McCarthy Building, A.H. Miller Building
Life Span: 1865-1871
Location: SE corner of Clark and Randolph Streets
Architect: W.W. Boyington
The McCarthy Building was built in 1865 at a cost of $90,000. The Michigan Central ticket offices and Abner Halsey Miller’s Jewelry, a first class jewelry establishment, were in this building.
Chicago Tribune, July 21, 1864
The old frame building on the corner of Randolph and Clark streets, where Justices were “wont to meet,” has been removed, and in its place a handsome block is in course of erection by Samuel McCarthy. It will be four stories in nheight, with a basement and Mansard or French roof, and have a marble front on both streets. There will be two main entrances—one on each street, ornamented with handsome stone pilasters. The architecture will be of the Italian style, from plans by Mr. Boyington. The first and second stories are engaged by A.G. Miller, as a jewelry establishment, and contain a fire and burglar proof vault; the basement will be divided into exchange or insurance offices, and the upper floors into offices for business men generally. The cost of the edifice, when completed, will be $30,000, and it will occupy 30 feet on Randolph by 70 on Clark.
SE Corner Clark and Randolph
Chicago Tribune, May 22, 1865
A Business Palace.
The prominent business corner diagonally opposite the Sherman House, on the Court House Square, at the intersection of South Clark and Randolph streets, has just witnessed a substantial and in all respects, beautiful improvement, one of the most notable inaugurated this season, and worthy from its inseparable associations with the opera House. A.H. Miller’s jewelry establishment deserves no less praise, and a description in detail, which, while it does it simple justice, will be no more than will be given verbally many times within the next few months by those delighted with actual observation of its beauties to those less favored. The newspaper sketch here stand in the place of the narrator, and as the establishment will be opened on Monday evening, there will be abundant opportunity to compare statements and detect exaggerations.
Old residents will remember when Warner’s Blacksmith shop gave the anvil chorus to passers by this corner. Later, and for a number of years past, it was the site of a long old fashioned wooden building which swarmed with constables and small justice courts. Finally and at last it is crowned with a shapely and beautiful Athens marble structure of the Italian style, highly creditable to the skill and taste of W.W. Boyington, Esq., the architect, and worthy to be added to his list of improvements which in these eleven years past give an aggregate investment of eleven millions of dollars. The building is four stories high with the Mansard roof. Its characteristic feature on the Randolph street front is a graceful entrance porch supporting an oriel window. There are entrances on both streets, the main salesroom occupying the whole width of twenty-nine feet in the clear. The plate glass windows are the marvels of the city for size and beauty, three of them being eight feet wide by thirteen high, ordered from the European manufacturers expressly for this house, and imported through J. H. Platt of New York. The wide entrance through double doors, framed in solid carved black walnut, with heavy plate glass, eight feet four inches high by three feet six inches wide. The door trimmings are of the finest silver plate, and include no locks. This palace of beauty is never to be without its guardians, and no key will be turned ti protect its treasures. Over each door are arched transoms, set with plate glass, four feet high by eight feet wide. We gave these dimensions with this particularly because the wealth of plate glass in this establishment is something that will instantly catch the eye and admiration of visitors. The external material of the building is varied by the novel feature of pure Italian marble panels under each of the windows, and the Randolph street front bears in solid block letters of the same material the sig “A.H. Miller.” The same style is observed over the Clark street entrance save that the letters are in Athens marble. The whole effect of the building from without is graceful and pleasing, but we cannit give its features in greater detail.
Northeast View from Court House Dome
John Carbutt No. 45
The Main Salesroom.
The expanses of plate glass in windows and doors do their duty too well to prepare the eye of the visitor in some degree for the attractions of the main salesroom. Entering through the porch on Randolph street, the effect is beautiful to a degree rarely equaled in business resorts, and never approached before in the West, if in this country. The floor is laid in pure white marble with blue porcelain dots at the corners. On either hand the marble counters sup[port superb plate glass show cases attracting admiration in their size and finish, their length being thirteen feet, top and sides being in single plates. Their bottoms are marble. Of these there are seven. Still more striking are the immense show cases on either hand as you enter from Randolph street. These stand in the floor, their sides of single plate glass eight feet wide by six feet high and thirty-one inches in depth, framed in plated metal with marble bottoms. These cases are the largest ever made in America.
