W. W. Kimball Building, Siegel Cooper Building and Owen Electric Building
Life Span: 1873-1904
Location: SE Corner State and Adams Streets
Chicago Evening Post, May 10, 1873
The beautiful five-story, modern-looking stone edifice southeast corner of Adams and State streets, with its lofty double frontage of ornate walls and rich plate glass, highly ornamental roof and windows, and general pleasant and impressive expression of architectural form and outline, has at last been delivered from the tired mind of the architect and the tired fingers of the carpenter and painter, and stands in the silence of a thing that is finished, a new nject of pleasure to the public eye, and a new ornament to a neighborhood of beautiful models of fair and classic architecture. It is one of the finest in that long line of business palaces which give new State street its fame and character for imperial splendor of architecture—and its occupancy to-day, in a grandly appropriate style, corresponding with the magnificence of the premises, by W. W. Kimball, as the new and permanent seat of his great popular business in pianos and organs, is too conspicuous an event—even amid the dramatic rapidity with which the big events of reconstruction tumble along—to be passed over without a public and hearty congratulation. Mr. Kimball is known all over the Northwestern country, as far north as the grass grows in summer and as far west as the mountains and the Indians—at least as far as music and civilization have yet penetrated, as the general Northwestern wholesale agent of the Hallet & Davis piano of Boston.
It is certainly no departure from the logical connection of the subject, to say a word here in regard to the reputation and success abroad which this instrument has attained. This foreign reputation is singularly noteworthy. It is not only used in 25,000 American homes, and indorsed by the highest circles of music criticism in the United States; its reputation has crossed the seas, and reached those proud old countries where they think that nothing good can come out of America. It has been introduced into the palaces of England and France, and has been covered with honorable and immortal praises by the great masters of Germany, the cradle and the native land of song—where music is a popular and universal inspiration—the home of Liszt, and Richter, and Kullak; Joseph Joachim, Franz Abt, and Bendel; Reichardt and Gottschalk, and Ferdinand David—men of eminent genius and wide renown, whose names are as high as fame and authority can write them—the illustrious genii of music who write those sweet hymns and high and solemn anthems in which the religious soul finds its largest expression of joy and wonder,—all of whom have united in an acknowledgment that this American piano of Hallet, Davis, & Co. is the best and most perfect instrument ever invented to articulate the glorious harmonies with which those glorious minds have been inspired. It was concerning thus piano that Franz Liszt, the highest living authority, gae this laconic opinion:
- It is the most admirable instrument ever made.
Mr. Kimball’s business has also included a large trade in other instruments, as the Great Union Co., the Kimball pianos, and Smith’s American organs. He is known to the Northwestern communities, however, mainly as wholesale and retail agent of the renowned Hallet & Davis piano. After the fire Mr. Kimball was among the first of our eminent merchants to set his shoulder to the wheel and push things. occupying without delay at the corner of Wabash avenue and Thirteenth street, the largest music ware-rooms ever built in our city, for the accommodation of his wholesale trade which after many years of liberal, bold, and enterprising management had come logically enough to assume large proportions and to give him an eminent and conspicuous position in this great department of our general commerce.
His sales of pianos and organs during the period succeeding the fire, the larger proportion being the Hallet & Davis, at wholesale, amounted to an aggregate of $1,000,000, which, by the way, is just the outlay of influence in the direction of popular culture and refinement and an improved Western civilization. Mr. Kimball will now occupy three floors of the new building (State and Adams streets), the total dimensions of his several apartments measuring about 20,000 superficial feet. The large exhibition, sales-room, etc., are all of modern design and construction, elaborately appointed and well equipped, with a most cheerful aspect of open space, and luxurious abundance of air and broad daylight from the great side and front plate-glass windows. Business will be inaugurated at the beautiful palace of music with a grand exposition of pianos and organs, comprised mainly of new voices and constituting in amount and variety of stock and assortment, the richest, largest and most complete ever seen at a single exhibition in Chicago.
Mr. Kimball has been fifteen years in the piano business in Chicago, and his old quarters in Crosby’s Opera House before the fire were the centre of the musical interests of the community.
The Inter Ocean, May 13, 1873
Kimball in His New Establishment.
