Loop Chicago


Category: Then & Now

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Historic Jewelers Row

Located on Wabash Avenue between Washington and Monroe St., Jewelers Row has been a Chicago Loop gem since 1872. This historic district is home to hundreds of jewelers from around the world. Whether you are looking to buy an engagement ring or just “wow” your loved ones this holiday season, Jewelers Row is a Chicago must-do.

Happy 11th Birthday Millennium Park!

Millennium Park opened on this day in 2004! What started out as a massive parking lot, has transformed into a world-class destination. Each year an estimated 4 million people visit the 25-acre public park filled with public art, music and nature. To celebrate Millennium Park’s 11th birthday we are taking a look at the park’s history, construction, and all those “selfies” with Cloud Gate, a.k.a. “the bean.”

"Sweet Home Chicago" - Celebrating Chicago's Candy History

We are exploring the past and present of candy making in Chicago! 

Then and Now: Chicago Athletic Association Hotel

In our latest Then & Now post we take a look at the history of the Chicago Athletic Association and its journey to becoming a hotel.

Then and Now: A Look Back at Easter Fashion in the Loop

Spring is here! Take a look back at these Easter advertisements from the Chicago Tribune Archives, and see how fashion and the Loop‘s retailers have changed over the past 100 years.

Timeline: Auditorium Theatre turns 125-years-old

Today marks 125 years since the historic Auditorium Theatre first raised its golden curtains in the Loop, ushering in a new chapter in Chicago's history. Completed fewer than 20 years after the devastating Great Chicago Fire, the building—once the largest in the United States—remains a vivid example of the city's resilience.

Then and Now: Macy’s Holiday Traditions

The holidays are rapidly approaching, and Macy’s is preparing for its 107th annual Great Tree lighting at its flagship location on State Street this Saturday, November 8th. In this “Then and Now” entry, we look back at the rich history of Macy’s holiday traditions on State Street.

Chicago's Rich Architectural History

Chicago boasts a skyline envied by many other major cities. The city will welcome its first Chicago Architecture Biennial in 2015, designed to explore major architectural issues and celebrate many of Chicago’s iconic buildings. From repurposed buildings to full demolitions, this skyline has undergone quite a bit of transformation over the years. Here is a small look at some of those buildings and a step back into the Loop of architecture’s past.

From Rail Yard to Chicago's Front Yard: Millennium Park

I’ve written about Millennium Park in a few different contexts already, but this time – in celebration of the Park's tenth anniversary today – let’s talk Chicago history.

Artist's Corner: The Chicago Picasso

Location: The Picasso

The Chicago Picasso in Daley Plaza may be the strangest of the Loop’s many artistic landmarks. Despite the ongoing controversy surrounding its purpose and intent, the Picasso remains iconic of the City of Chicago and the Loop to all who visit, work, or live here. In anticipation of the creation of Chicago's new, comprehensive Public Art Plan, learn more about this beloved Loop icon.

Then and Now: A Brief History of the Chicago ‘L’

With the announcement of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s “Gateway to Millennium Park” ‘L’ station on Wabash (not to be confused with the Gateway on State Street), this month’s “Then and Now” will feature the story of the iconic Chicago ‘L’ as it transformed from a small steam powered locomotive in 1892 to one of the greatest public transportation networks in the world today, carrying over 231 million riders in 2012 alone.

Then and Now: Couch Place

Couch Place, "Chicago's Greenest Alley" and the host of our upcoming event, ACTIVATE, is at first glance a pleasant, innocent thoroughfare between State and Dearborn Streets. But a quick look back in time reveals a checkered past for Couch Place, due to one of the worst single building fires in American history at the neighboring Iroquois Theatre. Read on to find out why some visitors to Couch Place claim to this day that the alley may be haunted.

Then and Now: Bold Plans for Lake Shore Drive

For many Chicagoans, the scenic Lake Shore Drive along the coast of Lake Michigan is nothing more than an annoying stretch of traffic. But for residents in the area, it’s an important part of the neighborhood and community.

Then and Now: Taste of Chicago

The 33rd annual Taste of Chicago is right around the corner, so let’s take a look at how this iconic event began in 1980 and grew remarkably rapidly into its current form.

