Consumers Building, Chicago
by: chicago designslinger
[Consumers Building (1913) Mundie & Jensen, architects /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
Most of us assume that when we see a large building standing on a piece of land that the owner also owns the ground underneath, often that is not the case. So when druggist and real estate entrepreneur Jacob L. Kesner decided he wanted to build a commercial high-rise structure on a piece of State Street real estate in 1913, he had to lease three separate parcels of property to build one, cohesive building.
[Consumers Building, 220 S. State Street, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
With 99-year ground leases in his pocket, Kesner hired the architectural firm of Mundie & Jensen to design a 21-story, state-of-the-art office building. The architects sheathed the steel skeletal frame in a coat of gleaming white, glazed terra-cotta, which was in keeping with the fresh clean look of neighboring State Street structures, and a signature of their practice. Called the Consumer Building for Kesner's primary tenant the Consumer Ice & Coal Company, the name stuck, even after Kesner and the ice & coal wholesalers were long gone.
[Consumers Building, Loop Retail National Historic District, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
Kesner eventually left the drug store business and built a large real estate empire which unfortunately collapsed in a sea of debt in 1938 when Kesner filed for voluntary bankruptcy claiming personal liabilities of $10 million. The building was owned by the Kesner Realty Trust, but the trust also filed for bankruptcy with $4 million in liabilities. The property passed through several owners before being acquired by the Federal government, whose Federal Center complex sits right behind the Consumer. The government has maintained Kesner's old building, but with a large redevelopment program in the works, the fate of Jenney, Mundie & Jensen's 95 year old project is in question.