In the center of the floor are ranged tow solid carved black walnut tables, of an unique and beautiful design, with smaller show cases similar in construction. Across the south end of the store also runs a counter and case similar in construction to the others described. These beautiful show cases—the most exquisite in finish we have ever seen—are the work of Daniel Barclay, of this city, and are literally shining proof of his skill. The whole marble work, within and without, the external window pane’s, the counters and the floor, are by Messrs. Schureman & Melick, of this city.
From the counters and show tables, the eye turns delightedly to the massive and richly carved black walnut upright show cases along the walls behind the counters. These are finished without oil or varnish, and left with all the soft, mellow color of the native wood, exquisitely smooth and of the highest style in the art of wood carving. They are after elaborate designs from the office of the architect, and wrought by Messrs. Healy & Enkin, carpenters and joiners, of this city.
In these cases the rich, black walnut-relieved by beadings of ebony and classic bronze medallions. The mechanical construction and appliances of these cases are of the most perfect character.
Opposite the Clark street entrance is the book-keeper’s desk, its fronts large plate-glass mirror, and all its appointments in keeping with its surroundings. On its left is a marble stand for an elaborate jeweller’s weighing apparatus, and to the left of this the stairs ascend to the second floor. At the foot of these stairs, confronting the the Clark street entrance, is an immense mirror to the ceiling. The space between the stairs and the south wall is enclosed by a partition in enameled glass and carved black walnut, in character with the whole, to form the bijou of a private office for Mr. Miller.
On the right of the Randolph street entrance is the watchmakers’ desk, in black walnut and marble, with silver stands, facing the broad window looking out on Clark street. Here the work is received and, as may be required, sent to the repairer’s or manufacturer’s, on the second and fifth floors. On the left side, opposite the watchmaker’s desk, is a black walnut standing-desk of the chief clerk, J.M. Bennett, commanding a view of the entire range of counters and show-cases. For security of the costlier wares there have been constructed by Messrs. Diebold, Baumann & Co., of Cincinnati, through their agent, P.W. Pratt, of this city, four of their best safes, built to fill the spaces beneath the side show-cases, two on each side. These are much admired by experts in the safe-builder’s art.
There remains yet to be spoken of on the main floor the ceiling and gas fittings. The former is a pure white with handsome cornices and center pieces in stucco, Both these, especially, especially the latter, are very chaste and elegant and the work of J. Johns of this city. From these three center pieces depend three superb chandeliers which we pronounce without hesitation the most recherché exquisite in design and workmanship we have ever seen. They are in bronze and and silver sfter an entirely new design by Page, of the firm of Van Kirk & Co., Philadelphia. Mr. Page throughout twenty-two years originated the choicest work of Cornelius & Baker, and these his last products belong to really high art. The bronze in tint harmonizes with the black walnut woodwork. The silver charmingly revives it, and evry point is full of beauty. So lavish is the branch of the fittings of the store that the full illumination is done by one hundred gas jets in this apartment alone, making a most Aladdin-like coup d’el in the evening.
We may as well note it here that every feature of the decorations in this store is original, whether in the marble, black walnut, bronze or plate glass. Each is part of a harmonious whole, and all are the result of the patient and carefulness of the proprietor through months past, and realized under his steady supervision.
The Upper Floors.
Passing up the stairway to the second floor we find a large salesroom in which the goods of this department are exposed in cases on rich and heavy carved black walnut marble top tables of the same style as those described previously. On the fifth floor Nr, Miller has his manufactory of fine jewelry, and the repairing incident to his business. The three floors present every possible appliance and convenience for expediting the work assigned to each. Whatever is designed to serve the duty of mere ornamentation is tye very choicest of its class, and expressly wrought into the general plan of the whole. Commodiousness, conveniences, beauty, meet the eye on every side. We must not forget that one of Murray & Gold’s steam heaters, now being put into our best buildings, is here in place by the wise selection of Mr. Miller.