W. W. Kimball, the great piano dealer of the Northwest, has just removed to the elegant and spacious establishment on the southeast corner of State and Adams streets. He has brought together a superb stock of the excellent Hallet & Davis pianos, the Smith American organs, and excellent Union and Kimball pianos. Of these particular make of instruments, especially the Hallet & Davis pianos, it is almost unnecessary to speak. A delightful world has already pronounced them unrivaled. Such artists as Liszt, Rubinstein, Strauss, Bendal, and a host of other celebrities, commend them over all others manufactured.
To those desirous of purchasing or of obtaining instruments on time, or to rent, satisfactory bargains are guaranteed. Keep the place in mind. The handsome store on the southeast corner of State and Adams streets.
The Land Owner, September, 1873
Of the many fine pictures we have presented of our Rebuilt Chicago, none attracts more attention than the structure at the south-east corner of Adams and State sts., occupied by a well-known and prosperous merchant, W. W. Kimball, the great piano man of the West. In sketching this mercantile palace, Mr. Wallis confined himself to the exact details of the architecture, which reflects credit upon his good taste and judgement.
The new building will be admired as one of lofty and stately proportions, simple, modest, unpretending in plan and outline, with a general expression and outside aspect and countenance of great purity and beauty, of labored finish and decoration, elaborate in all its appointments, and forming a prominent and widely conspicuous ornament to the richest and fairest section of new State st., already renowned near and abroad as far surpassing in the imperial splendor of its architecture and its long and continued lines of high and ornamental frontage, any business thoroughfare of the old or new world. The building is fitted throughout with Sargent & Greenleaf’s locks, is four stories and basement in height, and aggregates an extent of floorage many times greater than the superficial or areal measurement of any other music house west of New York. It affords regular storage and exposition for a half million dollar stock of instruments, and the statement of a mornin paper that no single exhibition and display of pianos and organs on a scale of like magnitude, supplying a similar extent of trade, can be seen at any music warehouse in any city in the world, is no exaggeration and no strain on facts or words. The occupancy of this stately edifice by Mr. Kimball some weeks since, in a grandly appropriate style, corresponding to the magnificence of the premises, as the new and permanent seat of his great, popular trade in musical instruments, a traffic which has developed to the proportions of fame, is too conspicuous an event even amid the hurry and the rapidity with which the dramatic events of reconstruction tumble along, to be passed over without a public and hearty congratulation and compliment, and an item or two of personal and business history are appropriate to the occasion.
W. W. Kimball Building
The Land Owner
Mr. Kimball, like most men who have attained to anything like fame or dominion in commerce, began to play that game with fortune which has since brought him to the proudest position in his department of trade ever held by an American merchant, as the retail agent, in a modest way, of an Eastern piano. Entering the business with a conscience void of offense by laboring in the interests only of those instruments which were approved by the high and conscientious criticism of the great pianists of the age, with the moral stimulant of a good, popular cause, he was enabled to negotiate with the community in its own interests and gradually to establish those large and catholic relations with an honest and thoughtful community which now support the imperial traffic of his house. Among the instruments of which he early became the Western agent and champion before the people, is the Hallet & Davis piano of Boston, now used in 25,000 American homes, whose reputation has crossed the seas and reached the proud kingdoms of the old world. It was concerning this piano that a writer in the Evening Post eloquently says:
- It has been introduced into the palaces of England and France, and has been covered with honorable and immortal praises by the great masters of Germany, the cradle and the native land of song—where music is a popular and universal inspiration—the home of Liszt, and Richter, and Kullak; Joseph Joachim, Franz Abt, and Bendel; Reichardt and Gottschalk, and Ferdinand David—men of eminent genius and wide renown, whose names are as high as fame and authority can write them—the illustrious genii of music who write those sweet hymns and high and solemn anthems in which the religious soul finds its largest expression of joy and wonder,—all of whom have united in an acknowledgment that this American piano of Hallet, Davis, & Co. is the best and most perfect instrument ever invented to articulate the glorious harmonies with which those glorious minds have been inspired. It was concerning thus piano that Franz Liszt, the highest living authority, gae this laconic opinion: “It is the most admirable instrument ever made.”
Mr. Kimball is also agent for the great Union Piano Co. of New York. This instrument is fast winning its way to the front rank of the musical world. It is a sweet-toned home piano, and we speak from experience when we say it is the best piano in the market for the price.
