MDA City Apartments - Medical and Dental Arts Building

[MDA City Apartments - Medical and Dental Arts Building (1927) D.H. Burnham & Co. architects; (2004) adaptive reuse, Hartshorne & Plunkard Architecture, architects /Image & Artwork: designslinger]

In the 1862-63 edition of the Chicago Directory the address of William E. Doggett's wholesale and shoe manufacturing business was listed at 29-31 Lake Street. Although the 4-story building located on the southeast corner of Lake and Wabash extended 100 feet in a southerly direction along Wabash Avenue, the 40 feet of frontage along Lake was prime real estate. Lake Street was the State Street and Michigan Avenue of its day. Every major retailer, wholesaler, or anything in between, wanted a spot along Chicago's major merchandising thoroughfare. On a warm October night in 1871 the building, along with all the stock of Doggett, Bassett & Hills, was swept away in the Great Fire. Doggett rebuilt on the same site, named the new 6-story building after himself, and even though he died in 1876 and the business was out-of-business by 1890, the structure was still known as the Doggett Building when a developer decided to tear the place down in 1926.

[MDA City Apartments - Medical and Dental Arts Building, 63 E. Lake Street, Chicago /Image & Artwork: designslinger]

A lot had changed on the corner during the intervening years. After State Street supplanted Lake as Chicago's shoppers paradise in the 1880s, the supporting steel structure of the elevated - or L - train lines began casting their long shadow over Wabash and Lake in the mid-1890s. Then in the second decade of the 20th century Doggett's corner got caught-up in the frenzy of one of downtown Chicago's building booms. It wasn't the first time the central city saw an explosion of new construction. There was a building burst in the 1860s, the post-fire boom of the 1880s, and a boomlet in the early decades of the 20th century that was followed by the roaring blare of the 1920s. Although Lake and Wabash wasn't an ideal location, the land was cheap compared to say State Street, and the Doggett site was only a block from the massive, square-city-block-filling Marshall Field & Co. department store building - and two L stops.

[MDA City Apartments - Medical and Dental Arts Building, Chicago /Image & Artwork: designslinger]

In the spring of 1926 the Chicago Tribune announced that the old Doggett building would be coming down and be replaced by the Medical and Dental Arts Building. The concept behind the new 24-story tower was that all the medical and dental societies and clubs in Chicago would have offices at this centralized location along with meeting rooms, a dining room, and showrooms for purveyors of medical related machinery and supplies. A convenient one-stop-shopping place for physicians, surgeons and dentists. The design of the project was handed over to Daniel and Hubert Burnham, the sons and successors of the Chicago's plan making architect Daniel Burnham. At the time the boys were working under the name of their father's firm D.H. Burnham & Co. and churning out the kind of tall commercial building projects that had kept the company busy and profitable. By 1928, a year after this building was completed, Daniel and Hubert must have felt it was time to come out from under their father's mighty long shadow and changed the name of their architectural practice to the more literally delineating title of Burnham Brothers. 

[MDA City Apartments - Medical and Dental Arts Building /Image & Artwork: designslinger]

Slowly the building filled-up with office leasing doctors and dentists and
suppliers of everything from x-ray machines to tongue depressors. The Medical and Dental Arts Club and the Chicago Medical Society were headquartered here at 185 N. Wabash Avenue. They were joined by 50 other medically-minded clubs and organizations who could confab in the 23rd floor penthouse auditorium, have a bite to eat in the dining room, or spend some quiet time in the library. Unfortunately, sixty years after the building's press worthy debut occupancy had fallen from a profit producing 95 per cent to a red ink bleeding 50 per cent. And given its age, and the age of its retiring tenants, occupancy was likely to fall below 40 percent in the not-to-distant future. A band aid proposal was put forth to turn the lower four floors of the building into an indoor shopping mall to help stem the hemorrhaging, but the economy tanked in the mid-80s so the building continued to sit idle and lose tenants. In 2004 Village Green, a large property management company took over the aging structure and turned the Medical and Dental Arts Building into MDA City Apartments under the supervision of architects Hartshorne & Plunkard. The address also returned Lake Street.

See more of Lake and Wabash at: LeMoyne Building, Chicago and 203 North Wabash, Chicago.

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