Young Men’s Christian Association Building (Farwell Hall)
Life Span: 1867-1868/1871
Location: Madison street, east of LaSalle
Architect: Jason Gurley, W. W. Boyington (1869 rebuilding after a fire)
Chicago Tribune, July 16, 1866
The new building of the Young Men’s Christian Association, the plans for which have just been completed by Mr. W. W. Boyington, is now under way. Workmen have been engaged for some days in excavating the ground and cleaning away certain encumbrances in the shape frame tenaments; and in the course of a few months we may a expect to see a fair structure arise, adding one more ornament to that portion of the city already constituting some of the noblest edifices in the West. The location of the new building is on Madison street, east of LaSalle, and extending back for the distance of 190 feet, to a new street, recently opened between LaSalle and Clark, which has not yet received a name.
Chicago Tribune, Septemner 20, 1867
The Young Men’s Christian Association of Chicago, now in the eleventh year of its existence, presents a record of prosperity and success scarcely equalled by any similar organization in this country. Indeed, so rapidly has it arisen from what was a small and contracted beginning into a broadly extended sphere of usefulness and successful Christian effort, that a brief sketch of the most important points in its history may not be found devoid of interest in this connection.
Prior to the organization of this association, a few young men, composing what was then called “The Chicago Young Men’s Society for Religious Improvement,” taking note of the flourishing condition of Young Men’s Christian Associations in nearly all the principal cities of the Union, resolved despite the unsuccessful precedent of the past, to make a second experiment of establishing such an organization here. They accordingly published a call, inviting all the Christian young men of the various Evangelical churches of this city, favorable to the organization of the organization of the association, to meet at a specified time and place. The call was responded to so generally and with such spirit, that steps were immediately taken which resulted in a few weeks in a complete organization, adoption of a constitution, and election of a full corps of officers. This election was held on the evening of the 17th of May, 1858, from which time the history of the organization properly begins. These officers, with Cyrus Bentley at their head, centered upon their duties on the third Monday in June following.
HOW IT HAS GROWN.
At this time one hundred and forty young men had subscribed to the roll of active members, nine under the head of associate members, and two under that of life members—making a total of one hundred and fifty-one members. During the following year the membership had increased to three hundred and fifty-five. At the time of the last annual meeting there were four honorary members, one hundred and forty-one life members, thirty-five life auxiliary members, and more than fifteen hundred active members. Thus, the association, during an existence of less than eleven years, has attained a membership of close upon two thousand persons.
During the last nine years daily noon and Saturday evening prayer meetings have been held, a reading-room stocked with the best religious and secular papers and periodicals, has been kept open day and evening, tract communities have attended to the extensive circulation of choice religions reading among the poorer classes, a committee on relief have achieved a great work in alleviating the sufferings of the of the poor by liberal disbursements of food, fuel, and clothing, and, more recently, an employment committee has been of immense service in obtaining work and situations for those who have from time to time applied to them for aid. From the beginning to the close of the rebellion the Army Committee of the association were constantly with the armies of the Republic, administering aid where they could, and doing untold good.
During the past year the city was canvassed by over five hundred persons engaged in the distribution of moral reading. By them over 120,000 papers, 70,000 small paper-bound books, 265,000 pages of tracts, and 1,000 Bibles were distributed.”Upwards of $25,000 were disbursed in fuel, food and clothing among the suffering poor of Chicago, of whom were nearly 4,000 applied to the association for aid.
By the Employment Committee, situations were obtained for 3,567 men, women, and girls and boys, with steady employment.
WHERE IT HAS LIVED.
The association, immediately upon its organization, procured rooms on Randolph street, at a rent of $500 per annum. These were soon found to be too limited, and before the close of the year a removal was made to the then new block of the Methodist Episcopal Church, on the corner of Clark and Washington streets. Here the business of the association was transacted until late during the present spring, when a removal was made to the new rooms of the organization, No. 148 Madison street.
THE NEW EDIFICE.
Within the past two years the field of operations had increased to such an extent that new quarters must be provided, if the association should continue its work of usefulness. An appeal was therefore made to the most wealthy and liberal our Christian citizens to subscribe funds sufficient for the erection of a building, the main object of which should be to accommodate the laborers of the organization. The appeal was most heartily answered. A subscription list, headed by $30,000 from Mr. J. V. Farwell, was started, and in a very short time $200,000 had been subscribed by sixty-one stock-holders.
