Friday, April 3, 2020

The History of Chicago Boarding Houses.

Residential boarding arrangements in the Chicago area are at least as old as the taverns of the Fort Dearborn trading settlement. During Chicago's early boom years, when housing facilities lagged behind population growth, many visitors and newcomers found lodging and meals in the households of private citizens.

By the 1880s, boarding was an established way of life. Private boarding houses typically consisted of a married couple (with or without children) who kept several boarders, generally single, unrelated individuals. While married couples occasionally boarded, families with children rarely lived in boarding houses.

Women usually took primary responsibility for boarders. For many women, keeping boarders and lodgers was a readily available way to earn money that permitted a flexible schedule and was compatible with caring for children. A married woman's income from boarding was often more reliable than her husband's income, and could well be the primary income for the household. Keeping boarders was also a source of income for some widows and mature single women.
For many landlords and boarders, the household intimacy of boarding was part of its appeal. Boarders not only took their meals within the household but often participated in family activities. Boarding house residents met daily in the shared spaces of the dining room and the parlor. Late-nineteenth-century reformers approved of the family environment of boarding houses, which they felt acted as a welcome social restraint on boarders.

Native-born white and negro Americans often lived in boarding houses when they were single and new to the city. After the 1880s, more and more single young women and men were employed in clerical jobs in the new skyscrapers, and many of them lived in boarding houses.
H.H. Holmes Murder Castle (the arrow is front entrance), circa 1893.
Boarding was more prevalent among immigrants than among the native-born in early twentieth-century Chicago and other large cities. Boarding provided a cultural haven for homesick new immigrants who sought out households where they could speak their native tongues. Housing arrangements were often made through informal networks rather than public advertising.
The Transit House, 43th and Halsted, Chicago, (1868). This boarding house served the visitors and patrons of the Union Stock Yards.
Larger and more commercial boarding houses existed in outlying industrial areas, such as near suburban railroad stops. In some of the more crowded arrangements, workers shared bedding and slept in shifts in a “hotbed.” In some working-class boarding houses, each boarder's food was purchased and cooked separately. In other situations, residents themselves took turns cooking.
Notice the buildings main entrance has been moved to the second floor because Chicago raised the street level to improve drainage of water, raising the streets out of the mud in 1858.
Well before 1900, other arrangements began to replace boarding. Many tenants preferred to lodge without common meals or to live in larger, more anonymous rooming houses, where a “light housekeeping room” included a gas fixture for cooking on a single burner. In a rooming house, residents could keep their own hours, enjoy greater privacy, and perhaps entertain guests more easily.
Packingtown, (Back of the Yards Neighborhood), Chicago.
Landlords, too, could prefer lodgers to boarders for many of the same reasons. Boardinghouse families began to prefer their privacy to the affective ties of an extensive surrogate family. 

The decline of boarding could be seen as a parallel to the transformation of the semipublic “parlor” or front-room (frunchroom in Chicagoese) into the twentieth-century private “living room.”

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

The Pullman Building at Michigan and Adams Tip Top Inn and Black Cat Inn Restaurants, Chicago.

In historical writing and analysis, PRESENTISM is the introduction of present-day ideas and perspectives into depictions or interpretations of the past. I believe presentism is a form of cultural bias, and it creates a distorted understanding of the subject matter. Reading modern notions of morality into the past is committing the error of presentism. I'm well aware that historical accounts are written by people and can be slanted, so I try my hardest to present articles that are fact based and well researched, without interjecting any of my personal opinions.

As the massively solid Pullman Building at 79 E. Adams Street, was under construction on Michigan Avenue in 1884, a young Adolph Hieronymus was traveling to Chicago from his native Germany. Within a few years, he would run a renowned restaurant on the building’s top floor.

The Pullman Palace Car Company (established in 1862), was first located in the Tremont House at 92 Lake Street in February of 1867. The firm moved in 1868 to offices at Randolph and the lake, a fortuitous move. Not only was the building close to the rail lines running along the lakefront, but a rail siding ran next to the building. 

The day after the Great Chicago Fire Pullman quickly moved, via the Illinois Central tracks, what he could save to stables at 18th Street where business presumably carried on. Between 1871 and 1884, Pullman's primary offices were located on the east side of Michigan Avenue south of 18th Street and later in the old Peoples Gas building at 122 S Michigan Avenue, the site which is still the site of the Peoples Gas building.

A new fire-proof building was built as the new headquarters of the Pullman Palace Car Company. It was completed in 1885 at the southwest corner of Michigan Avenue and Adams Street. 

After George Pullman's death in 1897, Robert Todd Lincoln, son of Abraham Lincoln, became company president until 1911. The Pullman Company (renamed December 30, 1899, several years after the death of George Mortimore Pullman (1831-1897)) remained in the Pullman Building until 1948, after which offices were moved to the Merchandise Mart.

