Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Columbia College Residence Center – Lakeside Press Building
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Columbia College Residence Center – Lakeside Press Building (1897) Treat & Shaw, associate architects; (1902) Howard Van Doren Shaw, architect / Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Richard Robert Donnelley’s career had had its ups and downs. He came to Chicago in the early 1860s to set up a printing business, and after a few partnerships and the loss of his entire business in the Great Fire, by 1895 he was on a roll. The company’s Lakeside Press branded city directory, which had first seen the light of day in 1875, brought the company a contract to print other directories from other business entities like Chicago’s nascent telephone industry, and as the population increased so did the page counts. When Montgomery Ward came calling and jobbed out the printing of his mail order catalog to Donnelley, adding production of the massive missive of consumer goods put the squeeze on Donnelley’s Monroe Street plant so the printer began to hunt for a new location.

  [Columbia College Residence Center – Lakeside Press Building, 731 S. Plymouth Court, Chicago / Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

In 1896 a handful of other print shops were moving into an area located near the Dearborn Street rail station on Polk Street. The printers Donohue and Hennessey had built a large facility on a portion of the newly created segment of Dearborn Street that the city had cut through in the early 1880s to link the station to the central business district, and other shops were slowly following their lead. The neighborhood was very familiar to Chicagoans. Since the time of the Fire, this compact district just south of the “Loop” was the most notorious red light district in the city. Before Dearborn had sliced its way between Third and Fourth Avenues – which in turn would become Plymouth and Custom House Place, which would be changed to today’s Federal Street – the blocks from Harrison to Taylor and State to Clark, were packed with saloons, rooming houses, and brothels offering men of all ages a place to eat, drink, sleep and have sex. Donnelley found a piece of property on Third just steps north of the station and hired a pair of architects to come up with a plan for a building that would house the company’s offices and carry the weight of large printing presses.

  [Columbia College Residence Center – Lakeside Press Building, National Register of Historic Places, Chicago / Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Architect Samuel A. Treat had come to Chicago the year after Donnelley, and the year after the Great Fire he partnered with fellow architect Fritz Foltz. In 1896, now on his own, 57-year-old Treat hooked-up with 27-year-old Howard Van Doren Shaw who Treat brought on board as the associate architect on the Lakeside Press project. Shaw, whose father was a wealthy businessman, was Chicago born and bred and had attended Yale and MIT before beginning to practice as an architect in his home town. Shaw was one of those designers who possessed an innate sense of scale and proportion, and Treat used his young partner’s talents to add a certain je ne sais quoi to very, otherwise, utilitarian building project.

  [Columbia College Residence Center – Lakeside Press Building, Printer’s Row National Historic District, Chicago / Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

When the building was completed in 1897, the fenestration of the south wall facing Polk Street ended at the third floor. At the time there was a two-story building abutting the new Lakeside building, and when Polk was widened and the structure was demolished, the lower two floors of the Press building were finished to match the Plymouth Court facade. Third Avenue had changed to Plymouth Place, and then Court, but the neighborhood, although emerging as the city’s printing center, still clung to its shadier roots. In 1898 the Chicago Tribune shed a “Light on the Levee” and reported on the number of the opium dens south of Harrison Street, two of which operated on Plymouth one of which was two doors north of Donnelley’s recently completed printing plant operation. In 1902 that den of iniquity was demolished when the Lakeside building was doubled in size, when Shaw returned and seamlessly joined the new to the existing five-year-old structure.

  [Columbia College Residence Center – Lakeside Press Building, City of Chicago Landmark / Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Ten years after expanding the Lakeside builidng to the north, the Donnelley company was on the move again. This time to a parcel on Calumet Avenue between 21st and 22nd Streets, eventually consuming the entire block and then some. The family held on to the Plymouth and Polk address until 1929 when Donnelley’s son, daughter and grandson sold the building to Regal Press. After a variety of subsequent printing related occupants, the building was converted into a residential loft property in 1984 when the former red light district turned printing district emerged as the newly consecrated Printing House Row Historic district. The property underwent one more transformation when Columbia College purchased Lakeside Lofts and converted Treat and Shaw’s flexible use structure into a student dormitory in 1993.