THREATENED: Cassidy Tire Building Endangered by New High-Rise Tower Proposal

Wm. J. Cassidy Tire Building, originally known as the Tyler & Hippach Mirror Company Factory, by Henry J. Schlacks in 1902 at 344 N. Canal Street. Photo Credit: Google Street View

Wm. J. Cassidy Tire Building, originally known as the Tyler & Hippach Mirror Company Factory, by Henry J. Schlacks in 1902 at 344 N. Canal Street. Photo Credit: Google Street View

Wm. J. Cassidy Tire Building, originally known as the Tyler & Hippach Mirror Company Factory, by Henry J. Schlacks in 1902 at 344 N. Canal Street. Photo Credit: Google Street View

Tracks Built to Move the Entire 6,000-ton Tyler & Hippach Building approximately 220 feet in 1908. Photo Credit: The Engineering Record, Vol 58, No. 12, September 19, 1908, Pages 317-319.

Located at 344 N. Canal Street, the Wm. J. Cassidy Tire Building, originally known as the Tyler & Hippach Mirror Company Factory, is threatened with demolition to make way for a new 33-story apartment tower by Chicago developer Habitat. Habitat has signed a contract to buy the development site which is owned by the family behind Cassidy Tire & Service.

Current zoning would allow a 365-foot-tall building, but a zoning change is required to allow for a residential use. Preservation Chicago strongly encouraged 42nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly to require that the historic building be incorporated into the new construction $150 million dollar development plans as part of the zoning change. Community meetings have not yet been announced.

The five-story, brick-mill construction building was constructed at 117‐125 N. Clinton Street by the important Chicago glass and mirror finishing company of Tyler & Hippach. The company was founded in 1887 and produced high quality glass and mirror for furniture companies in Chicago and across the country. In 1902, they hired architect Henry J. Schlacks (1867–1938) to design for them a new factory and headquarters on Clinton Street north of Carroll Avenue. The building is an excellent example of a “Chicago School” or “Chicago Commercial Style” and is a fine example of a steel-framed structure of its era. Schlacks, who began his architectural career working in the office of Dankmar Adler & Louis Sullivan, is better known for designing many of Chicago’s most beautiful churches.

Tyler & Hippach Glass Company was a leading glass manufacturer in Chicago during the late 19th and early 20th century, and research by Preservation Chicago suggests that it likely glazed or supplied the glass windows and elements to many celebrated Chicago School Buildings, many of which are designated Chicago Landmarks. The Tyler & Hippach Glass Company name is not familiar to many Chicagoans today perhaps due to the extraordinary series of tragedies suffered by the family which owned the company. The Hippach Family was in the audience at the Iroquois Theater in 1903 and lost two children during the disastrous fire that impacted life safety standards across the country. After a European vacation, the family set sail in April 1912 on the maiden voyage of a new ship called the Titanic.

In 1906, the Chicago & North Western Railway began planning the expansion of its West Loop terminal. The plans called for the purchase and demolition of blocks of buildings along the east side of Clinton street to erect a rail trestle from the new station. The recently completed Tyler & Hippach factory building was in the way. Numerous early Chicago buildings were razed to make way for the new trestle, including a number which the project engineer at the time noted were historic. However, the new five‐story factory building was too valuable to demolish and was spared.

Chicago & North Western purchased the building from Tyler & Hippach and made plans to move the entire 6,000-ton structure approximately 220 feet to the south and east. William Grace & Company was hired, and they brought in Harvey Sheeler, a highly regarded engineer and building mover, to prepare plans to move the massive brick factory building. Sheeler had patented a system for moving large and heavy objects on steel rollers, a system which was celebrated for its great successes. In 1908, tracks, screw jacks and teams of workers were assembled to move the building 52 feet south and 168 feet east to the building’s current location at 344 North Canal. At the time, Sheeler claimed it was the largest building ever moved. Others marveled that not a single crack formed in the masonry or that even one brick was loosened.

The factory remains largely intact from its original appearance. Most of the original windows remain in place, with the exception of in‐filled openings and newer units on the first and second floors on the north and south elevations.

Preservation Chicago believes the building could be considered for Chicago Landmark designation as it was designed by a prominent architect. Other structures by Henry Schlacks are protected under a Chicago Landmark designation, and this is a rare surviving example of an industrial building by him. Additionally, in 1908, it was reportedly the largest building moved ever completed (with a large published article and photographs in “The Engineering Record” for September 19, 1908–page 317). Other notable details include the remarkable contribution of the original owners to Chicago’s architecture and their tragic personal story. Additionally, this is the site Wolf Point which dates back to the very earliest history of Chicago and deserves special care and attention.

Noting all of these factors, Preservation Chicago encourages the City of Chicago to take steps to create a Chicago Landmark designation and encourage the developer to incorporate the Cassidy/Tyler & Hippach Glass Company Building into the larger residential development proposed for this site. There is ample room for both new and old to coexist. We are currently outreaching to 42 nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly to encourage a reuse of the building or the incorporation of it in the proposed development.

Additional Reading

With special thanks to Matt Wicklund for his outstanding historic research.

AUDIO: What’s That Building? The Cassidy Tire Building — And Its Unusual Escape From Demolition

Dennis Rodkin, Morning Shift, WBEZ 91.5 Chicago, June 6, 2019

Developer plans 33-story Fulton River District apartment tower, “It’s the perfect point between the West Loop and the Loop,” Habitat President Matt Fiascone said of the 343-unit building he plans at 344 N. Canal St., Alby Gallun, Crain’s Chicago Business, 5/8/19

Moving a Large Brick Factory Building, The Engineering Record, Vol 58, No. 12, September 19, 1908, Pages 317-319

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