Then, 1980: Instant success, rapid growth

A group of ambitious restaurateurs came to Mayor Jane Byrne in the summer of 1980 with the idea of food festival in Chicago on the Fourth of July, confident that they could draw 75,000 – 100,000 people downtown on the holiday. Plans were made, a budget of $150,000 was drawn, and everyone got more than they bargained for when a whopping 250,000 Chicagoans showed up for the festivities!  The iconic Taste of Chicago was born that hot July afternoon, and it was an instant success.  

The original 1980 Taste took place on the flourishing North Michigan Avenue between Ohio Street and the Chicago River, but the very next year it was moved to Grant Park to accommodate the crowds. It has remained there ever since, and throughout the 80’s and 90’s it grew at a rapid pace from a one-day food festival into something much more:

  • 1984-5: Live entertainment added in ‘84 and majorly expanded in ‘85, due in part to Mayor Harold Washington’s discontinuation of another annual music festival, ChicagoFest
  • 1987-8: Taste of Chicago continued its rapid expansion to an eight day duration in ’87, then ten in ’88 along with 80 food vendors, causing Phil Vettel of the Tribune and other journalists to wonder where it will stop: “…if this expansion keeps up, Taste quickly could evolve into a month-long festival.”
  • 1991-9: Taste broke its own records over and over again throughout the 90’s, drawing over 300 vendor applications for the 77 spots available and over 3 million attendees annually
  • 2006: Highest attendance ever recorded, 3.6 million people

Now, 2013: Revamping the Taste of Chicago

Three decades later, the Taste of Chicago has solidified its place as the most iconic of all “Taste-of” festivals across the nation, and it is still a must-see event if you’re in the city. However, with the great recession and the city’s financial woes, Taste of Chicago witnessed a decrease in festival attendance and production since its peak in 2006, inciting some significant reforms:

  • 2009-12: Attendance declined to 3.35 million by ’09, then further to 2.65 million by ’10 and only 1.2 million recorded last year in ‘12
  • 2012: Mayor Rahm Emanuel reduced the festival length from ten days to five and introduced a reimagined Taste
  • 2012: New “Pop-up” restaurants and special celebrity “Chef du Jour” events introduced
  • 2013: New headliners including Jill Scott, fun., and Neon Trees; expansion of “Pop-up” and “Chef du Jour” programs; eleven new participating restaurants this year

In step with Mayor Emanuel, it seems that the city has placed its bets this year that quality, not quantity, will revitalize the Taste of Chicago. With the expansion of the new “Chef du Jour” program from 2012, Chicagoans or tourists who purchased $40 tickets will have the opportunity to sit down and be served a three-course meal by a celebrity chef. And with the continuation of the “Pop-up Restaurants” concept from last year—a rotation of a select number of restaurants within the event, each popping up for a day or two—organizers hope to keep things fresh and exciting throughout the event, with seven of the eleven brand-new participants in the Taste featured as “Pop-ups.”

Update: According to the city, Taste of Chicago 2013's attendance demonstrated growth from 2012, drawing an estimated 1.5 million in five days (opposed to 1.2 million last year)



Then and Now: the first Ferris Wheel

The World’s Columbian Exposition was truly a prototype of what Daniel Burnham and his colleagues thought a city should be. It was designed to follow French neoclassical architecture principles based on symmetry, balance, and splendor. And what a splendor it was. More than 27 million people attended the exposition during its six-month run. Its scale, attractions and grandeur far exceeded the other World's Fairs, and it became a symbol of the emerging American Exceptionalism. Among the attractions was one that stood apart from them all—the Ferris Wheel.

Then, 1893

The first Ferris Wheel was designed by George W. Ferris, a bridge-builder from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Ferris began his career in the railroad industry and then pursued an interest in bridge building. As he understood the growing need for structural steel, Ferris founded G.W.G. Ferris & Co. in Pittsburgh, a firm that tested and inspected metals for railroads and bridge builders. When he attended an engineer’s banquet and heard Daniel Burnham speak of not finding an attraction that “met the expectations of the people” for the World’s Columbian Exposition, George Ferris’s wheels start turning: he sketched up the idea that night on a napkin in a Chicago steakhouse and presented it to Daniel Burnham. The Ferris Wheel debuted at the World’s Columbian Exposition on June 21, 1893. Spectators marveled at the enormous structure that was then the largest single piece of steel ever made. Rotating on a 71-ton, 45.5 foot axle, the ride featured its 16 foot diameter cast-iron spiders weighing 89,320 pounds together. There were 36 passenger cars, each fitted with 40 revolving chairs and accommodated 60 people, a total capacity of 2,160 passengers. For 50 cents, each passenger would enjoy 20 minutes of incredible views peaking at 264 feet. The wheel itself closed in April 1894 and was then dismantled and stored until the following year when it was rebuilt in Lincoln Park. It operated there until 1903 and was eventually bought by Chicago House Wrecking Company for $8,150.

