Life Span: 1883-1954
Location: W. Monroe, S. Market and W. Adams streets and the Chicago River
Architect: John M. Van Osdel
Chicago Tribune, January 1, 1883
THE FARWELL BUILDING
A Notable Structure
Just completed on Market street and the river, between Monroe and Adams streets, 280×400 feet, 120 feet high with six stories and two basements, faced with red pressed brick and stone trimmings, and pierced with a thousand plate-glass windows, presents a magnificent appearance and is the largest, nest arranged, best lighted, and most notable building for commercial purchases ever erected in this country. And it is because it is the model building of our times, that we give it a prominent place in this review. It is built throughout in the most substantial manner.
The river wall to the first story is constructed of Weems artificial stone. This stone has been in the hands of builders for some time, and has been subjected to the most severe tests, and, as an artificial stone, has proved itself to be the most substantial and indestructible. Its place in the foundation walls of this immense building exemplifying the estimation in which it is held by the owners, as the thorough experiments which have been made of its cohesive strength and power of resisting pressure have given it the confidence of the building public.
The outer walls above the basements are of brick, and the party walls, from base to roof, are of concrete, stringer and more durable than stone. Five million common brick and 600,000 red pressed brick were used in the building. The latter were furnished by the Chicago Anderson Pressed Brick Company, whose extensive works on the North Branch of the river by the aid of electric lights are to run day and night through the winter, so great is the demand for those beautiful brick. They are made very rapidly by a patented process entirely new, and—what is of special interest to Chicago builders—they are the only pressed brick made in Chicago, and the Farwells think they are superior to any other brick. The basement floors and sidewalks are concrete, made of Portland cement and crushed quartz, by Fulton & Salisbury. Over a million feet of maple flooring was used for the floors, and between three and four million feet of pine lumber was furnished by Robinson & Prettyman, whose extensive yards are at Kinzie street bridge and at the junction of the North Branch and the main river, who keep thirty teams employed during the building season, and make a specialty of filling large orders. The building is gravel-roofed. An outside fire-escape on Monrose and Adams streets, and three on Market street, with outlets at each story; 250 feet of 2½ inch hose on each floor connected by iron pipes with a steam pump in the basement; iron shutters at each window, and double iron doors at each opening in a division. Babcocks everywhere, the Mercurial fire-alarm throughout, and watchmen with patent watchmen clocks guards against fire. The steam department, constructed under the supervision of the chief engineer, D. W. McGuillecuddy, seems perfect. Eight smoke-consuming boilers of 600-horsepower, that can be used separately or together, furnish steams to heat this, and the old Farwell building and the Tabernacle Block across the street, and move the freight and passengers of eight wholesale houses.
The steampipes and boilers with their network of connections, are all covered with non-conducting, industrial pipe-covering, by the Kelly Seroll Section Manufacturing Company, of 231 Fifth avenue. This steampipe-covering is economical, as its use saves fuel, prevents condensation of steam, radiation of heat, and, as the covering is removable, if repairs of pipe are ever necessary, the pipe covering can be taken off and easily replaced. The Kelly Company make wood and paper back covering,filled with composition, paper scroll, covering, mineral, wood, brick covering and underground steam-pipe covering that is imperishable.
A thermometer test of steam-pipe covering proved that the Kelly patents were superior, and hence Messrs. Farwell & Co. adopted their covering. This covering does not char or break on the pipes.
