in 1909

The Chapin & Gore Building in 1909

In 1994, in preparation for the Symphony Center expansion project, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association acquired and renovated the historic Chapin & Gore Building on East Adams Street.

Since Orchestra Hall opened in December 1904, the majority of the Association’s administrative offices had been located on multiple floors in the Hall. With the pending expansion, many of those spaces were designated to become additional patron amenities (larger lobbies, more washrooms, etc.), so the Chapin & Gore Building would be the future home to most of the administrative staff.

Gardner Spring Chapin and James Jefferson Gore

Gardner Spring Chapin and James Jefferson Gore

The complete story of liquor distillers and distributors Chapin & Gore is expertly told by blogger Jack Sullivan on his Those Pre-Pro Whiskey Men! blog. (His excellent article is here.)

Sullivan describes the building: “. . . the 1904 structure combined warehouse and office space with a street-level liquor store and bar [called the Nepeenauk]. Hired for the design were noted Chicago architects Richard Schmidt and his partner Hugh Garden. According to one commentary, the pair demonstrated through this facility, ‘the aesthetic possibilities of the utilitarian building through the use of interior functions, fine brickwork and decorative terra cotta.'”

Inside the Nepeenauk Bar (undated image courtesy of Dick Bales's The Common Stuff blog)

Inside the Nepeenauk Bar (undated image courtesy of Dick Bales’s The Common Stuff blog)

Several vintage images and drawings of the building and its architectural details can be found on the Library of Congress’s website, where the significance of the building is described as follows: “This structure represents one of the few multi-story office buildings executed by this group known as the ‘Prairie School.’ The use of both cast iron and timber columns in the building is an unusual example of skeleton framing growing out of the Chicago architecture of the late nineteenth century, while the bold formal treatment of the brick façade with its original terra cotta ornament and the interior detailing of the Chapin & Gore Bar on the west side of the ground floor were designed in the best tradition of Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright.”


A footnote: during the renovation of the building, a 1909 edition of The Chapin & Gore Manual was found. The manual provides guidance for the professional and amateur bartender, including recipes for many standard cocktails.

Chapin & Gore bar manual 1909

Harry W. Stiles, the author of the manual, contributed this to the introduction: “. . . It will be seen that most of the drinks in the book are as Mr. J. J. Gore always said of his whisky—as standard as flour—and I have no doubt they will continue to be popular as long as people drink, which, notwithstanding the energy of the reformers, may be several years. The only question regarding these standard drinks is as to the proper method of preparing them, and I think I may say without being considered very egotistical, that I have been fairly successful—at least, I am proud of the fact that Messrs. Chapin & Gore have thought well enough of my efforts to retain me in their employ for thirty-seven years. In this new issue I have added several new drinks which have become popular and have changed the formula of a number of the old ones which my experience told me might be improved. The book is not only for professional bartenders, but for the ever-increasing number of gentlemen, who, having their own den and sideboard, take some pride in showing their friends their proficiency in mixing their favorite. It has even been hinted to me that there is occasionally a lady who does not object to trying her hand at mixing a Martini. If such is the case I trust both the lady and gentleman will find the book of some use.”

The entrance to the Neep bar(ca. 1905) and the tesori

The entrance to the Nepeenauk Bar (ca. 1905, image courtesy of chicagogeek via SAIC Digital Libraries) and tesori (May 2014). Take a close look at the reflection in the door glass for past and present transportation options.