We have written this much of the store its fittings. It is gratifying to add that here here we pass from things new to things old. This superb store is not Mr. Miller’s first introduction to our community. His is now one of our oldest, we think the the oldest house in the jewelry trade in this city, and these splendid premises come in as a lented adjunct to the business he has already established. The description we have given of his new premises shows sufficiently well his general groundwork. The division of his departments gives to the main floor, and principal sales-room, the entire range of diamonds, watches, jewelry, silver, and plated goods; of these it may be said that Mr. Miller does not simply enter the market to buy from the makers samples, but with designs of his own, and a selection of styles in advance of their creation, commands the freshest and most skill of the manufacturers in countless new forms of beauty. Most of his finer goods bear his own designs and bear his own trade mark and name. His jewel cases are made to his own designs and bear his own name, Some of the work of this class, for the display of goods, was made abroad to his own order. Mr. Miller has always been celebrated for the richness and extent if his stock, and will enjoy a facility, not heretofore possessed, for extending his reputation wthout greater exertion and outlay than that to which he already owes success.
On the second floor is the exceedingly rich department of French clocks, Bronzes, and Fancy Wares, beyond all reach of detail in number and variety. The floor here is laid in alternate strips of black walnut and maple. In the oriel window projecting over the entrance porch on Randolph street a clock is shortly to be placed with illuminated dialsat front and sides, a convenience to the public and added element to the building. On the fifth floor as above referred to Mr. Miller has established his manufacturing Jewelers’ department for the best and most elaborate cases of such work as which that it more common to the trade. For the former as well as the latter, his workmen and styles leave nothing to be desired.
We welcome every such addition as this to the metropolitan character of our business section. And we confess it is far more pleasing when, as in this business, it is the culmination of successive steps of business, rather than the showy blossoming of a new undertaking. This is emphatically true of A.H. Miller, and to wish him success in his present location, filled asb it is with dazzling beauties, is simply in his case, to bid him God speed along a path he has already made for familiar, if never before with such shining appliances and aids to his career.
If in some minor points one description has outrun actual realization, it only anticipates briefly such portions now in progress and have from unavoidable causes from the municipality of the work, fallen behind the rest. Thus, two of the immense plates of glass were broken while being put in place, and three duplicates are now the way here. Mr. Miller is ready to receive his friends, and reopen his trade. What remains to be done in his surroundings, will shortly disappear in the completeness of the whole.
Chicago Tribune, November 28, 1865
The Foreign Gift Makers—Their Representation in Chicago Salesrooms.
There must be, and there is a gift making that is not gift presentation, and is antecedent to those kindly and graceful gift makings that pertain to the present season above all others in the year. The skillful artists of the old world, in workshops where forms of beauty have been centuries in ripening, and where each generation has added new blossoms to aesthetic culture, are sure to be represented in the importations of our merchants on this side the ocean, when, on the down grade of the year, the ruddy coming of the holiday season shines near at hand. Never was a year worthier of a joyous crown than that now hall through its embers. It is a year that has seen a nation saved.
We believe, as we say, that the gifts of the coming holiday season have the right to be rich and lavish as the purses of buyers can afford, gifts, that are to stand for seasons to come as memorials of the annus mirabilis of our national and domestic history. That this is the view of other than ourselves, has the substantial support of the facts embodied in the salesrooms and stocks of our merchants for the holiday trade already begun. We dropped into A.H. Miller’s marble and plate glass palace, on the corner of Clark and Randolph streets, yesterday. Its lower and main salesroom is known and admired by all our citizens and of the strangers in our midst. The “Tiffanys” of Chicago, multitudes of merely curious visitors have hung longingly over its glittering shop cases, and wondered into how many forms of beauty and beautiful utility the cunning artificer has wrought the gold and silver and precious gems stored in the long ranges of case and counter, or snugly entombed in the great safe that keep guard over these treasures. We did not pause in this room, rich as are its newly received endowments of holiday wares. We passed up to the floor above. Great foreign packing cases had preceded us, and their disembowelment was progressing and their contents strewed on the floor or were piled roughly upon the counters, or taking their places on the shelves. Other packing cases had preceded them, others are still to comem and when all are received and their wonders and beautiful articles of luxury and use in place, the visitor may well exclaim, as we have written above, “The Tiffanys of Chicago,” but paving a high compliment to Broadway.
To enumerate the rich and marvelous features of this second floor at Miller’s is to enter upon a catalogue longer than the whole space we had proposed to ourselves for this sketch. There are fans of fifty different kinds, in price from two to two hundred dollars, and wrought in pearl and ivory, in gold and silver, dainty enough for the fairies’ court, and destined to shine in the fair parterres of the opera with those other companions in such locality, stored in yonder case, the exquisite lorgnettes. Think of it. You may here invest two hundred dollars in an opera glass, and thus four hundred dollars for fan and glass! Don’t be alarmed; it is not compulsory. In both instances the prices shade down to a figure where Mr. Miller allows no house to compete successfully with him, in cheapness.
