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That Toddlin' Town: 1910

Chicago circa 1910. "State Street, south from Randolph." On the left we see the Masonic Temple and Marshall Field department store buildings. 8x10 inch glass negative. View full size.

Chicago circa 1910. "State Street, south from Randolph." On the left we see the Masonic Temple and Marshall Field department store buildings. 8x10 inch glass negative. View full size.


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We lived in Chicago on and off for several years when I was a kid, and then from 1974 until 1991 I lived thirty miles away in Northwest Indiana. We used to ride the South Shore Line to Randolph (end of the line) and walk a few blocks to Marshall Field's to spend the day shopping and having lunch. If the weather was nice we might venture outside and walk over to Michigan Avenue, turn and head north towards the river, maybe even going as far as Water Tower Place. But on winter days, it was such fun to stow your coat in a locker at Field's and spend the day roaming the floors, shopping, trying on shoes, sniffing perfumes, maybe coming away with a treat or a treasure in one of those iconic green bags. We'll never see the like of it again. A few years ago I visited the grave of Marshall Field at Graceland Cemetery on the north side of Chicago, not far from Wrigleyville.

Financial Problems for the Most Part

Although the Masonic Temple was an exceptional building in most regards - and the tallest in the world when it opened in 1892 - it was never a financial success. The original scheme, especially the vertical shopping mall located on Floors 4-10, never worked. The elevator service, despite having 14 cars with operators, was insufficient to meet demand. The Masons sold the building at a loss in 1922, and it continued to lose money in the Depression. The construction of the State Street subway from 1936 on damaged the building's foundations, and the new owners couldn't afford to fix them; they couldn't even pay the real estate taxes they owed. In 1939, a young real estate developer named Arthur Rubloff proposed tearing it down and putting up a two-story "taxpayer" building on the site, as a way of salvaging something from the monetary mess until economic conditions improved. More than most skyscrapers, the Masonic Temple exemplifies the adage attributed to the architect Cass Gilbert: "A skyscraper is a machine that makes the land pay." In this case, it just didn't pay.

Edelweiss Beer

You can phone Canal 9 for a case of good judgment! Well, up until 1951 when the last batch was brewed.

Where are the "retro" lampposts?

I guess 1910 is too early for those.

Iconic Marshall Field Clocks

According to one source the store placed its first clock on the corner of State and Washington in 1897. (Attached image.) A much fancier clock was placed at State and Randolph in 1902. Then, in 1909 the store replaced the Washington Street timepiece with one matching Randolph Street.

Masonic Temple

Does anyone know when and why the Masonic Temple Building was torn down? It looks pretty well built to me.

[It had problems. - Dave]


Well, not from 1910, of course, but from my growing-up years loving this street so much, not just Marshall Field's, but certainly mainly Marshall Field's.

Skip stop

The derrick atop the Mandel Bros. store allows a rather precise dating (the northern half of the new building opened in Sep 1911, so, given the timing, and the attire shown, this appears to be the middle of that year).

A southward gazing visitor today would find something curious: the alternating tall buildings on the left -- Masonic Temple, Columbus Memorial and Republic buildings - had all been replaced. The demolition of the latter two occurred c. 1960, but the former was one of a number that came two decades earlier: subway construction undermining the foundations was the reason given publically, tho some claimed other reasons (below).

Ignoring the bustle(s) around him

... the fellow on the cobblestones in front of the big arched entry on left doggedly practices his curling technique for some future Olympics. Or whatever.

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