State and Wabash, and it is now given out that. Stanton & Co., grocers, 54 and 56 Madison street, and Haskell Bros., trunk manufacturers, 52 Madison street, have disposed of their leases to the firm. How much more Madison street frontage has been obtained is not known, as the parties to the negotiations decline to divulge information, but It is believed that much of the block is controlled by Schlesinger & Mayer. The Stanton and Haskell leases are not to expire for a year, but at the end of that time the present buildings they occupy will be torn down to make room for the new Improvement.
Twelve Stories and Fireproof.
The exact size of the new building cannot be given. It wlll be twelve stories high and fireproof.
A large amount of the space In the buildings which Schlesinger & Mayer occupy at present is owned by several proprietors. In State street the firm has a frontage of 180 feet, but a lease entered into last year with E. Nelson Blake for the property at 145 State street the house will control, for fifteen years from May 1, 1900, thirty feet additional, giving a total frontage In State street of 210 feet.
Considerable speculation is being indulged in as to the secret movements of Schlesinger & Mayer in acquiring real estate. They control by long-term leases the Haskell and the Barker properties, with buildings five stories high, extending over a frontage of eighty feet, and have under lease and occupy three stores of the Silversmiths’ Building, giving them a total frontage in Wabash avenue of 160 feet. In Madison street they occupy the seventy-three feet of frontage leading east from State to the alley, and exactly how much more they own by lease on that street, as Indicated by the purchase of the leases of the various merchants who occupy the different stores, is still a secret,
Schlesinger & Mayer Building II
Ground Space in Prospect.
It is thought that the new building will occupy that section of ground owned by L. Z. Leiter, fronting 180½ feet In State street and 140½ feet in Madison. Conjecture also says that the Catholic Church property at the southwest corner of Wabash avenue and Madison street is to be included in the improvement. This block fronts 180 feet in Madison street and eighty feet in Wabash avenue. The ground on which the St. Mary’s Block stands is owned by the Catholic Bishop, and is under lease to Chief Justice Fuller and others, trustees, on a contract which expires In 1904. Some of the other leases which have been acquired do not expire until 1905, and it probably would not be as difficult to secure the St. Mary’s Block as others, which do not run out until later.
Buying cautiously and gradually Schlesinger & Mayer have secured about half the block, lying between Wabash avenue and State street and Madison and Monroe streets. They may acquire more property.
Schlesinger & Mayer have expanded rapidly during the last few years. The firm started business twenty years ago, and at that time occupied a single store, 25×100 feet In size, on the West Side. The present establishment occupies over 300,000 square feet.
Architect Sullivan has designed the ornate exteriors of all of the Schlesinger & Mayer extensions. Great care is being paid to detail in the designs, and it is planned that the building shall surpass in beauty of architecture anything of its character heretofore attempted.
Chicago Tribune, January 1, 1899
This mercantile palace will be equipped with sixteen Otis Co.’s passenger elevators, the cars to be of mahogany, inlaid, with Pullman car finish. Every appliance known to science to include safety, speed, and comfort will be utilized in their construction.
The Luxfer prisms are to be used for the entire building, including the sidewalk. The lower two stories of the modern dry goods mart will consist of two-story bay window show rooms, the upper portion of the windows being installed with Luxfer polished cut prisms, framed in statuary bronze work of unique and beautiful design. The masonry above will be treated with a smooth surface, combined with simplicity of line and moulding. On the Madison street front will be a spacious porte-cochere and carriage court, so arranged that patrons may drive directly to special elevators. All parts of the interior will be finished in bronze and San Domingo mahogany. This building will be thoroughly fireproof.
It will be the effort of Schlesinger & Mayer and Architect Sullivan and Engineer Adler to make the building the most complete of its class in the world.
Inter Ocean, August 31, 1902
The most important building of this class is the new thirteen-story structure, 180×70 feet, at the corner of State and Madison streets, covering the ground leased from Marshall Field. Louis H. Sullivan is now at work on the plans. The style of architecture is to conform to that of the new nine-story building on Madison street. he work will cost about $800,000, and the work of removal of the present building will begin shortly after Jan. 1.
