Bowen Brothers Dry Goods
Wills, Bowen, Dillenback & Co., 100 Lake Street (1852-1854), Bowen Brothers, 73, 74, 76 Lake Street (1854-1864),
Life Span: 1864-1871
Location: 19 and 21 Lake Street, Lake Street Between Wabash and Michigan Avenues
Architect: William W. Boyington
Handbook for Strangers & Tourists to the City of Chicago, 1866
The great wholesale dry goods house of Bowen Brothers, at Nos.19 and 21 Lake street, is a magnificent structure—an ornament to the city and a proud monument to the business sagacity and extraordinary energy which characterize the history of this house. The house was established in 1857, with a capital of only $30,000. Employing but five clerks, the firm sold during the first year of its existence $200,000 worth of goods. Now—mark the progress—their annual sales reach six millions of dollars! The store has a front of sixty-four feet on Lake street, is five stories in height, beside a basement, and has a depth of one hundred and eighty feet. Upwards of seventy-five men are employed in the different departments of the business. Beside the sale of dry goods, this house has an enormous trade in crockery, silver and table ware; and that part of their store devoted to this branch is filled with the finest assortment of all varieties of china and porcelain ware to be found in the city. The senior partner is Colonel James H. Bowen, one of the most prominent, public-spirited, and influential citizens of Chicago, whose career furnishes a most notable result of untiring energy.
Chicago Tribune, February 4, 1864
OUR WHOLESALE TRADE.
A Token of Basiness Growth.
In any reference we have occasion to make to the growth of any department of our city trade, ws are always best pleased when these proofs are exclusively of Chicago origin. We welcome the transfer of great enterprises and large capital, to this city from abroad, as ws have often been able to do in these times of great commercial prosperity in Chicago. But it is still more a gratifying task to chronicle enterprises founded in this city, whose advance has kept pace with the expansion of our city trade.
Tbe removal of Messrs. Bowen Brothers to the new marble stores, near the foot of Lake street, marks aa era in their prominent connection with our wholesale trade. Eleven years ago, or in 1852, the house commenced business at No. 100 Lake street, premises then dark and narrow, in an old brick building, which long ago has giveaway to the march of improvement. From that time their growth has been steady. They have passed safely through all the mercantile vicissitudes in the history of Chicago, until they now stand in the front rank in their line in the Northwest, and now possess all the facilities at home and abroad for the successful transaction of an immense Jobbing business. From their earliest business location, removing several years since to larger premises lower down Lake street, they had again and again been forced to add to their accommodations until they came to comprise the two large marble front stores they have just left for what are incomparably the finest business structures in the Northwest.
These stores form the larger part of the new continuous four-story block of marble frosts, with French roof, built within the past year, under the supervision of W. W. Boyington, architect, whose ten years’ residence in this city, it may be here remarked, covers the entire period of the metropolitan style of improvements in Chicago. He has superintended the erection of about one hundred first class stores, and these, his last, are worthy of any city. They have been visited daily for the past two weeks bv hundreds of our citizena to admire their proportions and appointmenta. The entire frontage on Lake street is sixty-four feet. Every part from basement to loft is carefully adapted to its uses, with spacious well lighted floors, 180 feet in depth, with broad stair cases essy of ascent. There are hoist ways obedient not to human muscle, but fast By wire sinews to dummy engines the basement, lifting a ton of freight from the sidewalk to the loft, five stories above, in half a minute, noiselessly doing this work, the re ceiving and shipment of goods by this method greatly facilitating the transaction of their busi ness, yet in not the slightest degree, interfering with the economy of the sales-rooms.
The two beautiful dummy engines and steam hoisting ap paratus are from Messrs. N. P. Otis A Brother, Yonkers, N. Y. The admirable steam heating apparatus is from Messrs. B. T. Crane & Brother, of Chicago. Both are, of their kind, perfection. In fact, in all respects, the appointments—throughout are calculated for convenience in the transaction of the growing business of the noose.
The retail merchants of the West have learned well the lesson or panic periods to buy light and for cash,” avoiding the expensive journeys, the long delay in receiving stocks, and all the evils incident to the former practice of going east to buy goods.” The energy, nerve, and sagacity of such houses as that of Bowen Brothers, in purchasing large stocks, in advance of need, have been the main instrumentality in bringing about the new order of things.
We might go further in a personal reference to the members of the firm, but they are too well known to need it. Their record for the past eleven years in Chicago is all that is necessary. Our main purpose is achieved in the proofs of commercial prosperity we have been able thus to adduce for Chicago, in a reference to the history, status and present location of this firm. If we deal so lightly In details as to only awaken curiosity to visit their new premises, we shall be best pleased to have it so, for it will be demonstrated that we have kept so far within bounds that the half has not been told.”.
Chicago Evening Post, May 30, 1868
New Wool House.
We take pleasure in calling the attention of our readers to the fact of the establishment of a new wool house in the city known as Reynolds Reed Co. The individual members of the firm are J. P. Reynolds, Horace Reed, John Reed and Bowen Brothers.
Mr. Reynolds has been Secretary of the Illinois State Agricultural Society for the past nine years, is well and favorably known to nearly every wool grower in the State as indeed he is to almost our entire farming population and needs no further commendation at our hands. Bowen Bros are well known in mercantile circles as one of the most enterprising and successful of the business firms of this business city while Messrs. Reed the other members of the firm are also well known here as men of wealth enterprise and business integrity. With such men in charge of the new firm cannot fail to command public confidence and a fair share of our growing wool trade.
Chicago Tribune, December 9, 1868
Store For Rent.
The fire store-room No. 19 Lake street, formerly occupied by Bowen Brothers, is for rent. It is heated with steam, and has an apparatus for hoisting, run by steam. For particulars apply C. A. Spring. Jr., at McCormick’s Reaper Works.
Sanborn Fire Insurance Map