James H. Walker Store Building, Lyon & Healy, American Commerce Building
Life Span: Occupied 1886-1937
Location: SW Corner Wabash & Adams, 24-40 Adams Street (199, 201, 203 & 205 Wabash av)
Architect: Burnham & Root (Flanders & Zimmerman, Lyon & Healy store)
Chicago Tribune, January 12, 1886
THE DRY-GOODS TRADE. RUMORS ABOUT THE FUTURE MOVEMENTS OF J. A. WALKER & CO. AND A. S. GAGE & CO.
It has been rumored within the last day or two that the large wholesale dry-goods house of James H. Walker & Co. had altered their plans of establishing a retail store in the old Langham Building, at Adams street and Wabash avenue, and would locate at some desirable point on State street instead. In connection with the same rumor it was also intimated that A. S. Gage & Co. would shortly retire from their quarters at Adams street and Wabash avenue and quit the business. A reporter for The Tribune yesterday called upon Mr. Walker and asked bum as to the rumored State-street project.
“There is not the slightest foundation.” said he, “for any such report. Should we establish a retail house it certainly will be not less than a block or two away from the old—established centres—probably at the corner of Adams street and Wabash avenue.”
“Have you fully determined to establish such a house, at that point?”
“Not fully, no. We still have the, matter under consideration.”
“Is the interior of the Langham Building being constructed with a view to your occupying
“Yes—that is, it will be should we determine to go in. But we are in no haste to make the “venture as yet.
“You are in no way interested with Gage & Co.?”
“No. We have had some extensive dealings with them, our largest trade being the recent
purchase of their entire stock of dry goods, amounting to something over a new one quarter of a million dollars: but these were simply business transactions. We also gave employment to twenty or more of their former employés, a move necessitated by our increased stock and trade.”
At Gage & Co.’s the reporter talked with Mr. Campbell, Mr. Gage’s confdential clerk, in the absence of the senior partner.
“No, sir,” said he, “the firm of Gage & Co. have not at any time contemplated going out of business. We shall continue here, under the same name name as we have in the past.”
“In what lines of goods?”
“That is a question which Mr. Gage and his partners are now considering, but which they are not ready to speak of publicly. We have practically given up our third, fourth, and fifth floors for the present by retiring from the wholesale dry-goods trade. Our millinery trade, however, we have continued and are enlarging.”
“Is it likely that Walker & Co. will become competitors of yours upon the opposite corner?”
“That will perhaps be determined largely by what policy Mr. Gage may determine to pursue, the line of roods we shall handle, and the class of trade we shall cater to.”
James H. Walker Store
Chicago Tribune, September 1, 1886
James H. Walker & Co. invite today the citizens of Chicago and strangers sojourning here to visit the opening of probably the handsomest retail Dry-Goods establishment on the continent. From the corner-stone to the roof, in the construction of the building, nothing has been omitted that will contribute to the comfort of customers, and much study has been given to any question that in weary hours will relieve the tediousness of shopping. No goods will be offered for sale in the basement, leaving the remaining six floors as light as sunlight and glass can make them. There is ample room for carriages on Wabash-av. and Adams-st., and great pleasure will be taken by careful ushers in piloting ladies on this their first tour of inspection through the various departments.
Mr. Thomas Kilpatrick, with a corps of expert buyers, has been diligently at work in the various marts of Europe during the summer months making such selections as a correct and cultivated taste demand. The buyers of this house are the ones upon whom the responsibility falls, and the judgement of the public must decide the merits of their selections. The skill and taste of the buyer is reflected in the goods offered, and upon this criticism is invited. It is earnestly desired by the members of this house that the fact may be understood that superiority of fabric and excellence of all goods shall be bought as close as possible. Inferior and unreliable fabrics, always dear at any price, will not be considered at all. It will be impossible to describe the various departments in detail. That will have to follow in our advertising columns of the daily press.
There are few countries in Europe but what have been drawn upon display. France and the Continent have contributed as choice a collection of Dress Novelties as can be found in any of the brilliant windows of the Louvre; and if a lady should emerge from Le Bon Marche, that elegant storehouse of pretty things, and encounter across the street this equally well selected stock of James H. Walker et Cie, the same bewilderment would be met with in choosing from the great variety displayed.
Paris has also contributed for this house a pupil of Worth in the person of Madame Casaubon, whose period of service with that famous fashion autocrat enables her to offer to the ladies of Chicago the same advantages obtained at that popular establishment. From private sources, without announcement, Madame C. has booked for immediate consideration a list of orders for autumn costumes that sufficiently establishes the fact that the consciousness of a perfect-fitting garment with harmony in every detail and the satisfactory feeling that careful inspection exhibits only perfection is a matter of which the ladies of Chicago will highly prize.
