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Life Span: 1872-1921
Location: SW Corner of N. Michigan and E. Wacker Drive
Architect: Nimmons & Fellows
W. M. HOYT building, at the southwest corner of N. Michigan avenue and E. Wacker drive, was five stories and one basement high, with a frontage of 100 feet on each street. The site was originally occupied by Fort Dearborn. It is now occupied by the London Guarantee building.
From Commercial and Architectural Chicago, 1887
Published by G. W. Orear.
W. M. Hoyt Building
W. M. Hoyt Company, wholesale grocers and manufacturers, occupy the large buildings which stand at the junction of River street, Rush street and Michigan avenue, or, in other words, on the site of the historic Fort Dearborn. The location is one of the best possible commercially, as it has streets on three sides, the river just in front, and railway facilities within a stone’s throw,
while the great lake steam-
This company is one of the five leading wholesale grocery concerns of Chicago, and its business extends into all the territory that belongs to or that is made the field of the Chicago drummers’ ramifications.
The building stands on an irregular lot at the juncture of River Street and Michigan Avenue. The frontages are 100 feet on River Street, 40 facing the bridge, and nearly 100 on Michigan Avenue. There are 5 stories, with 75 feet of height, and! freight elevator. Wholesale grocer.
William M. Hoyt & Co. was created during the Civil War. Hoyt became a leading grocery wholesaler, with annual sales of close to $1 million by the mid-1870s and nearly $5 million by the early 1890s, when it was among the region’s leading food distributors.
W. Hoyt Building
W. M. Hoyt Company
The Fort Dearborn Memorial Tablet
The tablet, which is of marble, occupies the whole window space, being fifteen feet high and six feet across. Robert J. Bennett (right) of the W. M. Hoyt & Company in 1881.
W, M. Hoyt Building
Chicago: An Instructive and Entertaining History of a Wonderful City, 1889
The Fort Dearborn Memorial Tablet Erected by W. M. Hoyt on the Site of Fort Dearborn..
Among the many objects of interest in the city which attract the attention of strangers is the marble tablet which occupies a prominent place in the north wall of the large building at the corner of Michigan avenue and River street.
This tablet, which measures 15×6 feet, is known as the Fort Dearborn memorial tablet, from the fact that the building in which it is placed stands upon the site of Fort Dearborn.
The Chicago Historical Society suggested the tablet, and Mr. W. M. Hoyt, of the well-known wholesale grocery house of the W. M. Hoyt company, the largest in the country, had it made and gave the space for it. After the tablet had been placed in position it was unveiled with great ceremony on Saturday afternoon, May 21, 1881, in the presence of a large crowd of people. The following program was successfully carried out:
1. The First Regiment of Illinois State Guards, Col. Swain commanding, will march to the ground and form in front of the tablet.
2. Calling to order of the assemblage by the President of the Chicago Historical Society, Hon. Isaac N. Arnold.
3. Presentation of the tablet by R. J. Bennett, of the firm of W. M. Hoyt & Co., to be followed promptly by the unveiling, with appropriate military salutes.
4. Response by Hon. Isaac N. Arnold.
5. Poem by Eugene J. Hall, of Chicago (below).
6. Music—National air.
7. Historical address by Hon. John Wentworth.
8. Military march from the ground.
The issue of The Tribune, which contained the foregoing account of this interesting historical event, was indeed a remarkable one. It was made up of the regular edition, of 20 pages, and an extra of 16, containing the revised New Testament, literatim, et verbatim, et punctuatim. The entire paper was, therefore, made up of 36 pages, of seven columns to a page, or 252 columns.
THE MEMORIAL OF FORT DEARBORN.
EUGENE J. HALL.
Here, where the savage war-whoop once resounded;
Where council fires burned brightly years ago;
Where the red Indian from his covert bounded,
To scalp his pale-faced foe.
Here, where gray badgers had their haunts and burrows;
Where wild wolves howled and prowled in midnight bands;
Where frontier farmers turned the virgin furrows,
Our splendid city stands.
Here, where brave men and lovely women perished,
Here, where in unknown graves their forms decay,
This marble, that their memory may be cherished,
We consecrate to-day.
No more the farm-boy’s call or lowing cattle,
Frighten the timid wild-fowl from the slough;
The noisy trucks and wagons roll and rattle
O’er miles of pavements now.
Now, are our senses startled and confounded,
By screaming whistle and by clanging bell,
Where Beaubien’s merry fiddle once resounded,
When summer twilight fell.
Here stood the Fort, with palisades about it,
With low, log block-house in those early hours;
The prairie fair extending far without it,
Blooming with fragrant flowers.
About this spot the buildings quickly clustered,
The logs decayed, the palisades went down;
Here the resistless Western spirits mustered
And built this wondrous town.
Here, from the trackless slough, her structures started
And, one by one, in splendor, rose to view.
The white ships went and came, the years departed,
And still she grandly grew.
Till, one wild night, a night each man remembers,
When round her homes the red fire leaped and curled,
The sky was filled with flame and flying embers,
That swept them from the world.
Men said: “Chicago’s bright career is ended,”
As by her smouldering stones they chanced to go,
While the wide world its love and pity blended
To help us in our woe.
O where was ever human goodness greater?
