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TOBEY BUILDING Howe Machine Company Building, Nee-Ban Japanese Store
Life Span: 1873-1986
Location: 210 State street, SE corner State and Jackson streets
Architect: C. P. Randall
The 1873 Inter-State Exposition Souvenir Book
Howe Sewing Machine Company, New York; Chicago office, corner of State and Jackson streets; J. O. Bryant, Manager.Sewing Machines and Samples of Work. The Howe machine, which is known in almost every household throughout this country and Europe, and which has been awarded hundreds of premiums for superior excellence, needs no comment in this volume. That the Howe machine is all that it is claimed to be there can be no doubt, so fully has the fact been demonstrated. Elias Howe, Jr., the inventor, who is well known to the world, laid the corner stone for the immense structure he has since built in 1845, when he completed his first machine, after years of patient toil for the benefit of the sewing fraternity, and his name will always be venerated and revered by that class he has so greatly benefited.
The Tobey Building
Concept Drawing, sixth story added.
Southeast Corner of State and Jackson Streets
Chicago Tribune, July 24, 1875
THE HOWE MACHINE COMPANY.—The name of Howe is inseparably connected to with the sewing-machine, and is synonymous for originality, excellence, and fairness. The present Howe machine has the prestige of the inventor’s name behind it, and in all the essentials of superiority it has proved itself entitled to bear the name of the great inventor.
The machine has now been in use the world over for many years. The pioneer of all sewing-machines, it has kept itself always to the front, and by continued improvements has maintained its rank among the few leading machines now manufactured.
The Chicago headquarters of the Howe Machine Company are in the commodious and handsome building on the southeast corner of State and Jackson streets. Mr. J. O. Bryant, the General Western Manager, has been connected with the Company for nearly fifteen years. He is practical sewing-machine man, and serves the public and his Company with equally distinguished success. This gentleman is radical in his opinions as to the slurs which have been flung at the sewing-machine trade. He freely submits his books for inspection to those who may be entitled to information on this subject.
The books tell a direct story, pointed enough to forever silence the snarlings of ignorant critics. Page upon page, and volume after volume, show a never-ending series of palpable attempts to defraud the Company of machines. There are entries of machines on which only a few dollars have been paid in half a dozen years, and almost innumerable cases in which the Company has been swindled altogether.
Mr. Bryant is strongly in favor of discontinuing the lease system entirely. No canvassers are employed by him at all in the city, and those who are doing business outside are now instructed to make cash sales just as far as it can be done.
Conversations with him show that the Howe machine is holding steadfastly to its deserved popularity. The sales in America last year amounted to over 108,000, while upward of 40,000 were sold during the same time in Europe. No better evidence could be afforded of the fact that the machine is an absolute favorite in two hemispheres.
Chicago Tribune, March 17, 1878
J. C. Sampson Co., for Charles Tobey, have rented the store and basement of the building on the southeast corner of State and Jackson street to the Singer Sewing-Machine Company for three years at $4,000 a year. The Howe Company have rented quarters on the southwest corner of State andJackson streets. There is a nest of sewing-machine companies in the vicinity of State and Jackson streets.
Inter Ocean, June 4, 1884
The large six-story building fronting forty feet on State street and 144 on Jackson, formerly known as the Toby Building, has been a cause of considerable comment during the past year. For many months the large store-room on the first floor remained unoccupied, and many people wondered why Mr. Leiter, the restlessly energetic owner, should allow it to remain it in that condition, but no definite answer could be obtained. The cause has now developed, and it gives the writer pleasure to describe what has been turned into the most interesting and conspicuous building in Chicago. The improvements in this building inaugurate a movement which is destined to draw the best business tenants south on State street beyond the boundary of respectability which so long held strong demarcation near the Palmer House.
Some representatives of the development of the growing manufactures of the Japanese Empire were here in Chicago for the purpose of having a building erected for a permanent exhibition of Japanese art, and in that connection met Mr. Leiter. Instead of erecting new property, Mr. Leiter proposed to remodel the Tobey Building which the dainty and artistic nature of the exposition required, and as the Japanese were not ready to come to Chicago at once, he held the property and made the expensive changes demanded in order to secure a good tenant.