Land was purchased on Madison street, between LaSalle and Clark streets, and just a year ago work on the new building was commenced. It was finished with a year, and in a style that marks it as one of the chief architectural ornaments of our city. To the architect, Me. W. W. Boyington, we are indebted for the following description of the edifice:
- The structure is located on Madison street, extends through to a new thoroughfare called Broadway place. The front on Madison street is thirty-five feet by one hundred feet deep, and is five stories in height. The front is of marble. The main entrance to that portion of the building containing the hall is through the front.
The main hall building fronts on Broadway place. It has a depth of one hundred and twenty-one feet, with a width of eighty-one feet. This portion of the building is a plain, substantial structure, finished with the American building block. The cornice is of the same material, and gives a very imposing effect. There is another entrance from Broadway place, nine feet wide, in addition to which there is a third entrance of a width of eight feet, on Madison street, through a marble front building, 45 feet wide by 100 feet deep, which was built by Mr. J. V. Farwell, in connection with the association buildings, and in the same general style. This gives three prominent entrances to the main hall, and all the other offices in various portions of the building. The hall stairways, being at three extreme corners, afford a most convenient exit, so that the hall can be vacated, when filled to its utmost capacity, in five minutes. The hall is capable of containing 3,500, giving to each person a convenient seat. The main hall floor occupies the whole space within the four walls of the building, and is of the dimensions 121 feet by 81 feet. The hall is 45 feet from floor to ceiling. The floor of the hall is a level. The galleries, of which there are two, incline greatly towards the platform, and are so arranged that all the seats have a good view of the speaker’s position. The interior is plainly, but very neatly finished, and the ceilings are very tastefully frescoed. The galleries are neatly finished with open balustrade fronts, and are furnished with stationary seats. The main floor will have two rows of stationary seats, with movable chairs between. The acoustic qualities of the hall are excellent. It is lighted from the ceiling by double reflectors.
The ground floor, beneath the hall, has space for five stores, while on the second floor are the library, reading room, lecture room and other office rooms for the use of the association. On the floor above the hall are forty-two dormitories, intended for the use of young men who cannot afford more ample accommodations, besides a number of offices and a large hall which is now occupied by a gymnasium. The rooms of the whole building are heated by steam, well ventilated, and furnished with all the modern conveniences. The building is painted and grained throughout in imitation of oak and black walnut, alternative.
The parties who have contributed to the mechanical construction of the edifice are:
A. Wallbaum, mason; Doyle & Johnson, plasterers; Warwick & Cassady, carpenters; L. H. Boldenwick, stone-cutter; F. Letz, iron founder; Baker & Smith, steam heaters; S.W. Swift, painter; J.B. Stillson, general superintendent.
A Guide to the City of Chicago: Its Public Buildings, Places of Amusement, Commercial, Benevolent, and Religious Institutions; Churches, Hotels, Rail-Roads, Etc., Etc., 1868
Chicago Tribune, January 8, 1868
A great calamity befell this city yesterday. The magnificent building known as Farwell Hall, which on Monday evening was filled with the beauty and fashion of the city, which gave back echoes to the strains of sweet music, lies this night a heap of broken bricks and powdered mortar.
Shortly after nine o’clock yesterday morning, an alarm from the Long John engine house (Hubbard Street, between State and Wabash Streets), summoned the Fire Department to Farwell Hall, from the upper windows of which smoke began to issue in thick, dense volumes. Hardly had the first of the steamers arrived ere the flames began to force themselves through the windows at the rear end of the hall, and to arise through the roof. In a few moments more the upper portion of the structure, where the roof overrides the wall, was fringed with fire. The great height of the structure made this visible far above the roofs of the adjacent buildings, and the sight of the flames leaning upward through the lofty roof and from the tops of the windows, together with the report that Farwell Hall was on fire, which went through the streets with wonderful rapidity, brought the people hurrying to the rescue with great crowds. But the fire was yet no more than kindled, and as it began to spread the flames burst out in new quarters. It seemed as if the vast structure was on fire in every part at the same time, while the smoke seemed now to unite in one colossal column, stretching its dense murky volume to the sky. Almost ere it is written Madison street was completely choked up with people hurrying here and there excitedly, or standing, looking bewildered, and, as it seemed, with no definite conception of the ruin that was working before their eyes. Down the spacious staircase came hurrying forms, some as if in the endeavor to escape from some dread object that was pursuing them. Some were hatless, and some—for there were many lodgers in the building—with attire disordered and incomplete, showing that they had abandoned their quarters in greatest haste. Others came hustling out under great loads of furniture, wearing apparel and other articles, jumbled together in in indiscriminate haste and dropping in the progress of those carrying them. Some came rushing forth encumbered by nothing, and finding themselves in the open air, stopped and looked blankly and abstractedly at the structure from which they emerged. Others, recovered from their first surprise, turned as if to retrace their steps for the rescue of effects then wrapped in flames.