  • The Ferris Wheel did not open to the public until June because of arguments from the board of directors deciding whether or not to build it.
  • Two 110 ton, 2,000 horsepower reversible engines powered the ride.
  • In 1893, The Ferris Wheel cost $380,000 but 1.5 million people rode it over the course of the exposition bringing in a total profit of $750,000—saving the exposition from bankruptcy.
  • The Ferris Wheel was lit by 2,500 Edison incandescent lamps.
  • One attendee, George C. Tilyou, later credited the sights he saw in Chicago for inspiring him to create America's first major amusement park, Steeplechase Park in Coney Island, NY.

Now, 2013

Today, Chicago’s famous Ferris Wheel lives at Navy Pier. The 3,300 foot long pier was built in 1916 at a cost of $4.5 million. As part of the Plan of Chicago developed by Daniel Burnham, Navy Pier was planned and built to serve as a mixed-purpose piece of public infrastructure. With the many attractions, museums, and restaurants that thrive on the Pier today, it has upheld Burnham’s vision for almost 100 years. In 1995, the newly renovated Pier reopened with the Ferris Wheel as its focal point. The Ferris Wheel officially opened on July 1, 1995 and continues to be the Pier’s number one attraction. Modeled after the first Ferris Wheel, it stands at a staggering height of 150 feet with 40 spokes spanning a diameter of 140 feet, all illuminated by 16,000 light bulbs. With 40 gondolas each seating 6 passengers, the Wheel can comfortably seat a total of 300 people at a time for a ride taking about 7 minutes—compared to the 20 minute ride at the World’s Fair.

  • Navy Pier is the Midwest's #1 tourist and leisure destination, attracting more than 8 million visitors per year.
  • The Ferris Wheel at Navy Pier is a specifically designed, $3.2 million historic replica of the Ferris Wheel from the World’s Columbian Exposition.
  • Over 63,000 visitors take the 7 minute ride on the Ferris Wheel at Navy Pier each month.
  • In September, 2007, Navy Pier's wheel celebrated its 10 millionth rider as Ronald McDonald and the Pier’s mascot, Patch the Pirate Dog, presented the rider with various prizes.
  • This past May, the world record for the longest Ferris Wheel ride was set by Clinton Shepherd, park operations manager, who spent 48 hours, 8 minutes and 25 seconds riding the Pier's Ferris Wheel over the weekend of May 18 - 19, 2013.

Then and Now: A Century of Progress

Conceived in an atmosphere of economic, political, and social crisis, the Century of Progress was shaped by the economic recession that followed America's victory in World War I, the ensuing Red Scare, Chicago's 1919 Race Riots, and Chicago's notorious gangster violence. With local and international support, the fair became a reality in the midst of the Great Depression and offered employment, entertainment, and education—a vision into “the world of tomorrow”.

Then, 1933

The Century of Progress Exposition was held to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the incorporation of the City of Chicago. Taking place in the south end of the Loop on Northerly Island, the fair officially opened May 27, 1933. It demonstrated to local and international audiences the nature and significance of scientific discoveries, the methods of achieving them, and the changes they would bring to enhance industry and urban living. This was done through varied and sensational exhibits, international cuisines, demonstration shows, rides and attractions that were scattered throughout the entire fairgrounds. These demonstrations of forward thinking shed light on the future and not only contributed to the revival from the Great Depression, but also sparked motivation and creativity in those who would help make the Loop what it is today.