The improvements have all been made. Both on the lower and office floors on a scale of elegance which is unexcelled in any building in Chicago, and the name changed to the Japanese Building.
The Japanese Exposition occupies the ground floor and basement, while the five floors above are divided into eighty-four elegant offices. In the reconstruction of the building the whole of the dead walls above the street line were removed and replaced by columns. The whole frontage of 184 feet on Jackson street is lined with large sheets of plate glass in designs furnished by the Japanese artists.
The exquisite beauties of the productions of Japanese artists and manufactures warrant the use of as much light as can be procured, and during the evenings a thirty light Vandepoel Electric machine is employed for the lighting of the interior and illuminations of the building. These lights are distributed in a novel manner and are observed by people in all parts of the city during the evening when ignited. Of the thirty lights used, seven only are inside of the building, while twenty-three are used outside. Beginning at the top, a cluster of four crown a colossal figure of a Japanese woman, which reaches thirty feet above the roof; one light is held in her hand in lieu of a lantern; three illuminate the transparency “Nee Ban,” which is the Japanese name of the Exposition, four are distributed along the front and side edges of the roof to outline the building; while projecting from the corners of each story are lights which are seen in four directions along State and Jackson streets, while the remainder are used in the street.
The Electric lights above described were furnished by the Vandepoel Electric Light Company, Chicago.
In the following sketches of the occupants of different offices and the class of business conducted in them, we desire to say, in the language of a well-known business man who has occupied the building since it was first opened to the public, “I tell you,” said the gentleman, “Mr. Leiter has a fine class of tenants this year. I am personally acquainted with every one of them, and would gladly commend them to those making inquiries if I were requested to do so. They are all doing a good business, and some of them represent the largest mercantile and manufacturing concerns in the United States.” The elevator boy (who by the way, is always at his post of duty) says that from 1,500 to 2,000 persons are carried up into the building daily. This speaks volumes for the office tenants, and the amount of business drawn to the building by them.
The Marquis Handbook of Chicago, 1885
Nee Ban :—In the summer of 1881 there was established in San Francisco a comprehensive and extensive Exposition of the Arts and Manufactures of the Japanese Empire, for the purpose of presenting them in the most attractive manner to the people of the Pacific Coast and tourists from abroad. This exposition was called Ichi Ban, which is the Japanese for No. 1, and which in that language not only stands for the numerical unit but has the same significance as our A No. 1, or first quality. The introduction of Japanese wares into San Francisco showed such marked increase under the influence of Ichi Ban that in June of this year (1884) a second exposition, called Nee Ban (No. 2), was established in Chicago at the corner of State and Jackson Streets, and has already become one of the most interesting features of the city. These exhibitions can not be properly described or illustrated in this limited space, but it will suffice to say that they are universally conceded to be the most beautiful displays of this, or any kindred class in the United States—in fact in the world. One of the most interesting features of these establishments is thirty Japanese artists, embroiderers and other artisans, dressed in their native costumes and working after the methods used in Japan, engaged in exemplifying their arts and manufactures in view of all visitors. Ichi Ban and Nee Ban are free to all visitors, who are welcome to inspect and investigate every article exhibited. and are cordially invited to do so. No one is expected to purchase anything, and above all it is desired to impress the fact that such is the case; still all pieces are marked at their values and are purchasable, at prices which are guaranteed to be as low as those which obtain in Japan, freights, duties and other expenses added.
Chicago Tribune, November 4, 1920
Jackson & State’s southeast corner comes to the front for the second time this week with a big lease. D. S. Komiss & Co., dealers in women’s apparel, have subleased from the S. & C. Clothing company all the space not rented by Rothschild & Co. for twenty years from May 1, 1921, at a term rental of course $1,440,000, including taxes and insurance.