But aside from the piano trade, this house of also agent for Smith’s American organ, the grandest instrument in the world, and supplies the entire Northwest with them. Wherever this organ is known, it ranks all others in the market. Its purity of tone, remarkable combinations and durability place it in the front rank of all redd instruments.
Previous to the fire, Mr. Kimball, as all will remember, was located in the Crosby Opera House, where he had at that time one of the finest stores in the West. The Land Owner congratulates him upon having so successfully got through the fire, and maintained so honorable a record.
Chicago Tribune, December 14, 1873
W. W. KIMBALL. The manufacture of a perfect piano is one of the greatest human efforts in an artistic way. It has taken almost an age to reach this stage of perfection, and the unrivaled instruments sent out from the factories of Hallet, Davis & Co. are the best specimens of it. For purity and richness of tone and symmetry of form they stand alone. These wonderful instruments have found their way all over the land, and their music may be heard on the Atlantic shore, by the Great Lakes, and where the Pacific rolls on the western edge of the continent. The West has been supplied, and is now supplying, by W. W. Kimball, whose elegant rooms are at the corner of State and Adams streets. Of thus exquisite piece of musical mechanism Franz Liszt says:
- It is the most admirable instrument ever made.
Mr. Kimball is also the sole Western agent for the Union & Kimball pianos, which possess rare merits, and can be bought for smaller sums. He has also square, grand, and upright pianos, suitable for all tastes. The Smith American organs, which are renowned the world over, are for sale at this establishment. Anything bought of Kimball is guaranteed as to its merits, and persons contemplating the purchase of anything in the musical line should visit the establishment.
Chicago Tribune, March 30, 1879
A RELIABLE PIANO HOUSE.
The extensive piano and organ emporium of W. W. Kimball corner State and Adams streets, so widely and favorably known to the musical public, has recently been thoroughly renovated and improved, preparatory to spring business. The stock now on hand is all new and of tyhe very latest designs, and is the largest ever shown in the business gives him great advantages in judging of the relative merits of the various makes of instruments, and is of incalculable benefit to him in the selection of his purchases. He does not confine himself to any one manufacture, but deals in all those the qualities of which attain his high standard of excellence. Among them them are the Hallet & Davis piano,—notably the upright,—and Smith’s American organ, both of world-wide fame, and also those other universal favorites, the new improved Kimball piano,—both upright and square,—the Kimball organ, the Shoninger organ, and the Hale piano, etc. Mr. Kimball’s assistants are all courteous gentlemen, and unremitting in their attentions to customers. In view of present indications the prospect is flattering that the future business of this model establishment will exceed its past brilliant record.
W. W. Kimball Building
After the 1879 Remodeling
W.W. Kimball Letterhead
Chicago Tribune, February 6, 1887
The project of a large retail dry-goods store at the southeast corner of State and Adams streets, which has been talked about for some months past, is about to be carried out into effect. It will be remembered that the piano firm of W. W. Kimball & Co. is to move into the Nee Ban building. As soon as it vacates the present quarters the work necessary to adapt them to the uses of a dry-goods store will begin, and it is thought that the alterations will be completed by May 1. The new dry-goods concern is to be known as Siegel, Cooper & Co. Henry Siegel is now a member of the firm of Siegle Bros., dealers in notions, and Mr. Cooper is from Peoria.
The Inter Ocean, May 23, 1887
Siegel Cooper Building
The Leader and Kimball Building in 1890.
Chicago Tribune, August 4, 1891
The retail dry goods district was visited yesterday by one of the most disastrous fires in the recent history of the city. It broke at 7 o’clock in the morning in the big dry goods store of Siegel, Cooper & Co., occupying the six-story building on the southeast corner of Adams and State streets, running six store fronts south and back to the alley.
Siegel, Cooper & Co.’s was razed to the ground within a couple of hours. While the walls of and floors of the big building were melting and crumbling into the bowl of the fiery caldron, half of Chief Sweenie’s brave little army stood in its scorching breath and fought the fringe of flames which had gathered in a fierce embrace all of the surrounding structures.