The plumbing and gas-fitteing for the entire building was done by M. J. Corbey, which is a guaranty that the work is perfect, and it is again to be the finest, as it is the largest job of the kind ever done in Chicago. Fifty tons of lead-pipe and 50,000 feet of gas-pipe were used; and over a hundred Hellyer’s all-earthen flushing rim-hopper closets with Myer, Sniffen & Co.’s improved flushing cisterns, and the faucets are all of the best of Fuller’s work, so that the ventilation is perfect. Twenty-five miles of pipe were used in the building. A reservoir on the roof, holding 100,000 gallons, supplies water for the closets and wash-rooms. A Corliss engine of 250 horse-power generates electricity for 250 electric lights. The interior wood work of this great structure is covered with Russell’s fire-proof paint—manufactured by S. I. Russell, of this city—protecting a surface of about 2,500,000 square feet. am area of neatly sixty acres, and requiring about sixty barrels of paint. This paint is said add greatly to the safety of buildings against incipient fires, as it takes from ten to thirty minutes to ignite wood covered with and architects pronounce it as a remarkable invention, rendering wood practically fireproof. It is of vital interest to insurance capital, and should have the heartiest encouragement from insurance companies. The mason-work was done by Philo Warner, and the carpenter work by Mr. Gillbride.
The Messrs. Farwell have commended themselves to the public for many years, by erecting spacious buildings which improved and benefited the city. But this mammoth edifice is their crowning work. They began it last spring; all the parties worked harmoniously together, and finished it in an incredibly short time, for J. V. Farwell & Co. moved into it the second week in December. They have rented seven stores on Market streets, the most conspicuous one to
A. I. SINGER & Co.
wholesale boys’ clothing, who have removed from 68-70 Wabash avenue to the new Farwell Building at Adams and Market streets, where they will be pleased to meet their friends,
J. V. FARWELL & CO.
occupy the Monroe street and river sides of the building, with 90×271 feet on Market and Monroe, and 90×400 feet on Adams street and the river, with a court 200 feet on the east side, giving them a footage of 1,021 feet for windows, and making it the best-lighted dry-goods house in the world. A massive stairway, built by John Nowquist, and four elevators lead to the several floors above. There are twelve steam elevators used int he building for freight and passengers. A portion of them were made and put in by Eaton & Prince, a growing house that is contesting the honors successfully with the old exclusives in this line. The whole cost of the building was nearly a million dollars. This mammoth building so imperfectly described is the outgrowth of the industry, enterprise, fair dealing, courteous treatment of customers, identification of their interest with the public weal, and which have characterized the house for a whole generation.
Within twenty-six years they have built five large stores for their wholesale trade, each time enlarging the size and increasing the conveniences for accommodating their steadily growing trade. Three of them vanished in flames—two of them with the goods they contained. The fourth they have outgrown and vacated. The new one, now occupied, colossal in proportions, unequaled for light, equipments, and facilities for doing business, represents their ideal of what Chicago and the vast region tributary to it require of the oldest, most enterprising, and progressive wholesale dry-goods house in the West.
Chicago’s First Half Century 1833-1883, The Inter-Ocean, 1883
THE LARGEST BUILDING IN THE COUNTRY.
Perhaps no firm in the United States ia better and more favorably known in this country than J. V. Farwell & Co., importers and jobbers of foreign and domestic dry goods Within the past year they have moved into their new building, the largest, most extensive, and best arranged for their business in the East or Wesi. It is the general verdict of merchants who have been in every similar institution in the land that this is the case, and the extent and completeness of this house has become so universally known that thousands of people consider their visit to Chicago only half made without going through the Farwell Building.
Regarding the architectural beauty of this building, it can be truthfully said to rival any building in Chicago. It is constructed of Philadelphia pressed brick, with stone trimmings, and the architects and contractors were evidently given all the latitude they desired in planning and construction. Its massiveness makes it, in fact, the most attractive building on Market street, and other buildIngs that were once considered to be giants of stone and briok now sink Into insignificance when compared with the great Farwell Block, that looms above everything, and can be seen at a great distance from almost every direction.
DIMENSIONS OF THE BUILDING.