  • The fair was held on the 427 acres of Northerly Island—the only manmade island stemming from Daniel Burnham’s 1909 Plan of Chicago.
  • The motto of the fair was "Science Finds, Industry Applies, Man Conforms".
  • The nickname for the fair was “Rainbow City”. In contrast to "The White City"—the World's Columbian Exposition held in Chicago in 1893—Century of Progress was vibrant with color. Buildings were painted with color schemes in four hues from a total palette of 23 colors.
  • The Sky Ride, the architectural symbol of the fair, transported visitors in enclosed cars 218 feet above the North Lagoon between two 628-foot steel towers.
  • Another large attraction was the to-scale replica of Fort Dearborn, Chicago’s first public building.

Now, 2013

Today, Northerly Island, the former grounds of Meigs Field aviation airport, is a 91- acre peninsula that juts into Lake Michigan at the heart of the Museum Campus. With a dedicated park area, mostly preserved for nature observance and recreational activities, it is also home to Charter One Pavilion, Solider Field, McCormick Place and Burnham Harbor. While the Century of Progress Exposition included current structures like the Adler Planetarium and the Shedd Aquarium, it left no permanent buildings. However, its profits enriched several of Chicago’s current cultural institutions in the Loop, some of which still have exhibition materials as part of their permanent collections. In December 2010, the Chicago Parks District unveiled its framework plan for Northerly Island to be completed over the next 20 - 30 years. The park will provide a variety of year-round uses with ecology and education central themes. A reef will be built and the park will include active zones and relaxation zones for leisure activities.

  • Today, Balbo's Column is the only structure remaining from the original site. This column, a gift of the Italian government, was removed from the ruins of a Roman temple in Ostia. It commemorates General Balbo's trans-Atlantic flight to Chicago in 1933, and still stands opposite Soldier Field.
  • Northerly Island connects to the mainland through a narrow isthmus along Solidarity Drive dominated by Neoclassical sculptures of Kościuszko, Havliček and Copernicus.
  • Burnham Harbor and the water surrounding Northerly Island continues to be a favorite fishing spot amongst Chicagoans. Various forms of salmon, trout and even bass are the popular catches.
  • Last month, Northerly Island celebrated its 10th anniversary as an independent public space for urban dwellers.

Then and Now: Randolph Tower

With its visually dramatic tower, the Steuben Club Building is one of Chicago’s finest 1920s-era skyscrapers, built during the decade when the city’s distinctive skyline took much of its present-day profile. Now known as Randolph Tower City Apartments, the historic Gothic Revival building shows off its newly restored terra-cotta clad exterior and trendy interior catching the eyes of many Chicagoans looking for a comfortable and affordable city living space.

Then, 1929

The Steuben Club Building is a stunning historic skyscraper constructed in 1929. Built to promote German-American heritage after the First World War, American citizens of German descent sought to clubs to serve as a testimonial of their loyalty to the ideals of American citizenship. The first 25 floors were built for retail and offices and the club was located at the top floors. Designed by the noteworthy Chicago firm of Karl M. Vitzthum & Co., The Steuben Club Building is a dramatic interpretation of the Gothic Revival as seen in the photo, with buttresses, setbacks and tracery making this massive steel, concrete and terra cotta structure look as light and airy as the stone cathedrals of sixteenth-century Europe. The terra cotta exterior of the building emphasizes the popular image of the modern skyscraper through simplification and abstraction. The Steuben Club Building was also built to reflect the importance and pioneering of the city’s 1923 zoning ordinance, vision to create national club institutions with reciprocal privileges, and continuation of downtown Chicago’s long-time practiced multiple-use building layout.

  • The Steuben Club Building is the former Briggs House site (ca. 1851)
  • Karl M. Vitzthum, is also known for designing another important historical structure, the One North LaSalle Building.
  • The tower of the Steuben Club Building, which begins at the 28th floor, has a series of setbacks that give it its prominent “telescopic” set-back appearance.
  • The Gothic-revival style of the Steuben Club Building reflects another major design influence on the City of Chicago: The Chicago Tribune Competition of 1922. In this competition, architects from all over the world were invited to compete for a $100,000 prize to design the new headquarters for the newspaper on the newly created Michigan Avenue.

