Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Manuel Post Office Building, 1500-1496 Miner (Brumlik's; Demolished)

This building was built as the Des Plaines Post Office, a Taxi Garage, and store. It was the Manuel building, built by Dr. Edward A. Manuel, a veterinarian who established Des Plaines' first public transportation system, a horse and buggy, out of a stable on this site.

The Suburban Times, October 15, 1920

Expected That It Will Be Ready For Occupancy November 1st
Building is Finely Equipped - Fine Construction - Will Be A Credit To Our Town

(By E. D. MacL[uckie])

    Dean Swift once said that the man who could make two blades of grass grow where one grew before deserved better of mankind than the whole race of politicians put together.
    Then, what shall we say of the man who plans and erects a fine business structure in the center of his own village, not only as an example of thrift and good business principles, but as an example for his neighbors to emulate? Pericles of old adorned Athens, so is our good fellow citizen, Dr. E. A. Manuel, beautifying this little town of Des Plaines.
    Let us call your attention to how this is being done:
    Facing the Northwestern station on the north stands Dr. E. A. Manuel's new store, garage, and apartment building, which is fifty feet wide and one hundred thirty-eight feet from front to rear. Seventy feet of the front portion is two stories high, the remainder being one story in height.
    The rear portion fifty by sixty-eight feet is a convenient and substantial garage, which will not only be the home of the doctor's fine taxi-service but which will comfortably house twenty automobiles. The garage has a cement floor, is provided with an office ten by sixteen feet, and a lavatory and toilet. Its large basement accommodates the steam-heating apparatus and call the coal required for a season's run. A chute from the garage floor to the basement permits the convenient handling of the coal. The floors, stairways, and supports are all reinforced concrete and cement.
    The steam heating of this portion of the structure guarantees a temperature of 50 degrees in the garage and 70 degrees in the office during any kind of weather.
    A cement driveway nine by seventy connects the garage with Miner street. Were this driveway extended seventy-five feet, it would run under the west eaves of the Northwestern station, which shows how conveniently located this building is.
    The driveway has a hundred barrel cistern under it, which will supply the entire building with soft water (what a luxury!) Besides the cistern there are two man-holes in the driveway, one for coal and the other for goods.
    The front fifty by seventy feet of the structure will accommodate two business houses, the new post office on the left and a store on the right of the automobile entrance. The post office is twenty-two by seventy feet, while the store is sixteen by sixty feet. Each of these is supplied with a lavatory and toilet. These are on the first floor. On the second floor are two up-to-date six room apartments, each boasting a parlor overlooking Miner Street, a dining room, a kitchen, a bathroom, and three bedrooms and (housewives take notice) each bedroom has a clothes closet. Hot-water heat supplies the front seventy feet of this building.
    The dental suite in the front and middle part of the second floor is uniquely complete and arranged, consisting of a handsome waiting room with a liberal skylight, an office separated from the waiting room by a heavily-plated opaque glass partition, an x-ray room, a toilet and lavatory, two operating rooms, and a laboratory. This suite has two entrances, one for ingress and one for egress. The walls of the operating room are padded to keep out the noise from the trains.
    On the second floor is a large central hall communicating with a gentlemen's and a ladies' toilet, the dental suite, and the apartments.
    At the rear of the seventy-foot addition and on the second floor is an immense open-air porch, extending across the building, which will be closed in by wire screens in summer and glass in winter.
    This portion also has a liberal basement for the hot-water heating plant, coal, and storage, Its stairways, walls, and supports are re-enforced concrete and cement.
    Not even the roof has been neglected or overlooked; for it is made with sheathing on the rafters; this is covered with flaxlinum, which is a strawboard of seventy-five percent flax and the [SNIP] "If it will keep out the cold, it will keep out the heat."
    The floors are cement and terrazzo mosaics, cement on the parts to be covered in linoleum, and terrazzo mosaic in halls and rotundas.
    Lastly, but quite important, is the attractive facade, or front, of this new business block, (and we call it "business block" with much gusto.) It has four entrances. Over the left one in raised terra cotta letters are the words, POST OFFICE. Over the right hand entrance is the one wod, STORE, in the same kind of letters, while a long ornamental lintel over the middle, or garage, entrance bears at each end a representation of an automobile wheel, flanked on the left by a pair of nippers above a wrench and on the right hand by an automobile "jack," which replicas are bound together by the appropriate legend: TAXI SERVICE. This lintel with its adornments is strikingly appropriate for a garage whose location is the very best. The word OFFICE adorns the stairway entrance.
    Above the central entrance near the roof is an eagle perched upon a United States shield with its traditional thirteen stars and thirteen stripes, all in terra cotta.
    The large plate glass window frames are trimmed with genuine copper, thus insuring safety and durability. The front entrances are trimmed in terra cotta, while the front wall is capped with cut stone.
    The construction of this building has been greatly retarded because of the inability to secure material. Few buildings are built on the careful and honest lines in both material and workmanship that this one has been, which is a compliment both to the builder, Mr. W. G. Wille, and the owner, E. A. Manuel.
    The building will be fully completed and occupied by November first.
    In conclusion, this whole structure embodies the ideas of comfort, solidity, strength, durability, and congruity, which typify in many aspects the character of its owner, Dr. E. A. Manuel, who could give to this community no better example of progress and no more fitting monument of his own worth and business integrity.
...and now it's a driveway!

