220 S. State Street - The Consumers Building, Chicago, IL
The 220 S. State Street Building, designed by Jenny, Mundie, & Jensen, is located at the northeast corner of State Street and Quincy court and represents the final stage of “Chicago School” design. The 21-story building features windows on all four elevations, has three basements, and a rectangular footprint with frontage of 62 ½ feet on State Street, and a depth of 144 ½ feet on Quincy. Clad in white terra cotta, the skyscraper has a steel superstructure that rests on 38 immense caissons, eight feet in diameter, driven down 120 feet to bedrock. According to a Chicago Tribune display advertisement placed by J.L. Kesner on 22 September 1912, it took 200 men, working day and night, two months to get the caissons into place. The building has flat wall planes with the exception of the north (side) elevation, which has a three-sided vertical window bay at its western end. The building’s southwest corner is slightly rounded. The two street elevations feature a distinctive tripartite design with base, shaft and capital separated by unadorned cornices.
The recessed, off-center main entrance on State Street, features a revolving door and two glass hinged doors that are framed in bronze and spanned by a deep transom etched with the words, “1 Quincy Court.” It is surrounded by polished granite with the words “1 Quincy Court” in metal lettering. Flanking this entry are contemporary metal storefronts. The first floor of the Quincy Street elevation features a series of large display windows and a metal door at its western end, which is covered with an exterior insulation finishing system (EIFS). A deep, black metal signboard above the two State Street storefronts turns the corner and extends the length of the Quincy Street elevation. It includes metal lettering for “Cosmo Beauty” above the State Street north storefront and for “Payless Shoe Source” above both the State Street south storefront and the Quincy Street display windows.
On both street elevations, floors two through four feature Chicago windows, comprised of one large fixed pane flanked by a double-hung window on either side: four along State Street and nine along Quincy Street. All upper floors feature paired double-hung windows, which are aluminum sash on the street elevations and steel fire windows on the north and west (rear) elevations. Unadorned cornices are situated above the first, 4th, 5th, 17th, and 20th floors. Spandrels above the second, third, 18th and 19th floor windows feature geometric motifs of a rectangle flanked by a diamond on either side. All other spandrels feature a rectangle above each window. The southern end of the rear elevation is covered with EIFS, and each floor of this elevation has a window leading to a metal fire escape.
The ornate lobby has a rectangular footprint and features terrazzo floors. Its walls and ceiling are clad in white Italian marble. A stately, curving marble stairway along the south wall near the main entrance leads to a door at the second floor level. Just west of this stairway, an arched opening leads to the basement stairway, which is covered by a marble barrel vault. Marble pilasters with either scrolled or naturalistic capitals are situated throughout this elegant space. The lobby is also graced by an abundance of original bronze fixtures, including a wall-mounted building directory, mailbox, elevator doors, wall sconces, and decorative baseboard grilles. The mailbox, directory and sconces feature fine craftsmanship and Classical detailing. Four large, square fluorescent lighting fixtures (non-historic) hang from the lobby ceiling. Two sets of double-glass doors framed in bronze and spanned by a deep transom access the vestibule and feature such ornamental detailing as fluted colonettes. The vestibule has large mirrored windows on each wall.
Designed by the prominent firm Jenney, Mundie and Jensen, the 220 S. State Street Building was completed in 1913 and is located at the northeast corner of State Street and Quincy Street (currently “Quincy Court”). In February 1913, owner Jacob L. Kesner signed two important long-term leases, one of which was to A. Weis & Co. for the operation of a “high class” restaurant in the basement, known as the Winter Garden cabaret. Although little information exists on this restaurant, quite a bit of the establishment’s décor remains on this level. This concentrated mass of ornamentation is a significant example of high-end restaurant décor of the era. The other lease was signed by the Hilton Company, men’s clothiers and outfitters of New York City, for the building’s corner store, which featured a series of large display windows along the length of the Quincy Street façade. Hilton paid $1,473 per front foot, which was believed to be the highest rent per front foot ever paid for State Street store space.
Referred to the “State and Quincy Building” in original plans, the building’s name was changed in March 1913 to the Consumers Building, due to a lease signed with the newly formed Consumers Company to occupy the 20th and 21st floors. The Consumers Company—formed through a recent $11 million merger between Chicago’s principal ice and fuel companies: the Knickerbocker Ice Company and the City Fuel Company—installed a 60-foot electric sign with its name on the roof of the building. Consumers remained in the building for just four years, moving in 1917 to the Conway Building.
In 1917, the building’s tenants included a number of film companies, such as the Pathe (4th floor), Universal (15th floor), Mutual (18th floor), and Feature (4th floor). Other tenants in 1917 were the Hilton Company, clothing dealers (1st and 2nd floors), Remington Typewriter Company (3rd floor), and Silhanek Brothers Tailors (6th floor). The U.S. Government occupied the lower three floors as a labor employment bureau. In 1920, an association of motion picture theater owners called the Allied Amusements Association located on the building’s 13th floor. Other tenants from that year included the Pullman Company, Liberty Mutual Insurance Co., Carnation Milk Products Company, Integrity Mutual Insurance Co., and the Cooperative stores.
In 1931, Jacob Kesner conveyed title of the 220 S. State Street Building to his son-in-law, I.W. Kahn, who headed the Kesner Realty Trust with offices in the Kesner Building at 5 North Wabash Avenue. Two years later, during the height of the Depression, the Trust quit paying ground rent on the property. As a result, the $2 million bond issue that Jacob Kesner had floated in 1924, about $200,000 of which was retired, went into default. The bondholders brought foreclosure proceedings and the taxes went unpaid. Together, the rent and the taxes amounted to about $500,000. In 1937, a circuit court judge turned the building over to the owners of its two ground leases. One parcel was owned by Mrs. Emily Osborn Bliss and Mrs. Mae Osborn Carothers, and the other by the Continental Illinois National Bank and Trust Company and the Northern Trust Company as trustees.
The 220 S. State Street Building received a new ground floor tenant in 1931, when Benson & Rixon, men’s clothiers in Chicago for 45 years, rented 5,000 square feet of space. The store had a window space in the lobby, as well as State Street frontage of 45 feet and a Quincy Street frontage of 144 feet, giving it one of the largest window displays in the Loop. Tailoring workrooms were established on the second floor, with a direct elevator connection. Benson & Rixon moved in 1936 to temporary quarters in the 206-212 S. State Street Building while their new building at 230 S. State Street was under construction. Their former retail space on the first and second floors was subsequently leased to Howard Clothes, Inc., of Brooklyn, New York, as their first branch store in the Midwest. Howard reportedly embarked upon a modernization program of their new space, which included the installation of an air conditioning system. Howard remained in the building until at least 1975.
In 1947, the building was sold to the 220 S. State Street Corporation at a cost of $2 million. The sellers were the Continental Illinois Bank and Trust Company and the Northern Trust Company as trustees, and Emily Osborn Bliss and Mae Osborn Carothers. The 220 S. State Street Corporation sold the building in 1960 to a syndicate of Chicago investors for $2 million. The new owners reportedly planned to upgrade the building, prompted by their belief in the rejuvenation of the south end of the Loop due to the planned Federal Center directly to the west on Dearborn.