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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
John V. Farwell & Co.’s Mammouth Dry Goods House
Monroe, Market and Franklin Streets
The Land Owner
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.
NW corner of W. Monroe St. and S. Franklin St.
1886 Robinson Fire Map
Volume 1, Plate1
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.
Rand McNally’s Bird’s Eye View of Chicago
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
High Taxes Force Demolition of Many Historical Structures
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.