Life Span: 1873-1891
Location: 155 N. Clark Street (NE corner Randolph and Clark Streets
Architect: Messrs. F. & E. Baumann
The Land Owner, August 1872
The Ashland Block.
This beautiful edifice is being built by Gen. Simon B. Buckner, t the northeast corner of Randolph and Clark streets, opposite the Sherman House. The General being a native of Kentucky, has named it the “Ashland Block,” in memory of the family seat of the great Kentucky statesman. Its dimensions are 140 feet on Clark by 80 feet on Randolph, and it is full six stories in height above the basement. The main floor and basement are designed for general business, and the five upper floors for offices, the whole being accessible by a passenger elevator starting from the main floor, and entered from either street through a spacious hallway, which is distinguished by a handsome stone portico, as seen in the engraving.
Rebuilt Chicago—The Ashland Block Clark and Randolph Streets, Erected By Gen. S. B. Buckner
The style of architecture is a severe plain Corinthian. The materials are iron and plate glass for the lower story, and Buena Vista freestone for the portico and the five upper stories. There are 18 stores and basement in the lower part, and 60 suits of offices in the upper part, together with 52 fire-proof vaults. Altogether this block will be one of the most tasteful of our rebuilt Chicago, The architects are Messr. F. & E. Baumann; the contractors for cut stone, James Finnegan & Son, of Cincinnati; for masonry, E. F. Dora; for carpenter work, Thomas Healy, both of this city; and for iron work, the Younglove Architectural Iron Works, of Cleveland, Ohio.
In this erection of this superb structure, General Bucjner hs done credit both to himself and to Chicago. Before the fire the site of the Ashland Block was a mass of tumble-down brick. Its being replaced by so fine a block is only one in many cases that our future Chicago will excel the Chicago of the past.
Chicago Evening Post, April 26, 1873
A considerable degree of public interest and curiosity has centered recently on the tall, massive, nobly proportioned building on the northeast corner of Clark and Randolph streets, known as the Ashland block, and so named in honor of the homestead of Henry Clay by the proprietor of the property, General S. B. Buckner, a citizen of Kentucky. The architects, Messrs. F. and E. Bsumann, of whose genius in the conception of form in architecture, and of round thought in the division and economy of space in buildings, the Ashland block will stand as no unworthy monument, had already attained eminence in the profession as authors of plans and designs of office buildings, including the Bryan block. corner Monroe and LaSalle, and the Metropolitan, corner LaSalle and Randolph. As an office building, the Ashland block will take rank immediately as first-class, if not entirely unequaled in office accommodations, general propriety and convenience of construction and strict adaptability to office purposes. The dimensions are 140×180 feet, six stories and modern improved basement, thus aggregating a superficial capacity of 78,400 square feet. In point of architecture style and form, the appearance of the building is novel and interesting, the style being strictly Grecian, with the antique Corinthian order, conspicuous and impressive in portico and front from first story upwards to the roof. The vestibule is Renaissance. The general outside aspect and impression or (if nobody has any objections) the tout ensemble of the edifice is that of magnitude, grace, solidity, and height, a sort of placid countenance and expression of strength and beauty, with something of the coldness and severity of true art—a sort of classic purity, generally, in form and finish. The vast space of the whole building is apportioned into office rooms from the first story upward, the ground floor being distributed into eighteen large rooms appropriate for stores and offices, a number of the offices already secured as the passenger headquarters of the Illinois Central, Pennsylvania Central, Central and Union Pacific, Chicago, Milwaukee and St Paul, and C. B. and Q. railroads. Upwards of one hundred superb offices, many of them united in suites from two to six or eight, seventy of which front on the open street, and all of them, by skillful economy of space in construction, opening broadly upon the sun and air. The convenience, style, and finish of the offices of the second story are carried to the broad flors above, all easily accessible by broad stairways and one of Hale’s best water-balance elevators. People who feel themselves above all others, and prefer a correspondingly high location, will find suites of rooms on the sixth floor perfectly suitable in size and elegance for insurance, law, or private offices, where they can look over the top of the Court House, and enjoy a view of Joliet, Bloomington, St. Louis, and other suburbs. Every room in the building has a fire-place, as well as steam heating pipes. Two-thirds of the building is already rented, and among those about to locate in the building are a number of prominent law firms, including Judges Winston & Walker, Judge Whitehouse, and others. Nearly every suite of rooms is provided with strong stone and iron vaults, of which there are some fifty in the building, an item which will deduct a tenant’s expenses the cost of a fire-proof safe.
The Carpentry of the building, all done by Thomas Healy, of No. 83 and 85 Franklin street, is regarded as a splendid specimen of mechanical taste, skill, and judgement applied on a wide scale. The prevailing timber of white pine, grained in imitation of ash and painted in imitation of walnut. The 70,000 square feet of flooring, on which carpenters and mechanics unite in an expression of admiration for its firmness, finish, and solid strength, is of Georgia pine, with the exception of the ash and walnut of the first flor. The doors are of ash, sash of Cherry oiled. The vestibule doors are pine grained, with heavy plate glass.
