747 N. LaSalle Street | Arthur Holmer, Boardwalk Capital Holdings
Boardwalk Capital Holdings and its investors are fortunate to own a well-located, beautifully maintained building at 747 N. LaSalle Street. Built in 1924, the bi-level building reaches seven stories high at 747 N LaSalle and five stories on the older, 743 N LaSalle side of the building. Our Tenant-Partners are a diverse group of businesses including social media marketing company Adaptly, Arsova Salon, River North Massage Therapy Center and many other wonderful services.
In truth, the building at 747 N LaSalle, while wonderful, does not have a storied history like some of the BCH properties including 230 W Huron, the Bauer Building, 158 W Erie, a former firehouse, and 2954-2958 N Sheffield, former home to the Tengwall binder and hole punch company.
However, as I’ve learned, if you look deeper into the location of a property almost anywhere in Chicago, you’ll find a story that’s worth telling.
The First Swede Town on the Near North Side of Chicago
Most of us think of Andersonville as the Swedish enclave in the City of Chicago, and with good reason. From Anne Sathers and the Ebenezer Lutheran Church, to the Midsommarsfest street festival celebrating the summer solstice, the Lakeview area reflects its previous Swedish inhabitants. However, the earliest Swedish settlement was actually in the Near North section of the City first and moved north to Andersonville only after the fire of 1871.
It’s easy to forget that Chicago is a relatively young city having been founded in 1833 and incorporated in 1837. In 1846 Chicago’s first Swedish settlement was born when a group of immigrants bound for the Bishop Hill, Illinois religious colony decided to stay in Chicago. The census of 1850 suggests that there were 27 Swedish families that were living within a few blocks of their religious center, the Norwegian Lutheran Church on Superior between Wells and LaSalle.
The location of what was to become the Immanuel Lutheran Church is a half block from the BCH building at 743 N. LaSalle. Unfortunately, the Great Fire of 1871 burned the church and just about every other building on the near north side of the City to the ground. This and the transformation of the area into industrial and commercial use prompted the Swedes to move further north outside what was then the confines of the City of Chicago.
Majestic Sales and the Grundig Radio Connection
In the early 1960’s LaSalle Street south of Chicago was still a mix of warehouse space, one or two motels, some retail, office space and several gas stations. While I haven’t found specific information about tenants at 747 N. LaSalle (or 745 or 743) prior to 1960, there was an interesting tenant of the Boardwalk Capital building in 1960.
At a time when entertainment is consumed from a device, its difficult to remember when the phonograph and radio were not only THE entertainment in a home, but likely one of the most prominent pieces of furniture. In the 50’s and 60’s, if you fancied yourself an audiophile, or just wanted to show off a bit, you stepped up from an RCA or Zenith product and splurged on the exotic and expensive models from Europe. Among the most respected European makers of radios, phonos and recorders was the Grundig corporation of Germany.
As with all overseas manufacturers of consumer goods, the Grundig corporation needed a stateside partner to market and sell their radios, recorders and televisions. In 1955, they found what they believed to be a suitable partner in Wilcox-Gay, a Michigan Company that had a not-so-successful history manufacturing and selling recording devices and radios. Recently purchased out of the first of its bankruptcies by a fast-speaking investor and salesman, Leonard Ashbach, Wilcox-Gay purchased the right to market Grundig products in the U.S.
Advertising in publications including Ebony, Life, and other high-profile newspapers and magazines, Wilcox-Gay sales of Grundig products seemed promising, or at least that’s what Ashbach reported to investors.
(picture of ads and product)
Within two years of the agreement, the company and its investors were headed back into bankruptcy court. In 1961, Ashbach once again was able to secure outside investors to help him revive the fortunes of his company and reconstituted the Grundig sales effort under Majestic International Sales, a subsidiary of Wilcox-Gay Majestic. As part of this second bankruptcy, Ashbach decided to move the company from Charlotte, Michigan to Chicago. Ashbach settled on a five-story building at 743 N. LaSalle to house the reconstituted company.
In the one photo I was able to find of the Wilcox-Gay office on LaSalle, it was an appropriately dark, snowy night time shot, befitting of a company that would go out of business for good just two years later in 1962.
745 N. LaSalle and Burhop’s One Fish Plaza
One of the earliest and most well-known fish mongers in the city of Chicago was Burhop’s Seafood. In 1926 Albert Burhop established his wholesale fish business at 545 N. State Street. With a focus on product quality and customer service, Burhop’s earned a reputation among restaurants and consumers as providing the best fish in the City. For decades, through the 1970’s, their brand was synonymous with fish in the city of Chicago.
With the 1980’s, and the transformation of State Street North of the river with high rise residential and office buildings, Burhop’s State Street location was closed with the wholesale business moving to Elston. At the same time new partners from outside of the family were brought into the business resulting in a rapid expansion of retail locations including a Chicago retail store at the Boardwalk Capital building that had the address of 745 N. LaSalle.
News accounts suggest that the LaSalle street location was met with early success, not only selling fish, but also a variety of specialty food items and a nice selection of wine. I even read news accounts from 1988 indicating that the LaSalle Street Market portion of the business was offering cooking classes, much like The Chopping Block does at the Mart today.
Over the decade however, the LaSalle building changed owners and the failure of other Burhop’s locations opened in the early 1980’s led to the shuttering of Burhop’s at 745 N. LaSalle. It must have been a sad day for the Burhop family as the closing ended a run of over 60 years in the city of Chicago.
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