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May 23, 2019

The Haymarket Building

By Jonathan Zimmerman

Willard Jones Real Estate recently welcomed The Haymarket Building, located at 117 North Jefferson Street, into its leasing portfolio and has been tasked with returning this West Loop gem back to full occupancy. The new owners have some exciting plans for future upgrades and we are ecstatic to be part of this project.

Most local real estate brokers who have been in the industry for a while likely associate 117 North Jefferson with a prior owner, Mr. Henry Latkin. For over 40 years, Henry owned, managed, leased, entertained and even resided here. While his style might have been viewed by some as eclectic, you have to respect and admire an individual with that kind of staying power who enjoyed himself so much in the process. Being an avid and courageous world traveler, Henry accumulated quite a collection of art from all sorts of exotic places around the globe including Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Many of these items were prominently displayed around the building. He was one of the first downtown owners to develop a rooftop deck. Outfitted with sculptures, trees and a full-blown garden, this was often used for hosting parties and special events. Henry even ran a small bed and breakfast on the rooftop level and many brokers were awarded a free night or two as a thank you for completing a deal in the property.

Whenever we take over a new leasing assignment, one of our first tasks is to develop an appropriate marketing program. Given this property is known as the Haymarket Building, it seemed like a no brainer on the surface to work with that somehow. However, as you dive deeper into the history involved with this name, it becomes a much more complicated decision.

The challenge, in this case, is how to strike a respectful tone which acknowledges the loss of life while commemorating the significance of the event itself and what it eventually laid the groundwork for. Taken literally, the Haymarket was essentially a large farmers market that serviced a West Loop neighborhood which at that time was heavily populated by working-class families and factory workers making low wages and struggling to get by.  Over time, it morphed into a town square and popular gathering place for these individuals.  Following an incident at the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company plant in May 1886 where Chicago police officers killed two protesters and wounded several others who lived in the neighborhood, a peaceful rally was planned for the following night at Haymarket Square (Randolph Street between Lake Street, Des Plaines and the modern-day Expressway). Once the police arrived to keep order, an anonymous person threw a stick of dynamite killing several police offices and a massive riot erupted. While this was a very significant moment in the American labor movement, it also led to a series of trials which concluded with questionable convictions and public hangings for some people that might have been innocent.

By all accounts, the Haymarket Building was named more so for the neighborhood rather than the event and this is what we have decided to focus on.  The farmers market was generally regarded as a place of happiness for the workers by all accounts.  The riot was a huge moment in American history and deserves to be remembered, but not celebrated. Our ultimate synopsis can be summed up with the following statement: Sitting on a historically significant land site in Chicago’s West Loop, the Haymarket Building at 117 North Jefferson pays tribute to those working class individuals who used to congregate at the nearby Haymarket Square farmers market in the 1880’s, as well as those permanently impacted by the Haymarket Affair that sent shock waves around the world and served as the catalyst for the American labor movement.

Once historical perspectives are properly dealt with, we can then turn our attention to all of the amazing attributes that 117 North Jefferson has to offer, such as exposed brick walls, high timber lofted ceilings, great natural light, efficient floor plates and a committed and service-oriented ownership group. The building also possesses one of the best locations in the West Loop, close to Ogilvie Transportation Center, Union Station and just a few blocks from Fulton Market (and at much lower prices to boot).

Tenants and brokers, we hope you will give The Haymarket Building at 117 North Jefferson a close look if you or your clients are in the market for office space at a historically noteworthy location. We think you will be pleased with what you see.