Plate Glass, Painting, Etc.
The magnificent two-light windows that enter so largely into the aspect of the building, were furnished by Heath & Milligan, to whom also belong the credit of the entire job of painting, the main feature of which is in the imitation of ash and walnut, which is in the inside characteristic and style, the graining and imitation being regarded by the proprietor as perfect.
Another feature in the general equipment which seems to exhibit a considerable degree of taste is in the hardware trimmings, selected from the hardware establishment of Larrabee & North, Nos. 163 and 165 Lake street. Nearly two hundred heavy office doors are fitted with heavy, five tumbler office door locks, solid and safe in material and tasteful in construction and finish, with lava knobs of easy, firm, and silent movement; store and vestibule doors with Corbin’s manufacture of bronze trimmings. Some of te bronze hinges, bronze bolts, and bronze knobs supplied by Larrabee & North are absolute models of solidity, firmness, and beauty of mechanical execution and design, and are certainly entitled to the special mention which we have given them in this condition.
Among the handsome stores in the block, No. 53 Clark street will be fitted up in something like superb style by Mr. James Boland, druggist and apothecary, as a sort of a model drug store. The nimble fingers of the carpenter and painter are now putting on the finishing touches, and the beautiful store will be ready for occupancy May 1, sharp. Mr. Boland is an accomplished druggist as well as a popular gentleman of a very large circle of friends and acquaintances, and is known to the business community as a partner and associate in business for some fifteen years with the old firm of E. P. Dwyer & Co., corner Lake and Dearborn. He will move in on the completion of the store, with a carefully selected stock of drugs and fancy and toilet articles.
The adjoining store, No. 55 Clark, has been fitted up ina somewhat elaborate style and is already occupied in part by Messers. Shurly & Co., the watch makers and jewelers, favorably known to the community in the business of manufacturing chronometers and fine watches.
In the same handsome quarters (55 Clark) we should not neglect mentioning that Mr. Ed. Maucher, optician, for many years associated with Langguth, optician, as assistant, has opened with a full stock of optical instruments. Those wanting spectacles will bear in mind that Mr. Maucher fits those instruments of sight with artistic skill and precision. All the old folks in town know that. He has also a full line of drawing paper, water colors, and other materials for architects and civil engineers.
A conspicuous location in the block is the corner basement office opening on Clark and Randolph, which will be occupied by the “National Line” of steamships, a first class company, as their Chicago headquarters, M. W. Macalister agent.
In justice to all, it should be mentioned that the fine job of masonry and cut stone work was done by M. Finnegan & Son, of Cincinnati; the iron work by the Younglovce Architectural Works, of Cleveland, Ohio, and the plate glass by Hohn Alston & Co., of Chicago.
Chicago Tribune, April 26, 1891
Chicago is to lose a landmark—Ashland Block. Many of its tenants have had their business home within its walls for a score of years. They are all under notice to leave May 1. As soon as they take their departure the work of razing the building will be begun. It will be replaced by one of the million-dollar, sixteen-story, structures that are a familiar feature of Chicago.
Ashland Block was built by Gen. S. B. Buckner of Kentucky soon after the fire, and took its name from the Confederate chieftain’s home in the blue grass country. The history of the building and the property at Clark and Randolph streets has many points of interest. The litigation over the property, if nothing else, has made it famous.
In 1834 Maj. Kingsbury, who was one of Gen. Scott’s officers and stationed at Fort Dearborn, bought two lots at Randolph and Clark streets. Both were eighty feet front on Randolph and had a depth of 180 feet. For the corner upon which the Ashland was subsequently built he paid $60, and for the lot adjoining on the east $50. James Kinzie, the owner, thought $110 for the two pieces of ground a fairly good real-estate operation. May 15, 1890, the corner lot with a strip forty feet wide taken the north end sold for $500,000. The other lot is still held by one of the Kingsbury heirs. Mrs. Jane C. Kingsbury, the widow of the original purchaser, is still living at Old Lymne, Conn. She is well advanced in years, but retains a lively remembrance of early days in Chicago. Maj. Kingsbury leased the lot, and the original frame building upon it was replaced by a three-story business block, which was erected by Dr. Evans, the lessee. This structure was with the surrounding buildings converted into ashes by the great fire.
Made Famous by Litigation.
At this time a suit affecting the title to the property was pending. When Maj. Kingsbury died in 1855 he left the property at Randolph and Clark streets to his son, Henry W. Kingsbury, and Mary K., his daughter, who had married S. B. Buckner. There was no partition of interests, the title being held jointly under the will. At the breaking out of the war Gen. Buckner, as is a matter of history, joined the Confederate army, and young Kingsbury, a Lieutenant’s commission, joined the Federal army.
