Western News Co. Handel Hall (1895)
Life Span: 1872-1913
Location: On Randolph Street, near Wabash Avenue.
Architect: John W. Roberts, Esq.
The Land Owner, July 1872
NEW BUILDING OF THE WESTERN NEWS CO.
While our telegraph and express companies and the daily newspapers are erecting elegant buildings in which to transact their business in our Rebuilt Chicago, the Western News Company, the great artery through which all newspapers and all periodical literature reaches the public to a great extent, is not behind them in its preparation for the future, as our illustration of their new building, now being erected on Randolph street, will show. This movement of John R. Walsh, Esq., the President of this Company, is but fitting the great keystone into the arch of the superstructure whose base is the telegraph, whose lateral columns are the express, and whose crowning pinnacle is the press. For what the telegraph brings to the press, the Western News Company takes up and carries to the world in its thousands of packages on every train leaving Chicago, in the shape of papers yet fresh from the rapid cylinders of Bullock and Hoe.
A few years ago, Mr. John R. Walsh laid the foundation of the immense business his Company now enjoys in a very humble way, thousands of our citizens yet remembering his news stand near the post office. From this beginning progress has been steady and rapid. Before the fire, the superb store of the Western News Company was the most elegant and well stocked in Bookseller’s Row, while its lofts and basement his away a legion of men engaged in handling the periodicals of the day, and shipping them to every newsroom in the Northwest. Saving only books of account and business papers from the fire, Mr. Walsh resumed business next day in the large basement of the brick block at the corner of West Randolph and Jefferson streets, and his customers received their supplies of papers as usual. These quarters have been enlarged by the addition of several stores, and here the business will be transacted until the completion, early this fall, of the new building.
This structure, designed by John W. Roberts, Esq., architect, will be exactly suited to the business, which, being a peculiar one, requires great room for the handling of newspapers and magazines in bulk. Its internal economy has been worked out with much care by Mr. Walsh. Externally it will present a massive appearance, without any attempt at that cheap gewgaw ornamentation which characterizes so many of our new buildings. Its erection will materially enhance real estate values in its vicinity.
The news-loving and news-buying public will still better served by this Company on the completion of this building, the erection of which is a source of congratulation from every publisher as well as every reading man in America to the Western News Company, whose success has been so signal and so rapid.
The Land Owner, April 1873
OUR HOME INDUSTRIES.—A WALK THROUGH THE GREAT ESTABLISHMENT OF THE WESTERN NEWS COMPANY
A business is not made in one day. It is patience, love of hard work, brains and indomitable energy, accompanied with a firm and unwavering purpose to succeed, that build up great enterprises through the lapse of years. Such a result is to be seen in our illustration, in this issue, of the business and various departments of the Western News Company, just removed to their elegant new building on Randolph street, near State.
John R. Walsh, the well-known and hard-working president of this company, knew, a dozen years ago when, a poor boy, he began to retail papers from the head of a barrel near the old post-office, that, in the years to come, he would be master of the news business of the West. He began with a career mapped out in his own mind of what he would accomplish. How he toiled night and day for the grand result, all of our citizens know, and we will not, therefore, recapitulate his early struggles. At the time of the fire, his establishment occupied one of the largest stores in the Booksellers’ Row, and the business of the company had attained enormous proportions. The day after the fire he found all in ashes, except his good name and the wide extended good will of his business. He re-established at once on Randolph street, on the West Side, and scarcely a customer failed to be regularly supplied with his papers. There the business was carried on while the new building was in progress of erection, through which we will now conduct the reader.
THE COUNTRY PACKING ROOM.
Let us enter the basement story. Here we find the engine room, the boilers, and, as seen in the illustration, the sluce-way through which the tons of papers are passed from the wagons. Here are deposited every day an immense mass of all the various newspapers and periodicals published in the country, the Eastern publications coming from New York in bulk, as they are thrown from a thousand presses, and here also first go THE LAND OWNER and the Chicago daily papers, from whence they are distributed all over the Nortwestern States. Here are thousands of large boxes, or pigeon-holes, upon which are painted the names of the different country customers, each newsdealer having his respective box, arranged by States and Territories. As soon as the issue of a publication arrives, the distributors count out so many Harper’s Weekly, so many Frank Leslie’s, so many New York Ledgers, so many Land Owners, and throw them into the box of the country dealer. The packers follow, putting whatever they find in the boxes into nest bundles, addressing them and making the proper entry in the books. The wagons run regularly, like the mail wagons to all trains and start “on time” with their loads of packages, every dealer being supplied as quick as express or mail matter could reach him. In these daily packages are also put whatever other goods, school or standard books, or stationery, the customers may have ordered from the house. The utmost system prevails, and in this large room where are employed a dozen men, you get the aroma of fresh printer’s ink from a thousand presses, and realize for the first time the power of the press in the great bulk of printed matter being handled before you.
