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Lord, Smith Block
Life Span: 1873-1915
Location: 125 N. Wabash Avenue
Architect: Cochrane & Miller
The Land Owner, July, 1873
A NOTABLE BUILDING—THE WHOLESALE DRUG HOUSE OF LORD, SMITH & CO.
The illustration here presented shows a building of remarkable character, as its construction is something entirely new in this city. This edifice stands six stories and basement in height, on very solid foundations. Passers-by on Wabash avenue generally believe it to be an iron front, as we did ourselves, while the facts are that the front is composed entirely of galvanized iron, placed on a two foot brick wall. The idea of this kind of facing for a building is entirely new in Chicago, it being the first and only building of the kind erected here. The front is in the Palladian style, each story designed with heavy entablature, with arched windows, the whole crowned with a graceful and bold-bracketed cornice, also of galvanized iron. This class of work is indeed a novelty in the building world, as it combines both beauty and strength with economy and durability, this large edifice, costing but $40,000, while in cast-iron or cut stone it would have cost a very much larger amount. No reason has ever yet been discovered why galvanized iron cannot be as here successfully used in building entire fronts, as well as cornices. Many cast-iron fronts are not much thicker, while experience has shown that this material stands fire, even better than brick or stone, as it does not catch and hold the flames, and cannot crack or crumble with heat.
This imposing building was designed by Messrs. Cochrane & Miller, the well-known architects of this city, and has everywhere been distinguished by its solidity and quiet massive beauty. The front on Wabash ave. is 24 feet, the structure extending through the block to Dearborn Park, 163 feet, where it has a handsome elevation of Milwaukee brick and galvanized iron details. The galvanized iron in all its architectural details was made by Messrs. Ballard, Freeman & Maples of Toledo, Ohio, who did their work thoroughly and effectively, and in a manner entirely creditable to their artisans. This firm have a very extensive establishment, and rank high among builders for the beauty and strength of their work. The elevator was made by J. W. Reedy, of this city, who has put up many of the best now in operation in this city, it being at all times perfectly safe and reliable, constructed under his own patents. Thomas Clarke did the office finishing , which is a fine specimen of workmanship in black walnut, and reflects much credit upon his judgement and good taste. The contractor for the entire building, except the galvanized iron work, was R. H. Morgan, Esq., who performed his work in a thoroughly satisfactory manner to all parties, doing it substantial as befitted the character of the general superstructure. This building was erected by Messrs. Lord & Smith, for the us of Lord, Smith & Company.
In regard to the house occupying this fine structure, it is nt necessary for us to go into details. They are known as the very oldest wholesale drug house in Chicago, having for fourteen years transacted business under their present firm name. Their resources are large, and their stock is at all times complete in every department. Their building is fitted inside with an especial regard to their trade in all its various requirements.
Chicago Tribune, December 29, 1915
A $100,000 fire destroyed a seven story building at 121-125 N. Wabash av., early this morning and filled the loop with acrid smoke.
For a time the blaze was beyond control and threatened other structures, but 200 firemen, working in relays, prevented it from spreading. A shoe store and a florist company occupy the first floor and the fire is believed to have started in the second floor, in the kitchen of the Ontray Lunch club.
The fire boat Graeme Stewart aided the twenty engines on the scene by supplying water for three leads of hose.
The tons of water poured into the burning structure has frozen and it will be days before the wreckage is cleared.
Chicago Tribune, January 12, 1916
SHOE COMPANY LEASES.
F. E. Foster Shoe company, formerly located at 123 North Wabash avenue, which building recently was destroyed by fire, has leased from Herbert C. Metcalf the store and basement at 115 North Wabash avenue, 25×162 feet, for a term at a total rent of $137,000. It is stated the lessee will expend about $25,000 in remodeling the building. Willoughby & Co. were the brokers.1
Lord Smith & Co.
Robinson Fire Map
Chicago Tribune, November 27, 2002
By Shia Kapos, Tribune staff reporter.
During the Roaring ’20s, few places hummed louder than Chicago’s Loop, where nightspots were filled with music and dancing, movie palaces thrived and stores boomed.
Nestled among those businesses on Wabash Avenue, standing in the shadow of Marshall Field’s department store, four nondescript buildings offered such wares as dry goods, books and clothing. The buildings were among dozens built in a flurry immediately after the Chicago Fire in 1871.
Over the years, as Marshall Field’s and other businesses grew around them, the four buildings changed ownership and fell into disrepair, although their facades kept up a brave front.
So the newest owners of the block between Randolph and Washington Streets plan to keep those facades as they build a 57-story, 100,000-square-foot mixed-use building behind them in a seldom-used restoration process.
The technique, says Shawn Hunt, developer of Heritage at Millennium Park, has been used on historic properties in Paris, London and Washington, D.C. It will allow developers to construct a new building while still preserving the 1920s-era facades of the four structures.
“The challenge was trying to be as true to an original period as possible,” Hunt said. Since there were no photos available of the four buildings from the 1870s, developers chose an era in which all four structures could be identified. And the 1920s was it.
Preservationists are not outright praising the project, but they’re not criticizing it, either.
“You have to praise the developer and city for going to this extent, but our preference would have been to preserve the building in total,” said Jim Peters of the Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois, adding that, “there is a great attention to detail and craftsmanship in these buildings.”
Peters calls the refurbishing effort “facadism” and says the approach is not popular among preservationists. “Often, it looks awkward to laminate parts onto a new building,” he said, adding he is hopeful the Wabash construction is among the few that have been done well. A good example of those is the Oliver Building on Dearborn just north of Randolph, he said.
In the 1980s, the four buildings on Wabash had been proposed for landmark protection for post-fire buildings in the Loop, but that status was opposed by the buildings’ owners at that time.
The facades of four old buildings (left) on Wabash Avenue will be preserved to front the new Heritage at Millennium Park development (right).
The structures include the Couch Building, 139 N. Wabash Ave., built in 1872 and former home to the Blackhawk Lodge; the Peck Building, 133 N. Wabash Ave.; the Burton Building, 129 N. Wabash Ave.; and the Porter Building, 125 N. Wabash Ave2. The Peck and Burton buildings were built by John Mills Van Osdel, considered Chicago’s “first architect,” according to some historians.
Each building’s look is noteworthy in its own right. The Renaissance-style Peck’s facade features arched windows and Corinthian capitals. The Couch is notable for its “vermiculated finish,” or a stone surface with deep grooves that resemble worm tracks. The Burton, with its red brick, resembles the Queen Anne facades popular in the 1880s. And the Porter is distinctive for its cream-color terra-cotta finish.
And while they differ in style, Hunt says they all have one thing in common. “They are all very fragile,” he said.
For weeks, a giant metal structure has helped support the four facades, which stand like movie sets as construction crews dig behind them. In recent days, foundations have been connected to the facades so that they can stand on their own.
The facades will serve as ornamentation to the ground floor of the residential-retail building.
They are likely to attract attention because they will be standing in air that is much cleaner than it was 50 years ago, Peters said. The facades won’t have the black and grimy look of many of Chicago’s older structures.
“Once these buildings are cleaned up, they aren’t going to be just propped up but restored,” said Peters. “When they’re finished, these buildings will last a long time.”
1 The new F. E. Foster & Company store at 115 N. Wabash Avenue opened on April 10, 1916.
2 The Porter Building was built in 1916 after the fire of December 28, 1915 destroyed the previous building at this address.