Life Span: 1872-1910
Location: 11 & 13 Fifth Avenue and 205 & 07 South Water street
Architect: John M. Van Odel
Chicago Tribune, November 24, 1872
CRERAR, ADAMS & CO’S BUILDING.
One of the handsomest announcements of rebuilding, rising to the fine art in advertising, is the exquisitely engraved circular of the old house of Crerar, Adams & Co. The plate has four beautiful vignette pictures surrounding the card of of the firm. The first of these shows the well-remembered stand in the Robbins Block, at the corner of Fifth avenue and South Water street, as it existed on Saturday, Oct. 7, 1871. The second gives a bleak ruin, shapeless masonry in the foreground, a woeful semblance of the actual scene on the fated Monday, Oct. 9. The third presents a view of the emergency premises of the firm, on the Michigan avenue park front, where for the winter and spring months they carried on their extensive business. The fourth is a beautiful cut of the Robbins Block, 80 by 150 feet, with a fine cut stone front, rebuilt at a cost of $100,000, and one of the handsomest quarters in the new Chicago, for a firm among the most prominent in the city before the fire. Its street numbers run Nos. 11 and 13 Fifth avenue, and Nos. 205 and 207 South Water street. The block is five stories high, and one of the best buildings of our reconstruction.
Crerar, Adams & Co. Advertising Circular, as described above.
It is worth while to add here that this firm are to be credited with still another structure among the notables of our great rebuilding—the rebuilt works of Crerar, Adams & Co. and the Union Brass Manufacturing Company, a double edifice fronting 100 feet on Ohio street and 100 feet on Ontario street, and 220 feet on Franklin street, with a dividing alley in the centre, spanned by a bridge. The buildings are in substantial brick, four stories high, among the most completely appointed manufacturing premises in the city. Messrs. C., A. & Co. established in Chicago fourteen years ago, as a branch of M.K. Jusup & Co., of New York, are still closely allied with the old house, and their trade consists in furnishing all possible requirements under the head of railway supplies, best understood in their multiform variety by a glance through their salesrooms. The portion of the manufactory above referred to occupied by them is occupied in the manufacture of headlights, hand-lanterns, and all varieties of ornamental car and carriage lamps, for which many of the leading railroad companies at the East are their customers. This branch of the work employs 100 men, with an annual product of $200,000. Among other leading manufacturing specialties are turntables and the Mansfield elastic frog. The gross business of Messers. Crerar, Adams & Co. reaches several million dollars annually. They are the large owners of the Union Brass Manufacturing Company, the two industries being practically one interest.
The company is is highly prosperous, and largely the source of many of the staple products of the house. One thing deserves to be noted in the store and in the manufactory, worthy to bring it thus into prominent mention in a building article,—the taste and skill shown in providing for the convenience and comfort of the operatives and employes, who from the nature of their employment, are necessarily among the most skilled and intelligent of mechanics. J.H. Dow, Esq., onr of the partners, now in Europe, is to be largely credited with the marvelous development of the aesthetic principle, rarely enlisted to such a degree in the affairs of business.
The Land Owner, November, 1872
THE BUILDINGS OF THE ROBBINS’ ESTATE.
Among the most imposing of all our strictly mercantile structures are the two buildings of the Robbins estate, situated respectively at the northwest corner of Lake street and Fifth avenue, and at the southeast corner of South Water street and Fifth avenue, as shown in our illustrations this month. These edifices are first-class in every respect, have been displayed in their general design.
Crerar & Adams Building (Robbins’ Estate)
11 & 13 Fifth Avenue
Northwest Corner of Lake street and Fifth avenue
The Lake street building presents a beautiful iron front, with a graceful return of the same material on Fifth avenue. Its dimensions are 80 by 150 feet, five stories high, with a deep basement extending under the sidewalks. This structure has the most pleasing facade on Lake street. The openings are large, the columns just where they ought to be, and the cornice sits in its place in the most perfect proportion. Its cost was about $120,000.