Now, 2013

Today, the Steuben Club Building’s legacy lives on as Randolph Tower City Apartments. In 2011, the building began receiving a detailed exterior renovation and remolding of the interior that house 312 apartments made up of studio, convertible, one and two-bedroom, and penthouse units. In addition, it features professional conference, business and fitness centers, an indoor swimming pool nearly 300 feet above street level with an adjacent outdoor terrace, and a Sky Club with movie lounge, gourmet kitchen and bar area, gaming space, and sitting areas at fireplaces. The recently completed renovation and remodeling has made Randolph Tower one of the newest and trendiest places to rent downtown while visibility still holding true to its historic 1920’s Gothic Revival flair.

  • Randolph Tower City Apartments was depicted in the 2009 film Public Enemies as a hangout for the main character, John Dillinger.
  • The city of Chicago designated the structure a landmark on July 26, 2006.
  • On May 22, 2007, the building was officially listed on the state of National Register of Historic Places listings in Chicago.
  • The sky lit swimming pool on the building's top floor is completely original from when it was first built.
  • Randolph Tower City Apartments is an environmentally friendly building as it follows the National Green Building Standard created by the National Association of Home Builders.

Then and Now: Jewelers Row

Located in the heart of Chicago’s Loop on Wabash between Washington and Monroe, Jeweler's Row has become a distinctive, significant, and unique part of Chicago’s famous downtown shopping district.

Then, 1907

Jeweler's Row became significant for its association with Chicago's rise as a jewelry hub in the early Twentieth Century. Officially opening in 1872, these traditionally small-scale, entrepreneurial businesses occupied both ground-floor storefronts and upper-floor offices in the district's buildings as seen on both sides of the street in this 1907 photo. In 1912, the Mallers Building at 5 South Wabash began to house jewelry manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers putting Jeweler's Row on the map. By World War II, the most important Chicago firms, like Sherman Tucker and M. Y. Finkelman, had located there. Finkelman's son, Marshall, brought international fame to the Chicago jewelry trade in international gem markets and opened the Jeweler's Center in the late 1980s.

The 1900’s was a popular time for jewelers from Mexico, South America, and Southeast Asia who brought new ethnic trends to Jeweler's Row.
In its early years, jewelers held public events where hundreds of Chicagoans would try their luck at ducking for diamonds. At one event, there was a bowl full of hundreds of rhinestones, plus five carats worth of real diamonds, and guests lined up with tweezers to do their best.
During the rehab of the Jeweler's Center in the Mallers Building in 1900, it was discovered that part of the basement space had once been used as a Prohibition speakeasy. Even Al Capone made a few purchases within the walls of the historic building.
Peter J. Weber, of the architectural firm D.H. Burnham and Company, designed The Silversmith Building featured on the left side of the street. It was built in 1890 in response to the transition from Romanesque Revival architecture to the Arts and Crafts Movement.
In 1985, Alderman Gerald McLaughlin was the first to recommend Jeweler's Row as a historical district.


Now, 2013

Today, Jeweler's Row spans two blocks with jewelers from all over the world, becoming a designated landmark district. Recognizable by the 12 iconic steel Jeweler's Row markers that line both sides of Wabash from Monroe to Washington, and with more than 215 jewelers in both ground-floor storefronts and upper-floor offices, this district continues to thrive as the jeweler’s hub of Chicago.

Jeweler's Row was declared a Chicago landmark on July 9, 2003.
The steel Jeweler's Row street markers were installed in 2008.
The Jeweler's Center at 5 South Wabash holds more than 190 jewelers representing 33 countries in fine jewelry making.
The Silversmith Building, now the Silversmith Hotel and Suites, is a boutique hotel featuring 143 guest rooms, including 63 suites, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Then and Now: The Annual Tree Lighting Ceremony

Since the first bulb was lit on a Douglas Spruce on Christmas Eve in 1913, Chicago's Tree Lighting Ceremony has been a family favorite. Look back on nearly a century of trees and traditions in this month's "Then and Now" post.

Then, 1913

Chicago’s first municipal Christmas tree was lit in 1913 on Christmas Eve by Mayor Carter H. Harrison in Grant Park. The 35 foot tall Douglas Spruce seen in the 1913 photo was decorated with 600 multi-colored lights and topped with the Star of Bethlehem. This event started the wonderful Tree Lighting Ceremony tradition we now celebrate every year.