THE CITY ROOM.
Ascending by the elevator to the ground floor, we find one of the largest and pleasantest stores in the city, with light on two sides. This is the City Room, where the several hundred city newspapers are supplied every morning with their stock, each coming or sending his representative for his package of the literature of the day. The rush and jam reminds one of a morning at the post-office before the letter carriers were born. Here will be seen the imperturbable Matt Wallace, superintendent of the news department, who knows more about what papers are read and sold in the West than any other man, overlooking with a vigilant eye the rapidly transacted business. From this room the city dealers are supplied with THE LAND OWNER and all other newspapers and publications, immediately upon their issue.
A Walk Through the Great Western News Co.
THE SECOND FLOOR.
On this floor is the business office, and the private office of Mr. Walsh. Here also we begin to comprehend something of the large trade of the company, by the vast assortment of all kinds of stationery displayed in the large wholesale stock. Here are immense piles of all the recently published books, all the standard works, both from American and foreign publishers, and everything known to the book trade. The utmost system prevails, and the busy clerks are rapidly filling the orders of the thousands of customers.
THIRD AND FOURTH FLOORS.
Again stepping on the elevator, we reach the third floor, where another mass of books, piled ceiling-high, meet our view. This is the school book department, in which the company have an enormous trade. It is a pleasant thing to stand here and think of thousands of scholars throughout the great West who are to enter life by thumbing these very volumes; of the hopes and fears of the youngsters who are not aware that they will meet in life much greater problems to solve than they ever encounter in their geometry. The packing and filling of orders is also going on here. and if we go still further up to the fourth floor, we find the same active scene. We can retrace our steps down the easy staircase, and stop at the office to get a pleasant word from the president, or perhaps from Cochrane, the treasurer, who may find time from opening a bushel of letters, in the morning mail, to say good morning in his genial way.
THE BUILDING, ETC.
Having thus made a journey through this establishment, we can retire to the crowded street, and view the building occupied from cellar to garret by this large business. It belongs to the better class erected since the fire, was put up under Mr. Walsh’s personal supervision, fire preventives, ventilation, vaults, convenience for the business, etc. There is not a foot of room wasted, but there is enough to fully accommodate an ever-increasing business.
Just here THE LAND OWNER would stop to say that this vast business has not been made by luck. Go through the building and see how much evidence of a chance growth you find here. It is the full development of years of industry, years of toil, and shows the stamp of an intelligence and a will that knew no such word as fail. In the growth of the great West it bears a prominent part, being a powerful auxiliary in the dissemination of news to the press and the telegraph.
A. T. Andreas, History of Chicago, Volume II, 1884
John R. Walsh is a native of Ireland. He was born August 27, 1837, and came to the United States with his parents when he was twelve years of age, settling in Chicago. At the age of eighteen, he became clerk and salesman for J. McNally, who was then one of the principal newsdealers in the city. Of pleasant manners, retentive memory and’ obedient disposition, he soon made himself popular with the patrons of the store. He knew what each customer wanted and was quick to attend to him. Says a friend who knew him at this period, ” When a man came into the store who wanted some particular thing, had perhaps ordered an extra paper or magazine, John could tell him at once whether it had come or not, or give him the special information he wanted, right off, while any of the others would have to go and look over files or lists or something which would take up time. So customers all wanted to deal with John. Mr. Walsh was one of the founders and is the president of the Chicago National Bank, to which he gives his constant personal attention during banking hours. He also continues to superintend the News Company. He was married, in 1867, to Miss Wilson of Chicago, and has five children. With evening his business cares are dismissed, and in his home and family he finds his rest and recreation. Amid all his vast business enterprises in which he has accumulated a large fortune, he has preserved the pleasant and generous traits of his younger manhood. In business dealings he is exact himself, and expects exactness in others, to the uttermost farthing, but his friendly hand is ever extended to help those who have not prospered so well as he. In all Chicago there is no more popular man than John R. Walsh.
