Saturday, February 27, 2010

Johnny Yen's Chicago: The Abbott Mansion and Factory

Last week, I found myself walking by the handsome Brundage Building near Lincoln and Belmont and it occurred to me to have a new series of posts where I feature things of interest in my hometown of Chicago. I'll have a post soon on the Brundage Building, which you may have seen in a movie. Today's feature is the Abbott Mansion and the old Abbott factory.

On the days that I ride my bike to school (it's about a two mile, ten minute ride, and not too bad even when the weather is bad), I ride a couple of blocks north to ride along Wilson Avenue, which has a bike lane and leads, literally, directly to my school, which is right on Wilson Avenue. I pass by many handsome buildings, of many ages and in many different styles. As I near my school, I pass by a beautiful Queen Anne style mansion-- The Abbott Mansion.

Here's a picture I took last June, on my way to a summer school anatomy class that shows the mansion in its summer glory. You can tell by the sign in the first picture that it's since gone on the market.

The six thousand square foot, 17-room Abbott Mansion was built by Wallace Calvin Abbott, the founder of Abbott Laboratories, the drug company. University of Michigan graduate Wallace Calvin Abbott was a physician and drugstore owner who was one of the first Americans to adopt a process that had been developed in Europe for extracting alkaloids, the chemicals with the medicinal properties, from plants, in 1888. This paid off handsomely and quickly for him-- he built his mansion in 1891, just three years later.

Today, Abbott Laboratories is a $29 billion dollar a year business, with a main manufacturing facility in North Chicago, Illinois, a suburb to the north of Chicago. Back in the late 1800's, it's main manufacturing facility was just a few blocks away from Dr. Abbott's mansion, at Ravenswood Avenue, just north of Lawrence Avenue (across the railroad tracks from the Sears on Lawrence, for all you Chicagoans). These pictures were also taken last June.

Fortunately these handsome old brick buildings have been preserved-- they now have condo lofts in them.

Coincidentally, the old factory is just down the street from the site of an epically failed bank robbery that I posted about some time ago in this post, in which the robber failed to realize two things: one, that banks put dye packs in with the loot, and two, if your getaway involves jumping on the nearby commuter train, it might be a good idea to coordinate the robbery with the train schedule.


SkylersDad said...

I am looking forward to these stories.

Erik Donald France said...

Awesome history and photos! When was aspirin first manufactured in the US? Must have been a great breakthrough at the time.

Churlita said...

Beautiful buildings. I haven't studied much architecture, but there is so many amazing structures in Chicago. Thanks for showing them to us.

Johnny Yen said...

Thanks! I look forward to posting them!

According to Wikipedia, scientists at Bayer, a German firm, were the first to manufacture aspirin in 1899, over a decade after Dr. Abbot started his firm, and presumably imported it here. According to the same source, Bayer's American patent expired in 1917, and it was presumably manufactured here.

It was a great breakthrough-- according to Wikipedia, it was of great help during the Spanish flu pandemic.

Queen Annes are fairly rare in Chicago-- more of them in the suburbs, and I remember there were some in my college town. Wraparound porches are also rare here; when a developer tore one down a couple of blocks from my place to build a "teardown" mansion, I was livid.

Thanks to the Great Fire, Chicago is an architectural showplace-- every style you can think of. A couple of years ago, I treated my son and my best friend to a Chicago Architectural Foundation tour of Art Deco in Chicago. It was awesome.

Erik Donald France said...

Kewel . . . thanks!

GETkristiLOVE said...

Yay, the return of your Chicago posts! That mansion reminds be of the Six Feet Under house, very cool.

Anonymous said...

We are building a new Queen Ann style home a block north of the Abbott factory. (N of Lawrance on Ravenswood) I have clear view of the smoke stack and buliding from our 3rd floor. We love the rare Queen Ann style and were inspired by the Abbott mansion. We also have a 2 story turret and full wrap porch. We hope to be moved in by this May. Thank you for sharing this history!