Walgreens - Noel State Bank Building


[Walgreens - Noel State Bank Building (1920) Gardner C. Coughlen, Weary & Alford, architects /Image & Artwork: designslinger]

The Noels of Wicker Park. Is it a new reality series on Bravo? Or is it an upcoming costume drama on PBS? Sorry to disappoint - but its neither. Though family patriarch Thoephilus Noel's over-the-top personality was tailor made for Bravo while son Joseph's studied demeanor would have been a perfect fit for a PBS, as a combo, both would have provided the perfect weekly dose of high drama and spicy behavior that tv audiences seem to love, for either channel.


[Walgreens - Noel State Bank Building, 1601 N. Milwaukee Avenue, Chicago /Image & Artwork: designslinger]

Theophilus Noel came to Chicago in 1878, got into the patent medicine business, and became a multi-millionaire selling his vitamin-enhanced cures. He settled into the city's Wicker Park neighborhood, and as the money rolled-in began purchasing property in and around his Ewing (today known as Pierce) Avenue home. Joseph, perhaps inspired by his father's medicinal concoctions, decided to become a doctor, and after attending Rush Medical College and interning for a few years in New Jersey, returned to Chicago with his wife Alice and joined his father in 1900 as the vice president and secretary of the newly incorporated Noel Proprietary Medicine Co. The following year he became one of the head honchos of the National Association of Retail Druggists, before heading-off in an entirely different direction.


[Walgreens - Noel State Bank Building, Chicago /Image & Artwork: designslinger]

As the Noels' fortunes grew Joseph decided to invest $25,000 in a new business venture
based, of course, in his Wicker Park neighborhood. The North West Savings Bank opened for business in 1905 and moved into the Milnoro Building at the triangular corner of North and Milwaukee Avenues. With his new business established, Joseph was able to move from the world of his father's patent medicine business and into the respectable, staid world of banking. He joined the Chicago Association of Commerce who recognized his good business sense and reputable reputation by naming him president of the organization in 1920. But not before his father's name made headlines in a long-litigated divorce action. Joseph's mother had died when he was a teenager and his father had remarried in 1894, one year before Joseph married Alice. Then the year the bank was founded, Elisabeth Noel filed for divorce from Theophilus who chose to drag the case through the courts for the next 5 years. When interviewed by the Chicago Tribune the 70-year-old Noel - who the paper said was currently living with his son Joseph, president of the North West State Bank - told the newspaper's reporter that his wife the "smartest and ugliest woman in the world."


[Walgreen's - Noel State Bank Building, Damen, North & Milwaukee Avenues /Image & Artwork: designslinger]

North West State Bank became Noel State Bank in 1917, and after Theophilus' death in
1918, Joseph began to make plans to build his own freestanding bank building in 1919. He purchased the triangular plot across the street from the Milnoro Building where Damen cut through the Milwaukee and North Avenue intersections. He paid Jacob Loeb, president of the Board of Education, and Sidney R. David $110,000 for the land and its 4 buildings. He hired the architectural firm of Weary & Alford to draw-up the plans, who put architect Gardner C. Coughlen on the job. Weary & Alford were well known for their bank building designs and had done a number of projects around the country and produced a building that set the bank back around $500,000. Business boomed, Noel was president of one of the city's reputable business groups, and he was the driving force behind a scheme to build one of the tallest buildings outside of the Loop on the site of the Milnoro - the Northwest Tower. The good times lasted until June 19, 1931 when the bank closed its doors after depositors made a run on the bank and withdrew almost $4 million from the institution. Joseph's Noel State Bank joined 37 other state banks that entered into receivership in 1931 - and there would be many more to follow during the next two years.


[Walgreens - Noel State Bank Building /Image & Artwork: designslinger]

The building was home to a number of financial institutions between 1935 and 2010
before closing its doors once again. That's when Walgreens stepped-in. The drug store chain spent two years renovating and repurposing the former banking house, further expanding their new branding concept for the urban market. With the elegant plaster ceiling restored, the windows reopened to the sunlight, and a lower level that feels anything but, the company revealed their latest flagship store in the adaptively redone Noel State Bank Building in November, 2012. The old vault now serves as a showcase for vintage Walgreens products as well as a vast selection of vitamins. So in one of those ironic twists of history, the Noel name is once again linked in a pharmaceutically vitamized way to Theophilus Noel's fortune-founding Vitae One, which got the whole ball rolling.

See another neighborhood based financial institution at: Uptown Bank Building.

 
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