Handel Hall Building
Chicago Tribune, May 12, 1895
W. A. Merigold & Co. closed this week the negotiations, which have been pending for eight months, for the sale of the old Western News Building, Nos. 42, 44, and 46 Randolph street. J. V. Le Moyne is the purchaser and the price paid was $210,000. It is Mr. Le Moyne’s intention to remodel the building, adding two stories to the four already built, and to transform the interior into a music hall. W.L. Tomlins is to take the music hall. The negotiations were closed only after a long effort on the part of those interested. John R. Walsh owned the west half of the property and the Hamilton heirs owned the east half. The matter was carried into court for an order of sale and finally a partition sale was ordered. The property was bought in by the Hamilton heirs for $210,000. It is the intention to have the building reconstructed and ready for occupancy by the opening of the concert season next fall. It will be run in opposition to Central Music Hall, which is directly across Holden place from this property. There will be expended $100,000 in the transforming of this building.
The Inter Ocean, October 16, 1895
THE HANDEL HALL DEDICATED.
The new Handel Music Hall in the Le Moyne Building (formerly Western News Company) on Randolph street was happily dedicated last evening with a recital under the auspices of the American Conservatory of Music. The hall is located on the second floor, but easy of access via elevators, a large east-tread stairway leading from the ornate front, and several side stairways. Its high ceiling is supported by Corinthian pillars and the prevailing color of decorations is gray touched with tracery gold. The seats (there are 520 chairs) are arranged in amphitheater form, so that the lines of eight are good from all parts of the house. The ventilating facilities are excellent and the acoustics are particularly commendable. At the north end of the hall is a gallery that can by an ingenious device be shut off from the main hall and serve as a roomy parlor for receptions. It is handsomely carpeted and finely furnished, and in all points the hall is well devised to serve a varied purpose for convenience and usefulness. The following programme was well presented and won the approval of a lrge audience:
Bach, fanatsie, C minor;
Haydn, variations in F minor;
Howard Brockway, Ballads in F major, op. 10 (new);
Eugen d’Albert, gravotte from op. 1;
Mr. Allen H. Spencer, Kjeruif, “The Princess.”
Marchot, “If You Have Nothing to Tell Me,” Mme. Ragne Linne.
Schuett, etude “Mignonne:”
Mrs. H. A. Beach, minuet, Italian;
E. A. McDowell, etude op. 46, No. 8;
Mr. Spewncer, Gounod aria, “How Regal in His Low Estate” (Wueen of Sheba);
Mme. Linne, Raff, “La Fileuse;”
Van Westerhout, “Momento Capriccios;”
Mr. Spencer, Petzel, “New Hopes;”
McDowell, “Thy Beaming Eyes;”
Mme. Linne, Liszt, “Liebestraum,” etude in D flat, “Campanella;” Mr. Spencer.
Chicago Tribune, January 5, 1913
On May 1 Marshall Field & Co. will start raising the Trude building on the southwest corner of Wabash avenue and Randolph street, and the Le Moyne building , adjoining the Trude structure on the west, preparatory to the erection in their places of a thirteen story fireproof mercantile building. It will be similar in architectural style to the other buildings of Field & Co. in that block, and will mark the completion of the work of improving the entire block.
BLOCK BOUNDED BY STATE, RANDOLPH, AND WASHINGTON STREETS AND WABASH AVENUE.
Illustration from Chicago Tribune, July 19, 1891
The Inter Ocean, October 24, 1911
Eight days after being paroled from the federal prison at Leavenworth, where he served eighteen months of a five year’s sentence for wrecking three Chicago banks, John R. Walsh, one time millionaire and railroads magnate, died at his home, 2133 Calumet avenue.
Death came at 9:30 o’clock yesterday morning, and according to his physicians is attributed to heart disease, brought to a climax by the reaction of freedom from a prison cell.
Orville E. Babcock, son-in-law of Walsh, made a sensational and bitter statement last night, in which he placed the blame of the aged banker’s death on President Taft and Attorney General Wickersham on account of the delay in granting him a parole.
Released Oct. 14.
