Pike’s Block, Ayer’s Building.
The Academy of Fine Arts (Art Institute) occupied this building between 1879-1882
Life Span: 1872-1955
Location: Southwest Corner of State and Monroe streets
Architect: John W. Roberts
The Land Owner, October, 1872
REBUILT CHICAGO—BLOCK ERECTED BY E. S. PIKE, SOUTHWEST CORNER STATE AND MONROE STREETS.
Our title page this month displays one of the most beautiful and entirely symmetrical buildings yet illustrated—the new block erected by Mr. E. S. Pike, at the southwest corner of State and Monroe streets, directly opposite Potter Palmer’s Grand Hotel. This superb stone and iron edifice is most eligibly located at one of the best business centres—directly opposite what will be our best hotel, near the new custom house, and the many other fine buildings going up in its immediate neighborhood. As you pass down State street, turn from the contemplation of the myriad columns of the Grand Hotel, this noble building is before you, presenting a style of architecture new here. Along the Grand Canal in Venice, you see structures somewhat resembling but not equaling it, as they are old and dingy, and were built when architects paid more attention to an effective facade, than to adaptability to the uses of trade. Internally and externally the Pike Block is complete and beautiful. It stands 120 feet on Monroe by 80 feet on State. The first story front is of iron, above which is blue and white Athens stone, cut and carved by skillful workmen, and fitted together like one piece, its five stories being surmounted with a graceful cornice that looks for all the world like the Pitti palace at Florence, as it is as solid and massive without tawdry display. Steam elevators are being put in place, rendering every floor alike accessible and desirable for business. The architect is John W. Roberts, Esq., who has in this building a monument that will outlast his life, and always speak of his abilities.
The Land Owner, October, 1872
The splendid corner store of this building, 54 feet on State by 120 feet on Monroe street, is being fitted up especially for the occupancy of Messrs. N. Matson & Co., one of the largest and most reputable wholesale and resale jewelry houses. When the marble counters, artistic frescoes, massive bronze Chandeliers, and delicately carved black walnut cases are in place, and their counters sparkling with diamonds, and most recherché jewelry and rare articles of virtu, the store will be better and finer than Chicago ever had before the fire, and will rival the famous jewelry stores that stretch along the Rue de la Paix in Paris, from Boulevard des Italienes to Place Ven Dome. Already do we see in this elegant establishment a little of what our new Chicago will be.
The name of N. Matson & Co., wholesale and retail jewelers, is a household word to our people, the house having been established here for upwards of ten years, and being one of the oldest jewelry firms in the city. It is composed of N. Watson, Geo. Johnson, L. J. Norton and W. E. Higley; Mr. Johnson, having taken the place of Mr. Pike, the owner of the building. Mr. Johnson is a wealthy capitalist of the East, who has recently come here. Before the fire the firm wee located at 117 Lake street, from which place they re-established themselves at 481 Wabash avenue, where they will remain until the new store is completed, which will be but a few weeks. Mr. Matson was for several months in Europe, engaged in purchasing stock for the new store, which is now arriving by every steamer. He sent home many marvelous things from the workshops of Paris, Vienna and Geneva, in which cities are wrought the most delicate articles of the jewellers’ trade. From the French capitol, now awaking to new industry and life, he forwarded real French Bronzes, Clocks, Opera Glasses, Jewel Cases, and the thousand and one things found nowhere else. From Vienna sent a large stock of the celebrated leather goods for which the Austrian capital is so famous. From Geneva is coming the watches of Patek Phillipe & Cie., for which they are the sole agents here, delicately carved articles of ornament that the Swiss peasants dig out in the Vade de Chamounix, and the sweet toned musical boxes, that all the world admire, and from Chaux de Fonda, nestled down among the Tyrolese Alps, is coming the well-known watches of Chas. E. Jacot, for which this firm are also the sole agents in Chicago.
We need say nothing more about this new jewelry palace. Go and see it, and be convinced that all the world has been made tributary to its demands.
THE AMERICAN CLOCK CO.