The dimensions of this building are 280×400 feet, it is six floors above ground and two below, i. e., a basement and sub-basement, besides immense storage-rooms under Market street. The building itself cost $1,000,000 and stands on ground worth $500,000 more. The boiler and engine-rooms front on Adams street and extend across the entire building from east to west. The boiler-room is 70×90 feet, 20 feet high, and is said to be the best boiler-room in Chicago. The engine is an improved Corliss, 250-horsepower, with a 20-foot fly wheel; there are eight boilers 84 inches and 16 feet in length; 12 elevators are used in the building; two large-sized Worthington pumps for feeding boilers; one 8-nose pump “for fire purposes; one 5-nose pump for pumping water to a tank of 40,000 tons capacity, located on the roof; 250,000 feet of steam pipe is employed to heat the building. Electricity is used in lighting the building. Tne Schroll smokeless furnace has recently been attached to the boilers, and gives perfect satisfaction.
WHAT CLASS OF GOODS ABE CARRIED.
The first floor contains the offices, salesmen’s desks, and a general line of prints and other domestic goods. On the second floor is found an immense stock of imported and domestic dress goods, velvets, silks, shawls, etc., and in this specialty Farwell & Co. are second to no firm in the United States. The third floor is devoted to upholstery, woolens, and flannels; the fourth to white and knit goods, hosiery, yarns, gloves, etc. The fifth floor is tilled entirely with as complete a line of notions, ribbons, threads, jewelry, clocks, watches, etc., as can be found in this or any other country. Reaching the sixth floor, the largest stock of carpets and oil cloths in the West is displayed. The light throughout the entire building, one of the essentials to the proper display of goods, is so distributed as to be perfect in every respect.
TERRITORY REACHED AND ANNUAL SALES.
In response to the question as to the territory reached by Farwell & Co., they replied that they went east as far as Detroit, south and southeast to Cincinnati, and beyond St. Louis, west to the Pacific coast, and north to the British possessions embracing a scope of country the extent of which will hardlv be recognized by the casual reader at first glance. Within this radius are included seventeen States and every territory in the Union.
The sales of this house reuc u:d the enormous figures of $20,000,000 the past year,
increase of 20 per cent over those for 1882 and 50 per cent over those of a few years asro, a fact that will astonish the commercial world, and cause competitors to be surprised at the marvelous growth of J. V. Farwell & Co.’s business. It is questionable if there is another institution of the kind in this country that can make as good an exhibitor show a healthier growth, and is only one more illustration of the grand possibilities of Chicago’s future. The fact that this is an exclusively wholesale establishment must not be excluded from the mind of the reader, the proprietors resisting the temptation of reaping the profits of an extensive retail store in this city, and giving thereby their customers the opportunities that rightfully belong to them, and at the same time being enabled to throw their entire energy and’time into the wholesale business.
THE STOCK OF GOODS CARRIED
by this house, amounting to $5,000,000, is. of course, in accord with its other immense proportions, and the force required to move and control this enormous business is 500 employes. Twice each year a large corps of genera1 salesmen are sent throughout the entire territory controlled by this house to visit the trade and introduce the many novelties they are -constantly securing for theif customers.
For the past thirty years J. V. Farwell has been actively engaged in mercantile life in Chicago, and otherwise identified with its interest, and the house of which these lines have spoken may very properly be classed as the pioneer. A remarkable fact which, by the way, speaks well for employer and employe, in this connection, is that some of them have been together for the space of a quarter of a century having grown gray in the service, with the bonds of good fellowship still, doubtless, as lasting as life.
John M. Van Osdel Accounting Book
A Half Century of Chicago Building, 1910
In 1852 Mr. John V. Farwell. Sr., became a member of the firm of Cooley, Wadsworth & Company, the first and leading wholesale dry goods house of Chicago, the name then being changed to Cooley, Farwell & Company. The first building of the company erected in 1857 was located at 42-44-46 Wabash Ave. After the great fire of October, 1871. the firm occupied temporary quarters on Michigan Avenue about No. 167. The business later was removed to Monroe Street. In 1882 the firm moved into its present quarters. In 1892 the business was incorporated as the John V. Farwell Company, under which title it is now domg business. The house of Farwell stands today as one of the great leaders of trade in the country. Its voluminous stocks are constantly kepi at the highest pomt of efficiency. Its buyers import direct and contract for the entire output of mills and avail themselves of every opportunity offered by the markets of the world.
