City Hall V
Life Span: 1871-1885
Location: SE corner of S LaSalle and W Adams streets
Architect: John M. Van Osdel
Chicago Tribune, December 19, 1871
Precisely two months ago yesterday, on the 18th of October, the first steps were taken for the erection of the new City Hall on Adams street. The Common Council had passed an order on the 16th directing the temporary accommodations for the City Government be erected in the Court House square, but the Board of Public Works, whose duty it was to construct the building, on looking over the ground were convinced that it was entirely unsuitable for the purpose, on account both of insufficient unbroken space, and of the fact that when the old Court House came to be repaired, the temporary building would have to be torn down and destroyed. The board were in favor of using the water reservoir lot on Adams street for the new building, and at length procured from the Mayor permission to do so, as it was easy to foresee that, if placed there, the building, after the city had done with it, could be profitably rented for stores and offices. These prudent counsels prevailed, and within the short space of sixty days a substantial, suitable and neat-looking brick structure, 173 feet square and two stories high, for about one-half of that area, has been begun and finished, and is now practically ready for occupancy. The direct personal supervision of the work from the beginning, together with the devising of plans and interior arrangements, have devolved upon Mr. W. S. Carter, Commissioner of the Board of Public Works from the South Division, to whose unflagging zeal and rigid economy the gratifying result is almost altogether due.
The fifth City Hall, which was built around a water tank on the SE corner of Adams and LaSalle streets. The first public reading room was housed in the water tank.
In the building provision has been made for both the City and County Governments, and all will agree that the disposition of the room has been most skillful and judicious. Four separate entrances have been provided, two on Adams street, one on LaSalle, and one on Quincy street, so that parties having business with the various departments can reach them directly and conveniently. The principal city officers on the ground floor, all of them communicating with the fire-proof vaults, which have been ingeniously and economically carved out of the old water reservoir. These vaults have walls three feet thick, of solid masonry, and are much safer than those in the old Court House. There are also, on the ground floor, unassigned rooms, which the county will probably be glad to occupy, these also connecting with the vaults. The counters throughout are of pine wood, and plainly constructed, the design being to incur the smallest possible amount of expense.
Up stairs is the Council Chamber, a large, pleasant, well-lighted room, 45×65 feet, with adjoining committee room. It is designed to partition off a portion of the chamber for the use of some one of the courts, as there is plenty of room to spare. On the same floor are numerous rooms for county use, and the area will be largely increased in the spring, when the entire building will be run up to a height of two stories. This will give a total space almost equal to the old Court House, wings included, and will well answer the requirements of both the City and County Governments for several years to come, or at least until the proper time arrives for the rebuilding of the Court House. The building is heated by steam throughout, a connection having been made with the Ogden House boilers, close at hand, which were but slightly injured in the fire. For furniture, all the officers, will fain be content with the plainest of walnut, the total expense of which will fall short of $3,000. in making these provisions, Mr. Carter has rightly concluded that the days are past for magnificent and expensive furniture and fixtures for city offices. Indeed, economy has been admirably studied in every detail, and it will, perhaps, surprise the public to find that the new City Hall, with its vast amount of convenient room and appointments, has cost not more than $40,000. The various branches of the City Government are moving in from day to day, as fast as their quarters are completed, and it will not be long before they are all concentrated under one roof as before.
From History of Chicago From the Earliest Period to the Present Time
Volume III-From the Fire of 1871 Until 1885 by A. T. Andreas
After the fire of 1871, the first thing was to secure offices and rooms for the various branches of the city government. On October 9, the headquarters of the mayor were temporarily located at the corner of Ann and Washington streets. At a meeting of the Common Council, on October 11, a committee was appointed to select a suitable building for the differcat offices of the city government. On the i2th. the report of the committee, recommending the Madison street Police Station as a place of meeting for the Common Council, was concurred in. A communication from Mayor Mason to the Council, of the same date, stated that he had “on yesterday decided to temporarily fix his office, and those of other city officers, at the corner of Hubbard Court and Wabash Avenue.” This, the Common Council met, by resolving at once “that the Mayor, Comptroller and City Clerk have their offices for the present in Madison street Police Station.”
At this meeting it was also resolved “that the Board of Public Works be required to immediately prepare plans and specifications for a permanent building for all city offices and the Common Council, to be erected on the old Court House Square.”
Within a week from the fire, work was authorized to be commenced upon the building of a new City Hall, on what was called “the reservoir lot,” owned by the city, at the southeast corner of Adams and LaSalle streets. The structure covered the entire lot, being about one hundred and seventy-eight feet square, and was completed and occupied by January 1, 1872. It contained rooms sufficient for all the city offices, and also accommodations for the law library, the county recorder, and several of the courts. The city expended 75,000 in constructing and furnishing this edifice, which continued to be occupied by the officers of the city government until 1885. It was merely a pile of brick and mortar, almost wholly without conveniences, hastily thrown together in walls with openings for doors and windows. It was familiarly known as the “old Rookery.”