One can foretell the destiny of Chicago without a horoscope, but one cannot get up or lie down or dine or go out on the boulevard to see Potter Palmer’s new villa, without a clock in his house. The American Clock Company has taken Time by the forelock, being on familiar terms for many years with the old fellow, and being more capable of approaching him than anyone else. In a word, Mr. W. F. Tompkins, the Agent, has secured the south store in the Pike block, No. 172 State street, where he will soon be found located. This company is sole agent for the six largest clock companies in America: the E. N. Welch Manufacturing Co., New Haven Clock Co., Seth Thomas Clock Co., Gilbert Manufacturing Co., Welch, Spring & Co., and Seth Thomas & Sons & Co. These six establishments manufacture 80 per cent of all the clocks in the United States. Of three million dollars worth of clocks made in Connecticut last year, two million five hundred thousand were turned out by these companies. The American Clock Co. has houses in New York, Chicago and San Francisco. It will be surprising to our readers to know that the trade in clocks in this city is now double what it was in New York ten years ago, a point in our rapid advancement which it will be well to note, against the next time you get into conversation with Alderman Blowhard, of St. Louis.
Before the fire, the store of this Company was at 105 Lake street. After the little blaze they hastened to get under way without delay, at 587 Wabash avenue, and now their next move will be into their fine new store. Everything in the line of clocks can be found there, from the ponderous tower clock that tells the world the time, to the neatest little bijou time piece for your library mantle. Thee may also be found those good old Seth Thomas clocks, with their steady, faithful, unvarying pendulums, which we first made the acquaintance of in our dear old home east. You know them. On the door of the square mahogany case is a picture of the capital at Washington, made by Seth himself, back in the good old days when a picture of the capital made us all happy, before there was any big jobs going on there, and when the men that sat in its chambers went there to legislate for their country, with pure hearts and pure motives. One of these clocks in our old home still sits on the shelf where our eyes first beheld it, and it will never wear out. In its case are stowed away all sorts of forbidden pieces of paper and little bundles, for it is a sort of recepticle also of family relics. There are more modern pieces here, more elaborate, more costly, in fact, everything in the clock line, and enough of them in number to keep time for all the world and a part of New Jersey. The store is being elegantly fitted up to adapt it to their large business. Mr. Pike is fortunate in securing in securing this extensive concern as tenants, and they are lucky in their choice of location.
A. H. ANDREWS & CO.
Four stories of this building are occupied by Messrs. A. H. Andrews & Co., manufacturers of school furniture. We say school furniture, for while this firm makes office, bank and library desks of the finest quality and to an immense extent, it is through their school furniture that they are most widely known. In no country but our own, could such a business as this have been created. In the older countries, scholars still sit in rude benches, while more children never enter the school-room. But in America, high inventive genius and the best mechanical skill have united in making the most elegant, healthful and comfortable seats possible for the wants of our common schools. A gentleman from Detroit, familiar with the mechanic arts, and now connected with the educational department of his State, was in our city last week and remarked in our hearing, “I have been led to investigate and watch this most important matter for years. There is no seat in the East so good as the Andrews make—the best are far behind—while the best features of the seat now made in our State and by other Western makers, are for our own city is now less decisive—ten large contracts, amounting to seventy-five thousand dollars, having been given to Messrs. Andresw, and their seats, many years in use, are now doing good service. The popular testimony is still more convincing. The Messrs. Andrews are now the greatest makers of school furniture in the world, and send their desks to Essex county, Massachusetts, and to the valleys of the Connecticut; to the Quakers of Philadelphia and the Mormons of Salt Lake; to the lumbermen of Maine and the border schools of Texas, their orders often reaching from two to three thousand desks per week—some Eastern cities having reached $20,000 in their orders. This exceeds the testimony of individuals no matter how influential, or the utterances of any press, no matter how proud it be to record the achievements of its fellow citizens.1
Energy and skill have raised this business from the smallest beginnings to a great manufacturing interest, and the Messrs. Andrews are now completing a five-story building, 115 by 44 feet, of the first class, at the corner of Polk and Desplaines streets, for the manufacture of their school desks and seats. It looms above the other buildings and manufactories about it. Passing through its extensive rooms the other day, we found them alive with workmen, though the building is not yet completed; the masons, plumbers and carpenters vieing with the cabinet makers at their benches in their ceaseless toil. We saw here the splendid show cases of Messrs. N. Matson & Co., whose magnificent jewelry establishment will also be in Mr. Pike’s building on State street. We saw also pulpits, pews and lecture-room settees in great variety in all stages of progress, and learned from one of the proprietors that the calls for these goods were so numerous and urgent, that this branch of manufacture promised to soon exceed in magnitude the other, which has naturally led to it. In this new factory, the furnishing of churches will eceive full attention. The combining of wood and iron at Chicago, and admit of shipment to the great Eastern cities at lower prices than the cost of manufacturing there, is a fact suggestive of vast possibilities. Enterprise could ask no wider field, and the firm whose business we have sketched, have fully establoshed their right and ability to lead occupying it.