Schlesinger & Mayer Building
Schlesinger & Mayer Building
Chicago Tribune, October 12, 1903
Architectural Record, July 19041
The tide of commerce ebbs and flows along State Street, in Chicago, and as the observer moves with the passing throng, his attention will be drawn toward the corner of Madison Street, and retained there by a building recently completed. It is one of many devoted to the retailing of goods, but on an extensive scale and including a large percentage of women among its patrons. This function is unmistakably expressed in the design. The city in which the building is located has the peculiarity of concentrating its commercial district in a comparatively limited area, within which there has been erected a large number of buildings of like purpose and character. The one in question is not of colossal type. Its fagade is not based on “features,” but its individuality is distinct. Its exterior frankly betokens its structural basis and rises in no uncertain fashion from sidewalk to cornice. It is a logical solution of the commercial building, such as a department store, the latest and best achievement produced in this country.
Schlesinger & Mayer Building
Architectural Digest, July, 1904
This result has taken some time to accomplish and is the culmination of a long series of previous efforts, all working toward the better expression of what is regarded as our most unsatisfactory architectural problem. It is the outcome of careful preparation, skillful study and its application, maturity of mind and full sympathy between the maker of ideas and the makers of materials.
The design is thoroughly modern. It shows fully the structural function of the steel frame with the enclosing protection of terra cotta, treated with full knowledge of its plasticity in its natural state and hardness and durability after treatment in the kiln. The lower portion on the street is equally straightforward in its quali- ties of “plate glass” architecture. Here are the largest openings possible for display windows and their attractions to feminine eyes are framed by a surrounding of elaborate decoration in cast metal. These forms immediately attract attention. They are full of vitality, of movement, grace and line. They twine and intertwine, divide and subdivide in marvellous fashion, yet they are ever traceable to their parent source and strongly organic.
In the Prudential Building, in Buffalo, which emanated from the same head, the essential element is masculinity. It is an American office building dominated by men and devoted to the transaction of their business in all its multitudinous forms the elements of activity, ambition and directness of purpose, are all shown thereby in the architectural forms.
The Schlesinger & Mayer Building is a differentiation of the commercial problem and has been treated entirely on its own merits, both in the general design and in the detail. This is frankly a department store an establishment where goods of many kinds may be retailed to many people and so displayed over large floor areas, that ease of examination and accessibility to products may be speedily achieved. Hence, throughout its typical floors, the window openings are of maximum size and form a distinct basis of the exterior design. The detail of the decorative treatment around these openings enhances the outlook, and gives additional values to the exterior effect. The building terminates in a cornice cased on the projecting roof beams and rationally functional.
There were certain modifications in the structure during its erection based on changes incidental to the growth of the business and project. The first of the sections built was on the less important street and eight stories high. With the erection of the corner section four stories were added in height. This increase showed the integrity of the basic design. The building was simply carried up the additional stories desired, to twelve, and the terminal foliations of the stem-like columns and the cornice detail correspondingly enlarged for their additional distance from normal viewing.
The treatment of the ornamental detail is essentially appealing in its quality to femininity. It is sensitive to a high degree, delicately pleasing to the sympathetic eye and with fine feeling and movement permeating its most incidental ramification.
The entire scheme is one organic whole and is carried out in full harmony and balance. Values are carefully preserved and a consistent motive runs through the ornament. The surfaces, either treated in relief or in one plane indicate careful study with fine appreciation of the natural qualities thereof.