Man’s love for man was never more sublime!
On the eternal scroll of our Creator
‘Tis written for all time.
Chicago lives, and many a lofty steeple
Looks down, to-day, upon this western plain.
The tireless hands of her unconquered people
Have reared her walls again.
Long may she live, and grow its wealth and beauty.
And may her children be in coming years
True to their trust and faithful to their duty
As her brave pioneers!
Chicago Tribune January 20, 1917
BILLBOARD ON HISTORIC SPOT
Historical Society Aroused by Sign Covering Fort Dearborn Tablet.
The erection of a large billboard over a tablet on the side of the Hoyt building, Michigan Avenue and Rush Street, at the south end of Rush Street bridge, which marks the site of old Fort Dearborn, is causing a wave of protest among members of the Chicago Historical Society and others interested in preserving historical records of Chicago.
The framework for the billboard, which belongs to the Thomas Cusack Company, was erected yesterday and a large advertisement will go up in a few days, it is said. This will temporarily, if not permanently cover the bronze plague unveiled May 21, 1881, as a perpetual record of the old fort, and the massacre on the historic spot on Aug. 12, 1815.
“This society is helpless except to appeal to public sentiment to save the tabloid from being covered by the billboard,” said Miss C. N. McIlvane, librarian of the society. This is the first of Chicago’s notable landmarks and thousands of persons, including many children, have viewed the tablet annually.”
“A sacrilege,” was the expression of Mrs. Cyrus McCormick, Sr. “I am sure the owner of the building should be urged to order the billboard company to remove this portion of the sign that already is up.”
Chicago Tribune January 26, 1917
FORT DEARBORN TABLOID COVERED; HOYT PROTESTS
W. M. Hoyt, donor of the bronze tablet which commemorates the site of old Fort Dearborn, near the Rush street bridge, and the massacre which occurred there Aug. 12, 1812, has written a spirited letter to the Chicago Historical Society from his winter home of Green Cove Springs, Fla., protesting against the enterprise of Thomas Cusack company in hiding the tablet behind an advertising billboard. Writes Mr. Hoyt:
Such desecration! It must not be. It was donated to the city by me for your care. The city should do its duty and preserve it. See State Attorney Hoyne. He will find a way to stop it. It was bad enough to have the saloon on the site, but this last move shows what some people will do for money when lost to pride and principle. If I were there I would see to it. I know, however, your society has both pride and push and will do what it can to maintain the pride and honor of our city.
Miss C. M. McIlvane, librarian of the Historical Society, declared that there appeared no recourse against the action of the Cudack company, except public opinion and a boycott of any article advertised on the billboard. George Merryweather said the matter will be placed before the Historical Society at its next meeting.
Chicago Tribune January 31, 1917
CUSACK ORDERS DOWN SIGNBOARD OVER TABLET
Also Promises to Clean and Illuminate Fort Dearborn Plaque.
Thomas Cusack. president of the Thomas Cusack Advertising Company. in the interests of sentiment has not only ruled that the billboard advertisement erected over the Fort Dearborn bronze tablet at the Rush street bridge be torn down, but he undertakes to clean the tarnished bronze (“of which it is very much in need) and electric light it.
Mr. Cusack wants to bring romance into its own. He admits he never knew there was a bronze tablet to commemorate Fort Dearborn, but granting the tradition of the old blockhouse be true, he thinks it should be advertised.
He wrote a letter yesterday to E. J. Lehmann. president of the Fair. and consented to cancel the contract for the Fair advertisement on the billboard covering the Fort Dearborn bronze memorial and said the signboard would be torn, down immediately.
Miss C. M. McIlvaine, secretary of the Chicago Historical Society. expressed her gratification at the action of Mr. Cusack.
“We had only public opinion to appeal to.” she said. “but Mr. Cusack relented without asking its decision.”
The Tribune reported the erection of the sign in the issue of Jan. 20, together with the authorized protest of the Historical society. A few days later W. ?r. Hoyt. donor of the bronze tablet, wrote his protest from his winter home at Green Spring Cove. Fla. Mur. Lehmanti of the Fair promptly offered to repu- diate the advertisement.
Letter to Lehmann.
Mr. Cusack concurred in the following letter:
Mr. E. J. Lehtianv, president. the Fair: I am in, receipt of information that you have expressed a desire, in a letter to the Historical Society, that, in event the Cusack company would cancel a contract, you would consent to the sign being removed which now covers the tablet on the old Hoyt buildling at Michigan avenue and South Water street.
I was not aware that the sign bad been placed there until a few days ago. when I was notified by a reporter for The Tribune. as I have been out of the city. Had I known of it before the sign was erected I would not have allowed the sign to at least cover the tablet.
I assure you that our company will be very pleased to cancel the contract. Not only that. but we will clean the tablet ,of which it is very much in need. I understand, and illuminate same as it should be.
We will place your sign on the side of the building, and in event it does not satisfy you there will be very glad to remove it at your option. But, so far as the present contract is concerned, you may be assured it is canceled. It is optional with you to accept it as placed on the side.
Very truly yours.
Wm. Hoyt Building
Robinson Fire Map, 1886
Volume 3, Plate 9
W. Hoyt Building
Rand McNally Bird’s Eye Views