From the Wabash-av. entrance the aisles on the Adams-st. side are devoted to silks, Velvets, and Worsted Dress Goods; the centre aisles to Laces, Ribbons, Gloves, Hosiery, and Men’s Furnishing Goods; and the north side to Linens, Fancy and White Goods. Here is the finest stock of Household Linens ever marshaled to Chicago. The second floor is devoted to Shawls, Mantles, Ladies’ Muslin Underwear, and Infants’ Goods; the third floor to Cotton, Prints, Ginghams, Flannels, Cloths, etc.; the fourth floor to Carpets and Upholstery; the fifth to Dress making, etc.; and the sixth to manufacturing. It os quite useless to attempt attempt to detail here any particulars. The invitation is warmly urged upon our future patrons of Chicago to come and see us on our opening day.
JAMES H. WALKER & CO.
Chicago Tribune, October 30, 1887
A REMARKABLE SUCCESS
One of the Leading Chicago Dry-Goods Houses.
Of the leading retail dry-goods houses in this city none are more popular than that of James H. Walker & Co., and deservedly so. Although one of the youngest houses in Chicago its equipment is so complete, from the management down—the greatest care having been taken in the selection of their immense staff of help to engage only competent and experienced salespeople, combined with courteous treatment towards their patrons—as to place this growing establishment abreast of the leading houses in this country.
The magnificent stock carried by James H. Walker & Co. if equaled is certainly not excelled by any house in Chicago. The assortment is always complete and at the lowest prices, and no department is more so than the
China and Crockery Department
on the third floor. It is unquestionably the finest of the kind in the Northwest. This department was opened up last April, and has met with flattering result. The patrons of the house have been surprised to find so complete a stock in a dry-goods house, and the prices quoted have been a still greater surprise, everything being marked in plain figures. The public cannot comprehend how a legitimate, first-class dry-goods house can afford to sell a good dinner set, 113 pieces for $8.97, a good chamber set, 12 pieces for $3.90, or a good English tea set, 56 pieces, for $2.97, and yet this house does it. The art room on the second floor is replete with the finest selection of choice wares. The greatest care has been taken in the selection of Fine Pottery, Art, and Bronze goods, suitable for holiday trade. It would well repay those needing anything, either
for practical use or for ornamental purposes, to visit this department, for it is impossible for a reporter of a daily paper to do it justice. We can only wish J. H. Walker & Co. the success they so truly merit. The magnificent display made weekly in their show windows, corner Wabash and Adams, is a work of art in itself.
Rand McNally’s Bird’s Eye Views of Chicago, 1893
James H. Walker Building (Retail)
Fronts 80 feet on Wabash Avenue and 225 feet on Adams, at the southwest corner, and is 70 feet high, with 6 stories and basement. This is one of the great retail stores of Chicago, and its 7 floors are in themselves a fair, where nearly everything useful and ornamental pertaining to an American home may be seen or purchased. The display int he windows is very fine. There are 4 passenger elevators, 32 departments, and 400 employes. The building is one of the handsomest of the ante-steel era of construction.
Chicago Tribune, Augist 27, 1893
The Inter Ocean, April 22, 1894
The bold and aggressive policy which has always characterized the policy of the house of Lyon & Healy in the past, and their triumphs at the Columbian Exposition and in similar fields where an opportunity for display has been afforded them, have naturally led the public to expect something quite out of the ordinary in the fitting up and arrangement of their new building. But we feel safe in saying that no matter how sanguine such anticipations have been, they will be far surpassed by the reality as it glows upon Wabash avenue today. Such striking originality as is displayed in this wonderful Temple of Music almost makes us think that a new era of selling goods had dawned. The famed gallery of Milan, or a bit of the Alhambra, is not more dazzlingly brilliant than in the latest of Chicago’s trade palaces. As becomes the most aesthetic of commercial lines, music, every necessity and accessory in Lyon & Healy’s new salesrooms has been devised so as to secure the highest artistic effect, while at the same time affording greater convenience to the public than has hitherto been deemed possible. A purchaser’s visit to this establishment will be an unalloyed pleasure, not only will the largest stock of musical goods on the world be at his disposal, but the display will be so temptingly made that he can better appreciate than ever before the great choice afforded him. Suppose he seeks a piano? An entire floor is thronged with the productions of not one but a dozen or more of the representative Eastern and Western piano manufacturers, ranging in quality from the lowest to the highest price—like Marshall Field & Co. or the celebrated Bon Marche of Paris—this establishment will cater to the wants of all classes. The approximate price and general style decided upon, our purchaser is ushered into a small room (one of a score containing pianos onIy),lighted by immense windows facing upon the avenue, and there entirely shut out from the distractions or the main salesrooms he can select his piano at his leisure. In this small room he obtains a correct idea or how the piAno will sound when placed in his home, and with perfect quiet he can make a far wiser selection amid the bustle incident to the old plan of showing pianos. Should he desire a guitar, harp, or mandolin, the opportunity afforded for careful selection is the same, for there is a separate room for each kind of instrument, and they are so arranged that the player in one room cannot disturb the player in another room. Should he desire a 10-cent banjo string, a piece of music, or a $5,000 church organ, the facilities for buying will be found equally delightful.