And here are bronzes, fresh from over the water. Two pairs of excellent beauty are thes “Sans culottes” of France’s red era of revolution. And the classic Don Juan and Don Caesar, and the life-like presentations of the great masters, copies of their world-famous statues. And here is Lincoln, to whom Art is bowing low in reverence. Among these larger bronzes stand wonderfully varied shapes in vases, and articles of vertu of all descriptions—inkstand and paper-weight, match-box and cigar-holder, and every article imaginable for the library and the mantel, all in solid bronze.
Northeast View from Court House Dome
John Carbutt No. 45
A cuckoo clock sounds on the wall. And in an ormolu grotto a sweet toned instrument isn playing, while a wicked looking pair of rolling porcelain eyes look out upon you with a machine-wicked head as this “confidence man” from foreign parts deftly lifts his silver tumblers and—”Now you see and now you don’t“—the balls and the dice come and go. It is the old game that has slaughtered the innocents, but will only assail them with envy and admiration at this wonderful Magician Clock at Miller’s. And here again—snap—bang—and lo! a percussion cap explodes, a taper is lighted, for this is an Alarm clock and does its duty by making a noise and striking a light. And there is another that may be set to keep guard of your premises. Your family and yourself are snug in bed. knavish fellow is tampering with your door. The clock goes off into a machine ecstacy, and the night prowler and secresy have parted company. We suggest that the clock and the Magician may be united ad intensified, until the clockwork actually starts after the fellow with the jimmy, while a cuckoo apparatus bellows ‘Watch,” until the policemen come to the rescue, a circumstance certainly requiring brazen mechanism and brazen expectations in Chicago. But from the simply curious, turn now to these marvelously luxurious and costly timepieces, and mantle clocks. There is one in pure white onyx, others in black Italian relieved in bronze, has retiefs or brocatelle marble, the verd antique, and that priceless antique of all antiques, the Griotte marble, the quarries whereof have been lost for centuries, bearing only to modern craftsmen the fragments of past decorations snatched from buried cities. There are over three hundred qualities and styles of clocks. Again, do not be alarmed at the prices of ormolu and precious marbles; Miller will sell you a Connecticut clock or a neat timepiece as cheap as if his store had nothing better to offer as the stock of a village clock-maker.
On this side is an upright case filled to the wall with dressing and jewel cases, superb enough for a duchess or the prettiest girl in Chicago, and many of them will have just such latter destination. How fortunate it is we do not all think alike in these matters. There are card cases in silver and pearl, tortoise shell and deftly carved ivory, glove boxes in the precious woods, toilet goods rich in variety, and fine dress combs and other head gear for beauty’s toilet that are worth your seeing, if they do not call out your purse. And there are the combined beauties and utilities of a stock of table cutlery in pearl and carved ivory, the bare enumeration of which, to be sure, reads like a catalogue, but which will repay the curious to have seen, and the interested to have examined. “How does your meerschaum color?” We believe it would blush to be shown beside the chef d’œuvres of sea foam that we find before us here. One of these, mounted in solid stem and mouth-piece with the largest piece of amber ever brought to this city, is a marvel of carving, and will carve a round hundred and fifty dollars from the pile of its purchaser. A case of canes and rising whips is made an art study by the dainty and exquisite carving which has given to the bamboo and malacca, ebony and rosewood, the appointments and adorements of ivory, gold, silver, amethyst, amber, agate and blood stone, with trimmings in gold, silver and precious gems.
We must pause, though the temptation is to go on with this enumeration. It would be pleasing to mount to the upper floor, among the working jewelers, where the great solitaire diamond was set the other day, imported expressly for a gentleman in this city, and where forms of grace and beauty are continually springing among these skillful artisans. But we refrain. Our purpose was to write of the foreign gift makers, and the direct importations for a Chicago house. It was for these that Mr. Miller has spent many weeks of the past season in Europe, and his goods have now poured in upon him. It would be unjust to his skill as a merchant to accept the lavish luxuriousness of a portion of his goods, as ahint that he cares for no other trade than that of those with whom money is no object. The greater includes the less. The skill to secure the realization of the utmost desire and caprice of opulence, us ample enough to provide to meet every want and wish more moderate and economical buyer. In every respect no purchaser need go amiss in these superb salesrooms,
Biographical Sketches of the Leading Men of Chicago
Photograph by John Carbutt (shown)
