Farwell Block III
Life Span: 1872-1908/1933
Location: 300-330 W. Monroe
NW corner of W. Monroe St. and S. Franklin St. (Demolished 1908)
NE corner of W. Monroe St. and S. Market St. (Demolished 1933)
Architect: John M. Van Osdel
Chicago Tribune, February 25, 1872
J. V. Farwell & Co. on Thursday last commenced moving their stock from the old building—old now, although built since the fire,—into their new building adjoining it, and just completed. The whole history of the two buildings, their erection and occupancy, shows activity and enterprise, creditable to the city and to the firm which never allowed self-interest to the blind them to their obligations to the public. The first building was commenced about the twenty-fifth day of October (ad on left from October 26). and went up with astonishing rapidity. Its size upon the ground is 45 x 190 feet, and the height five stories. It has furnished tolerable accommodations to the firm since its erection. As soon as it was up to the third story, a temporary roof was put on, and the first and second stories were occupied with a stock of dry goods. The present building adjoins the old one on the east, and is five stories in height, and 90 x 100 feet on the ground. It is build entirely of Chicago brick, the ornaments of the front building of terra cotta. The interior is convenient, and being perfectly appointed in every respect, is admirably adapted to all the peculiar use of the dry goods grade. The light is excellent, being admitted through ten large openings at each end on every floor. Not even the stairways are allowed to interfere with the transmission of light, the main stairways being all set in the perpendicular, wth glass risers. As a consequence of this thoughtful care on the part of the proprietors, customers will be able to inspect and determine the quality of the goods, no matter in what part of any of the salesrooms they may be displayed. The front part of the basement, which is also well-lighted, will be used for a carpet salesroom; the back part for storage.The first floor is to be used for a retail salesroom, and will be handsomely fitted up for that purpose with shelving and counters. The windows opening upon Monroe street are set with handsome French plate glass. A stairway, with black walnut panels and moulding, placed on the west side of the retail room, conducts to the second floor of the establishment, which will be the main room of the wholesale trade. This is furnished with all the appurtenances incidental to the building—bases, counters, shelving, and so forth. The second and third floors are supported each by thirty-nine turned oak columns; the basement and upper floors are sustained by square oak columns. All of these columns, 234 in number, were cut upon Mr. Farwell’s place in Lake Forest, and brought to the city ready for the turner in three days after the order was given for procuring them. They were cured by the Robbin’s process at the establishment of the Illinois Wood Preserving Company, on Canal street.
Above the first floor the stairways are on the east side of the building, of which side are also placed the elevators, four in number, to be run by steam. The inside of each room is to be hard-finished in plain white. Each floor is not only supplied with all the appliances essential to the trade, but with all the conveniences necessary for the comfort of the myriad employes occupied in a first-class dry goods establishment. The arrangements for lighting each department at night are perfect and complete.
NW corner of W. Monroe St. and S. Franklin St
The building is of the most substantial and permanent character, and arrangements are making for its perfect safety in case of fire. The footings are ample. The basement walls are two feet in thickness; the first and second story walls are twenty inches thick, and thence to the top the walls are sixteen inches.
Messrs. Farwell and Co. are boring an artesian well, 5½ inches in diameter, to supply water for the necessary uses of the building, and to be used in case of fire. It is expected to obtain a larger volume with a greater bore than are furnished by the well at Lincoln Park. There will iron pipes and hose attachments communicating with every floor, and, to make the matter sure, there will be external attachments upon the sidewalk, to be used in case interior communication is cut off. To increase the security, there will be two Babcock tanks, holding 100 gallons each, with hose connections throughout the establishment.
The new establishment of Messrs. Farwell & Co., if not externally equal to the old building on Wabash avenue, will surpass it in size, convenience of internal arrangement, and all needful appliances for safety.
The Land Owner, April, 1872
REBUILT CHICAGO.—NEW EDIFICES IN THE BURNT DISTRICT.
Messrs. John V. Farwell & Co.’s Mammoth New Dry Goods Building.