But to begin at the beginning: Upon gaining the grand entrance room upon Wabash avenue the eye is immediately captivated by its noble proportions and the beautiful effect of the carved oak, of which it is composed. Its striking columns each bear a richly ornamented lyre near the top, and this in turn is surmounted by a wreath, while every panel also is embellished with appropriate carvings. A glance upon either hand shows the interior main show windows. These windows are wonders in their way, each one being 30 feet long by 15 feet deep and 18 feet high, larger by far than many a prosperous retail store. A charming vestibule, luxuriously fitted up with an immense Turkish divan, next catches the eye, and serves to give the keynote of the entire establishment. But the view ahead is too inviting to permit one to tarry long at the portal. The entire depth of the store has been spanned with graceful Moorish arches, eight on either side, which form in reality the front of as many smaller stores, for the space between these arches and the show windows upon one side, and between them and the boundary wall upon the other (some nineteen feet) has been converted into the most captivating of pavilions. The great central area, flanked by the galaxy of glittering booths, looks far more like some gay exposition scene than the usual dull primness of a mercantile establishment. A magnificent idea of the extent and universality of the musical stock here presented, is given by this arrangement, for each division has a representation upon the main floor, and some of them are complete as regards retail custom, though, of course, the great reserve stocks are to be found upon the other six floors of the building. Occupying the center of the floor in the shape of a huge oblong is a circular counter 300 feet long of elaborately carved oak. In the center space, surrounded by this counter in regular ranks, rise the shelf-partitions which contain the popular sheet music of the day. These shelf-partitions deserve which contain the popular sheet music of the day. These shelf-partitions deserve more than passing mention, for they are in reality cabinets of great beauty. The polished oak panels which form their ends are hand-carved in colonial style. A wreath, in which is intertwined the monogram. “L. & H.,” surmounts the design; two flying ribbons embrace a group of classical musical instruments, and from them in turn hangs a bar, upon which is inscribed the name of one of the world’s great composers. Thirty-four different composers will be brought to mind by the various panels. Broad aisles separate the seats which face the counter and sheet-music cabinets from the pavilions. Could a more ideal position in which to select sheet music be desired than just in front of this series of jewel-like music-rooms? or could a more inspiring vista be offered to a purchaser in one of these pavilions than the thousands and thousands of pieces of music waiting, one might say, to be awakened into life?
Lyon & Healy
The groined ceiling will attract much attention. It has been decorated with a magnificent series of frescoes, which are in perfect harmony with the general design, being of an allegorical nature. Then the spandrels of all the arches are noteworthy. They bear carved group of musical instruments, ancient and modern. which stand out in bold relief upon a glimmering background of gold.
The various small pavilions, or stores, already spoken of will be occupied as follows, beginning to number from the northeast:
- Under Arch No. 1—Guitars and mandolins.
Under Arch No. 2—Banjos and zithers.
Under Arch No. 3—Old violins.
Under Arch No. 4—Cellos and double basses.
Under Arch No. 5—Lyon and Healy harps.
Under Arch No. 6—Harps.
Under Arch No. 7—Aeoleans.
Under Arch No. 8—
Under Arch No. 9—Musical boxes.
Under Arch No. 10—Musical boxes.
Under Arch No. 11—
Under Arch No. 12—Cashier’s office.
Under Arch No. 13—Grand staircase, etc.
Under Arch No. 14—
Under Arch No. 15—Miscellaneous instruments.
Under Arch No. 16—Band instruments.