Chicago Tribune, December 10, 1872
The resumption of business on the South Side bu old established firms is now an event of daily occurrence, and in every instance they have opened in better quarters than they occupied before the fire, and with larger and finer stocks of goods. This is true of Matson & Co., jewelers, formerly of No. 117 Lake street, who opened yesterday in their new store, at the southwest corner of State and Monroe streets. The first floor is certainly one of the most elegant show-rooms in the country. A black walnut partition, with French walnut panels, about seven feet high, divides the room into wholesale and retail departments, the latter in the front, measuring 80 feet by 54, the former 40 by 54. The ceiling is 18 feet in the clear, and is supported by a row of solid columns painted white and trimmed with gold. There are twelve immense plate glass windows and one door at the side, and four windows and three doors in front. Daylight streams through in abundance. Circular gasoliers, with double rows of jets, one above the other, illuminate the scene at night. There are four counters, two in the middle and one on each side =. These counters are composed of a combination of colored marbles, the base being Columbus marble, the panels Champagne marble, and the remaining parts statuary marble. On the counters are rosewood show-cases, having panes of French plate glass, twelve feet long. Behind the side counters, standing against the walls, are black walnut cabinets, with French walnut panels, carved and wrought with singular taste. The offices of the firm, located near the partition, are furnished regardless of expense. On the main floor is the great vault, 9 feet long, 15 wide, and 13 high, and directly under it in the basement, is another vault, nearly as large. Fie-brick laid in cement, form walls, 30 inches thick, and the doors are Hall’s burglar and fire proof pattern. The more valuable goods, such as jewelry, plate, watches, and all property belonging to customers, will be stored in the upper vault at night for safe keeping, and the lower vault will protect goods in stock. There are also two Herring safes on the main floor. The cost of fitting up this establishment was $35,000. An idea of iuts magnificence may be gathered from this imperfect description, but it must be seen to be appreciated. The firm claim that their store is the finest in the country.
Interior View of N. Matson & Co.’s Jewelry Store, Corner State and Monroe Streets.
The stock comprises everything that is made in the jewelry line. The various departments are under the control of courteous and attentive clerks. The diamond cases contain all kinds of precious stones, made up in rings, crosses, brooches, etc. There are also cameos, pearls, and corals of great beauty and value. Some of the diamond solitaires sell from $1,800 to $3,000, and a bracelet, pin, and earrings of solid black onyx set with diamonds, are worth $2,500.
There are watches from all the great manufactories in this country and Europe, ranging in prices from $30 to $600, Jacot and Pater Philips’ make are specialties of this establishment, and there is also Jurgensen, Elgin, Waltham, and other famous time-keepers. There are also clocks, for ornament and use. The regulator is a mammoth Howard clock with a compensating pendulum. Its time will be checked every day by observations of the sun made daily from an observatory on top of the building.
The silverware is exhibited in the cabinets. It is enough to say that it comprises everything in that line, from a spoon to a tea set valued at $1,000. The bronzes imported by the firm were selected by Mr. Matson, who spent three months in Europe purchasing the stock. It may be remarked in this connection that the firm imports its goods direct from the foreign countries where they are manufactured, and are therefore able to sell as cheap,if not cheaper, than New York and Boston houses. Of the bronzes, there is an infinite variety, suited to all purposes. They are in gold and green, silver and copper. One group, representing Perseus and Andromeda, is for sale at $1,400.
