richard nickel images documenting the death of holabird and roche's 1899 cable building now digitized

while researching holabird's and roche's architectural commissions (i.e., commercial buildings within chicago's loop)  from the late 19th century, i had a difficult time tracking images of the cable building (1899) . i knew richard nickel was brought onboard through som and/or the historic american building survey to document the building inside and out shortly before and during it's demolition in 1961, but unfortunately, digitized images are very limited (a total of seven) on the habs website.

i managed to track down any and all contact sheets and/or printed images of the cable building's destruction while working on the richard nickel archive (housed at the ryerson and burhnam library) last week. with unabridged access to the library's archives as a volunteer researcher, i spent several hours scanning nickel's images of the cable building and the ornament he salvaged from it.

i hope the cable building images i digitized and edited -  a small selection have been included for this blog post - will assist architectural historians, scholars, and institutions in their research of chicago's architectural history, the first chicago school, and/or the work of holabird and roche.

sadly, the ornament nickel salvaged from the cable did not survive. it was discarded along with the ornament he saved from holabird and roche's republic building while spending a brief time at navy pier. no known examples of exterior terra cotta from the cable or republic have surfaced to this day. 

the cable building's demolition was set in motion as early as 1954,when a chicago tribune article announced the sale of the ten-story building to the american glass company. plans were made to remodel the building into various shops, which effectively lengthened the building's lifespan for a few years. by 1962 however, the introduction of a mid-century skyscraper designed by c.f. murphy sealed the building's fate and it was demolished soon after.

original office door "unit lock" salvaged from the holabird and roche's republic building. courtesy of bldg. 51 museum archive.

unusual 1960's diminutive republic building pennant. exact purpose and/or fabricator unknown. possibly issued and/or worn by individuals protesting the building's demolition. both the cable and republic were demolished within a year of each other.

the cable piano company was one of the largest piano manufacturers in chicago. the company was established in 1880 by h.d. cable, who had originally been with the western cottage organ company (later changed to chicago cottage organ company). in 1890, cable consolidated with the conover brothers, as well as his two brothers, fayette s. cable and hobart m. cable. shortly after their first consolidation, the cable company acquired the schiller piano company, where they showcased schiller’s instruments as their finest line of models. this earned cable considerable recognition as both a notable fabricator of fine instruments and major contributor to the american piano industry at large during the early 20th century. the cable company’s brand names included kingsbury, wellington, schiller, conover, and euphona player pianos.

like many companies, businesses, and banking institutions across any and all industries, the 1929 stock market crash and ensuing great depression, crippled the cable company, leading to mass lay-offs beginning on thanksgiving in 1929. by 1936, only a few employees remained. the company’s downtown building housing their general offices and showrooms was demolished in 1961. architectural photographer richard nickel documented the building’s demolition for the historic american building survey (habs).  chicago offices factory in st. charles illinois was demolished in 2000.

additional images from the richard nickel archive, housed at the art institute of chicago's ryerson and burnham library, listed below:


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