The second floor will be practically a duplicate of the first except that the center space will be occupied by pianos instead of sheet music. A waiting-room, with a huge old-style open fireplace, will be a feature that will be most heartily welcomes by thousands of music lovers, for every convenience for writing letters and meeting friends will there be afforded. Space will not permit us to give the details of the many novel arrangements in the plans of the organ department, the wholesale imported goods department, the wholesale sheet music and book department, the general offices of the firm, etc., not to speak of the numerous artistic bits to be found throughout the building—as, for instance, then offices of the salesmen on the fourth floor, which are probably the finest in the United States devoted to such purposes—but enough has been said to amply prove that no resident of Chicago can be quite posted upon our places of interest without a thorough of Lyon & Healy’s new store.
In view of the fact that not one person in ten thousand has the faintest idea of the magnitude of the stock necessary to supply the demands made upon Lyon & Healy by their patronage, extending as it does over the face of the civilized globe, the element of surprise adds not a little to the enjoyment to be obtained by a tour of inspection through these royal quarters. Yet, in passing, it must be noted that spacious as these premises are Lyon & Healy had the utmost difficulty in squeezing their various departments within their limits.
In conclusion, let us add that Flanders & Zimmerman, the architects, are worthy of all praise for the masterly manner in which they have carried out their conception of an ideal music palace, and that Lyon & Healy are entitled to the gratitude of the purchasing public at large for their enterprise in making such a magnificent addition to Chicago’s trade attractions.
Music Trade Review, June 23, 1894
Lyon & Healy, Chicago, Ill.
A fitting apotheosis of a great and progressive house is the mammoth Temple of Music formally opened May 28th by Lyon & Healy on Wabash avenue, Chicago. It is not alone a potent demonstration of the growth of the music trade industry in the West, but an object lesson—from a broad commercial standpoint—of special signification. It proves that devotion to high business ideals, backed up by progressive methods and enterprise, succeeds.
The new house of Lyon & Healy is undoubtedly one of the largest music establishments handling so many lines of their own, and the manufacture of others, it can safely be said, in the world. “Over one hundred thousand musical instrument per annum” as the record of their factories, and a volume of business that runs close on two million dollars a year is, perhaps, the most forcible summing up that can be made of this great institution. What it will be in their new home is a matter for surmise, but the growth is sure to develop and expand still further in every branch. That is certain.
It is true the aggressive policy which has always characterized and practically made the house of Lyon & Healy what it is to-day, led the public to expect something out of the ordinary in the conception and fitting up of their new building; but it is safe to say, no matter how sanguine these anticipations have been, they are far surpassed by the reality.
Striking originality is a feature of this mu- sical palace. Every necessity and accessary has been devised to secure the highest artistic effect, at the same time affording greater convenience to the public than heretofore deemed possible. It is essentially laid out for the benefit of the purchasers, and the many conveniences at disposal enable them to appreciate the wares which they are disposed to buy.
This is well illustrated in the piano department, where a splendid line of instruments are shown, ranging in quality and price to suit the wants of all classes, and bearing the well-known names of Knabe, Hallet & Davis, Hazelton. J. & C. Fischer, Jewett, etc. A dozen rooms have been partitioned off along the street frontage of the building, and each room is a separate store for the sale of the pianos of a particular manufacturer, the name of the manufacturer being on the door of each room. The advantage of these rooms is that a customer can be taken inside, the door closed, and pianos tested, until a choice is made, the customer being secure from interference or annoyance from other buyers looking for and testing pianos, as well as being enabled to obtain a correct idea of how the piano will sound when placed in the home.
The same conveniences are at the service of purchasers in the other departments, and whether it is church or parlor organ, harp, guitar, mandolin, autoharp, or any of the thousand and one musical instruments which Lyon & Healy have in stock in these royal quarters, they are enabled to examine and purchase with a large degree of comfort.
A Tour Through the Building.
