Monday, February 23, 2015

Donohue Building, Chicago
 by: chicago designslinger

[Donohue Building, Chicago (ca. 1883-86) Julius Speyer, architect /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

In the late 1880s South Dearborn Street was a beehive of activity as it came to an abrupt end at the front door of the recently completed Dearborn Station train depot. Just north of the station, Michael A. Donohue and William P. Henneberry contracted with architect Julius Speyer for a large, red brick, 8-story loft building in which to house their burgeoning printing and publishing business with room to spare. As a March 20, 1887 advertisement in the Chicago Tribune proclaimed:

Stores Offices & Entire Floors - To Rent in the new
Donohue & Henneberry Building on Dearborn-st. near Harrison;
steam heat and power, passenger and freight elevators,
partitions to suit, double front; size of floors 201x73, stores 23x73.

Located 150 feet from the station, the building not only provided the printing partners with easy access to train lines that spanned the continental United States, but their new brick and mortar investment would be attractive to tenants whose businesses would also prosper in such close proximity to a hub of Chicago's expansive railroad network.

   [Donohue Building, Chicago, 711 S. Dearborn Street, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Donohue & Henneberry ended-up leasing their easily partitionable floors to other printing trade operations, as this section of Dearborn became the focal point of the city's giant printing industry. Within the next two decades five of the largest printing houses in the country were located nearby, and the neighborhood was not only echoing with the sound of horse hooves, wagon wheels and train engines, but humming with the sounds of thousands of presses churning out millions of pages of printed materials every day. In 1899 Donohue bought-out Henneberry's share of the business which by this time had grown into a publishing concern as well as a for hire printing house. In 1900 the company's title was changed to M.A. Donohue & Co., the same year they released The New Wizard of Oz, which was also published at the same time by another Chicago publisher George M. Hill & Co. with the title, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Donohue went on to publish entire series of children's books, as well as general titles like the Ladies Manual of Art, while still cranking out mundane but lucrative printing jobs ranging from election ballots to sheet music. Donohue was doing so well that in January 1913 he purchased the property just south of his building and built a 10-story annex.

  [Donohue Building, Chicago, National Register of Historic Places, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The printing party was over by the late 60s. Modern off-set printing required large clear-span, single-story floor plates which were cropping-up in surrounding suburbs, and the old 1880s wood, post and beam structures just couldn't compete. In 1971, Michael's grandson Richard J. Donohue closed the family owned concern and sold the building. That same year the last train pulled out of the 86-year-old Dearborn Street station. But as the the printers left the city and their old work spaces were emptied, a new urban dweller began to show an interest in moving into the vacated wood-beamed loft buildings. In 1979, the Donohue was converted from industrial space into contemporary live/work space, followed in quick succession by the Rowe and Mergenthaler buildings across the street, and today's reinvented, re-imagined, rejuvenated, revitalized Printers Row neighborhood is once again humming with activity.

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