From the southward the progress of the conflagration could be distinctly traced. As the people, attracted by the notes of the yet sounding alarm, looked northward, they saw the flames almost immediately appearing through the roof in the southeast corner of the hall. Then they were visible through the gable windows. Then a puff of smoke came through one of the circular windows, high up in the west wall, quickly followed by living flame. Irresistibly, uncontrolled, unchecked, the fire advanced and penetrated through every outlet. The sashes in the great rear windows, heated until they blazed, fell out, and through the apertures the smoky, fiery billows rolled outward and upward.
THE ROOF FALLING IN.
All this transpired much more rapidly than it can be written. It was scarcely fifteen minutes after the sounding of the first alarm, the first notes of the general call were just sounding, and the crowd, not yet numbering more than a hundred or two, was just gathering along LaSalle street, and about the entrance to Broadway place, when with startling abruptness the immense roof fell in with a great crash, carrying everything beneath it to the basement. Amid the clouds of cinders and smoke that arose, amid the crashing of windows forced outward by the concussion, a thrill ran through the assembled people, and there were many who imagined that they heard human shrieks arising at the instant of the crash. For while the smoke was struggling through the upper windows, and it had seemed as if the fire was yet within human control, the figures of several men had been seen issuing from the gable windows, and in the intervals when the smoke was blown aside, clambering up on the main roof. In less than five minutes after as it seemed the roof had fallen in, and it was feared that many of the lodgers had not sufficient time to escape to a place of safety.
THE WALLS CRASHING DOWN.
While many among the crowd were asserting that they had seen the bodies of men through the windows, descending amid the mess, and while others were speculating upon the terrible fate of one crushed beneath the weighty ruin, there arose a shout of warning, and the alley known as Broadway Place, now came running back in frantic haste. A few, seeing the top of the wall toppling, had given this warning cry. It had not been too soon. The material of which the wall was built, crumbling to sand by the action of the heat to which it was exposed, had begun to give way here and there. A few portions fell like detached pieces of rock from the edge of an overhanging cliff; the rest tottered and trembled, swayed, and then, shaking to its foundations, fell outward, filling up the alley for a long distance with its smoking ruins.
The front page of Jevne & Almini’s “Chicago Illustrated” magazine, which shows their Clark street building.
BUILDINGS BATTERED IN.
A part of this wall fell on the roof of a stable on the opposite side of the alley. The whole side of the structure was torn away with such suddenness that two men who were removing hay from the loft were so terror-stricken that they pitched head-foremost out of the door, and fell, happily not much bruised, on the pile of hay without.
The whole space until then occupied by the south wall being thus cleared away in an instant, it was seen that between the east and west walls, which yet towered aloft, nothing remained—the roof in the descent had swept everything into the basement. Those in the vicinity of these two walls were withdrawing to a safe distance in the apprehension that they, too, might give way, when, as they were looking, the upper half of the east wall began gradually sway until, its equilibrium destroyed, it went rumbling and tumbling to the ground. It fell outwards, its immense weight meeting with no resistance as it fell upon the roofs of the two brick buildings which it encountered. One of these was the store occupied by Jevne & Amini. The debris crashed through the rear portion of the roof, demolishing the picture gallery, and involving everything in utter ruin from garret to cellar. The picture gallery occupied a space about twenty-five feet each way, extending from the second story to the roof. Below this, on the first floor, the ware-room extended. Mr. Jevne and several of his clerks were engaged in sorting some boxes of paint when the wall fell in upon them. The timbers of the second floor were broken in twain, parting in the centre. The ends inserted in the south wall remained firm, thus forming an inclined plane, down which bricks and mortar fell to the basement below. Under this inclined plane Mr. Jevne and his startled assistants were preserved intact. They crawled forth unharmed, and as they turned to contemplate the wreck that had been made each deemed his preservation miraculous.
Adjoining Jevne & Almini’s building, on the south, is a third story structure if brick, occupied in the second story by the family of William Rue, who used the lower portion as cistern factory. Upon the roof, without any warning, was emptied a great load from the falling wall, which caused the rafters to give way, and great seams to open here and there, bits of plaster, and shattered bricks. They emerged, bruised, and with garments torn and soiled, but happily without serious injury.
The west wall, most fortunately, remained standing, with the exception of a small portion at the southwest corner, which went with the south wall, and demolished a shed built close against the west wall, and belonging to a dwelling which adjoins it on the west.
ARRESTING THE FLAMES.