One million dollars in round figures will more than cover the loos, the greater part falls on Siegel, Cooper & Co. Dernberg, Glick & Hopper of the “Leader” dry goods store, on the opposite side of Adams street, are the next heaviest losers, the amount being approximately $100,000. James H. Walker & Co., whose Wabash avenue dry goods store was protected only by an alley and iron shutters, escaped with slight loss, but C. Hennecke & Co., imported statuary and bric-a-brac, adjoining Walker’s on the south, were not so fortunate. Other firms suffer losses of a few hundreds or $3,000 or $4,000 each.
The origin of the fire is unknown. It was discovered by Manager Wixon and Engineer Siefert in the northeast part of the building, above the boiler-room. The alarm was given, the twenty-five employés then in the store made their escape, and when the department arrived every floor was feeding the volcano of flame, smoke, and blazing embers which rushed skyward. The fire had doubtless been smoldering under the floor above the furnace for some hours at least.
How the Fire Was Fought.
Chief Sweenie’s first order was for a flank movement. The building to the south was occupied by T. J. Berry’s confectionery store and the upper floors by Siegel, Cooper & Co. The water tower with its sextuple stream checked the spread of the fire in this direction, doing unavoidable damage by water, however.
The Adams street front of the “Leader” was sizzling and scorching, and the wooden cornice broke into a blaze. A whole battalion of streams was turned upon it, soaking the building and stock from skylight to basement, and again causing necessary and heavy damage.
The alley between Seigel, Cooper & Co. and James H. Walker & Co. was a soothing furnace, against Walker’s walls the flames beat with terrible force. The barrier of brick wall and iron shutters withstood the test with the assistance of the flood of water poured upon it. Walker’s basement was flooded, however, and some damage done. Once the fire crept through into the third story, but was promptly checked. C. Hennecke & Co., further south, saved their stock from immolation, only to have it ruined by smoke and water.
The roof of the Siegel & Cooper & Co. building fell at 8 o’clock, carrying with it the floors and parts of the walls. The topping ruins then became dangerous. The flames were still at their highest when the State street wall caved in, leaving a gaping hole through which tons of water were poured. At 9:30 o’clock the fire was under control and Chief Sweenie directed his attention to the north wall. Under his leadership a force of firemen cautiously attacked it and it doubled up like a jacknife, falling inward and leaving only a section on the corner standing. This was pulled down late in the day.
Chicago Tribune, August 9, 1891
Chicago Tribune, September 16, 1891
The curiosity of those who are wondering what disposition is to be made of the southeast corner of State and Adams streets will soon be satisfied. Such arrangements will be made within the next few days with owners of the fees and buildings at 201 to 219 State street as will provide for the construction of a six or seven story building. There is but one owner with whom terms have not been made and he is not in a position to make any serious trouble.
The fee of the north part of the block which was cleared by fire early in August is owned by Henry Strong of New York. This property extends from State street east to the alley and was originally 171.9 feet deep. The widening of State street left it 144.9 feet in depth. It has a frontage of 120 feet on State street and bounded by an irregular south line. The corner is leased to Morris Einstein for a term of years. The building which stood on this property was leased by Siegel, Cooper & Co.
The buildings standing on the “L” shaped lot around the corner were leased by Henry Strong to Siegel, Cooper & Co. on a lease which still has six years to run.
The fee of the property at No. 213 and in the rear of No. 211 is owned by C. H. Beers. The leases here run for six years, but the building at No. 213 is owned by the lesses.
The remaining property at Nos. 215, 217, and 219 is owned by H. A. Kohn and leased to Siegel, Cooper & Co. for nine and one-half years.
Mr. Einstein, on the corner, does not feel warranted in building on the short-term lease which he now has. However, he has not yet decided to join in the arrangements agreed upon the other owners. These owners have agreed to extend the leases now in the block to a uniform term of twenty-five years. The lessees will then be in a position to erect a fair improvement on the entire corner. It will not be as imposing as the building diagonally across the street, but it will be six or seven stories in height.
Inter Ocean, September 18, 1891
In all human probability Siegel, Cooper & Co. will occupy the great structure on State street, between Van Buren and Congress streets, now being completed by L. Z. Leiter. For six weeks past negotiations have been in progress between the parties for the leasing if the building, but so quietly did they work that until yesterday not a word had leaked out.