In addition to the cast and moulded ornamental detail of the exterior, this same treatment is preserved to an exceptional degree in the interior work. All of the woodwork has undergone the most careful inspection and valuation before selection in the paneling and careful matching of the wood. There are also effects obtained through the product of modern machines and appliances intelligently used by logical designing. This is especially achieved in a screen of sawed wood, enclosing a corner of the third floor and making thereof a writing and retiring room. The upper portion of the wainscoting is made with panels of five thicknesses of sawed mahogany. The outer two thicknesses or planes are curved lines, the next two are straight lines, the middle plane a combination of both. These all placed in sequence produce a fine orchestration of ornamental form with a development of light and shade greatly enhancing the values of the successive surfaces. It is, without doubt, the most unique and beautifully elaborate woodwork made in this country, using modern methods in the manufacture.
So, throughout the entire building, inside and out, is carried the integral scheme of functional form and its appropriate expression in terms of material. All this is based on a comprehensive theory of architecture and a carefully developed system of expression.
Lyndon P. Smith.
Architectural Record, July 1904
Another View What Mr. Louis Sullivan Stands For.
I doubt very much whether Mr. Sullivan’s work has yet received the estimation and recognition which unquestionably it merits. In the wilderness of our architectural practice Mr. Sullivan occupies today something of the usually isolated position of the prophet, the forerunner, the intensely personal force. It is strange that this should be so in a land where strong individuality is rather prized and applauded than neglected and qualified; and in a profession, too, that is so frequently spurred by a general call for “originality” a profession, moreover, that is at the same time brought almost daily face to face with new problems in design that really demand by the obvious logic of structure and function, the development of new architectural formulae. For, let it be well understood, Mr. Sullivan is really our only Modernist. He is, moreover, strictly of our soil. He has his precedents, no doubt, but his mature work, we might indeed say all but a small residuum of all his work, is not to be dated from elsewhere either as to time or place. Mr. Sullivan himself is the centre of it. He is his own inspiration, and in this sense may be saluted as the first American architect. To say that he has invented a style would, of course, be to say too much, but he has certainly evolved and elaborated a highly artistic form of superficial decorative expression in logical connection with the American steel skeleton building. Richardson is our historical example of American originality in architecture, but Richardson’s work, permeated as it is with the author’s mighty personality, is not free, is indeed far from free from an archaeological basis. In the pres- ence of Richardson’s buildings, we never lose the sense that we are confronted by a colossal importation, buildings lifted, as it were, by giant hands out of some mediaeval locality, of which we fancy we can find the historical reminiscence somewhere in Romanesque France. On the other hand, there is not a vestige of the past in Sullivan’s work. It is as modern as the calendar itself. The ar- tistic ingenuity, nay, the artistic boldness of the attempt is admir- able. Here, is L’Art Nouveau indigenous to the United States, nurtured upon American problems, and yet but scantly recognized or considered by ? profession that busies itself with the exotic importation of the same principles from an alien source.
The Schlesinger & Mayer Building is the latest result of Mr. Sullivan’s personal initiative. We understand from sources not authoritative, but still reliable, that Mr. Sullivan worked for three years on the problem entrusted to him. If this be true it is the only antique element in a design which is almost startlingly bald in its logic and blanched in its complete disregard for any of the traditional architectural tones. The artist has stuck to his own palette, developed from himself; trusted entirely to his own inspiration.
And the result?
Mr. Smith, whose remarks precede these of mine, speaks candidly as an intelligent admirer, as a convinced enthusiast. One’s first feelings perhaps is, not to disturb the mellifluous allegro; not even to question the suggested metaphysics by inquiring with too rude an analysis as to what are the essential components of the expression of femininity in architecture. We have philosophic doubts as to this part of the Sullivan doctrine—doubts which, if occasion required, one might even screw up one’s courage to state with extreme positiveness; but about Mr.Sullivan’s latest architectural achievement itself, one hesitates to say a word offhand or hastily. One’s initial impressions of the building have a treacherous elusiveness. At first glance some judges no doubt will be tempted to exclaim:
- This will never do! Facility and ingenuity have here out-run themselves jumped, as it were, on the other side. There is always danger that the mind by excess will parody its own cleverness, and in the Schlesinger & Mayer Building, has not Sullivan himself given us the Sullivanesque?
