Meyer House Hotel at Rear, across tracks. This picture is from the vantage of Kinder Hardware.
In 1900, Brown purchased the Meyer House Hotel property next door, a three story frame building, which had held the city's first liquor license, tore it down and began erecting his own building, a department store with apartments above. Some sources indicate it was built by local contractor Frank Cook, builder of the first Des Plaines Public Library, Gillespie Printery (Bremer Building), the first Des Plaines State Bank, the first St. Mary's, and the Standard Oil Building, as well as schools and other buildings. The architecture is probably best described as Rundbogenstil, a german style that interpreted classical styles more freely; this can be seen in its unusual dentilled pediment, squat Ionic columns, and arched doorways. It was supposedly the first store in town with gas lights, supplemented by a number of skylights.
This is an under-construction photo, and the best overall showing the detail of the building. The parapet wall at the top is not in place yet, nor are the windows. Notice the striped roman-style piers.
Early interior of the Des Plaines Department Store; this view would be inside the Cut N Roll barbershop now. Such high ceilings!
In those days, Brown's carried groceries & General Merchandise such as buggy whips, tobacco, and Buster Brown shoes. Even open on Sundays, women would drop off shopping lists and CWM would fill orders, paid off with baskets of produce, eggs, and butter. By the 1950s they were a specialty store for Women and Children, well-known for its creative window displays.
In 1937, because of the depression, Brown's swapped locations with Sears, Roebuck & Company, who remodeled the exterior a bit. It was the only Sears in the Northwest suburbs for a long time, and sold only hard lines, not clothing. It closed August 31, 1971.
The next year, the building was remodeled by owner Peter Mandas, partly for use as temporary City Hall facilities while the new City Hall was being built. The project was delayed repeatedly, first with a disagreement over the garage to the rear, which the city wanted torn down and Mandas wanted to convert to a store. The city had earlier tried to have the building torn down over structural concerns, but these were eventually addressed. The back-and-forth with the city and cheap remodeling were a point of contention, and work was stopped numerous times. This is when the cheap black and white stucco was added to the building.
The first floor was remodeled into four stores, three facing Miner and one on Pearson. The City Hall took up two stores and housed the Mayor's, Clerk's, Health, and Finance offices. The other contained Stewardi Dress Shop.
The only other major change to the building came from Subway, who cut larger openings into the wall. Presumably this was not a bearing wall; it would be difficult to match the orange brick. Maybe a mural can cover these sins.
So what would rehabilitation of this building entail?
First and foremost, ripping out the stucco! Isn't it strange and sad that the 1900 storefront was all-glass, something that would be extremely modern today? It's too bad the 1970s storefronts are so traditional and boring. If it is to remain 3 separate stores, then new entrances can be added, but please, no more stucco! There are some missing limestone courses above the storefront that could be replaced by that or concrete; other than that, the cornice needs repainting (probably an off-white) and should extend all the way down Pearson, and the parapet above it should be a uniform height. Also the second-story windows should be a dark color. These changes will make it an attractive cornerstone of our downtown again. The anthemion ornament at the peak of the pediment triangle is missing. And I suppose you could add back the chimneys, too, and maybe something reminiscent of the Sears hanging sign.
Here are some of the other stores that have occupied this building:
1976-1986 - Erehwon Mountain Supply
1995-1998 - Maggie's Toybox
? - Spy Source
Current: Cut N Roll Salon
1996-1998 - Bob Shambora Edward Jones
Brings You Back Bakery
That Special Event
1978-1979 Schmid Realtors
1979 - Weinberger 10th Dist. Congress Campaign office
1980-1986 - IVY Temps
1986-2000 - ABA Temps
-Nov 2007 Subway
1976: Viking Locksmith
1978: The Oriental Corner
1981-82: Colony Macrame Shoppe
-Nov 2007 Subway