Old Colony Building
by: chicago designslinger
[Old Colony Building (1894) Holabird & Roche, architects /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
Named the Old Colony building in 1894 by owner and Bostonian Francis Bartlett in recognition of his home state and the old Plymouth Colony, the northeastern U.S. connection played a major role in architect's Holabird & Roche securing the commission. There were just a few degrees of separation between the designers and the owner, and from that circle some of Chicago's most renowned buildings were produced.
[Old Colony Building, 407 South Dearborn Street, Chicago /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
Before Martin Roche joined William Holabird as a partner, Holabird was teamed-up with Ossian Simonds. The partnership didn't last too long as Simonds the result of Simond's growing repsonsiblities in overseeing the design of the recently opened Graceland Cemetery - final resting place for some of Chicago's wealthiest citizens. Bryan Lathrop, who had recently arrived in Chicago at the close of the Civil War in 1865, joined his uncle's real estate firm as well as becoming the general manager of Graceland. In 1875, Lathrop married Miss Helen Aldis, whose family ancestry took her back to the shores of 1630s Massachusetts. Helen had brother, Owen, a Boston attorney active in real estate ventures, who worked as the agent for a pair of Boston-area brothers busy gobbling-up chunks of Chicago real estate. Aldis left Beantown for Chicago and teamed-up with his brother-in-law, who had a better handle on the Chicago marketplace. The Brooks/Boston/Aldis connection led to Lathrop's partnership with Mr. Francis Bartlett, another East Coast investor interested in making money in the exploding Chicago market. It was through his role as the head honcho of Graceland, and his association with Simonds, that Lathrop met Holabird & Roche, who introduced the architects to Bartlett and Aldis, who then introduced them to the Brooks brothers. It was how the Old Colony got built, as the the multiple corners of a square-in-the-circle drew together.
[Old Colony Building /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
When Bryan Lathrop opened his offices in the newly completed Old Colony Building in 1894, the front entrance was on Van Buren Street. But after the steel supports of the city's famous elevated line passed with feet of the Van Buren facade a few years later, the entryway was sealed-up and converted into a storefront. And although the Van Buren entrance didn't survive into the 21st century, the building's round corner bays are now the sole survivors of an architectural feature once found on a number of buildings in Chicago's downtown business district. The Old Colony has seen better days, but a recent cleaning of the facade by new owners has put a shine back on the old place, and may be a sign of brighter things to come.