With two of the walls of what had been Farwell Hall fallen in, it was comparatively easy to keep in check the flames that had before been irresistible, partly because of the extent to which they have spread, and partly because of the very inaccessibility itself of the portion that was burning. The foremen, who had answered the alarm with great promptitude, and who had employed themselves in doing all of which they were capable—and it was little—before the walls fell in, now carried their hose up on ladders and through the passagesw, and devoted themselves to keeping the flames from destroying the two wings of the structure.
THE WINGS SAVED.
In this they were successful. The falling of the roof had drawn the fire into the basement, where it was prevented from spreading by the brick walls which hemmed it in on either side. The fire that had caught in the wings before the falling in of the walls was extinguished, and before the firemen had been at work an hour, these portions of the structure were out of danger.
The structure was built around, entirely enclosing a two-story structure, known as the Stone Block. Y=The rear portion of this took fire several times, but the flames were as successfully extinguished befire attaining a dangerous height.
For a time it was feared that Major Block, the new marble structure immediately adjoining the Young Men’s Association building on the west, would take fire. But as the west wall remained standing and the flames were kept out of the former building this danger was not long on dissipating.
Chicago Tribune, December 30, 1868
The burning of Farwell Hall, about a year ago, is fresh in the minds of all. It was a disaster that effected the entire community. The building had been occupied but a few months when it fell victim to fire, and magnificent pile which took many long months to build, was destroyed in one short hour. No sooner, however, had the fire ceased, ands the smoke blown away, then the ruins removed, and from the ashes of the old hall, a new and firm structure has already risen. It has come up like a mushroom in the night.
The new building surpasses, in every respect, the old one. It is more substantially constructed, more care has been taken to remove it farther from danger by fire, and its beauty, capacity and comfort are far greater. It is certainly a fine hall. Its dimensions are: 120 feet long, 83 feet wide, and 57 in height, from the main floor to the middle of the concave roof. Two tiers of galleries run all around the room. They are supported on iron columns, sufficiently near each other to insure strength and safety. The upper gallery has five tiers of seats on the sides, and six at the rear. These seats are so placed that from the very highest a full view of the platform and the middle of the main floor can be had. A handsome open railing, painted in imitation of black walnut, runs around the front of the gallery. On top of this another railing, high enough to prevent persons from falling over, will be placed.
The lower gallery does not differ much from the upper. It is not so steep, and, as it will be a kind of dress circle, it will probably be more luxuriously furnished. There are five rows of seats, or rather pews, for they are built somewhat after the church fashion. Perhaps the only fault that can be found with them is that the backs are two high and too straight to be comfortable. These and the other seats in all parts of the house will be handsomely upholstered. Nine aisles run between between the tiers of seats, giving ample space for easy egress in case of sudden alarm. This gallery also communicates with the platform so that in rise of emergency, it can be quickly emptied. The open railing around the front is higher than the upper gallery and for that reason looks better. They run parallel to each other.
From the main floor twenty-eight wide steps reach to the first gallery, and the same number thence to the second gallery. These stairways are wide, and communicate with the principal entrances below.
The main floor is not quite finished. The flooring is not all laid. As soon as it is, the seats will be placed across the room facing the platform on the south side. Seats will also be placed around the walls. There will be a centre and two side aisles.
The stage, or more correctly, the platform, which is not large enough to be called a stage, is about five feet from the floor, and twenty deep. It will be properly furnished with footlights, to be used when operatic or similar performances are going on. On either side of the platform, and communicating with it, are dressing rooms, four in number. These apartments are snug and cozy, and will be fitted up with taste and elegance. Standing on the platform the entire audience can be seen. As there are no pillars in the middle of the room the view is unobstructed.
The roof is fire proof. There is no wood in it. It is a new style of roofing, formed of iron arches covered with iron wire in place of laths. The plastering fills in the intersects between the wires. There is no attic. The ceiling is concave. The work on it is elaborate and beautiful. The fresco work is very fine, and the paintings above the average. The subjects chosen are scriptural, and the selections good. Directly above the platform is an illustration of “Behold, I bring you glad tidings.”
On the right-hand side are Moses Viewing the Promised Land, the Opening of the Law, the Translation of Ehjab, Jacob Wrestling withe the Angel, and the sacrifice of Issac.
On the left side are pictures of the Sower, Christ, and the Women of Samaria, the Prodigal Son, the Good Samaritan, and the Draught of Pisces.
Messrs. Jevne & Almini are the contractors.