  • Chicago businessman P.J. Jordan donated a 35 foot tree to the city. He made the donation in memory of his late partner and friend, Captain Herman Schuenemann, who had died the year before when his ship sank on Lake Michigan while making its way to Chicago with its cargo of Christmas trees.
  • The official Chicago Christmas tree has varied in height from the 35 foot spruce used in 1913 to the 64 foot spruce used this year.
  • It was a cool, 29 degrees while the large crowd gathered, bands played and the entire crowd hummed and sang Christmas carols.
  • This photo was taken one month after The Great Lakes Storm of 1913 (The Big Blow). The storm has been said to have been the worst winter storm in the United States. Caused by two storm fronts over the Great Lakes, there were 90 mph winds that lasted 16 hours. This storm was also the same type, a November gale, which famously sank the Edmund Fitzgerald in 1975.

Now, 2012

As shown in the photo, this year Mayor Rahm Emanuel lit the 64 foot, 12,000 pound Colorado Spruce adorned with 15,000 lights from Prospect Heights in Daily Plaza where the ceremony has been held since 1984.

  • The tree was donated by Barbara Theiszmann which was chosen from 25 submissions to the city. The tree had to be at least 55 feet tall, had to be a spruce or a fir and had to have a nice shape. She and her three grandchildren joined the Mayor in lighting the tree in Daily Plaza.
  • 2012 marks the fourth straight year Chicago is using a single tree rather than a series of smaller trees. This year, the 64 foot tree stood nine inches taller than the tree from the previous year.
  • The tree lighting ceremony shares the event with the Christkindlmarket which brings a cherished German and European tradition with international flair and local charm to Chicago.
  • Chicago's largest open-air Christmas festival was first held on Pioneer Court in 1996. By special invitation of Mayor Richard M. Daley, Christkindlmarket Chicago moved to Daley Plaza in 1997 and has become a staple event on the plaza ever since.

Then and Now: The Rookery

Completed in 1888 by the Burnham and Root architectural firm, The Rookery at 209 S. LaSalle Street was the world’s tallest building at 11 stories. Chicago’s first skyscraper replaced a makeshift City Hall erected in the aftermath of the Great Chicago Fire in 1871. Combining heavy masonry and steel frame construction, the building exuded strength and permanence, desirable qualities after the Chicago Fire. In contrast, the interior lobby was all light and transparency. The central, two-story light court allowed natural light to reach interior, as well as exterior offices.

Then, 1890

This photo captures the original Rookery Light Court. The metal construction was both functional and ornamental, considered very modern for the time. The building was wired for electricity; a pair of “electrolier” lights adorns the main staircase. The bright, airy space was a gathering place for visitors to the building’s 600 offices and first-floor shops.

  • The site had already been dubbed The Rookery before the building was constructed – perhaps because the site’s water tower drew a multitude of birds or “getting rooked” was a common complaint associated with dealing with City Hall. But the Boston developers who commissioned the building preferred a more dignified name.
  • Designer John Welborn Root got the last laugh when he made sure a set of cackling crows were sculpted into the masonry entrance, and the Rookery moniker stuck.
  • The lobby went through two major renovations, once in 1905 by Frank Lloyd Wright and again in 1931 by William Drummond. Sometime in the mid 1900s, the Light Court was covered with tar paper to prevent leaking.

Now, 2012

The Rookery is the oldest “tall” building still standing in Chicago. It underwent a massive restoration in 1992 by McCleir Corporation. Led by restoration architect Gunny Harboe. a 12th story was added and the Light Court was restored to recreate Frank Lloyd Wright’s 1905 renovation. Using Root’s design as a guide, Wright covered the ironwork with gold-leaf-incised marble, replaced the stair railings and designed new ceiling chandeliers. He also replaced the electrolier lights flanking the main staircase with his signature circle-in-a-square planters. The spectacular space continues to be a popular gathering spot, not only for architecture lovers and fans of Frank Lloyd Wright, but also as a venue for weddings and parties.

  • The Rookery is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and designated by the city as a Chicago Landmark.
  • The building is currently managed by the John Buck Company. For more information, visit The Rookery website.
  • The Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust, whose administrative offices and ShopWright store occupy first-floor space, conducts tours of The Rookery Light Court noon Monday through Friday. For more information, visit www.gowright.org.

