Almost 200 people packed into the lobby of 910 S. Michigan Avenue last night. To celebrate the building's 100th birthday. Some wore tuxedos and ball gowns; some wore t-shirts and jeans. The food and drink was abundant and flowing. Sprightly piano playing permeated the lobby. As one of the attendees pointed out, the building was built by Jews, renovated in its present form by East Indians and its birthday celebration victuals were prepared and served by Turks (a lavish buffet was provided by Turquoise in Roscoe Village).
Festivities began in the late afternoon in a cove of the lobby; it started with a slide lecture by Benjamin Marshall
expert Steven Monz
, who explained the work of the architect/builder--who died in 1944 at the age of 70--in the context of the buildings he and his partner designed and built from Lake Bluff to the Gold Coast to the South Loop, including The Blackstone Hotel
, the late and famous Edgewater Beach Hotel
--and most of the buildings on East Lake Shore Drive, including The Drake Hotel
. The gates (only) of his own home still exist across from the Bahai Temple in Wilmette.
Marshall's firm built 910 S. Michigan in 1911 for client, S. Karpen & Bros.
, which became the largest upholstered furniture company in the world. The company's founder was Solomon Karpen and his great-grandson Peter Karpen of Cincinatti attended the birthday party and explained that Solomon and his eight brothers fielded a baseball team, in addition to running the company.
After Monz, architect Patrick FitzGerald
talked about what happened to the structure. It ultimately became the Standard Oil Building (Standard Oil added eight floors in 1927), and then a government building-- after which it deteriorated, had an aborted life as affordable housing--and was subsequently looted and abandoned in spite of "security." He explained how he himself came up with 40 floor plans for individual units, among other thing, for the building's new life as luxury condos in 1994. When the developer of the current loft-style condo building
decided to do the build out himself with FitzGerald's plans--but without his precautions, caveats and professionalism--FitzGerald got out.
The building did get converted in any case--and many of those listening to the lecture seemed to be very sympathetic to FitzGerald's interaction with this troublesome developer--whose many mistakes were overcome; today, the residents love their valuable property and were cheerleaders at the party of their beloved home life.
Dinner was at packed-in tables after the talks--in the newly decorated (for the occasion) lobby. And singing ensued to celebrate love and devotion to the condo units. A song was written by 910 condo owner John Taylor, played on the piano by his wife, Barbara--and sung to the tune of Scott Joplin's "The Entertainer
One of the verses went like this:
Toasting ourselves who live in "910,"
Our condo building is part of a trend;
South Loop neighbors, we're part of the mix;
We've survived and met a lot of conflicts,
So let's celebrate and make this day
A time to recognize work and play;
910 South Michigan's home;
We (sic) here to stay and not roam,
We (sic) proud to say that "910" is our home!
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