We will now take our readers on a short trip through this vast emporium, and if we gain an entree by Wabash avenue, the eye is immediately captivated by the noble proportions and the beautiful effect of the main floor. Its striking columns each bear a richly ornamented lyre near the top, and this in turn is surmounted by a wreath, while every panel also is embellished with appropriate carvings. A glance upon either hand shows the interior main show windows—wonders in their way, each one being 30 feet long by 15 feet deep and 18 feet high. A charming vestibule, luxuriously fitted up with an immense Turkish divan, next catches the eye and seives to give the keynote of the entire establishment. But the view ahead is too inviting to permit one to tarry long at the portals. The entire depth of the store has been spanned with graceful Moorish arches—eight on either side—which form in reality the front of as many small stores, for the spaces between these arches and the show windows upon one side, and between them and the boundary wall upon the other—some nineteen feet—has been converted into the most captivating of pavilions, where the small musical instruments can be had. The great central area, flanked by this galaxy of glittering booths, looks far more like some gay exposition scene than the usual dull primness of a mercantile establishment. A magnificent idea of the extent and universality of the musical stock here presented is given by this arrangement, for each division has a representation upon this main floor, and some of them are complete as regards retail custom, though, of course, the great reserve stocks are to be found upon the other six floors of the building. Occupying the center of the floor, in the shape of a huge oblong, is a circular counter three hundred feet long, of elaborately carved oak. In the centre space, surrounded by this counter, in regular racks, rise the shelf partitions which contain the popular sheet music of the day. The shelf partitions deserve more than passing mention, for they are in reality cabinets of great beauty. The polished oak panels which form their ends are hand-carved in colonial style. A wreath in which is intertwined the monogram “L. & H.,” surmounts the design. Two flying ribbons embrace a group of classical musical instruments, and from them in turn hangs a bar, upon which is inscribed the name of one of the world’s great composers. Thirty-four different composers are thus brought to mind by the various panels. Broad aisles separate the seats which face the counter and sheet music cabinets from the pavilions.
The groined ceiling will attract much attention. It has been decorated with a magnificent series of frescoes, which are in perfect harmony with the general design, being of an allegorical nature. Then the spandrels of all the arches are noteworthy. They bear carved groups of musical instruments, ancient and modern, which stand out in bold relief upon a glimmering background of gold.
The second floor will be practically a duplicate of the first, except that the centre space will be occupied by pianos instead of sheet music. A waiting-room, with a huge old style open fireplace, will be a feature that will be heartily welcomed by the thousands of music lovers, for every convenience for writing letters and meeting friends will there be afforded.
The entire third floor is full of church organs. All sizes are here for sale at all prices ranging from $25 00 to $3,500. The general offices of the firm are also on this floor, having telephonic communication with every department in the building.
The wholesale trade of the firm in sheet and book music is taken care of in the basement. Much of the reserve retail stock is also kept there. On the top floor, the sixth, the piano repairing is done. The fifth floor, a section thirty feet wide and extending the full length of the Adams street front, is occupied by the advertising department which does no small part of the work of a firm which has customers in every part of the world. The rest of the fifth floor is given up to the repairing of small instruments, like banjoes, mandolins, guitars, etc. The firm’s wholesale trade in small instruments is taken care of on the fourth floor. And none too much space is set apart for it, although this one floor is a big store in itself.
After this short excursion it must be conceded that Lyon & Healy’s establishment is not only big but beautiful. It is a store in which the combination of beauty and utility obtains from foundation to roof, where nothing is lacking that might please the eye or serve the conveni- ence of the customer, and a store which the music trade of Chicago should be proud ot.
Lyon & Healy
Lyon & Healy
Victor and Edison Phonograph Rooms
1907 Lyon & Healy Advertisements.
Chicago Tribune, January 10 , 1937
Wreckers will start on Feb. 1 to tear down the more than half century old American Commerce building at the southwest corner of Wabash and Adams, for several decades known as the Lyon & Healy building. The owner of the property, the estate of D. Mark Cummings, yesterday made public its plans for improving the corner with a “taxpayer.”
According to Dexter Cummings, representatives of the Cummings estate, actual building probably will get under way about March 1 with the expectation of having the building ready for tenants by July 1. The Estimated cost is $200,000. Alfred S. Alschuler, Inc., with R. N. Friedman and E. A. Renwick, associated, are thearchitects.
Will Be Air Conditioned.
To be of fireproof construction, the two story building will have foundations capable of carrying two additional floors. The entire building will be artificially ventilated and the sprinkled, and the stores will be equipped with an air conditioning system.
The exterior will be of Indiana of limestone, with glass brick used for second story walls. Store fronts will be of black granite, glass, and stainless steel.
According to W. C. Melohn of the Cummings estate, renting agent of the new building, the second floor and roof space with accommodation for 175 cars already has been leased to the Adams-State Garage corporation. The second floor and roof will be reached by a ramp.
Built in Eighties.
All of the first floor and basement space will be used for retail stores it was announced. The building will front eighty feet on Wabash avenue and 172 feet on Adams street.
The site and present six story building were purchased in the early eighties by Columbus R. Cummings, grandfather of Dexter Cummings ant father of D. Mark Cummings. The building was occupied by Lyon & Healy up to 1916, when that concern moved to its present building at Wabash and Jackson. Prior to its occupancy by Lyon & Healy it was under lease for several years to the Walker Dry Goods company.
Lyon & Healy, SW Corner Wabash & Adams
Sanborn Fire Insurance Map