Crerar & Adams Building (Robbins’ Estate)
205 & 07 South Water street
Southeast Corner of South Water street and Fifth avenue
The South Water street building is 80 by 150 feet, with a beautiful cut stone front. It is in every respect a fit companion for the Lake street structure. Its cost was $100,000. Messrs. Creerar, Adams & Co., are the lessees, as will be seen in the engraving, and of whom we make further mention elsewhere in connection with an article on their works. This reputable firm will find this building most comfortable and elegant quarters.
Work was commenced on both of the buildings early in May last. Mr. John A. Yale, the agent of the Robbins estate, has labored with a will to bring them to rapid completion, without sacrificing either solidity or perfection inn the construction. He was one of the earliest to clear away the rubbish and enter upon the work. The Robbins estate had twelve stores destroyed in the fire, which they are rapidly rebuilding.
Crerar & Adams Interior
11 Fifth Avenue
Crerar, Adams & Co.
Inter Ocean, October 10, 1909
Crerar, Adams & Co., dealers in railway supplies, have bought from Henry R. Lloyd a site for a new warehouse at the southwest corner of Erie street and Fairbanks court, in the St. Claire Manufacturing district. The land has a frontage of 220 feet on Erie street by 109 feet on the court and the larger part of this tract will be occupied by a seven story structure containing 100,000 square feet of floor space, which is estimated to cost not less than $125,000. The sale was made through the Bowes Investment company.
The consideration for the land in this deal is given at $40,000 cash, and it is said that Mr. Lloyd bought it less than two years ago for $18,600. Crerar, Adams did & Co. have been located at the southeast corner of South Water street and Fifth avenue for nearly forty years and are induced to move because of the increasing difficulty experienced in handling business in that congested district.
Chicago Tribune, October 20, 1889
John Crerar, the Chicago Merchant.
John Crerar of the firm of Crerar, Adams & Co. of this city died at a quarter before 12 o’clock Saturday morning at the residence of Mr. Norman Williams, No. 1836 Calumet avenue. Mr. Crerar had not been in his usual health for several months. He expected to go abroad for the summer, but upon the advice of his physicians the trip was given up, In the month of June he passed two months at Waukesha. In. August, accompanied by Dr. Frank Billings he went to Atlantic City, and was at that place during the recent severe storm on the New Jersey coast. Sept. 9 he suffered from weakness of the heart and a partial stroke of paralysis on his right side. During the following week, upon the advice of Dr. Billings and the consulting physicians, Dr. Pepper of Philadelphia and Dr. Reed of Atlantic City, he was removed to Chicago and taken to the residence of Mr. Williams. Since his return Dr. H. A. Johnson has assisted in attending him. His friends hoped that with his strong constitution he would speedily recover, but the illness proved too severe, and Saturday morning he quietly passed away. The immediate cause of his death was heart failure.
Mr. Crerar has been well known in religious, business, and social circles of Chicago for many years. He came to the city from New York in 1862, and has lived here ever since. He was a member and regular attendant of the Second Presbyterian Church of this city; he was also one of the trustees of that church, and always exhibited large-hearted liberality and generous interest in the welfare of the church and of its Sabbath, mission, and kindergarten schools. He was one of the original incorporators of the Pullman Palace Car company and was a director of that company as well as of the Chicago & Alton railroad. the Illinois Trust and Savings Bank, the Chicago Aid and Relief Society, the Presbyterian Hospital, the Chicago Orphan Asylum, and a number of other institutions. He was also President of the Chicago & Joliet railroad and a member of the Chicago Commercial and Literary Clubs. He found much enjoyment in the meetings of the Commercial Club and was an earnest supporter of the various enterprises of that organization. Mr. Crear was 63 years old and unmarried. His parents and two brothers, the only members of his family, lie buried in Greenwood Cemetery, Brooklyn, and in compliance with his request his remains will be placed by the side of his “honored mother.” When in New York he attended the Scotch Presbyterian Church, of which he and his family were members. Prior to his coming to Chicago be was a member of the firm of Jesup, Kennedy & Co., composed of Morris K. Jesup and John S Kennedy of New York. He was also President of the Mercantile Library Association of this city. He retained his membership in the Union League and the Century Clubs of New York and kept up his acquaintance with a large circle of friends in that city. Mr. Crerar’s father died in the infancy of the son. His mother’s name was Agnes Smeallie, She was born in 1795 and died in New York in 1873. During her life she was the object of the care and devotion of the son. She married a second time, her husband’s name being William Boyd. He died in 1864. One son was born of this marriage. He afterwards died, as did also the other brother, a few years since, also from heart failure. Upon his father’s side there are no relations. Upon his mother’s side there are a number of cousins who reside in Schenectady and Delaware Counties New York. In religion Mr. Crerar was a consistent member of the Presbyterian Church. He was deeply interested in religious movements and contributed largely to religious societies. Many individuals, families, and charities will also bear willing testimony to his heartfelt and unostentatious liberality. In polities he was a Republican. He never held office. At the last Presidential election he was the Republican Elector for the First District of this State. As a citizen he has been modest and retiring, but always ready and prompt to give of his means when calls for help were made upon the city. After the great fire of 1871 he was a member of the Aid and Relief Society, and gave valuable assistance to that noble organization. The contributions from the New York Chamber of Commerce and other donors in the aid of Chicaspeen successful, exhibiting conservative judgment.