To provide against possible confiscation Gen. Buckner and his wife conveyed to Lieut. Kingsbury their interest in the Chicago real estate, with the understanding that at the end of the war it was to be reconveyed to Mrs. Buckner. Kingsbury fell at Antietam. lHe left a young wife, a woman of great attractions, who shortly after her husband’s death gave birth to a son. By the terms of Lieut. Kingsbury’s will Mrs. Buckner’s share of the property was devised to her. The will was declared invalid by the Cook County courts, and after the war Gen. Buckner and his wife began proceedings for the property.
In 1872 the suit was decided in their favor. The lot fronting on Randolph street upon which the museum now stands, together with forty feet off the north end of the corner lot, which strip joined the lot first mentioned in the rear, was set apart for Henry W. Kingsbury, the posthumous heir. Mrs. Buckner’s part had a Randolph street frontage of eighty feet and 140 on Clark street.
Many Old Tenants.
The Ashland Block was at once erected and cost $200.000. It was designed as an office building, and at the time of its construction was one of the finest of the kind in Chicago. Many railway lines made their headquarters there, and the corner room of the first floor has for years been occupied by the Fort Wayne road as a ticket office. The Illinois Central’s ticket office is a familiar feature of the Randolph street front. Up-stairs the Pennsylvania company has had offices for many years. Other tenants of long-standing, nearly all of whom have been there since the building was erected, are: Coburn & Thatcher, Senator John Humphrey, James P. Root, P. L. Sherman, F. J. Loesch, George Willard, Lincoln Ice company, Hutchinson & Luff. Judge Anthony had an office for many years in the building before his election to the bench. Edwin Walker was one of the lawyers whose shingle long adorned its historic walls. F. A. Winston was another. S. Corning Judd, before he was Postmaster, was a familiar figure about the building. The Chicago Milwaukee and St, Paul for a long time had a ticket office on the Clark street front.
Sold for $500,000.
Mrs. Buckner died a few years ago and by will left the property to her husband. Last May Gen. Buckner sold the corner to A. J. Alexander of Woodlawn, Ky., the well-known breeder of horses. The purchase price was $500,000. The new owner being desirous to increase the income from the property at first concluded to add a few stories to the original building. Then there were negotiations looking toward a ninety-nine year lease of the property. These were dropped and recently Mr. Alexander determined to erect an entirely new block. His agent, Mr. Waller, at once notified the tenants that their offices and stores must be vacated by May 1. The only tenant who had a long time hold was a barber whose lease had two years to run. It is said that he received $5,000 for the surrender of the contract, although his rent was but $1,500 per year. It is also said that the contractor who will tear down the present building will receive as compensation the materials which compose it.
“It seems a pity to tear down the old building.” said D. W. Mitchell, for years the agent of Gen. Buckner. “The block, unlike most of those built just after the fire, was constructed of the best materials, and is as solid now as it was fifteen years ago. The partition walls are of brick clear to the roof and there isn’t a check or crack to be found anywhere in the plastering.”
Young Kingsbury, who owns the Randolph street lot, had several suits over his property. They were instituted in his behalf by his mother, and were in the nature of damage suits against Mr. Sperry, who was a sort of receiver or curator of the young many’ estate. Mrs. Kingsbury subsequent to her husband’s death was married to William Lawrence of Rhode Island. After his death a Belgian Count attached to the legation at Washington became her husband. The nobleman dying she the wife of an Englishman, and now lives in Great Britain.
The Ashland Block
Northeast Corner of Clark and Randolph Streets
Robinson Fire Map
Chicago Tribune, May 24, 1891
PROGRESS ON THE ASHLAND BLOCK.
Plan for a Giant Structure to Be Opposite the Sherman House
The old Ashland Block will soon be a thing of the past, and a new sixteen-story offce building, one of the handsomest of its class, will be erected in its place. B. A. Waller and L. Brodhead have leased the northeast cornet of Randolph and Clark streets from A. J. Alexander for a term of ninety-nine years, and will begin work at once on tne new building
D. H. Burnham has prepared the plans for the new block. It will have a frontage of 140 feet on Clark street by eighty feet on Randolph street. It will be sixteen stories high, of steel construction, and thoroughly fireproof. The building will be faced with light gray, stone, brick, and terra cotta. The main entrance to the building will be from Clark street and twenty-one feet wide. The windows of the lower stories will be arched at tho third story. From the third story seven bays will extend up through both fronts to the sixteenth story. The building will be surmounted by a full Corinthian cornice. All the exterior details will be classical. The main entrance and the entrance from Randolph street will open on a vestibule which will be with mosaic and finished in marble. Seven elevators will be arranged in a semicircle with a provision for adding two elevators to this service. The building will contain 350 offices above tho tank floor. A light court 28 x 50 feet will extend through the rear of the building. The aim of the projectors is to build an office which shall be first-class in all without any extravagant expense.