Released from Leavenworth prison Oct. 14, accompanied by his son, Richard W. Walsh, arrived in Chicago Sunday morning, Oct. 15. Walsh smiled ascquiescence in the statement of his son as they left the prison that “father is feeling fine.” But when the two reached Chicago the aged ex-banker was visibly weak and had to be assisted in and out of a waiting automobile by his son. When the Walsh home was reached the veteran financial fighter was almost carried into the house, but then next day, after a good night’s rest, the family had difficulty i restraining Mr. Walsh from going to his office and starting the battle to recuperate the fortune he had lost.
Mr. Walsh fought against the restraint, and as he fought his strength waned and last Thursday he partly acknowledged his feebleness when he consented to take to his bed. This action of aged ex-banker marked the beginning of his end—it brought the curtain finally down upon a tragedy in real life, sympathetic ending of a career seldom if ever equaled in truth or fiction.
Mr. Walsh dies, however, as he had expressed a wish to die, surrounded by his family. When his condition grew worse the family physician was called in and remained at the bedside until Mr. Walsh had passed into his long sleep. At the bedside were the widow, the three daughters, Mrs. L. Baldwin, Mrs. Orville Babcock, and Miss Mary Walsh, and the two sons, Richard W. and John W. Walsh.
To Hold Funeral Tomorrow.
It was announced last night that the funeral would be held tomorrow, the burial to be in Oakwoods cemetery. The active pallbearers probably will be some of his former employes.
When Mr. Walsh’s condition began to grow worse Dr. Joseph H. Low, who had been in constant attendance since Thursday, called into consultation Dr. Frank A. Billings and Dr. Joseph A. Capps. It was decided that the conditions of Mr. Walsh’s heart was such that little hope could be held out for recovery.
“His pulse went down to 6, the lowest I have ever seen a patient have and still live,” said Dr. Billings yesterday. “It was his great constitution and fight for life that was responsible for this unusual condition.”
“Mr. Walsh was in good health prior to his conviction,” said Dr. Low. “The shock of his conviction brought on heart disease and he had been a sufferer from that disease ever since. The strain during the long trial had affected, but the conviction broke down his health.
“He was a very ill man at the time he was committed to the prison, but no one, it seemed, would realize it. Mr. Walsh’s health was so poor following his conviction that I entertained doubt that he would ever reach prison. His confinement greatly aggravated his condition, and he he was all broken up when he returned home. He never complained of the heart attacks until after his conviction, which, I believe, was the direct cause of his end. The shock was too great, I believe.”
End Came Peacefully.
Mr. Babcock, who acted as spokesman at the Walsh home said:
The end came very peacefully. Mr. Walsh’s health had been poor for some time, but his condition was not deemed critical. About noon yesterday Mr. Walsh was seized by a sinking spell. Medical attention was immediately summoned and efforts to revive Mr. Walsh continued all night. From the time the sinking spell overcame Mr. Walsh he never regained consciousness.
Six months ago, we went before President Taft and Attorney General Wickersham with statements from prominent physicians showing that Mr. Walsh’s condition was such that if he was kept in prison he would die.
They wouldn’t believe us when we said his health was ruined. Now they know.
They exacted the last drop of blood from him. They got it and I hope they are satisfied. This is the sentiment of the Walsh family.
The death of John R. Walsh closes the career of one of Chicago’s great financiers. From a small town to the second in the United States was the progress Chicago made in his day and Mr. Walsh played a prominent part in the wonderful growth of the city.
Was Self-Made Man.
His passing ends also the career of a man who really was self-made. Mr. Walsh won his way to fame in the financial and commercial world through his indomitable will power, his fighting ability and the power of his mental faculties.
What Mr. Walsh left in the way of an estate would not be stated by mdembers of the family yesterday. Nor would anything be given out regarding what amount, if any, life insurance he carried. At the time of the crash of his banks Mr. Walsh turned over assets said to have been worth in the neighborhood of $400,000,000. What he had himself and what was raised by him among his personal friends and business associates, made it possible for the affairs of the three Walsh banks to be liquidated without a penny loss to any of the patrons of the three institutions.
The career of the aged banker has been more spectacular than the average American millionaire. From an impoverished home in Ireland to the untold luxuries and power and the possession of millions of dollars is the startling story of success and failure which culminated in a prison cell.