Before this building was built, Dr. Manuel was already operating the Des Plaines Depot Garage here, selling Hupmobiles and Dodge Brothers Motor Cars; this later became Des Plaines Motor Sales in the new building. Manuel's taxi service grew into the Suburban Auto Coach Company and then United Motor Coach (with its passenger depot later in this building), before being absorbed into the Regional Transportation Authority in 1965. Dr. Manuel's impressive house still stands at the corner of Rand Road and Elk Boulevard.

The E.A. Manuel Livery and Boarding Stable, circa 1900. From "March of Progress", 1956

The post office moved to the Masonic Temple building after five years, in 1925, although the back garage portion was later used by the Post Office. Over the years, much of the Terra Cotta on the first floor was removed as the store and garage became an auto showroom, and in about 1954 a total modern aluminum storefront system was installed as Brumlik Shoes moved in.

1946 postcard, 1950s postcard, 1960s via Chamber of Commerce booklet
In 1980 the Des Plaines City Council elected to purchase the Brumlik building to provide access from Miner Street to the Park Place parking lot. This was done in anticipation of a 3-story transportation center on the train depot's site, which would have connected via overhead walkway through this property to another parking deck in the Park Place lot. The transportation center would have connected to the Behrel deck, and in turn to the rest of Superblock, had it developed as planned. Although the owner of Brumlik's protested, the store closed in September, 1980, and the building was demolished the next month.

By the following March, the transportation center was down scaled to what we see today; there would be no overhead walkways going through the site. A park was built there, Miner Square, and was outfitted for $8,000, then upgraded for $20,000 more two years later. The building's demolition was ultimately unnecessary; an 'arcade' could have been built directly through the building for parking access, as many other downtowns have done. The park was again redone in the late 1990s. The removal of this building made it possible 20 years later to remove the adjacent Brown's building and put in a driveway to Metropolitan Square, further degrading Miner Street.

1926 - Dr. Heller
1935 - Dr. R.W. Schulze
1953 - Dr. Warren W. Kreft

1496 -

1916-1925 Post Office
1926-? - Behrens Realty
1935-1947 Women's Specialty Shop
1940-1947 - Seurborn Singer Repair (upstairs?)
1956?-1960 - Bus Depot
1958-1964 - Maine Travel Agency
1968-1980 - Ivy Temps

1500 -
1935-1951 - Des Plaines Motor Sales (Del Townsend Chevrolet)
1954-1980 - Brumlik Shoes

Photo 1 Courtesy of Mace Mlodoch; Photo 2 Courtesy of Malcolm Mlodoch


Post a Comment

Please be civil and constructive!