All of the west half of the first floor, 40×72, and the entire second and third floors, 70×144, were rented at a term rental of $940,000, or at the rate of $47,000 a year. In addition, they will pay general taxes up to $25,000 per annum, special assessments, and insurance on the entire building.
Chicago Tribune, January 3, 1924
Rothschild & Co., as the name of the depaqrttment store that has done business on the corner of State and Van Buren streets for twenty years, ysrterday passed into mercantile history. Simultaneously was born the Davis Dry Goods company. The change marked the merger of Rothschild’s with Marshall Field & Co. of which the Davis sttore will be a subsidiary, though conducted independently.
Little ceremony attended the transition. There were flowers and felicitations, but that was all. Doors were open for “business as usual” at 8:3- o’clock. C. E. Davis, for many years president of Rothschild & Co., remains head of the store under its new name. Arthur Davis, former department head and mill supervisor of Field’s wholesale store, is the new vice president and general manager and Thomas A. Hunter Jr., secretary and treasurer.
SE Corner of State and Jackson Streets
Chicago Tribune, May 8, 1940
BY AL CHASE
Wreckers yesterday began slicing four upper stories of the six story building at the southeast corner of State and Jackson. A roof will be pit over the remaining two stories and the present tenants—Walgreen and Goldblatt—will continue to use the space they now occupy.
According to E. A. Bronson of the estate of Levi Z. Leiter, owner of the land and building, the shrinking of the six story structure into what nominally a two story “taxpayer” is being done to avoid the heavy expense of installation of caissons. These would have been required by the by the coming of the State Street subway if the building remained six stories. It has floating foundations which easily can carry stories without additional expense, it was said.
Cost Is About $25,000.
The razing, contract, awarded to the Federal Wrecking company, calls for completion of the demolition within 30 days. It will cost approximately $25,000 to remove the four floors and put a roof over the two lower floors., it was said.
Records fail to disclose when the present building was built, but it is known that Leiter bought the property in 1880 from Charles Tobey, one of the founders of the Charles Tobey Furniture company. It was then called the Tobey building. In 1885 the name was changed to the Japanese building, a name it has retained ever since, tho few know it by that name. Presumably it was christened because a principal tenant at the time was the Japanese Development company.
Had Many Prominent Tenants.
The building had many tenants whose names figure conspicuously in the development of Chicago. W. W. Kimball, founder of the Kimball Piano company, and who has a tall building at Jackson and Wabash named after him, was a tenant from 1887 to 1891.
Spaulding & Co., one of Chicago’s best known jewelers, occupied the corner from 1891 until 1910, when it moved to the McCormick building, Michigan and Van Buren. Other tenants were the Regal Shoe company and later the Komiss company.
How taxes have grown in Chicago is shown by the fact that Leiter paid $1,317 on this corner in 1880. The latest bill was about $25,000, the Leiter estate said.
The property fronts 40 feet on State and 144½ feet on Jackson.
Ogilvie & Jacobs
Southeast Corner State and Jackson Streets
January 17, 1949
Chicago Tribune, March 6, 1986
By John McCarron
The City of Chicago has agreed to pay $1,235,000 to Cook County Sheriff Richard Elrod and a real estate partner for land along the State Street Mall that the city needed for its new central library.
Circuit Court Judge Alfred T. Walsh set the price Tuesday after listening to appraisers hired by Elrod peg the value at $1.5 million and appraisers for the city at $1.2 million.
The property consists of a small women’s clothing store on the southeast corner of State and Jackson Streets.
The city plans to demolish the store and build a two-story glass entranceway into the north wall of the old Goldblatt’s Bros. Department Store, 333 S. State, which the city owns and will convert to a new central library.
The Elrod family has owned a half-interest in the store at 301 S. State for many years.
Records show it was purchased more than thirty years ago by the sheriff’s father, Arthur Elrod, and by his political associate from the old West Side 24th Warc, Erwin Horwitz.
Upon his death in 1959, Elrod’s share was divided between his widow, a daughter and son Richard.
Robinson Fire Map