The J. Schmidt Building

April 2, 2013

I was ten years old when I discovered that I had my own Chicago landmark.

We were driving my Grandma to visit one of her relatives in the old neighborhood, when I happened to glance up at the cornice of the building at 2007 West North Avenue. Carved in stone was the inscription “1884—J. Schmidt”.

I was excited as only a 10-year-old could be. I knew that Detroit had a downtown street called John R. Street. But here was a building with my name on it, right in my own home town. Maybe someday I could buy the building and live in it!

With time and growing up, my fascination with the J. Schmidt Building faded. Years later, I took the trouble to look up the building in one of the old city directories at the Historical Society. The original address had been 466 West North Avenue, and was a meat market. The proprietor was named John Schmidt—no relation, but a nice coincidence. On my way home that day, I stopped and took a picture of “my” building.

Decades pass. I’m digitalizing some old slides, and run across my photo of the J. Schmidt Building. The next time I’m in Wicker Park, I decide to see what my favorite Chicago building looks like today, now that the area is booming.

The building is still there. Only trouble, the top two floors are gone. And with them, the “J. Schmidt” inscription.

Yes, what’s left is a remnant of the original structure. It’s not a new, one-floor building. For whatever reason, the owner founded it necessary to remove the upper floors. I doubt the cornice was preserved.

So here’s your assignment. If anyone finds another building with an inscription that has a suitable variation on my name, take a picture of it and send it to me. I’ll post it on this blog, giving you proper credit.

And this time around, I’ll know better what to do. I’ll apply for Historic Preservation.