It was demolished to make way for Burnham & Root’s Rookery Building, which is still standing.
Court House Square
Excerpted from A BRIEF SKETCH OF SOME OF THE LIBRARIES IN CHICAGO, 1895
By W. B. WlCKERSHAM.
Before the great fire of 1871, Chicago had no public library, nor was there any statute in the State authorising the establishment of one. After the fire; for many years the Public Library was almost the only institution of its kind through which the public had access to books. The Law Institute, the Chicago Historical Society, and the Academy of Sciences were early re-established, but they were so crippled, especially the last two, that they were some years getting into operation. The city was busy repairing the breaches and little interest was taken in educational or literary institutions beyond the rebuilding of schools for the small army of children everywhere demanding attention. Later, public sentiment took a stride forward and encouraged a higher and broader culture by establishing the Athenaeum, Manual Training Schools, the Art Institute, the Newberry Library, the great Chicago University, the Armour Institute, the Field Museum, and the prospective John Crerar Library and the Lewis Polytechnic Institute. All these, to say nothing of university extension centres and of clubs and classes galore,go to show that Chicago is at present wide awake on the question of education and culture.
In the old Metropolitan block before the great fire of 1871 there existed the only library of any considerable size In the city of Chicago. This collection of some 18,000 or 20,000 volumes was owned by an association called the Chicago Library Association, and was accessible only to members who paid $5 a year for membership. The association was understood to be deeply in debt, and its destruction by the flames October 9, 1871, may have been an unlooked—for piece of good luck to the stockholders, who would thus be spared the more tedious operation of being sold out by a receiver under an order of court.
When the news of the burning of Chicago reached England, the people there, In common with the inhabitants of all civilized countries, began making contributions of clothing, blankets, money, etc., for our stricken city. Among them were some, however, who thought that a more substantial gift than food and raiment would be acceptable. At the suggestion of Mr. Burgess, then secretary of the Anglo-American Society In London, the Hon. Thomas Hughes, Its president, called a meeting of that association and proposed that while others were sending to Chicago something for our bodies, they should contribute something for our minds. Supposing that Chicago bad lost a great free public library, Mr. Hughes contributed copies of his “Tom Brown’s school days” and “Tom Brown at Oxford,” and set about among his friends, authors and publishers, to make a collection of books for a nucleus for anew free library and as a result of his efforts about 5,000 books were contributed, the Government sent hundreds of valuable public documents and papers. Among this interesting collection are books given by the Queen with her autograph, others by Thomas Carlyle, John Bright, Lord and Lady Trevelyan, etc.
As soon as official word reached Chicago that such a gift was being collected, a number of enterprising citizens met at the call of the Hon. Joseph Medill, the mayor at that time, and prepared a bill authorizing cities and villages of Illinois under certain restrictions to organize and maintain free public libraries and reading rooms. This bill was taken to Springfield, where the committee found a similar bill, which had been introduced into the House on March 23, 1871, and had passed to a second reading. This bill was amended, hurried through with an emergency clause attached, and signed by the governor March 7, 1872. The establishment of the Chicago Public Library by the city council and the appointment by the mayor of a board of nine directors to manage it, followed in close succession.
On the 20th of July, 1872, the writer was elected secretary and acting librarian by the board. When he reported for duty there was nothing put into his hands or charge except the record book and a few letters. For some time he had no office save an old chair kindly loaned him by Mr. C. J. Richardson, then, as now, assistant librarian of the Law Institute, in whose office in the temporary City Hall, at the corner of La Salle and Adams streets, known as the “Rookery,” the use of the chair was allowed. In a few weeks new rooms in the same building were completed for the library, and about the same time books began to arrive from England. It was a notable day for the Chicago Public Library, that 31st of August, 1872, when on temporary shelves in one of the office rooms the first book was placed in position, that book being John Brighl’s “Speeches on questions of public policy.”
The growth of the library was rapid. Many citizens of Chicago, whose homes had escaped the flames of the great conflagration, gave liberally from their libraries, and as soon as appropriations became available the board commenced to purchase books generously.
England was not alone in the contribution of literature towards the formation of anew library in Chicago. Germany, France, Bohemia, and some other countries also forwarded valuable collections.
On the first day of January, 1873, the reading room was formally opened to the public. invitations had been sent out to many citizens, and the new room was comfortably filled. Speeches were made by the president of the board, the late Hon. Thomas Hoyne, by Director Daniel L. Shorey, Mayor Medill, and others. And so the new library was dedicated and started on its mission.