Chicago Tribune, September 23, 1925
Merging of the John V. Farwell Co., wholesale dry goods dealers, with Carson Pirie, Scott & Co. was announced last night.
The combination becomes effective Oct. 10, on which date Carson Pirie Scott & Co. will take possession of the business now being conducted on the property between Adams and Monroe streets between Market street and the river. The consideration was not announced but it was understood the transaction was more of an outright sale than a joining of the businesses.
Farwell Drops Business Cares.
John V. Farwell said he and his brothers, Francis C. and Arthur L., wanted to be free from further active business responsibilities.
For Carson Pirie Scott & Co. it was said:
- The purchase is an opportunity to better serve the ever increasing meeds of retail dry goods merchants in a wide territory.
Estimates were made that the gross business of the Farwell company has been $25,000,000 yearly, while that of Carson Pirie Scott & Co. has been about $75,000,000, the new concern, therefore, being a $100,000,000 a year combination.
Buy Big Merchandise Stock.
It was estimated that Carson Pirie Scott & Co. is purchasing $5,000,000 in merchandise outside of the good will and business organization. It is not, however, buying the land and building, according to the terms announced.
About 2,000 employes are involved, Farwell’s having approximately that number now, who after Oct. 10 will come into the firm of Carson Pirie Scott & Co. There will be a few changes, it was predicted, the new owners intending to operate the Farwell company from its present location. No joint building project is now contemplated.
John T. Pirie said the transaction was breached and completed in five days, the papers being signed last night. The law firm of Tonney, Harding, Sherman & Rogers represented Farwell’s and Charles H. Miller, one of the board f directors, handled the matter for Carson’s.
In Business 70 years.
The official announcement by both concerns contained this statement:
- …but no general sale will be held bu the purchaser until after Nov. 1. All outstanding accounts and notes receivable owing to the John V. Farwell company are payable by customers to them.
The Farwell company had been a Chicago institution for more than seventy years. It was founded by the father of the present head of the executive board, John V. Farwell.
The purchase of the Farwell business makes Carson Pirie Scott & Co. one of the foremost mercantile concerns of the world. It marks the growth of a business founded in 1854, to which the first day’s sales amounted to $28.
Established Here in 1864
That was in La Salle, Ill. Later the business moved to Amboy, Ill., with branch stores in Mendota, Polo and Galena. In 1864 the wholesale business came to Chicago, and two years later the Carson Pirie Scott & Co. retail store, now located on State street, was established.
In 1885 the retail business of Charles Gossage & Co. was acquired by Carson’s. In 1891 Carson’s bought the business of Storm & Hill, wholesale distributors, H. G. Selfridge & Co. was sold to Carson Pirie Scott & Co. in 1904.
W. Monroe, S. Market and W. Adams streets and the Chicago River
Rand McNally Bird’s Eye View
Chicago Tribune April 25, 1926
There Is going to be one eight story building constructed In the downtown business district where there will bo no rail gazers, for it is to be a building within a building. The structure in question be erected In the courtway of the old John V. Farwell building, taking up the entire block bounded by Adams, Market and Monroe streets and the Chicago river, which passed into the hands of Carson, Pirle, Scott & Co. with the purchase of the Farwell company.
Carson-Pirie. will use the structure when alterations are finished for their store. They are spending considerably over $1,000,000 on the interior building and on remodeling and cleaning the old structure.
The entrance to the building will be on Adams street, and there will be every convenience to facilitate the business of the out of town buyer. The general salesmen will be grouped near the main entrance, in a large space just to the west of the main aisle. And straight ahead will be the credit department.
The general scheme of decoration will be ivory and oak, designed to lend a note of cheerfulness. The ventilating system will be such that the building will be well supplied with fresh air without the necessity of opening windows, either in summer or winter.
The feature will be the interior structure which will contain a cafeteria and health bureau for the and a roof garden for recreation. There will be space for tennis courts and other sports for the use of the employes.
