The Chicago Historical Society acquired these pieces of fire-altered iron, brick, and stone in 1921 as part of a large donation by Chicago candy magnet, Charles Frederick Gunther. Gunther, a former director of the Chicago Historical Society, made his fortune from his popular caramel candies and used it to purchase art and historic materials, especially those relating to the Civil War (1861-1865).
|The remains from a hardware store, after the 1871 Great Chicago Fire, fused into a metal bolder that used to sit outside the main entrance of the Chicago Historical Society.|
The "Relic House" was created to display and preserve the remnants of the Chicago Fire, to remember, to fascinate, and, at a base level, to serve as a construction material that purposely maintains a material connection to the initial event. In 1872, a man only recorded as "Rettig" constructed a cottage-sized structure from 'a melted mixture of stone, iron, and other metals' at the corner of North Park Avenue (Lincoln Park West) and Clark Street.
|Relic House at Clark and Lincoln Park West. Robinson Fire Map 1886.|
|Original Relic House, 900 North Clark Street, before the Refreshment and Music Hall, was added. (1872)|
|The Relic House—At the Entrance of Lincoln Park.|
William Lindemann bought the Relic House sometime before 1890 and established a 'refreshment parlor' in the saloon. By 1890 its importance had risen to a point that a Chicago Tribune editorial called for the entire structure to be temporarily moved to Jackson Park to display the city's history, specifically the 'fantastic freaks of the flames' from the 1871 Fire, to tourists at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition. Such an exhibit was a fit medium to position the fair planners' narrative of Chicago's rebirth from the flame. Lindemann agreed: "It would make a good American curiosity," but only if he was paid enough for his efforts. This plan did not come to fruition, nor did Lindemann's proposed six-story revamp of the Relic House of 1896. Lindemann purportedly continued to add 'relics' to his establishment as new construction projects continued to unearth them, although precisely what these items may have been, has not been located in any documentation.
The Relic House served as a saloon into the twentieth century, and a speakeasy during Prohibition (1920-1933) and its ownership continued to change hands during this period.
Legal Alcohol was available during the prohibition years in Illinois and America.
In 1920, having been kicked out of their previous address, anarchist Dr. Ben L. Reitman arranged for the Club to meet at the Relic house for the first of many poetry nights. The Club members renamed their venue the 'House of Blazes,' reaffirming its link to the 1871 Fire. Considered an offshoot of the Dil Pickle Club proper, Reitman leased it for two years. Other artistic uses for the Relic House included as a home for Meyer Levin's experimental Marionette Theater in 1926.
The Relic House was razed in 1926, only 57 years after it was built, replaced by a 210-unit apartment building at 2000 Lincoln Park West.