There is, I believe, an element in even a rapidly enunciated opinion of this sort which will persist and be a component of a final and mature judgment, but how far will this superficial impression be qualified and in what direction? The immense ability of the ornamental design that like an efflorescence blooms on the Schlesinger & Mayer Building, is not for a moment to be questioned. Its successes are based upon a wonderful inventive- ness and ability to handle in a harmonious manner in- volved surface decoration. Is there anything at once so original and so capable elsewhere to be found in American work? Where are we even to match its kind abroad? And if much of the decorative design is open to the charge of being vague and inorganic, no little of it possesses a really exquisite definiteness and suitability. The design, moreover, is all very true to its material. One is almost tempted to the exaggeration of saying it is too true, and in places is rather metalesque than metallic. There is danger in it all no doubt. The singer, we feel, is too much in the lyric strain. The sense of the thing tends to the incoherent. Nevertheless, there is an enthusiasm of inventiveness in the work, a personal reality, a sparkling artistic exuberance which confounds us when we compare it with the dull copybook ornamentation, the repetitions a thousand times repeated that pass in the ordinary category of architectural work for “modern decoration.” Under these circumstances it is perhaps the wiser part of judgment to quietly permit this latest production of Mr. Sullivan’s to speak to us itself for a time, feeling sure that in the final appraisement we shall find not only that the work possesses great value and inspiration, but also a lesson in which Mr. Sullivan himself will need to share.
H. W. Desmond.
Chicago Tribune, May 16, 1904
Harry Gordon Selfridge, yesterday purchased for $5,000,000 the building, leaseholds, and stock of Schlesinger & Mayer. Mr. Selfridge, who for tewenty-five years has been connected with the firm of Marshall Field & Co., has retired from that house.
He will assume control of the Schlesinger & Mayer store on June 13, and will operate the business under the name of Harry G. Selfridge & Co.
The desire of Mr. Selfridge to be at the head of a business of his own was named yesterday both by Mr. Selfridge and by the house of Marshall Field & Co. as the reason for the breaking of old and the forming of new relations.
The venture was declared to be a personal one on the part of Mr. Selfridge, and it was intimated that he did not find it necessary to seek a large amount of outside capital.
Surprise to State Street.
The announcement came as a surprise to State street. The negotiations, it appears, were carried on in New York, where the arrangements have been in progress for several days. The transaction is one of the largest of a mercantile character ever recorded in Chicago.
Mr. Selfridge himself announced the purchase. He stated:
- I have purchased the business of Schlesinger & Mayer. I shall take possession on Monday, June 13. I shall be its sole owner and shall conduct it under the firm name of Harry G. Selfridge & Co. I accordingly have sold my interest in the firm of Marshall Field & Co., and have retired from partnership in that business and from the management of its retail department.
I have taken the step because of a great desire to become the head of a business of my own—to gain the pleasure and satisfaction of direct personal ownership. Of course this act on my part is connected with a feeling of keen personal regret at parting business ties which have been so many years in forming. It is done, howevr, with an absolute confidence of success.
David Mayer Wants a Rest.
Speaking for Schlesinger & Mayer, Mr. David Mayer said:
- Yes, Mr. Selfridge and ourselves have closed a contract under which the transfer will be made on June 12. I have been hard at work since 1872 without a rest of any kind. The size of Mr. Selfridge’s offer was inviting, and the desire on my part for a long vacation became so keen, that my associates and myself finally consented. It is true that the consideration to be paid is large, but we are turning over one of the most valuable plants of its kind in this country, and one must be strongly tempted before parting with such property. I intend to leave the city in June for a long holiday trip.
The firm of Marshall Field & Co. made the following statement:
- Mr. Selfridge has severed his connection with our house on account of his desire to possess a business of his own. He leaves our house to our regret and with our best wishes for his success.