A. HALSEY MILLER.
Our country is remarkable for the early development of its people; and this is especially noticeable among the prominent and successful business men of Chicago. The battle of life, in this city, is a struggle in which a man’s native qualities are speedily and sharply tested; and, unless they are of sterling excellence, he must soon give place to others. Keen, wit, shrewd business talent, bold enterprise, and pertinacious endeavor, alone avail to carry the contestant successfully through the strife. But no field offers greater opportunities, or richer rewards, to those who enter it with the elements of character requisite for success. And of those citizens who have won honorable names amongst our business men, none so worthily merit these distinctions as those young men who came to the city with little other capital than their own skill and energy, and bravely entering the lists for wealth and reputation, have conquered adverse circumstances, and fairly reached the quiet highway of prosperity. While we honor those old the pioneers who first laid the foundations of our city’s us not forget those who came after them, and by their indefatigable effort, and brilliant enterprise, have demonstrated that the path to fortune is no royal road, to be trod only by a favored few, but open to all who dare to assume the risks and overcome the obstacles in the way of entering it. Wealth is as readily, and often as rapidly obtained by legitimate business as by fortunate speculations; and those whose shrewd appreciation of the glorious future before Chicago led them to fortune by availing themselves of the vast and rapid rise in real estate, by no means take precedence of those who, more than all others, have helped to realize this future by patient and persistent effort in the regular channels of business.
A. H. Miller has long been conspicuous among that class of business men who have achieved wealth and reputation by their own unflagging energy, inspired by enterprise, integrity, and native intellectual clearness.
Coming to Chicago when the foundations of its greatness were already laid, he did not, as have many older citizens, “grow” into wealth upon the enterprise of others, through the natural rise of real estate—merely drifting with the current—but has manfully struggled and conquered, relying only upon his clear brain and skillful hand. He is one of the younger men whose tact and energy have furnished the propelling power which has carried the metropolis of the Northwest to its present proud position among the cities of the world, making rich its old and large property owners.
Mr. Miller is a native of New Jersey, having been born in Westfield, Essex County, where his father and paternal grandfather were farmers. Both his parents are still living, and the family circle, completed by nine children, of whom A. H. is the eldest son, is yet unbroken. Mr. Miller, at an early age, found his tastes incompatible with agricultural pursuits, and having obtained an ordinarily fair education at the village school, apprenticed himself to learn the manufacturing jewelry business in the establishment of Taylor & Ball, in Newark, New Jersey. Two years after Mr. Miller entered their establishment, the senior partner, Mr.Taylor, died, and a new co-partnership was formed, under the style of H. W. Ball & Co. Upon the completion of his apprenticeship, in 1852, Mr. Miller commenced business on his own account, in Newark, in partnership with his brother next in age to himself. They fitted up a small store in plain style, adding a department for the manufacture of jewelry, and, after paying for their outfit, found themselves possessed of a capital of precisely one hundred dollars; but by industry and strict attention to business they prospered satisfactorily, and in 1856 admitted a third brother into the concern.
Stories of the marvelous growth of Chicago having reached their ears, they came here at once, and opened an establishment under the Marine Bank building, at the corner of Lake and La Salle streets, under the name of A. H. Miller & Bros., still maintaining their house at Newark. Although commencing here with a very limited capital, their skill, good taste and careful attention to business supplied the place of abundant means. In less than a year, finding that their business demanded enlarged accommodations, they removed to the corner of Lake and Clark streets, where the firm continued to add to its reputation and prosperity until the year 1860, when the partnership expired by limitation and the senior partner continued the business in his own name and on his sole account.
