Thompson Building – Chicago

Thompson Building on Clark - Chicago
Thompson Building on Clark – Chicago

My visit to Chicago brought me to this lovely building.   It is the John R Thompson Building built in 1912.   He was fairly famous restaurant owner and this building housed his commissary and corporate offices.

His empire all started by his running a general store in rural Illinois.  In 1891 he came to Chicago and opened a restaurant on State Street.  Thirty years later the Thompson empire included a chain of groceries and 109 restaurants, including 49 in Chicago and 11 in New York City.

Thompson’s restaurants stressed efficiency and hygiene, something that works well in restaurants and in buildings.  The building has a glazed exterior of white terra-cotta, emphasizing the cleanliness of the operation.  The Thompson building’s terra-cotta was manufactured by the great Northwestern Terra Cotta Company, which produced the cladding for the Wrigley Building.

The building has a great pedigree — the designer was Alfred Alschuler, a prolific architect during the first quarter of the 20th century.

The exterior is pretty similar to today but the interior was renovated in 1983.  The lobby has some great historical photos showing us that.

I would say they pretty much gutted the building’s interior and modernized it during the remodel.  While waited in the lobby I looked up to see this fabulous sky light.   This is not a 1912 feature.

Lobby view upwards into skylight
Lobby view upwards into skylight

One more shot showing the lobby.  You can see the modern glass in the upper floors. However, the entrance did retain the original molding and had brass doors that made one think they were stepping back in time.  Hope you enjoy this little trip into Chicago architecture.

Remodel of lobby Thompson Building
Remodel of lobby Thompson Building

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