Walsh’s downfall was no less rapid and spectacular than his rise to wealth and position. During his rapid flight from newsboy to bank president he acted as bell boy, usher in a theater, founder of Western News company and was interested in several small business venture.
Chicago Tribune, December 19, 1905
Old friends of John R. Walsh said yesterday (Dec. 18,1905) that his keenness to possess millions first was manifested when he conducted a small news stand at Madison and Dearborn streets on the present site of the Hartford building in 1860. The building faced what was known as Postoffice alley, a little back from Dearborn street. The postoffice is shown in the distance being the large stone building over on the Monroe street frontage. Mr. Walsh’s rise as a business man dated from his acquisition of the small one story frame building store. It was a resort for the politicians and small merchants of that day, who came in the next few years to get the war news.
His first plunge into the banking field was when he founded the ill-fated Chicago National bank, the institution which later proved his undoing, in 1882. Supported by politicians of both parties, the bank grew to be one of the powers of the Middle West.
Looking for new fields to conquer, Walsh became financially interested in the Chicago Herald. He was successful with this venture, but sold it out in 1895 and founded the Chicago Chronicle a year later. Beginning as a Democratic organ, it later developed into a full-fledged Republican paper.
The downfall of Walsh came with the failure of the greatest financial venture of a lifetime given to big financial undertakings. His three banks, for by this time he had added to the Chicago National bank the Equitable Trust company and the Home Savings bank, were closed on Dec. 18, 1905.
Walsh was indicted on Jan. 9, 1907, on 182 counts. The case was called for trial on Nov. 12, 1907, and a verdict finding Walsh guilty on fifty-four counts of the indictment was returned by the jury into Judge Anderson’s court on Jan. 18, 1908.
Overrule Motion for New Trial.
A motion for a new trial was overruled on March 13 and the defendant sentenced to five years in the penitentiary at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.
The case was appealed to the Circuit Court of Appeals by Walsh and was argued in May 20 and 21m 1909. On Oct. 5, 1909, the Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the sentence of the lower court. On Dec. 3, the petition for a rehearing was denied by the Circuit Court and Walsh was ordered into the custody of United States marshals, pending an appeal to the United States Supreme Court.
On Dec. 20, 1909, he applied for a writ of certiorari for a review of the case filed in the United States Supreme Court. This was refused by the highest court of the land and the last barrier removed which prevented Walsh from serving a prison sentence.
Walsh was charged with misappropriating funds of three banks, which he used in promoting various railroad and quarry enterprises. At the close of the three institutions on Dec. 18, 1905, it was shown that of the $35,000,000 in deposits $16,000,000 was represented by the paper and securities of Walsh enterprises.
Two days before the banks closed their door the other bankers of Chicago were informed as to the condition of the Walsh institutions.
Emergency Is Met.
Then followed a ten-hour session on a Sunday night, during which it was decided that the group of Chicago financiers present should meet the emergency.
The meeting resulted in the taking over by the clearing house banks of the securities of Walsh as collateral for his note for $7,000,000 and an agreement by which the depositors of the bank were paid in full.
On Jan. 19, 1910, Mr. Walsh entered the Federal prison at Leavenworth. A fight to get out took the place of the fight to keep out. After the incarceration steady pressure was brought to bear on President Taft and his advisors to obtain pardon of commutation of sentence for the banker. A petition showing that he had met his obligations was presented to the President a year ago and application for parole was made last January.
Legal delays piled discouragement after discouragement on the aged prisoner at Leavenworth. His son and attorney were indefatigable in their labor for the release of the father and client. Finally the case came before the board, and Mr. Walsh was released. His son journeyed to Leavenworth to meet him as he left the prison and a week ago last Sunday the broken financier returned to Chicago, the scene of his many triumphs and his one big failure.
DIRECTORSHIPS HELD BY JOHN R. WALSH.
John R. Walsh was a director in the following institutions:
Chicago National Bank
Akron Gas Company
Audit Company of Illinois
Bedford Quarries Company
Chicago Auditorium Association
Chicago Safe Deposits Company
Equitable Trust Company
Home Savings Bank
Illinois Southern Railway Company
North Shore Electric Company
Northwestern Gas Light & Coke Company
Ogden Gas Company
Rand, McNally & Company
Southern Indiana Express Company
Southern Indiana Railway Company
Western News Company
Nos. 42, 44, and 46 Randolph street
Robinson Fire Map