In the sub-basement there will be storage space for forty cars for the underground freight railway, which wilt serve the structure. A good deal of the firm’s business wil be handled by river barge which will help free the nearby streets of congestion. There are to be nev floors throughout, the walls are being reinforced and a high pressure system will be installed.
Holabird & Roche are the architects.
Farwell Block after Carson Pirie Scott Conversion
Chicago Tribune December 29, 1942
Three thousand one hundred fIfty federal war and treasury department workers will be transferred to Chicago, starting Feb. 1. Budget Director Harold D. Smith announced in Washington yesterday. They will occupy the Carson Pirie Scott & Co. wholesale building at Market, Adams, and Monroe streets and the river, which has been leased in its entirety by the government.
The 80 year old wholesale business of the concern may be terminated as a result of the government’s action in leasing the large structure, it was announced. The retail business of Carson Pirne Scott & Co. will not be affected, however.
The government workers, comprising 3,000 from the war department and 150 from the treasury department will be employed in the and safe keeping of war bonds purchased by officers and enlisted men of the army, it was announced.
Plan to Recruit 600 Here.
Eventually, it was estimated, 4,000 war department and 400 treasury department workers from Washington will be in the Chicago office. It is planned to recruit 600 workers in Chicago, bringing the total number of to 5,000. They will occupy all of the 740,000 square feet of floor space in a building which was built in 1882, covers a square block and is six stories high except for a modern 8 story structure 50 by 100 feet which was built a few years ago.
The Chicago transfers increase to nearly 35.000 the number of employes ordered out of Washington in the de- centralization program started a year ago. However, approximately 100,000 new workers have been hired by the government in Washington while this exodus has been in progress.
Plan $250,000 Remodeling.
The government lease of the Carson Pirie building is for a 10 year period beginning March 1, with a provision that it can be canceled on 30 days’ notice at any time after 1946. The war and treasury departments will take possession Feb. 1, however.
Workmen are expected to begin converting the merchandising structure into office space before Feb. 1, at a cost to the government of about $250,000.
Frederick H. Scott, president of Carson Pirie Scott & Co., said no decision had been reached as to whether the company would retire from the wholesale field.
“The loss of our wholesale building, in which are housed our wholesale sales rooms and most of our wholesale stocks as well as a dress factory, necessitates that we seek other premises, or that we retire from the major part of the wholesale business,” President Scott said. “Should we be forced to discontinue the wholesale business it will be with great regret.”
May Affect 1,300 Employes.
If such a change were made, how- ever, it would affect 1,300 in the wholesale division, many of whom would be absorbed In the retail business. It is understood, however, that the floor covering department would be retained.
If Carson Pirie Scott & Co. retires from the wholesale field it will be the third big Chicago drygoods and general merchandising concern to close. J. V. Farwell & Co., one of the city s largest wholesalers, was purchased by Carson in 1926. Marshall Field & Co. the other member of the “big three,” retired from wholesale merchandising a few years ago.
Carson Pirie Scott & Co. entered retail merchandising in 1854 with a store in La Salle, Ill. It opened others in Mendota, Galena, Polo, Peru and Akmboy and entered the Chicago field in 1867. Its State street store has 5.000 square feet. Its wholesale business was started in 1862.
Chicago Tribune, June 23, 1953
A circuit court jury before Judge Denis J. Normoyle yesterday approved the city’s purchase of the Farwell building and part of the land beneath it for $1.489,000 for the Wacker dr. extension project. Condemnation were a formality as the city and the owner, the John V. Farwell estate, had agreed to this figure.
The building is bounded by Monroe, Adams, and Market sts. and the Chicago river. The city will wreck the building and take a 54 foot strip of land along Market st., then return the remainder of the land to the owners. The price has been approved by the city council May 28.
This property is the last to be acquired by the city for the Wacker dr. project. It once was a Carson Pirie Scott & Co. warehouse, and later housed offices of the veterans administration. The veterans administration finished moving last January.
Greeley-Carlson Company’s Atlas of Chicago
Sanborn Fire Insurance Map
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