Sunday, March 1, 2015

Mandel Brothers Warehouse & Stable
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Mandel Brothers Warehouse & Stable (1903) Holabird & Roche, architects /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Delivery systems. They've been around in one form or another for as long as we've been transporting something from here to there. As Chicago's Mandel Brothers Department Store grew in size and scope, the State Street based company decided that a more efficient way to deliver product to customers outside of their Loop location was to build small storage facilities in outlying neighborhoods. They weren't the only downtown retailer to make such a decision, but they did get one of the city's premiere architectural firms to design the very low profile project for them.

  [Mandel Brothers Warehouse & Stable, 3234 N. Halsted Street, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Solomon Mandel's brothers joined their sibling in his dry goods business in 1865, a retail operation that Solomon had started in a small storefront with his uncle in 1855. By the time the Mandel organization asked the very busy office of Holabird & Roche to design a warehouse and stable building for them on city's north side in 1902, Mandel Brothers had grown into one of Chicago's major retailers. The project wasn't the first time the architects had teamed-up with the retailers, and it wouldn't be the last. The Mandel account provided a steady income stream for the architectural firm, so when the brothers came calling no job was too small, even for an office that generated around $3.5 million in billings in 1902.

  [Mandel Brothers Warehouse & Stable, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

By the time the ball got rolling on construction in 1903, Mandel Brothers had been through several months of labor strife. A newly organized group of horse team drivers had formed a union and called a strike against some of the largest deliverers of goods in the city. The work action threatened the financial well being of the city's largest wholesale dry goods companies, as well as Chicago's seven major State Street retailers. The merchandise so integral to these businesses survival not only had to be transported to customers in and around Chicago, but from massive warehouses to the core of the nation's transportation system - the city's train yards. As the 2-story Mandel warehouse and stable building rose-up on the corner of Halsted and today's Aldine Street, labor and business signed an agreement. On June 17, 1903 the Chicago Tribune reported the 850  member Teamsters local had signed an agreement that garnered a pay increase to $12/week for the first six months, $14/week for the next six months, then to $15, and finally to a $18/week after 2 1/2 years of service - plus two weeks paid vacation. It also guaranteed that if a driver left one company for another, he would not lose his seniority and pay, and the driver would therefore not be penalized for changing jobs.

  [Mandel Brothers Warehouse & Stable /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The deal also meant that the teamsters who operated out of Holabird & Roche's nicely detailed, 2-story brick warehouse would no longer have to clean the first floor stables, the horse's harnesses, or polish the brass fittings. Employers would now have to furnish drivers with their caps and coats, when required, and most importantly for the business signatories, no driver could strike in support of another labor organization's action. So by the time that the very handsomely appointed building was ready for occupancy, the Mandel Brothers regional delivery system had drivers ready to deliver. In the following decade the horses were replaced by horseless carriages, and by the 1920s the building had outserved its original purpose. It continued to warehouse all manner of goods and businesses over the intervening years, and was repurposed into 13-units of condominium loft-style housing in the mid-1990s.

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