When the imposing building was completed, the company occupied two and a one-half of its nine floors while the rest of the space was rented for 125 offices and 75 apartments, which were known as “bachelor apartments,” probably because it lacked anything but the most rudimentary cooking facilities.
George Pullman's office was located on the ninth floor, just below the flag-pole-topped corner turret. The offices for the company located elsewhere in the building.
For the first few years, the Pullman company ran its own restaurant, "The Albion," on the 9th floor. It was considered advanced at the time to locate restaurants on top floors so that cooking odors would not drift throughout the building. In addition, diners at The Albion, and later the Tip Top Inn restaurant, had excellent views of Lake Michigan.
The Corner of Michigan Avenue and Adams Street, Chicago.
During the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893, Adolph Hieronymus left his job as the chef at the Palmer House and took over the Pullman building restaurant, renaming it to the Tip Top Inn. Under his management, it became one of Chicago’s best gourmet restaurants, hosting society figures and professional organizations. Until the Pullman company expanded its offices onto all eight floors below the restaurant, the men living in the 75 apartments on the upper floors were also steady customers of the Inn, often having meals sent down to them.

The space occupied by the Tip Top Inn was divided into a bewildering number of rooms, at least five and maybe more at once. Each had its own decorating scheme. Over the years – but surely not simultaneously — there were the Colonial Room, the Nursery, the Whist Room, the Charles Dickens Corner, the Flemish Room, the French Room, the Italian Room, the Garden Room, and the Grill Room. The Whist Room was decorated with enlarged playing cards and lanterns with spades, hearts, diamonds, and clubs. The lantern and suits also decorated the Inn’s china and menus.
The Colonial Room
The Whist Room
The French Room
Mr. Hieronymus employs negro waiters, and many people wonder how he gives such good service with negroes. In reply to this subject, Hieronymus said:
“I have tried to be a friend of the negro in this business. and have always employed them. It is in the Palmer House and The Tip Top Inn that the negro has held his position all these years in Chicago. I have their work systematized. Each waiter knows his station and what he has to do, arid each station has its captain, who is my representative, and I am always accessible. There is discipline, but no bad language. Every employee must be self-respecting and a credit to the establishment. The waiters appreciate the treatment and are loyal. It is the same way with the cooks; they are loyal, and have time and again given evidence of it. The policy here is to minimize waste. The high cost of living today is due in a large measure to waste, not alone in material, but in time."
Hieronymus was employee-centric and compensated his entire staff better than other local fine dining restaurants. The meals were expensive for the time period and the waiters made a very good living on tips.

A single tenant who had a meal sent down to his apartment might order; Tomato Crab Cumbo soup, Allice Salad, Fillet of Sea Bass, Peach a la Bellevue, and French Drip Coffee, would pay $2.95  in 1920, ($39.00 today).
Tip Top Inn Partial Menu - In 1920, $1 = $13 today.
Perhaps to attract new customers, Hieronymus created an associated restaurant on the 9th floor called "The Black Cat Inn," with somewhat lower prices than the Tip Top Inn and a menu featuring prix fixe meals (fixed price).

The Tip Top Inn and The Black Cat Inn occupy the entire top floor of the Pullman Building. The Black Cat Restaurant takes the west wing of the building and is operated with less overhead for service than The Tip Top Inn, consequently the bill-of-fare prices are lower. 

In the Black Cat Inn, there was a new departure in service, in that negro waitresses were employed. These young women had been carefully trained, serving a sort of apprenticeship as bus girls for some months before advanced to waiters. They are intelligent, respectful, clean and work side by side with the negro waiters. Hieronymus watched them work for half an hour and they gave satisfactory service. 
The Black Cat Inn. (c.1910)
Negro waitresses served in restaurants far less often than negro men. The Tip Top Inn, just like the Albion and the Pullman dining cars, had always been staffed with negro waiters, some of whom worked there for decades. It was said that anyone who worked at the Tip Top could find employment in any restaurant across the country. 

In the book “Black Bolshevik” author Harry Haywood (the son of former slaves who became a leading member of the Communist Party and a pioneering theoretician on the negro struggle. Originally published in 1978) wrote in his autobiography that he quickly worked his way up from Tip Top Inn busboy to a waiter and then landed jobs on the ultra-modern Twentieth-Century Limited train and with Chicago’s Sherman Hotel and Palmer House.

By 1931 when the Tip Top Inn restaurant closed, it was regarded as an old-fashioned holdover from a previous era. Its extensive menu of specialties such as Stuffed Whitefish with Crabmeat, Suzettes Tip Top, and Alice Salad[1] some of the more than 100 dishes created by Hieronymus, was no longer in vogue. 

The outlawing of alcoholic beverages proved challenging to the Tip Top Inn, as it did to other leading Chicago restaurants of the pre-Prohibition era such as Rector’s, the Edelweiss, and the Hofbrau, all of which would go under before the ban on selling alcohol ended. 

Aside from Prohibition (1920-1933), Hieronymus attributed the restaurant’s demise to the death of gourmet dining. Hieronymus died in1932 but he and his restaurant were remembered by Chicagoans for decades. 

The Pullman Building was demolished in 1956.

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D.

[1] Salade Alice (Alice Salad) Recipe:
  • Medium-sized red dessert (sweet) apples
  • Lemon juice
  • Apple balls cut with a very small vegetable ball-cutter
  • Redcurrants
  • Almonds or walnuts
  • Salt
  • Cream
  • Lettuce
  • Cut the apples into 4 or 6 wedges and remove some of the fruit so it makes a bowl. 
  • Rub the inside of the apple with lemon juice to prevent it from discoloring. 
  • Mix the apple balls, redcurrants, and chopped nuts. 
  • Sprinkle with salt and lemon juice and bind with the cream. 
  • Fill the apple bowls and serve on bibb lettuce.