Chicago Tribune, January 2, 1873
The Free Library of the City of Chicago, which was yesterday formally opened to the public, is in many respects the most satisfactory of all the gains which which have resulted to Chicago by reason of the fire, since it is not, as is the case with many other things, marred by the recollection of a loss. We have better buildings than those before the fire, and and still we regret those which were destroyed, but we had no public, no free library, and there was no immediate likelihood of the foundation of one. Willing as our citizens generally are to aid in advancing scientific or literary objects, but few of them seemed to recognize the importance of a great public library, and when the first step was taken it was in England, and not in Illinois.
PRIOR TO THE FIRE
the demand for books was partially met by the library of the Young Men’s Association, and that of the Young Men’s Christian Association, while the Historical Society had a large and valuable collection, though not of a very general character. But these were all swept away, and there was but little probability of their restoration for a long time to come, so that, while the need of a library was as keenly felt as ever, the city was the only instrumentality that could speedily supply the want. Immediately after the fire, several English authors and other gentlemen of prominence determined, instead of aiding Chicago in money or supplies, to send relief in a more durable form, by getting together a collection of books which should serve as the nucleus of
THE FREE LIBRARY OF CHICAGO
books valuable in themselves, but made especially so by the autographs of their writers. The news of the intention was received here with great gratification, and, at a public meeting held Jan. 8, attended by the best citizens, it was determined to get through Legislature such a bill as would enable the city to establish its library and receive this donation. The Mayor and other gentlemen gave the matter their earnest attention; and, finding that a bill had been introduced into the Legislature, early in the year, to enable cities and villages to establish free libraries, they made that the basis of action, and, after undergoing some slight modifications, it became a law.
ACTION OF THE COUNCIL.
Early in April, 1873, the Common Council, under the provisions of this law, passed an ordinance providing for the establishment of a public library, and a few fays after the Mayor nominated Messrs. Thomas Hoyne, D. L. Shorey, Julius Roesenthal, William Woodard, S. S. Hayes, Herman Rasier, R. F. Queal, Elliott Anthony, and J. W. Sheahan as the members of the Board, which organized on the 23rd of April, and elected Mr. Hoyne President.
The next question which arose was, as to where the books were to be stored. It was at one time suggested that the General Government should turn over the site of the Post Office to the city in exchange for that portion of Quincy street which it required for the new Custom House, but that project was finally abandoned, and it was decided to fit up the tank of the old reservoir on Adams streets, around which the temporary City Hall had been built. Before the work, was completed, the original scheme was modified, and provisions was made for the erection of a reading room, immediate adjoining the library, which was to be provided with with the prominent daily, weekly, and monthly publications of the world.
THE OPENING YESTERDAY.
Although the notion of the intended opening of the rooms had been very brief, a large number of gentlemen were in attendance, and began reading the periodicals and papers. Owing to the fact that the covers for many of the unbound periodicals have not yet been received, many of them cannot as yet be handed over for the inspection of the of the public. At 11 o’clock the audience which had assembled in the capacious and comfortable reading room was called to order by the Hon. Thomas Hoyne.
AMONG THOSE PRESENT WERE
Superintendent of Public Schools Pickard; Inspectors Wilce and Richburg, of the Board of Education; Commercial Prindeville, of the Bard of Public Works; Aldermen Otis, Cannon, Sherwood, Cosy, McGennies, Bailey, Stone, and others; ex-Alderman C. C. P. Holden; William Henry Smith, Agent of the Associated Press; Thomas Moran, Robert Harvey, Colonel Hammond, Judge Tree, Dr. Wickersham, John Lyle King, Cyrus H. McCormick, David A. Gage, General Stiles, Judge Goodkins, Rev. Robert Laird Collier, Rev. W. N. Powers, Judge Rogers, and the Hon. Artemus Carter.
The Book Room in the Old Water Tank
The Land Owner
Excerpted from Hon. Thomas Hoyne’s Address at the Dedication on January 1, 1873:
- The invention of the Mayor came to our aid. And it was found that by his co-operation, with the Board of Public Works, library quarters might be improvised out of the abandoned, and, for some years, useless iron water-tank built some years ago on this lot as a distributing reservoir for the South Division of the city. Being 60 feet in diameter, 30 feet in height, circular in shape, and constructed of iron, it was capable of becoming a fire-proof rotunda, with room to arrange 1,800 volumes of books on shelves; and, as such, it has been transformed into a library by roofing and shelving. If the objection be made by some that that it is placed too high up into the air for convenience—standing as it does upon a solid brick and stonework of rather ostentatious masonry; about 35 feet high,—yet it towers above the city hall, a stern and dark-looking dome of no means proportions, and when considered in connection with its object, it may be regarded as a beacon light upon a hill; a new reservoir of knowledge, instead of water, shedding light and wisdom upon the counsels of the City Fathers. Taking it, however, as it is—a really safe fireproof receptacle or vault for the keeping of books, and in connection with this large room of 54×50, also constructed for us by the Board of Works—we have every reason to be thankful for the present temporay quarters.