Monday, March 2, 2015

MDA City Apartments - Medical and Dental Arts Building
 by: chicago designslinger

 [MDA City Apartments - Medical and Dental Arts Building (1927) D.H. Burnham & Co. architects; (2004) adaptive reuse, Hartshorne & Plunkard Architecture, architects /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

In the 1862-63 edition of the Chicago Directory the address of William E. Doggett's wholesale and shoe manufacturing business was listed at 29-31 Lake Street. Although the 4-story building located on the southeast corner of Lake and Wabash extended 100 feet in a southerly direction along Wabash Avenue, the 40 feet of frontage along Lake Street was Chicago's premiere shopping destination - the State Street and Michigan Avenue of its day. On a warm October night in 1871 the building, along with all the stock of Doggett, Bassett & Hills, was swept away in the Great Fire, and post-inferno Doggett rebuilt on the same site and named the new 6-story building after himself. Although he died in 1876 and the business was out-of-business by 1890, the structure was still known as the Doggett Building when a developer decided to tear the place down in 1926.

  [MDA City Apartments - Medical and Dental Arts Building, 63 E. Lake Street, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

A lot had changed on the corner during the intervening years. After State Street supplanted Lake as Chicago's shopping paradise in the 1880s, the supporting steel structure of the elevated - or "L" - train lines began casting their long shadow over Wabash and Lake in the mid-1890s. Then in the second decade of the 20th century Doggett's corner got caught-up in the frenzy of one of downtown Chicago's building booms. It wasn't the first time the central city saw an explosion of new construction. There was a building burst in the 1860s, the post-fire boom of the 1880s, and a boomlet in the early decades of the 20th century followed by the roaring blare of the 1920s. Although Lake and Wabash wasn't an ideal location, the land was cheap compared to, say, State Street, and the Doggett site was only a block from the massive, city-block-filling Marshall Field & Co. department store building - and two "L" stops.

  [MDA City Apartments - Medical and Dental Arts Building, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

In the spring of 1926 the Chicago Tribune announced that the old Doggett building would be coming down and be replaced by the Medical and Dental Arts Building. The concept behind the new 24-story tower was that all the medical and dental societies and clubs in Chicago would lease office space in this one centralized location providing amenities like meeting rooms, a dining room, and showrooms for purveyors of medical related machinery and supplies. A convenient one-stop-shopping place for physicians, surgeons and dentists. The design of the project was given to Daniel and Hubert Burnham, the sons and successors of Chicago's plan making architect Daniel H. Burnham, Sr. At the time the Burnham boys were working under the well known banner of D.H. Burnham & Co., but in 1928, a year after this building was completed, apparently Daniel and Hubert felt it was time to come out from under their father's mighty long shadow and changed the name of their architectural practice to the more deliberately delineating Burnham Brothers.

  [MDA City Apartments - Medical and Dental Arts Building /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Slowly the building filled-up with doctors, dentists and suppliers of everything from x-ray machines to tongue depressors. The Medical and Dental Arts Club and the Chicago Medical Society were headquartered here at 185 N. Wabash Avenue and were joined by 50 other medically-minded clubs and organizations who could confab in the 23rd floor penthouse auditorium, have a bite to eat in the dining room, or spend some quiet time in the library. Unfortunately sixty years after the building's press worthy debut, occupancy had fallen from a profit producing 95 per cent to a red-ink-bleeding 50 per cent. And given its age and the age of its retiring tenants, occupancy was likely to fall below 40 percent in the not-to-distant future. A band-aid proposal was put forth to turn the lower four floors of the building into an indoor shopping mall to help stem the hemorrhaging, but the economy tanked in the mid-80s so the building continued to sit idle and lose tenants. In 2004 Village Green, a large property management company took over the aging structure and turned the Medical and Dental Arts Building into MDA City Apartments under the supervision of architects Hartshorne & Plunkard. The address also returned Lake Street.

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