Identical with the growth of Chicago almost from its infancy to the date of the great fire, was the dry goods house of John V. Farwell & Co., which had grown with the same even pace with its onward strides from year to year, never losing faith in the future, never faltering in its career of progress. To such enormous proportions had the trade of this great house grown, that in every city, village and hamlet from Ohio to the Pacific States, could be seen cases from its packing rooms, and everywhere its popularity was still on the increase, and its reputation for honorable dealing beyond reproach. Envied by rivals, it was surpassed by none, and none could cast an iota of doubt upon its high standing in the mercantile world. Like a great tree rising slowly upward from natural causes of growth, this giant house had stood the storms of the financial world repeatedly without bending before the wind, often coming to the aid of weaker ones, and helping them also to weather the gale, until its arms had encompassed the dry goods trade of half a continent, and its heavy purchases of goods in European markets making its name respected in London, Paris, Vienna and Berlin, and giving our city a metropolitan character abroad.
John V. Farwell & Co.’s Mammouth Dry Goods House
Monroe, Market and Franklin Streets
When success like this is honorably achieved, there is ever encountered strong opposition from defeated rivals, and the house of John V. Farwell & Co., in its earlier days, withstood its fair share of competition, both honorable and dishonorable. Many of its rivals are now extinct, while the great house has only grown stronger and stronger, as if tried and not found wanting. Perhaps the very efforts it was obliged to put forth to conquer its adversaries were the secret of its success. It often happens that a competition designed to destroy builds up and strengthens the object of its regard. However, this may be, success is the criterion by which the world will judge.
All our readers will remember the fire that, in the winter of 1868-9, threatened the destruction of this house, then located in Wabash avenue, and from which it was only saved by superhuman efforts. Finding its quarters there too narrow to accommodate its vast business, Mr. Farwell began building what was known as the Drake-Farwell block, corner of Wabash avenue and Washington street. The imposing structure of our old Chicago was completed ere long, and occupied. Here Messrs. John V. Farwell & Co. had a store unrivaled at that time in the country, extending from basement to attic. But scarcely had the house got settled there ready for business, when in September, 1870, this beautiful block fell victim to our hereditary enemy—fire,—and they were driven to other quarters, which were soon under way with full sail, supplying their customers from every section of the Northwest. The future seemed bright, the present propitious. Here we find them, kings in the mercantile world, respected by the public, envied by rivals, when the 9th of October—that fatal day—dawned, red and lurid with flame, upon doomed Chicago.
The particulars of the great fire are too well known to need reiteration in this connection. Again the entire stock and store of John V. Farwell & Co. went down in flames. For a few days everything and everybody were paralyzed. All seemed waiting for the action of the larger mercantile houses, to ascertain whether they coul resume business, and thus take the initiative in rebuilding the city.
Scarcely had the smoke cleared away when unusual activity was noticed on Monroe street, between Franklin and Market, a locality heretofore neglected by property owners, because its remoteness from the old business centres. Here land was comparatively cheap, as was soon noised about that John V. Farwell & Co. had purchased a large corner lot there, and were laying the foundations of a mammoth super-structure, to be larger and more commodious than their old quarters. The movement caused great excitement both in the real estate and mercantile world; in the former, because it destroyed the old landmarks of trade, and would compel the smaller houses to centre there in order to keep their customers; in the real estate world, as it caused a sudden rise in the value of land in that section of the city, and tended to render slow and heavy the heretofore fancy price property in the old gilt-edge business centres. Hence this bold movement on the part of Messrs. Farwell & Co. was watched and commented upon by hundreds.
The result has been exactly what the far-seeing judgement of this firm intended it should be. It has formed a new business centre, enhanced the value of real estate now nearly double in value to what it was before the fire, and brought around this new location not only the stronger dry goods firms, but the different branches of lighter trade are there concentrating, as if revolving about a common centre.
Needing immediate accommodations for their trade, Messrs. Farwell & Co. began the erection of their store in sections, the first very large store in itself, five stories high, with basement, which was ready for their use in an incredible short space of time, and in which they opened a very heavy stock of goods. When domesticated temporarily in this structure, they, on December 5th, only three months ago, began the erection of the elegant building, which we deem of so much importance in our Rebuilt Chicago that we illustrate it on pages 56 and 57 of this issue. It is on the next lot east of the building that erected, extending to Franlin street, where it has a frontage of 190 feet on Franklin, by 235 on Monroe. The Franklin street elevationis not up at this writing, but will be ready for use in a few months. The architect is John M. van Osdel.
