The Consumers Building, Chicago, IL
Location: 202 S State St, Chicago, IL 60604
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.