Replying to an inquiry as to Mr. Selfridge’s successor in the management, Mr. R.M. Fair of the firm said:
- Relative to control of our retail business, there will be no important change. Those associated in the supervision in the past will be continued in active management.
One of the Oldest Houses in the City.
In the retirement of Schlesinger & Mayer one of the oldest and most prominent concerns in Chicago goes out of business.
Years ago the business was established in a small store on West Madison street in the St. Denis hotel building at the northeast corner of Madison and Desplaines streets, once regarded as a fine structure in a busy locality.
In 1880 the firm moved to the store at the southeast corner of State street, 145 feet in Madison, and 80 feet in Wabash avenue. In addition the firm has erected during the last three years the handsome structure which now stands upon the corner. It is twelve stories high, fronting 180 feet in State street and 145 feet in Madison.
Firm’s Real Estate Operations.
For nearly ten years the real estate operations of the firm have been one of the conspicuous features of the real estate market. They have been on an exceedingly large scale and have resulted in the acquisition of over a quarter of a block, bounded by State street, Wabash avenue, Madison and Monroe streets.
The most important of these transactions was the leasing from L. Z. Leiter of the ground at the southeast corner of State and Madison streets. 180½ feet on the former and 145 feet on the latter. This was leased in 1898 for a period on=f ninety-nine years from July 1, 1905, at an annual rent of $112,000, which, at a 4 per cent basis, shows a valuation of $2,400,000. In July of the same year Marshall Field purchased the ground from Mr. Leiter for $2,135,000.
Mr. Selfridge’s Rapid Rise.
Mr. Selfridge for eighteen years has been manager of the retail department of Marshall Field & Co., and for fourteen years has been a partner in the firm. He entered the employ of Field, Leiter & Co. as a clerk on a salary of $10 a week. He was promoted steadily for industry and ability.
For the position he has reached he is one of the youngest business men in Chicago. He became a partner in Marshall Field & Co. when he was 32 years old.
A 1904 John T. McCutcheon illustration showing Mr. Selfridge carving up the Schlesinger and Meyer department store and serving to the partnership of Messrs. Carson, Pirie, Scott and another dozen gentlemen.
H. G. Selfridge & Co,
Grand Opening Advertisement
June 13, 1904
Chicago Tribune, August 12, 1904
After a day of exciting negotiations and sensational rumors, announcement was made late yesterday afternoon of the sale of the entire business of H. G. Selfridge & Co., including leaseholds and building at State and Madison streets to the firm of Carson, Pirie, Scott & Co. The estimated price was for $3,515,000 paid by Mr. Selfridge less than three months ago, and a bonus.
The news was coupled with the statement that Carson, Pirie, Scott & Co. in turn had sold to Hillman’s the unexpired term from Jan. 1, 1905, of their lease on the Leiter property, State and Washington streets.
Will Take Possession Today.
Carson, Pirie, Scott & Co. will take possession of the store of H. G. Selfridge & Co. today. The firm did not relinquish its present store, however, until the time named in the contract with Hillman’s/ Even after Jan. 1 the space in the Reliance building still will be controlled by the firm, although the general belief yesterday was that the lease would not be retained.
Almost to the hour when the formal statement of the double transaction was made rumor named another large State street establishment as a party to the negotiations in the place of H. G. Selfridge & Co. After the papers were signed, however, neither firm would say any different plans had been under consideration.
Exact Consideration Withheld.
The exact amount of money passed between the two giant bargainers was not divulged. Mr. Selfridge, however, said he received a bonus over the sum he paid Schlesinger & Mayer on May 14 for the same property.
Mr. Selfridge paid Schlesinger & Mayer $5,000,000 for the business plant. Almost immediately, however, he sold the building and leaseholds to Otto Young at the published price of $1,485,000. The difference between these figures, $3,515,000, remained as the value of the dry goods store, which now has been transferred to Carson, Pirie, Scott & Co.
