Lost Direction

By Mike Maddaloni on Saturday, December 20, 2008 at 04:00 AM with 1 comments

Chicago is a city all about its directions. There’s the North Side and the South Side and nothing in between them. With the exception of a few streets the city is in a grid formation, and all addresses have a north, south, east or west before the name. Many times signs tell you to go in a direction and, unless you know where you are, you would have no idea how to proceed.

At the corner of Wabash Avenue and Madison Street is the 5 North Wabash building. Originally known as the Kesner Building, it was previously commercial space and home of jewelers before converted to condos several years ago. The building has a storied past, including the setting for the book The Girl from Farris’s by Edgar Rice Burroughs and the movie The Package. Burroughs is rumored to have written Tarzan of the Apes there, and Ernest Hemingway is thought to have purchased the gun he used to commit suicide with at the Abercrombie & Fitch store there, back when A&F was a high-end sporting good store before it became the teenie-bopper clothing store. And Mr. T reportedly bought some of his jewelry there.

Up until this summer, at the corner of the building there was a compass laid into the sidewalk, showing which was which as well as the street names, as pictured below.

photo of sidewalk at corner of Wabash and Madison, Chicago before construction

This photo shows the compass much clearer.

photo of compass in sidewalk at corner of Wabash and Madison, Chicago before construction

In addition to the compass was the name “Capper & Capper” which was the name of a men’s clothing store that once occupied part of the building. It is mostly obstructed by a piece of plywood as the sidewalk was vaulted and there was a hole under the board, as pictured below.

photo of Capper & Capper in sidewalk at corner of Wabash and Madison, Chicago before construction

Needless to say, this sidewalk had been put to great use over the years. And partially for that reason all the sidewalks were ripped up along Wabash this summer and replaced, as pictured

photo of sidewalk at corner of Wabash and Madison, Chicago after construction

As you can see, the compass is gone. With all of the heavy jackhammering that it took to remove the old sidewalk, most likely it and its letters were broken up and hauled away with the concrete. Another small piece of history lost. Though the sidewalks are much, much better and new street signage declare Wabash Avenue as Jewelers Row, they don’t tell you which direction you are going.


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