There are other departments, including fancy perfumery and toilet articles, pocketbooks in morocco, traveling-bags, work-boxes, etc. A music-box capable of executing thirty-six different airs, is valued at $1,050; and a centre-table, made of 85,000 different pieces of choice wood, and which was awarded a gold medal at the Pris Exposition, is for sale ar $1,500. It is a fac simile of one presented to President Lincoln.
The wholesale department contains goods in large quantities to suit the country trade, and the store-room in the basement is full of reserve stock. The value of the entire stock is three-quarters of a million.
Chicago has reason to be proud of the fact that the fitting up of this establishment was the work of its own craftsmen. After visiting New York, Boston, and Philadelphia, the firm discovered that the finest work was done in this city, and accordingly gave it the preference. The wood-work was done by A. H. Anderson, of State street.
It is truly a magnificent enterprise. Hundreds of citizens thronged the store yesterday. It is one of the wonders of the new city, and will be visited as one of the sights by persons from abroad.2
Chicago Tribune, March 2, 1873
Messrs. A. H. Andrews & Co. have now on exhibition at their new , No. 170 State street, a large and handsome assortment of elaborate office desks, from new and attractive designs by their own artists. All their work is made at their own factory, and all shrinkage and warping in goods by them is at their risk, and any article not found perfect in this respect will be promptly exchanged or money refunded. Also, in stock the largest and most varied assortment of plain desks and office chairs to be found in the West. Messrs. A. H. Andrews & Co. are proprietors of Dill’s Excelsior Marquetrie Patents, and are conducting the manufacture of this best and moet desirable of all ornamental floors, under the of the inventor. All parties needing fine work in office desks or fittings should call at the warerooms of this firm.
Chicago Tribune, December 24, 1879
ACADEMY OF FINE ARTS.—The Students and Teachers of the Art School of the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts gave a view of their work on the last term to their friends yesterday at the Academy rooms in Pike’s Building.
Chicago Tribune, August 25, 1955
The historic five story building at the southwest corner of State and Monroe sts. will be torn down soon to make way for a new two story structure. John J. Mack, owner of the property, said yesterday. Until recently the building was occupied under lease by a W. T. Grant company store.
Tentative plans call for a steel and reinforced concrete building. It will be air-conditioned. The first floor tenant will be a major merchandising concern. The entrance to the second floor may be on Monroe street.
Mack also owns the five story building adjoining to the south which is being modernized for re-occupancy by Kitty Kelly Show company.
Fronts on Two Streets.
The building to be demolished fronts 80 feet on State and 120 on Monroe. It was built in 1872 by E. S. Pike and called it Pike Block. Later it was known as the Ayer building. It has been remodeled at least six times.
The Art Institute of Chicago (then the Academy of Fine Arts) established its first home there in 1886. An early description of the building noted that its first story front was of iron and blue and white stone and that steam elevators would make “every floor accessible and desirable for business.”
Leichenko to be Architect.
Leichenko & Associates, Inc., will be the architect and engineer for the new building and Alfred B. Perlman & Co. will be managing and rental agent.
Mack has built a number of skyscraper apartment buildings along Lake Shore dr. and Sheridan rd. and currently is putting up what will be Chicago’s biggest apartment building, a 662 unit structure, at 3950 Lake Shore.
Pike Block (later Ayers Building)
Southwest corner State and Monroe
Robinson Fire Map, 1886
Volume 1, Plate 1
1 During the 1880s, the company opened branches in New York, Philadelphia, and Boston. Andrews & Co. started to produce metal furniture in the early 1890s, but it entered bankruptcy in 1895 and sold off its assets in order to pay debts. In the early 1900’s company reorganized as a wholesaler and was no longer a manufacturer.
2 Matson & Co. went into receiver ship on August 18, 1887, just a few weeks after Mr. Newell Matson’s death (July 28). It appeared that there was little confidence that the heirs were capable of handling the management of the business. A side note, Mr. Matson’s oldest daughter, Fiora, married A. H. Andrews.