Then and Now: the intersection of State & Randolph

In today's photographic comparison, we're taking you to the intersection of State and Randolph in 1940, which was a transitional year not only in Chicago but throughout the United States. Emerging from the Great Depression and one year into World War II, the Loop was evolving and growing—fast. A city of immigrants worked to rebuild its infrastructure and economy. Manufacturing and retail skyrocketed with war efforts, bringing women into the workplace for the first time. And railroads and roadways expanded throughout the Midwest. This intersection continues to thrive today, with Macy's and Block 37 as its cornerstone, offering a mix of shopping, dining, and entertainment in the heart of downtown.

Then, 1940

This photo, at the intersection of State and Randolph, captures the midday bustle in what was—and continues to be—one of the busiest cities in the United States. Pictured at left is the Marshall Field's building, and at right, the series of buildings that made up Block 37.

  • Block 37—named for its placement among 58 city blocks—housed one of the first supermarkets in the city, a jewelry store, novelty store, and theater. At the forefront of market trends, the block attracted thousands of people during peak hours, boasting the population of a small town.
  • During this decade, Chicago became the world's largest rail hub and one of its busiest ports by shipping traffic on the Great Lakes.
  • From 1937 to 1956, Chicago streets began their transformation from cobblestone to asphalt due to the weight of World War II manufacturing.

Now, 2012

At left is the former Marshall Field's building, which, in 2006, was officially renamed to Macy's at State Street. Known for its five story atrium, Tiffany & Company mosaic ceiling, and Great Clock, the building remains a fixture on State Street after 130 years. Across the street stands Block 37—a new mixed-use retail, dining, and entertainment destination which opened in 2008.

  • The Marshall Field building has been designated a National Historic Landmark, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
  • Featuring an eclectic mix of shopping, dining, and entertainment within a five-story atrium, Block 37 borrows its name from the original 58 city blocks identified in 1830.
  • Of the dining selections offered at Block 37, three of them are exclusive to this location. Beard Papa's, home to the "World's Best Cream Puff"; Magnolia Bakery, the vintage American bakery from Greenwich Village, New York; and Which Wich, offering 50 varieties of customizable sandwiches.

Then and Now: the zero-zero point of Chicago

In today’s photographic comparison, we’re recapturing the historical journey of the heart of Chicago—State and Madison. From behemoth department stores to ever-evolving public transit, Chicago’s zero-zero point tells a story of the history of the city. The ever-evolving State Street continues to grow with the years, and these two photos are evidence of that. Thirty three years after the Great Chicago Fire and a decade before World War I, State Street's rapid development and expansion are apparent. Today, the thriving Great Street remains an industry leader, cultural and institutional mecca, and of course, a retail hot spot.

Then, 1904

  • 1904 was the year Edward Paul Brennan suggested State and Madison Streets as the dividing line on which his numbering system should be based, marking the intersection "zero, zero." The City Council of Chicago accepted and passed his request in 1908.
  • This picture was taken four years before electric trolley.
  • The 1904 National Convention of the Republican Party was held in the Chicago Coliseum from June 21 to June 23, where President Theodore Roosevelt was nominated with 994 votes.
  • Three years earlier, Chicago celebrated the renaming of Grant Park, formerly known as Lake Park.

Now, 2012

Since 1904, the cycle of invention, renovation, expansion, and development on State Street has been endless. Some of the evolutions that may be taken for granted: modern plumbing and electrical above and below ground, sustainable glass in high rises, light posts, advertising, planters, bus shelters (and diesel and hybrid buses for that matter), traffic lights, concrete sidewalks, sidewalk cleaning, and trees, to name a few.

  • The Boston Store in the 1904 photo dates back to 1873, when Charles Netcher opened a dry goods emporium in a small 5-story building on the site. While the store closed in 1948, an original Boston Store advertisement can still be seen above Hotel Burnham on the face of the building’s former mechanical tower.
  • There have been 15 evolutions of public bus transportation, from the 1859 horse drawn carriage that held 2 passengers to the current New Flyer of America hybrid bus, which can hold 50-55 passengers.
  • The Great Clock of the Marshall Field building, which is vaguely visible in the 1904 photo, was installed in 1897. Marshall Field envisioned the now-iconic symbol of Chicago as, “a beacon that could be seen for miles and attracts crowds to his store.”