Drake and Farwell Block I and II
Life Span: 1869/1870-1871
Location: East side of Wabash avenue between Wabash and Madison streets
The original Drake and Farwell House burned down in September 1870 and was seven stories high. It was rebuilt and completed in 1871 as a five story building. This building had a steam elevator installed. The building was located at the SE corner of Wabash and Washington Streets, This building burned down in the Great Fire of 1871.
Chicago Tribune, July 20, 1869
A massive and ornamental block is also to be erected the present season on the east side of Wabash avenue, between Washington and Madison streets. On the corner of Washington street and Wabash avenue, Mr. John B. Drake will have two stores erected, which will occupy a front of 120 feet on the avenue and 81 feet on Washington street. J. V. Farwell occupies 72 feet front on the avenue, next south of Mr. Drake, with a depth of 163 feet, running back to Dearborn place. The Thatcher estate will build next to Mr. Farwell, having a front of 40 feet, and a depth of 163 feet. On the corner of Wabash avenue and Madison street, Judge Skinner will erect two stores, running 100 feet front on the avenue, and a depth of 163 feet on Madison street. This completes the block. The entire block is to possess a uniformity of design and finish. The building material will be Amherst freestone. The block will be seven stories in height, surmounted by a French, or Mansard roof. From the sidewalk to the cornice it will be 85 feet. The total height from the basement to the roof will be 116 feet. The architecture is to be a composite of Renaissance style, with ornamented domes, cornices, and trimmings—the latter to be of galvanized iron. The average value of land on the site of this block is not less than $1,500 per foot front. This estimate would make the first three lots—the Drake, Farwell, and Thatcher—worth $350,000 in round numbers. Mr. Drake’s portion will cost at least $150,000; Mr. Farwell’s, $100,000; the Thatcher, $50,000—making the total of $300,000, as the value of the building to be erected. This last, added to the estimate for the land, would show the value of the property, building, and their site, $650,000, or over half a million. When finished, the block will be the finest in the city, and not surpassed by any on the continent.
The New Drake Block (I)
Corner Wabash Avenue and Washington Street.
The Land Owner
The Drake Block I
The Drake Block I
John Carbutt, Photographrer
Chicago Tribune, September 6, 1870
When The Tribune went to press, yesterday, the great fire had not entirely exhausted itself, although it had destroyed everything that came within its grasp. The fire smouldered in the debris that filled the basement, and streams of water had to be poured incessantly on the red hot bricks and burning timber to prevent the heat from injuring the safes, many of which contained valuable papers. All of the engines and the indomitable firemen, were kept at owork until a late hour in the morning, when some of them were ordered home to rest, and the ruins were left in charge of the Long John, the Titsworth, the James, the Winnebago, the Illinois, and the Liberty.
was still worth looking at, just as much as the ruins of some ancient tower, whose former glory and renown hangs round it when the time has crumbled its walls and robbed it of its pristine splendor. There stood the gaunt and dreary walls, rising up like spectres guarding the sepulchre in which were buried so much wealth, and perhaps many human beings. The corner walls at the southwest end rose solitary and grim, as if it were proud of having a survived the fiery assault.
There was a gap where
stood. That spot was, perhaps, the most interesting, the most fascinating of any. A melancholy interest was attached to it. There, if anywhere, lives were lost, and perhaps, beneath that pile of heated rubbish lie the charred remains of generous and gallant men, who responded to the noble impulse which inspired them to lend a helping hand when disaster hovered over the property of another. Nest to that stood the jagged wall of
the windows looking as gloomy as a dead man’s eyes. The sidewalk stones were burst by the heat for the whole distance in front. The roadway was strewn with brick, iron, timber, and rubbish of all kinds. The water was poured on the burning mass in the basements, and, as it fell on the hot brick and stone, steam rose and wound round the and round a centre wall which culminated in a point, making it look like the summit of an alpine mountain on a foggy morning. The streams were kept up with unabated vigor during the day, the engines working much better than they did when their best efforts were more needed. This recalls the fact that
proved worthless, and neutralized all the labor and energy put forth by the firemen. It seems that the hose on the reels at the time the fire broke out, was what may be called the summer hose—that is, hose used when few fires of any magnitude are expected. Fire is treacherous, however, and cannot be trusted, as has been to, fully demonstrated in the present case. That hose, one of the firemen said, was not bad enough to be condemned, nor good enough stand a severe or constant pressure. The carts were not even supplied with an extra length to replace damaged or deficient pieces. Reposing in the Armory lay 5,000 feet of new hose, and it was while that was being transported to the scene that the fire glanced its fatal advantage.
Crowds of Persons
gathered in the neighborhood of the ruins during the day, gazing on the desolate walls, and speculating on the origin of the fire and the probability of persons having been buried under the falling walls. This subject being of paramount importance caused musch talk. Some persons expressed the opinion that no one had a right to venture where danger threatened, forgetting that if men always stopped to think and calculate, and refused to obey the impulse of the moment, there would be but few daring or heroic deeds to a adorn the pages of history.
The Drake Block Ruins
After the “Great Fire of September 4, 1870
Photographer, John Carbutt, sold photos of the ruins just three days later.
was to have taken place on Sunday evening in the Second Presbyterian Church, but the fire interfered with the arrangements, and the programme was not carried out. How the difficulty was adjusted is not known. The golden shackles may have been put on some where else, or the ceremony may have been postponed to a more convenient season.
Printing Paper Destroyed.
The Chicago Times (Dearborn, between Washington and Madison), had 175 bundles (of 960 sheets each) of paper stored with Laflin, Butler & Co., all of which was burned before its time. Its loss will not interfere with the issue of that paper. Some old dies of the Times were also destroyed. They were insured for $2,000, iun the Roger Williams, and the same amount in the American, Hartford.
The Western Monthly Magazine
Company met with serious loss, the plates, proofs, and manuscripts for the October number having been destroyed; also, the stereotype plates of the magazine for the past year, including the plates of George Sand’s last novel, “The Rolling Stone,” which was about to be issued in book form. The pecuniary value of these materials will amount to over $5,000, but the literary loss cannot be represented by figures. The publication of the magazine for next month will be delayed for a few days, but the fire will not impair the permanency or prosperity. The public will sympathize with the publishers, and bear the delay with patience.
The Origin of the Fire
has not been explained in any satisfactory way. The “glittering generality,” “spontaneous combustion,” is very unsatisfactory, and covers a multitude probabilities and improbabilities. It seems that girls were employed on the upper floor, handling the rags, and some are disposed to think that they left some lighted matter in the room among the rags, which took fire and smouldered until it burst into flames. That is supposition, but it is nothing more. There are any number of theories, in fawct, everybody has a theory of his own. One is as good as another, and none of them amount to anything. The “oil rag” and “spontaneous combustion” theory is exploded in the following:
The New Drake Block (II), Chicago
As rebuilt since the great fire.
The Land Owner
The Drake Block II
The Drake Block II
The Drake Farwell Block (No. 17)