Historic, Abandoned Bridgeport Spiegel Building Turns a Page

Spiegel Administration Building

The former Spiegel Administration Building may get a third shot at redevelopment, according to a recent report in DNAinfo Chicago.  We first became interested in the building at 1038 West 35th Street several years ago when we picked up an architecture photography client within sniffing distance of Bubbly Creek.  On the way back to the office from long days of shooting we often found ourselves contemplating the building as we stood across the street waiting for the #35 bus.

This part of Bridgeport is quickly filling up with overflow residents from Chinatown, and while the local businesses remain the same as ever (furniture, woodworking, auto repair, light manufacturing…) many of the signs have changed from English to Chinese.  So it should come as no surprise that DNAinfo tells us the new owner of the building is a company run by DaHuang Zhou whom it describes as an artist of world renown.

He apparently plans to turn the landmark building into a mixed-use development; the third person to try in the last decade.  The previous attempts have failed, and Mr. Zhou is in the process of getting ownership of the building, which is in bankruptcy.

Spiegel Administration BuildingThe building is sometimes referred to as the Spiegel catalog warehouse, but it’s actually the administration building.  The confusion may come from the fact that it was designed in a loft style, which looks a lot like a warehouse. This was done so that different parts of the building could be reconfigured easily, which was necessary because it was also where all of the inbound mail orders were processed.

Spiegel had 11 buildings in the area, with 2.5 million square feet of space.  The city bestowed landmark status on it in May of 2011 because:

the Building exemplifies Chicago’s development as a nationwide center for mail-order retail during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Chicago’s central location and unparalleled access to national railroad networks allowed goods to be delivered cheaply and efficiently to far-flung rural communities, and the city was home to the three largest mail-order companies in the world-Montgomery Ward; Sears, Roebuck & Company; and Spiegel. By the end of World War II, Spiegel employed over 10,000 workers and boasted annual sales of $133 million

More building specs:

  • Original two-story building designed and built in 1936 by Battey & Kipp at a cost of $250,000
  • Building permit issued September 11, 1936
  • Occupancy in January, 1937
  • On May 23, 1941 a building permit was issued for four additional floors, designed and built by Abraham Epstein (now known as A. Epstein and Sons).  Construction was delayed by the start of World War II, but completed in November, 1942.
  • One of the few Art Moderne industrial buildings remaining in Chicago
  • The building was designed in the Art Moderne style to compliment the catalog’s 1930 transition from discounter back to high-end goods, where it started when it was founded as a store on Wabash Avenue in 1865
  • The southeast and southwest corners of the building feature internal stairwells enclosed with glass block

Location: 1038 West 35th Street, Bridgeport

Editor

Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at chicagoarchitectureinfo@gmail.com.

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1 Comment

  1. Spiegel had 35 million sq. feet of warehousing and office space in the surrounding area during the late 30’s and early 40’s. Spiegel employeed 12,000 people full-time with an additional work force of 5,000 seasonal workers for peak times of the year during this same time period.

    Spiegel is a company of many firsts and our staff’s safety has always been paramount. The glass blocks attributed to the deco detailing of the building were designed to ensure safe travels for both our male and female staff up and down the stairwells of this facility, as many late nights were necessary to run a company of this size.

    This facility housed many state-of-the-art technologies that Spiegel developed and created to make our mail-order business more streamlined and advanced. Including first to market order-sorting machinery and Spiegel’s own consumer calculation computer to track consumer buyer habits.

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