The number of organizations to which he belonged attest the respect and esteem in which he was held by his associates. He was a man of strong personality, of refined and simple taste. He enjoyed art, literature, and music. In temperament he was genial and happy. He was also considerate, sympathetic, companionable. He was a man of positive convictions and nothing could serve him from his sense of right.
The church has lost one of it most sincere supporters, the city an honorable and upright citizen, and his friends a warm-hearted companion. His memory will long be cherished and his name often and kindly spoken by those who knew him.
Figure ① 205 & 07 South Water street
Southeast corner of South Water street and Fifth avenue
Figure ② 11 & 13 Fifth Avenue
Northwest Corner of Lake street and Fifth avenue
Robinson Fire Map
Crerar Adams Building
Southeast corner of South Water street and Fifth avenue
Sanborn Fire Map
Chicago Tribune, November 16, 1896
Among the events of the new year in Chicago will be the opening of the John Crerar Library. The exact date has not yet been decided upon, but every effort is being made to get the books in readiness for the public by January.
The library is to be on the sixth floor of the new Marshall Field Building, Wabash avenue and Washington street. This entire floor has been remodeled and fitted up with all appropriate libraqry furniture and appurtenances.
Inter Ocean, January 17, 1897
JOHN CRERAR LIBRARY.
The John Crerar Library can really be said to be prospective only, inasmuch as nothing has been done beyond planning. John Crerar died in Chicago, October 19, 1889. His commercial ventures had been successful, and after devising liberal bequests to his relatives, friends, and public charities, he left the remainder of his estate in trust for the establishment of a public library. The amount so left Is estimated at two and one half million dollars. Messrs. Norman Williams and Huntington W. Jackson were appointed by the will executors of the estate, with power to add to their number for the management of the library. The only stipulations in the will restricting the executors in the formation of the library were that it should be In the south division of the city and that trashy novels — particularly French novels — should not be admitted to the shelves. Only a few steps have been taken up to the present time. Having obtained the passage of an act by the General Assembly authorizing the Incorporation of boards of trustees for the management of libraries provided for by will, 11 well-known gentlemen were chosen, who, with the executors, organized under the new law. They have decided that the library shall be for reference only; that it shall be a purely scientific library, and that only the income from the main bequest shall be used for all expenses. This amount is estimated to be about $100,000.
The John Crerar Library
Reading Room 1
Marshall Field Building
Founded by John Crerar and J. McGregor Adams ca. 1868, Crerar, Adams & Co. was a leading supplier to the railroad industry. In 1889, John Crerar died at the home of his good friends, Norman and Caroline Williams. Crerar had made his fortune as a partner in the firm of Crerar, Adams & Company, the largest railroad supply concern in the Midwest. He also helped finance and promote George Pullman’s new Palace Car Company. Crerar was a lifelong bachelor and had no direct heirs, and made numerous generous bequests, the largest of which was set aside for the creation, construction, and maintenance of the John Crerar Library.