A History: Courthouse Place
The site on which Courthouse Place sits, at 54 West Hubbard Street, holds quite a bit of history.
Following the Chicago Fire, the city went on a rehabilitation spree dubbed the “Great Rebuilding” to restore the city to its former glory. Formerly the site of North Market Hall, the city built a three-story courthouse to try criminals, with a jail located just north of the building. At this time, the courthouse stood on Michigan Avenue, before it was changed to Hubbard.
As the city grew, so did the courthouse. In 1892 the original building was torn down to make way for a building twice the size, with six stories. It was built in the Richardsonian Romanesque style, characterized by thick, austere masonry walls and round, narrow arches. Ornamentation decorates the building, but is rooted in simplicity.
Many landmark cases were tried among those walls. The 1924 Leopold and Loeb murder trial rocked the courthouse when attorney Clarence Darrow pled for twelve hours to save his teenage clients from the gallows after they killed a fourteen-year-old, challenging the death and the ingrained habit of the court. Earlier, in 1919, players from the White Sox—including “Shoeless” Joe Jackson—were tried in this court after allegedly throwing the World Series against the Cincinnati Reds. Though the players did not suffer justice at the hands of the court, they were banned from baseball.
The building was used for a number of years before the facilities of the criminal court were moved southwest, to 26th and California.
When the courts moved out, the health department moved in. They stayed until 1985, keeping the building in use and its history intact. As time wore on, however, the building fell into disrepair and the future began to look bleak. Around this time, Albert Friedman took notice.
Friedman is a highly recognizable name in River North, known for many years as the unofficial “Mayor of River North.” In the mid-1970s, when the neighborhood was a deserted skid row, Friedman saw potential and started buying up property. As he acquired more buildings, saving them from demolition and disrepair, he attracted artists and other creative types with low rent and unique architecture. Freidman’s investment spawned the Gallery District River North is known for, and he is very much thought of as a founding father of the neighborhood.
In 1985, Friedman purchased the old courthouse and restored it. With a drive to “reinvest in the past,” Friedman added Courthouse Place to his collection of buildings that allowed residents to “walk back in time along these streets.” (Kerch, p. 8). The restored courthouse holds office space for companies ranging from law firms to alternative energy to advertising, allowing present-day business to be conducted amongst the halls of this historic Chicago building.