In the construction of this enormous edifice, every improvement has been made that experience can suggest. An artesian well is being sunk beneath the Franklin street portion, which will furnish an ample supply of water for fire purposes, and two large Babcock Fire Extinguishing tanks are being put in, thus rendering the firm completely safe from their old old enemy, the fire fiend.
The new store in which Messrs. J.V. Farwell & Co. are now established, is 90×190 feet, and six stories in height, including the basement. They have just added to their stock of dry goods, a department of carpets an upholstery, and this department occupies a part of the basement. The first floor is being fitted up as rapidly as carpenters, plasterers and painters can do their work, for a retail department, which, it will be observed, is a new feature of this great house. The retail opening will take place about the first of April. The second floor is devoted to the print stock and to dress goods and shawls. The general offices of the firm are on this floor. The third floor is occupied by the woolen department, the fourth contains the notions, white goods, and linens, and the fifth is devoted partly to domestic stock and partly to packing. The new establishment although not so grand in external appearance as the building destroyed by two great fires, is, nevertheless, much larger, and, we think, more convenient in its appointments. It is supplied with four elevators; three for moving goods, and one for transferring customers from one department to another. And this immense structure, built is so short time amid the ruins of the grandest commercial city, is now filled with goods from basement to loft, and the firm which, as we have said, has been twice burned out within a year, are again on deck with a larger stock, as much pluck, and more energy than ever.
The many readers of The Land Owner will see that the Chicago market will in no way suffer from the fire. This spring all our merchants are as well provided with new and elegant stocks of goods as ever. The example set by John V. Farwell & Co., and their quick and energetic action is being followed by all, in almost every line of trade. This market will be sustained and kept fully up to its old standard.
Lakeside Monthly, October, 1872
Within a few days after the great fire, and while the flames in the vast coal-yards along the river were still unsubdued, Mr. J. V. Farwell selected a site for a new dry -goods house; and, in stead of choosing a spot in the vicinity of the poorest and most insignificant portions of the city, being no other than the northwest corner of Franklin and Monroe streets. There was little debris to be removed, for as the ground had been occupied by mean wooden——
Workmen were immediately set to putting in the foundations of a new building, and in the chilly days of November this solitary structure was the object of all observers, as its long lines of busy workmen with trowel and plumb, rose steadily in sharp outline against the autumn sky, and far above the gloomy ruins below. Before the advent of winter Mr. Farwell had established his wholesale department in the new building, and had issued circulars to his old customers announcing his readiness and ability to supply their wants once more. It was an era in the fortunes of the city, as everybody then felt. This was but the first step in the diversion of a very large wholesale business to that part of the city.
Soon afterward, or nearly at the same period, Messrs. Field, Leiter & Co. commenced to build immediately north on Madison street, and during the summer others have followed, until now both Madison and Monroe streets, from Franklin to Market, are solidly built up with palatial wholesale houses, whose occupants are transacting a business that approaches a hundred millions of dollars in a year. There is no other place within the burnt district ‘where so great a change has been effected as here, and all from following the lead of Mr. Farwell.
The cut which accompanies this represents the original building, together with the additions which have been made since. The entire building, when completed, will have a frontage of 320 feet on Monroe street by 190 feet on Franklin, and will be entirely devoted to the jobbing and retail business of Messrs. Farwell & Co. The figures show that this is one of the very largest wholesale houses in the world. One who would see the interior of this establishment may step upon one of the four steam elevators, and pass around each loft which is appropriated to a special department of business. Going once around each room, he will have walked about a mile and a half, and if he attempt to thread the various aisles, he may go ten miles and not repeat his steps. The employees number from 1000 to 1200, and the sales reach from $12,000,000 to $14,000,000 per annum. The members of the firm are all gentlemen of high standing as citizens, and some of them fill offices of trust in the State and positions of honor in the Church. Chicago is certainly very proud of them, and has good reason to be.
NW corner of W. Monroe St. and S. Franklin St. (Demolished 1908)
NE corner of W. Monroe St. and S. Market St. (Demolished 1933)
Robinson Fire Insurance Map
Rand McNally’s Bird’s Eye View of Chicago
Farwell Block IV
Life Span: 1872-1933
Location: 300-330 W. Monroe
NE corner of W. Monroe St. and S. Market St.