In 1862, he completely remodeled his store, giving it a new and more attractive front, and making many advantageous alterations in its interior. The reputation of the house soon enabled Mr. Miller to gratify his long-cherished desire of erecting a building of his own, which, in its exterior, should be creditable to his taste and an architectural ornament to the city, and the interior of which should be constructed with especial adaptation to his business. In 1864, he secured the property at the corner of Clark and Randolph streets, then covered with a large, unsightly wooden structure, whereon he reared the elegant marble build- ing with which his name is now associated. This was one of the first business houses in the city to which the beautiful Mansard roof was applied, now so frequently seen in Chicago. Its rich interior fittings throughout are of Chicago workmanship, from Mr. Miller’s own devices, executed in rich native woods. The show-cases and counters are marvels of beauty and convenience. The counter-cases are the largest ever made here, and have won the admiration of even Mr. Miller’s rivals in trade. They are constructed of single sheets of glass mounted in rich silver plate. The upright cases, in carved wood, relieved with superb bronzes, the elaborate and costly safes, and the rich gas-fixtures, were all made expressly from designs furnished by Mr. Miller as parts and adjuncts of a harmonious whole. Not the minutest detail of the structure or its appointments escaped his supervising eye; and not until the whole was complete did he rest from the task that embodies the study of years and the actual labor of months.
This store was occupied in May, 1865, and is known everywhere as one of the finest and most complete jewelry establishments in the entire country.
Up to this time, Mr. Miller had probably found no leisure, among the multitudinous details of trade, to cultivate the tender passion; but, being thus fully and prosperously established in his own domicile, and with an increasing business, he lacked but the sympathy and companionship of a loving heart to complete and confirm his happiness. In July, 1865, he was united in marriage to Miss Mary Morgan, of Chicago, when he proceeded to Europe upon a bridal tour, during tlie course of which, ever mindful of the requirements of business, he established connections in Geneva, Paris, and elsewhere, through which he secured facilities for the importation of choice and beautiful goods. His wares are manufactured by the most experienced and tasteful workmen of Switzerland, Italy and France, expressly for his cases, and bearing his name.
Nor has Mr. Miller let slip from his present business the advantage of his prestige and experience as a manufacturer of jewelry. The upper floor of his elegant building is fitted up as a complete manufacturing establishment, with the best appliances and the most skillful workmen. Some of the most elegant and costly jewelry and presentation goods known in this market for several years past have been the product of this portion of his premises.
His establishment, by thus furnishing only the finest goods, made for himself or under his own eye, has acquired a reputation throughout the country which is a guarantee at once of past uprightness and future prosperity.
Mr. Miller has not reached his present distinction by the caprice of fortune, or what men call “good luck,” but by his thorough knowledge of business, by persevering energy, and unwavering integrity. His profession demands an artistic and cultivated taste, which he possesses in an eminent degree; but he owes his fortune mainly to his close and persistent attention to legitimate business. Never dazzled by the prospects of lucky speculation, he has toiled on energetically, devoting frequently eighteen hours out of twenty-four to laying the foundations of the splendid trade he now enjoys. In this respect, as well as others, he furnishes an admirable example and model to young men just starting out in life, demonstrating that unswerving honesty, close and unwearied attention to business, added to an invincible energy, cannot fail to be rewarded with rich success.
Chicago Tribune, August 27, 1871
Paris in Flames.
There is at A.H. Miller’s, jeweller, corner of Clark and Randolph streets, a splendid lithograph of “Paris on Fire.”
Sanborn Fire Insurance Map
Chicago Chronicle, June 13, 1897
In 1858 in a three-story frame building at the southeast corner of Clark and Randolph streets and in the second floor of the building the principal justices of the peace in Chicago had their offices. Justice Calvin De Wolf occupied the three-windowed corner room, Justice J. A. Hosington occupied the next room south and Justice Doolittle occupied the next room to that. The Justices’ business all centered there, and there were not many hours of the day and sometimes of the evening, when in one or another “shop” a justice court was not in session. There were plenty of lawyers at call in the same floor of this building, and among them were H. T. Helm, J. H. Kedzie and C. S. Jenks. P. F. W. Peck also had an office there. This was one of the few structures that was menaced by the mob at the “lager beer riots,” and J. H. Kedzie, who was rash enough to stand and look put of his window at the mob, was shot, a musket ball cutting the scalp on the top of his head. The injury he received was slight, and he now lives at Evanston to tell the tale, if he is hard pressd for one. On the ground floor was George W. Cobb’s grocery store, and on Randolph street, next east, was a tea and coffee store, and over this was Warner’s hall, which in political campaigns was used generally as headquarters for one party or the other. “Cobb’s building,” as the one on the corner was called, was the first ever built there, except a cottage that stood in the midst of a garden. It was occupied by George Davis, the popular singer of the early days, but was owned by Samuel Davis, a carpenter, who also owned the northwest corner of Washington and State street, where in a cottage he lived. He was a careful, thrifty man, but once thought himself outwitted and wronged by a debtor. Someone for whom he had done a job of carpentry was owing him $500, and as he could get no money upon the claim, and no property but a paltry piece of land, which measured eighty feet on Clark street and forty feet on Randolph street, he was nearly in a state of despair. But he took the land and cancelled the debt. It is still held in the Davis family, or rather the daughter of Samuel Davis became heir to it, and afterward married Dr. MacCarthy, and it now belongs to the MacCarthy estate. In order to put up his building on that corner Mr. Cobb leased the whole lot for ten years at $1,000 per a year. Its value at the present time, the reader may compute for himself.