During daytime the hall will be lighted be eleven large windows and eight round bull’s eyes on the right. This gives the room ample light and a cheerful aspect. At night gas will, of course, be used. Two gasoliers will hang from the ceiling, and reflectors and brackets from the side walls. No woodwork comes in contact with the gas. This is a precautionary measure against fire.
The entire building will be heated by hot salt water circulating through tubes. In connection with the heating apparatus is a fan blower, to be used in creating a forced ventilation. The ventilating flues are judiciously arranged and distributed and the air ducts are roomy. By the use of the fan below, the room can be kept cool in the summer. The air in the main hall can be changed every twenty-three minutes, so that an audience can not suffer.
The acoustic properties of the old hall were undoubtedly the best in the city, and as pains have been taken to construct the present room on strict scientific principles, it promises to be nearly as perfect. The upper gallery may possible interfere somewhat with the transmission of sound, but no serious defect is apprehended.
Such is the hall, the largest and finest in the United States, perhaps in the world. It will comfortably seat 3,500 persons, and 4,000 can be accommodated. By accommodation is meant standing room, and ample exits of egress in case of fire or danger of any kind. The entrances are commodious. On the east leading to Court place, besides the outlets leading to Madison street on the west and through Farwell’s building on the east. The total exit room is forty feet.
The old foundation walls remain, so that there will be no danger of the building being injured by settling. The new walls are heavier than the old. Where the old wall has been allowed to remain it has been widened. There can be no doubt that the structure is as string and staunch as money and mechanical skill could make it. The institution is intended to be permanent.
The subdivision of the main building is totally different from that of the former structure. Instead of the open store and basement attached to the main hall, in this the lower floor will be used for offices. These rooms are neatly built, and of good office size. Under these offices is a roomy basement, divided to correspond to them. The partition walls of the offices are twelve inches thick, and extend upwards to the hall floor, lending it strong support. The offices open in the front of the building in Court place. The front is supported by heavy iron columns resting of heavy stone pillars. It has the appearance of strength and massiveness, but not of architectural beauty. The upper walls of bright red brick.
In the rear of these offices are rooms for the Young Men’s Christian Association. The lecture-room, where the daily prayer meetings and the Ministerial Union sessions will be held, is a cheerful and pleasant room. It is 60 feet long and about 47 wide, and will seat about 500 persons. The present prayer meeting room on Madison street will be rented as a store for the sale of sabbath school books. An iron door—fire-proof—will be placed in the wall between the store and the lecture-room. This door will be opened before the meetings, so that persons can enter from Madison street through the store as well as through the regular entrance on Court square. It is expected that the first prayer meeting will be held in the new room on Monday next at noon.
The library and news-room adjoins the lecture-room. Its dimensions are 69 feet long by 47 feet wide. It will make an extremely pleasant room for persons to read in. A splendid book-case, reaching up to the ceiling, will stand against one of the walls. In connection with this, it is relevant to notice the improvements to be introduced into this department. As stated in yesterday’s Tribune, the sum of $5,000 is being expensed in purchasing books. Mr. Moody1 informed our reporter that the books will be of a popular character, as they should be, of the highest moral standards. No trash will be allowed to cumber the shelves, nor will the latter be weighed down with heavy incological works and no others. It is gratifying to know that the criticisms of The Tribune on the reading-room have had the desired effect, and the suggestions offered have been kindly received and be acted upon. The reading room will be a news-room in the full meaning of the term. Mr. Moody states that at least one daily paper from each of the principal cities of the Union will be furnished, and the monthly periodicals will be supplied for the use of visitors.
In anticipation of the increased work to be done by the association when its facilities are enlarges, that body has begun to issue a monthly religious journal called Everybody’s Paper. Mr. Moody is editor-in-chief. ate initial number. The first number is cut. It is illustrated with engravings sent gratis from the British Workingman’s office, London. The selections are admirable, and, on the whole, it is a first rate initial number. It is devoted to temperance and Sabbath Schools, and will probably be a semi-official organ of Mr. Moody and the Ministerial Union.
The current impression that Farwell Hall will be wholly devoted to the cause of temperance and Ministerial Union is a mistake. Any Christian body can hire the hall for meetings, and so can secular individuals for lectures, concerts, &c. Highly moral entertainments and intellectual talks will be given.
The total cost of the building when completed will be $120,000. The architect is W. W. Boyington; the contractor for masonry and plastering, Mr. Philo J. Warner; for carpenter work, Messrs. Matthew Clark & Bros; for fancy work and painting, Messrs. Jevne & Almini; E.D.L Sweet is the business manager.
Madison Street, near SW corner Clark Street
1 This was Dwight Lyman Moody (February 5, 1837 — December 22, 1899), who founded the Moody Bible Institute.