Architect: John M. Van Osdel
The Land Owner, September, 1872
REBUILT CHICAGO.—NEW STRUCTURES IN THE BURNT DISTRICT.
The Farwell Block Extension on Monroe and Market Streets.
This is a plain substantial block, devoid of any attempt to play the role renaissance or any other nonsense. It looks business, and the firms who occupy it men business. Fronting 90 feet on Monroe street and 110 on Market, it forms a wing of the Farwell block (above), and is the property of that firm. First in the order of occupation id the firm of
Henry W. King & Co.
wholesale dealers in clothing and furnishing goods, who occupy all the upper portion of the building. This firm has been established here fifteen years, and has built up a trade second to no other house in the United States. Their sales last year were upwards of $2,000,000, and so far as this has gone, all indications are thgat these figures will be exceeded. Tis unexpected prosperity is due in a great measure to the fact that their factory is located in the East, under the immediate supervision of one of the members of the firm, and hence were able to supply their orders continuously after the great fire. In fact, they were the first firm to resume or continue business. The senior member of the firm is a stockholder in several large woollen mills, some of them in the East. This, coupled with their ample capital, enables them to enter the market for material with a first choice, and obtain all the advantages that is conceded to solid cash. Manufacturing their own goods, as above stated in the cheapest labor market, gives them all the advantages that can possibly be had.
Extension of the Farwell Building, Monroe and Market Streets.
A purchaser entering the counting room on the ground floor of the building, as seen in our illustration, on Market street, will be met by Mr. King, who will start him heaven-wards on aq steam railroad. The first floor or station reached is set apart to full suits, the next to pants, vests and boys’ clothing, the third to furnishing goods, and the fourth to overcoats—the whole covering and area of upwards of four hundred square feet of heavily-loaded tables.
Prices are set for all alike. The motto is, all who enter here abandon hope of successful competition in first-class goods. The arrangement of their several departments will enable a practical dealer to select in one hour the largest stock required by any first-class trader. A visit ton their warerooms will justify our remarks. Customers will find an efficient staff of employees, whose daily care us to attend to the wants of the Northwestern States, and the South as far as Nashville, Tenn., where the trade of this house extends.
In the same building, occupying the ground floor and basement, will be found
Weage, Kirtland & Ordway,
wholesale dealers in boots and shoes, who, to a large extent, manufacture their own goods. The sales of this house last year came up to $700,000. Professing to do a conservative business they mark their goods accordingly, and therefore have no need to tax the fair dealer for the deficiency of the careless and dishonest one. The bulk of their trade is in Illinois and Iowa, with a fair scattering throughout the principal cities in the Northwestern States. The majority of their orders come by mail, thereby showing the perfect confidence imposed in the integrity of the firm by its patrons. They work on what may be termed a cash basis, and, is in the case of Messrs. Kin & Co., each department is supervided by a member of the firm with ample aid.
Adjoining, and fronting on Monroe street, next door to J.V. Farwell & Co., is the young firm of
Chas. A. Lewis & Co.,
composed of five members, all of whom were associated with the well known house of Carhart, Lewis & Tappan. They are now five years in business—an age for a Chicago house. Their youth however consists in the energy of its members, who have gathered their experience in the largest factories and salesrooms in the East. Two of the firm travel among their customers, and come in direct contact with their requirements, which are well provided for by the skill displayed by another member in the selection of goods.
In their warerooms are to be seen eight hundred different styles and fashions of hats and caps, from the “Old Shady” to the latest “Grant” and Greeley.” in the interim, all the Princes, the Heroes of the Camp and Field, the Sons of the Chase, Music and Song, the Alpine Hunter, or any other man, can have his choice. The office department is presided over by Mr. Chas A. Lewis, senior member of the firm, who administers its affairs with close economy. He has at his disposal ample capital, and every legitimate advantage that the trade can afford. Their goods are marked at a fair “live and let live” margin, relying upon the honest fulfillments of all their contracts, alike with those who patronize them and those whom they patronize.
