Field, Leiter Wholesale Warehouse
Life Span: 1872-1911
Location: NE Corner of Madison and Market Streets
The Land Owner, February, 1872
REBUILT CHICAGO—MESSRS. FIELD, LEITER & CO.’S GREAT WHOLESALE HOUSE.
As an evidence of the determination of Chicago merchants as well as real estate men, to keep up the old status of the city as a commercial emporium and market for the Northwest, we refer our readers to the superb full page engraving on another page, of the new building erected by Messrs. Field, Leiter & Co., at the northeast corner of Market and Madison streets, for the accommodation of their wholesale business.
DESTRUCTION OF THE OLD STORE.
The marble palace occupied by this firm, at the corner of Washington and State streets, so conspicuous an ornament to the city, went down on the fatal October 9th. Rallying their large force of employes and caravan of wagons, this firm saved a large amount of their most valuable goods, and all their books and papers. The thorough discipline with which their business is always conducted, was shown at the fire, in the system and obedience with which all their orders were obeyed. While yet the embers were bright in the ruins of the old store, these gentlemen leased the large brick carhouse and stables of the City opened Railway Company, on State street, and soon opened there for business, having fitted up the place in a very comfortable manner.
REBUILT CHICAGO—Field, Leiter’ & Co.’s New Wholesale House at the Northeast Corner of Madison and Market Streets Burnt District. Erected in 100 Days.
THE WHOLESALE BUILDING.
Immediately thereafter the site of the wholesale building was leased, and the result is before our readers in our engraving (above).
This building has been constructed, from the foundation, in one hundred days. It is 200 feet on Madison street, and 190 on Market, and stands directly opposite of Mr. Coolbaugh’s Central Union Block, also illustrated in this issue. It is built of pressed brick, with stone trimmings, and is, in every respect, a first-class structure—not a temporary outgrowth of the fire. It will contain steam passenger and freight elevators, and its internal arrangements will be thorough and complete. It will be occupied during the last of February as the wholesale department only, of this great firm.
CAUSE OF A REAL MONEY MOVEMENT.
Messrs. Field, Leiter & Co., by moving westward to the river from their old site, created quite an excitement in real estate in that vicinity, causing an immediate advance of from twenty to forty or fifty per cent over what the property was held at before the fire. Immediately the smaller dry goods firms, as if waiting to see the hand of their great leader, followed, and the lighter goods houses are centering there.
The business of this house amounts to millions annually. Although as great sufferers by the fire as any firm in the city, they have asked for no compromise with their creditors, and from the day of the fire have paid dollar for dollar of their obligations at maturity, asking nobody’s assistance, but standing firmly on their own bottom. Having their business strong in hand, with capital concentrated instead of scattered, they are now the great house of the West, as they must long continue to be. And they will fully sustain the reputation that this market has so long enjoyed.
Excerpted from “Give the Lady What She Wants,” by Lloyd Wendt and Herman Kogan, 1952.
After the Great Fire in October 1871, Marshall Field was looking for a permanent location for the wholesale division. He selected the northeast corner of Madison and Market streets, where the Garden City Hotel stood before the fire.
The neighborhood had been a low character. Along Market Street had stretched sailors’ boardinghouses and groggeries; Madison Street had been lined with whiskey mills and cheap stores. But those evils were gone now, and the site was a convenient one for buyers, who could reach it from most of the new railroad stations and from the North and West sides of the city without plowing through the burned-out district.
Leiter agreed to this move. There was no possible chance at this time, he wrote to Joseph Field, to go back to State Street. “If a store were erected upon our old quarters or near it, it would be of little or no value for occupancy for the coming year. The debris from the burned buildings is so great that it would prevent access of people and the dust arising from it would destroy a stock of goods.” Besides, the Market Street land was cheap, only $7.00 a square foot as compared with the $2,100 a front foot Palmer had charged them for the State Street property.
Now, all the wholesale stocks were carried to the new building, constructed at a cost of $140,000. A retail division was also established in the Market Street building and designated Retail No. 2., while the horse-barn store on Twentieth Street became Retail No. 1. Wholesalers were able to buy at Market Street as early as 4 March 1872, but the public was informed the the grand opening would not be held until the evening of 25 April.
In 1873, Field and Leiter occupied the Singer Building because they heard that A. T. Stewart, New York’s prime merchant, was interested in the State Street store. Field and Leiter signed a three year lease announced:
We shall remove our Retail Business to our new store, State and Washington Streets, on Monday, Oct. 6
Field Leiter Warehouse
NE Corner of Madison and Market Streets
Robinson Fire Map 1886
Volume 3, Plate 2