Northeast and Southeast corners of Clark and Randolph streets, thirty-nine years ago (1858).
The Ashland Corner.
The Kingsbury block (now the Ashland) extended on Randolph street 160 feet and on Clark street north to the alley. This block was only a quarter of the original purchase by Kingsbury, an army officer, in 1833. But he soon disposed of the other three-quarters and would have sold the remainder could he have found a buyer with $900. It is, or was, of record that he paid some $900 for his entire original holdings. Onn the corner, in 1858, was a three-story brick building erected by Dr. D. Brainard, having leased the ground of Kingsbury for twenty years at $2,000 a year. Afterward, when land had risen in value, Kingsbury brought suit against Brainard to vacate the lease on the ground that his agent had not been authorized to make it. But the court decided in Brainard’s favor. Dr Evans had a similar lease and erected on it like a building next north of his brother doctor’s. Next to that was the so-called Tribune building, and next to that again was located, from 1852-1858, during Franklin Pearce’s presidency, the postoffice. Isaac Cook was the postmaster. The Olympic theater and adjoining refreshment bar occupy the site of the old postoffice. In 1858 a number of lawyers had offices on the ground floor of the Evans building, and on the second floor of the Brainard building Paul Cornell had his office. The adjoining building on the east was occupied on the ground floor and basement by a livery stable, and above was the first free concert hall in the city that is remembered. It was Pete Kerwin’s. Where the east half of this building stood is now the Schiller theater. On the forty west Colonel Wood subsequently built his museum building.
Threatened With Confiscation.
So much of this property was owned by the Kingsbury estate figured extensively in the civil war. S. B. Buckner came to Chicago at an early day from Kentucky, and was active in various ways. He was decidedly popular in society and about town. He married one of Kingsbury’s two daughters and at the death of his father-in-law undertook the management of the Kingsbury block. Afterward he returned to Kentucky and when the war broke out he was found on the side of the south. His wife espoused the same cause. They were warned that their Chicago property was in danger of confiscation and hastened to transfer the title in some way that the lawyers know all about, but which it is not necessary to be inquired into here. Long, tedious and costly litigation between the owners and the government ensued. At last the government was beaten. It was decided that the property was a part of the Kingsbury estate, that the estate was loyal and could not be touched by the federal power for the purpose of confiscating it. General Buckner held, through his wife, his interest in the property, and probably nobody now will regret that the great rise in the value of the property long ago made him rich.
No considerable improvements had been made on the property down to near the time of the great fire, but just before that calamity General Buckner caused a fine building to be erected on the corner. It was destroyed, but before the heat was out of the ashes he was back in the city, and ordering work to be commenced on a new building that should be finer than the one consumed. This was the first substantial building put up and completed after the great fire.
The new building on the corner was named the Ashland block. It is still so called, although the name does not cover exactly what it did at first, owing to changes in the ownership of the whole or a part. General Buckner sold it to Mr. Alexander of Kentucky, owner of the great stock farm, and he in turn sold to the Ashland Block association. It is this association that built the present fifteen-story structure. It now owns all of the Clark street frontage on the original block except that portion on which the Olympic theater stands. This is the property of the Ashland Association Annex, a separate company, although some of the members in both companies are the same. Of the eighty feet east on Randolph street Fred Pabst, the brewer, has recently acquired the ownership. For this ground and the building he paid $350,000. It is a very shallow lot, only extending back to the body of the Olympic theater. In sixty years, therefore, a lot that is not one-eighth of the original block has come to be worth $350,000, whereas sixty years ago barely $900 paid for the entire block. There are not many parcels of land in Chicago that will so well illustrate by their increase in value the growth of the city in solid wealth.