Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Methodist Book Concern Building
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Methodist Book Concern Building (1916) /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Moving is never easy, and when the Chicago-based regional jurisdiction of the Methodist Episcopal Church announced that some of their offices were going to be consolidated into one new structure on the northwest corner of Superior and Rush streets in 1914, not everyone was happy.

  [Methodist Book Concern Building, 740 N. Rush Street, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The reason for the move was that the lease on the building the Church had been renting on South Wabash Avenue was about to expire. The Wabash Avenue building housed the offices of auxiliary church departments as well as the operations of the Methodist Book Concern, and while disgruntled ministers had no problem moving the publishing concern all the way to Rush and Superior, they saw no reason for other departments to be sent off into the hinterlands of the city's near north side.

  [Methodist Book Concern Building, Near North Side, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The new location, had been, until very recently, the long time home of Chicago's Fourth Presbyterian Church. The Presbyterian's Romanesque meets Gothic church building had occupied the corner at Rush and Superior since the 1870s but the former residential neighborhood had changed, and when Fourth Church's new building on Michigan Avenue was ready for occupancy in May 1914, the old church was torn down, and the Methodist's purchased the soon-to-be-vacant corner lot in September.

  [Methodist Book Concern Building, Rush Street, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The Book Concern had been around for a long time. Founded in 1789, it was the nation's oldest continuously operating publication house. The Concern imprint was not only responsible for producing religiously focused tomes, but printed works of fiction, non-fiction, children's books, school books and periodicals. They also operated book stores around the country, which not only sold books with their own imprint on the title page, but other publisher's works as well - this was a multi-million dollar operation. When the 125 foot by 125 foot, 4-story, brick-columned Chicago branch office opened in 1916 it contained not only the Concern's printing presses and publishing offices, but also included the offices of several disgruntled ministerial department heads.

  [Methodist Book Concern Building, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

On May 28, 1920 the Chicago Tribune reported that the Concern was planning an addition to the west of their square 125x125 foot building, designed by architect H.B. Wheelock. And anticipating future growth, the foundation of the four-story annex would be constructed so that, if need be, an additional two-stories could be built at a later date. It took six years before a $450,000 annex made its debut in May 1926, and the Book Concern and auxiliary church offices occupied the Rush and Superior building for nearly 50 years. After serving as the headquarters of Crain Communications until 2001, the first floor of the former printing plant became the flagship location of the Giordano's Pizza enterprise. But as with all living breathing urban environments, change may becoming once again to the former site of Fourth Presbyterian's corner location. As Chicago froze in the polar vortex of January 2014, developers announced their intentions to build a tall, slim-towered hotel on the site of the 1920s annex and into the western half of square corner building. While the plan called for the complete demolition of the 20s-era building and a portion of the Book Concern, the proposal did call for the preservation of 3-bays of the brick, engaged-column colonnade along Superior Street, and the entire Rush Street facade. Public hearings will be held, neighborhood residents have begun a petition drive to stop the project, and the old Methodist Book Concern Building may eventually lose its symmetrically square profile for a truncated rectangular face.

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