Mr. Selfridge Has No Plans.2
The amount of the bonus received by Mr. Selfridge was estimated at from $200,000 to $500,000. It was conceded that he had made a lucrative speculation, provided he no longer wished to operate a dry goods store independently. On this latter point Mr. Selfridge declined to enlighten the public.
Street gossip asserted with considerable emphasis that Mr. Selfridge would return to his former association with Marshall Field, but when the rumor was taken to him sand he was asked if he would affirm or deny it he contented himself with the response:
- I have no definite plans.
A report that Mr. Selfridge would associate himself with Otto Young and the Fair was denied.
Deal Comes as a Surprise.
Mercantile and financial circles were astonished at the sale, coming as it did so soon after the launching of the firm H. G. Selfridge & Co.
Explanatory events, however, quickly were dragged out of the past. It was recalled that Carson, Pirie, Scott & Co. was looked upon as a perspective purchaser of the business of Schlesinger & Mayer before the name of Mr. Selfridge was mentioned, and that circumstantial gossip once declared that the papers for the sale had been drawn up and that a hitch at the last moment prevented the signatures being affixed.
The enforced transfer, owing to expiring leases, of the retail store of Carson, Pirie, Scott & Co. from its present to some other site was conceded to be the motive force at the bottom of the negotiations.
The brief, formal statement of the firm follows:
- On entering upon the fiftieth anniversary of our business career we are happy to announce our occupancy of the beautiful new twelve story building corner State and Madison streets. We will there be able far more satisfactorily to serve our patrons than we ever have been before, in one of the best equipped stores in the world, with a new and attractive stock of merchandise, second to none.
Mr. Selfridge Gives Explanation.
This was Mr. Selfridge’s statement:
- There is not much to say. Carson, Pirie, Scott & Co. offered me a large bonus over and above what I paid for the business about eight weeks ago and I have taken it. After I bought the business of Schlesinger & Mayer, Carson, Pirie, Scott & Co. opened negotiations with me with references to purchasing it. I was not at all desirous of selling, for during the short time I had it splendid progress was shown in every direction and in every department.
The immediate profit which I received equals that which my estimates spread over a long period, and at the risk of seeming to make a sensational move I decided to accept it. I shall for a moment take a good play spell.
Comment by Edward Hillman.
Comment upon the sale of the Carson, Pirie, Scott & Co. leasehold to Hillman’s was made by Edward Hillman. He said:
- After a career of five and one-half years in quarters that, almost from the first day, were entirely inadequate to the volume of our business, we are pleased to announce the acquisition of the leasehold and fixtures of Carson, Pirie, Scott & Co. These premises, which we will occupy Jan. 1 in connection with our present store, will enable us to proceed with long delayed plans for enlarging and broadening the scope of business.
The negotiations between Hillman’s and Carson, Pirie, Scott & Co. were conducted by Fetzer, Peters, *=& Co. and Albert L. Strauss.
Under the lease by Otto Young to Selfridge & Co., following the sale by the latter to Mr. Young of the building and leasehold interest, Carson, Pirie, Scott & Co will pay an annual rental of $196,000 for thirty years from July 1, 1905. Until that time they will pay $7,000 a month. The ground is owned by Marshall Field.
The lease provides for an annual ground rent of $112,000, which, on a 4 per cent basis, indicates a value of $2,800,000. This is the largest ground rental for which a contract has ever been entered into in Chicago.
Schlesinger & Mayer Building II
Subsequent additions were completed by Daniel Burnham in 1906 and Holabird & Root in 1961.
Proposed 1906 drawing of a clock to be built and placed on the Carson, Pirie, Scott building.
Carson Pirie Scott Building
Sanborn Fire Map
Carson Pirie Scott & Company Advertisement
Carson Pirie Scott & Company
Alson Skinner Clark (1876–1949)
June 10, 1947
Chicago Tribune, August 26, 2006
1 This article was written before Harry Selfridge purchased the building.
2 In 1909, Mr. Selfridge opened a store in London. It is one of the most popular retail stores in the city today..