Orders have been given to the contractors at work on the building to complete the structure as one large store, and push the work to completion as rapidly as possible. Siegel, Cooper & Co. must have possession by March 1 next, as the lease under which they occupy the new store of Alexander H. Revell & Co., at the northeast corner of Wabash and Adams street expires then.
Inter Ocean, January 8, 1892
Thomas Higgins, charged with conspiracy in attempting to prove Isaac Keim, manager of Siegel, Cooper & Co.’s dry goods story, guilty of arson, was sentenced yesterday by Judge Anthony to eight months in the House of Correction and fined $500.
Dalton, the other conspirator, was acquitted for turning State’s evidence.
The fire which destroyed the dry goods store of Siegel, Cooper & Co., State and Adams streets, happened the morning of Aug. 3, 1891.
Higgins and Dalton got their heads together and decided to make up a story convicting Manager Keim, the silent partner of the firm, with setting fire to the building to secure the the money for which the stock was insured. They accordingly called upon Fred S. James, Secretary of the Underwriters’ Association, and informed him that they believed Siegel, Cooper & Co.’s store had been set on fire by Manage Keim, and not only that but they had at hand evidence to prove that he was the incendiary who started the blaze. Mr. James took the two men to Fire Marshall Conway and a conference of the four was held in the Marshal’s office. The manufactured evidence of Higgins was then repeated to the Marshal, and the conference ended with the proposition of Higgins and Dalton that if $20,000 be paid them they would produce in court conclusive evidence that Mr. Keim set fire to the buidling.
This was the climax to the eight secret meetings held at Higgins’m house on West Kinzie street by Higgins, Dalton, Washington, and Anderson. The last two were employed as detectives by Siegel, Cooper & Co. to ferret out the conspirators against the manager. Washington and Anderson succeeded in getting in with Higgins enough to convince him that they would be good men to help place the blame on Keim. They attended all the meetings and reported the proceedings of the same ton the firm they were employed, so that Manager Keim was conversant with the plot against him as it developed.
The scheme to get the $20,000 it seems originated entirely in the brain of Higgins, and the evidence introduced yesterday showed that Dalton was drawn into it. It was therefore thought best to allow him to turn State’s evidence, as he was only a tool in the hands of Higgins.
Chicago Tribune, November 1, 1891
An Annual Rental of $1,000 a Froot to Be Paid for a State Street Frontage.
Snow & Dickinson have leased the building now in course of erection on the southeast corner of State and Adams streets for Siegel, Cooper & Co. to a firm out of town dry goods men. The lease is made for a term of five years and three months from Feb. 1, 1892, at a term rental of $393,750. This is equivalent to a yearly rental of $1,000 a front foot for the State street frontage. The building, which may be considered as two sections, will be four stories high with a high basement. The ground lease of the corner, with an Adams street frontage of eighty-three feet but is owned by Morris Einstein. The ground lease on the remaining portion in the rear is owned by Siegel, Cooper & Co. They will build jointly and the structure will be uniform. This lease is the most important transaction of its kind involving State street property negotiated since the lease of the Leiter Block was made. The lessees will take possession of the building Feb. , at which time the builders have contracted to complete the structure.
Inter Ocean, November 1, 1893
Chicago Tribune, June 26, 1900
Fire partly destroyed the Owen Electric Belt Building, Adams and State streets, yesterday morning. The loss amounted to to $50,000, and the total insurance $124,000. The fire is supposed to have caught from a range in the kitchen of the American Restaurant. One woman was rescued with difficulty and one fireman was injured.
Ehret, Michael, Captain, Engine Company 34, both hands cut by falling glass.
Clevery, Miss A. M., employed by Dr. Franklin Miles’ association; rescued from a third story window and was carried down a ladder by a fireman.
The fire was discovered by a watchman shortly after 6 o’clock. The flames had burst through the elevator shaft and through the roof. Miss Clevery was asleep on the third floor of the building. She climbed out on a window ledge and would have jumped but for the cries of the spectators. She was carried down a ladder. The fire was extinguished after great difficulty.
The building is a four-story structure and was erected in 1871. It has been damaged twice before by fire.
In 1904 the building was replaced by 12-story (7 stories added in 1909) Republic Building. This was torn down in 1961.
W. W. Kimball Building
Robinson Fire Map