Rand McNally’s Bird’s Eye View of Chicago, 1898
The Old Farwell Block
Is a still larger edifice of similar history, fronting the whole of the north side of Monroe Street between Franklin and Market. It was built after the Great Fire, to accommodate one of the two largest dry-goods houses in the West, and fronts 189 feet on Franklin, 330 on Monroe, and 120 on Market. It is a 5-story stone-front, 85 feet high, with 8 freight elevators, and, since its relinquishment by the Farwells, has been occupied by wholesale clothiers, wholesale dealers in hats and caps and boots and shoes, and manufacturers and manufacturers1 agents. The year of its erection was 1872.
Chicago Tribune, May 16, 1908
Hart Schnffner & Marx. clothing manufacturers, closed a long term lease yesterday with Frederick Ayer of Boston, Mass., for his property at the northwest corner of Monroe and Franklin streets, and on Jan. 1 next he will construct for their occupancy a twelve story buIlding to cost $1,000,000. The cost of the land is estimated at $500,000. It is said this will be one of the largest and most perfect devoted buildings devoted to the of manufacture of clothing In the world.
The lands fronts 140 feet on Monroe street IDO on Franklin. The building, for which plans have been prepared by Architects Holabird and Rache, will cover the entire area. The exterior will be constructed of red pressed brick, and the principal entrance will be on the corner. The interior will be of steel and hollow tile. The stories will be higher than that of any other building in the wholesale or retail district. the first floor being fifteen feet high and the other floors averaging thirteen and one half in the clear.
Equipment Thoroughly Modern.
The first will contain the general and shipping rooms; the second, third and fourth floors the stockrooms, and the fifth will be devoted to a general salesroom. and above that the stories will be devoted to general manufacturing purposes. Three of the upper floors will be used solely by the cutter of clothing.
The building will be equipped with the most modern machinery for communication between the different departments, including three passenger and two freight elevators, and two spiral chutes nine feet in diameter running from the top of the building to the basement, one of which will be a double chute for the purpose of carrying express packages. Pneumatic tubes will carry orders and memoranda from one department to another.
The top floor will he devoted to the sawing room and will be lighted with a saw tooth roof skylight. In addition to being fireproof the building will be equipped with sprinklers and additional beyond the usual automatic fire alarms will be installed.
The health and convenience of the employes in addition to facilities of manufacture have been considered by Hart, Schaffner & Marx. Four floors will be made dustproof and ventilated by washed air. A refrigerating system will cool the air and sterilize and cool the drinking water.
Employment Given to 5,000.
The firm now gives employment to 5,000 people in a half dozen large buildings in the wholesale clothing district, the main building being the eight story structure at the southeast corner of Van Buren and Market streets. In addition it occupies the building at the northwest corner of Van Buren and Market streets, the greater part of the building at the southwest corner of Van Buren end Franklin, and the seven story and basement building in Market street, south of Van Buren. On some of these buildings the firm has leases running for some years and will continue to occupy them with parts of its business.
The site on which the new building will stand is now improved wIth a five story substantial stone building, erected by J. V. Farwell just after the fire. It is one of the city s landmarks. It is under lease for considerable periods to a large numbers of tenants, the rights of whom have been acquired. Construction will be begun on the new building on Jan. 1, 1909, with a view to to its completion before Jan. 1, 1010. The new building vill contain 350,000 square feet of floor apace, or over eight acres!
Lesing Rosenthal and K. R. Smoot looked after the legal details of the deal which was conducted by Aldis & Co. and Albert L. Strauss.
Chicago Tribune, May 28, 1933
BY AL CHASE.
Chicago’s historical background of buildings erected since the great fire of 1871 faces complete demolition at the hands of owners who have discovered that wrecking solves the problem of ever mounting taxes, tobogganing rentals, and increasing due to obsolescence. A glance back over the last two years gives one a rather startling perspective of old time structures, many of them famous architecturally, structurally, or sentimentally, which have been torn down to make way for gas stations, parking lots, “tax payers,” and in one or two, cases for modern structures.
Historic structures that would be cherished in Boston or Philadelphia as something to be preserved for future generations, crash under the wreckers’ pickaxes in Chicago when the owners find taxes are higher than the income.
The latest historic structure to go down before the wreckers’ pickax and shovel is the old Farwell building at the northeast corner of Market and Monroe streets, now being torn down to make way for a parking station. This was erected in 1872, the year after the great fire, by Charles Farwell, a brother of J. V. Farwell.