As for us, we thought we'd trace a bit of Chicago's history from just one corner, Dearborn and Lake.
The 1875 Lakeside annual directory of the City of Chicago includes an Chicago Business Directory of 1839. It takes up only nine pages, and on the second we find of name of
Couch, Ira, hotel keeper, corner of dearborn and lake streets
Tremont House was Chicago's first freestanding hotel, an upgrade from the previous lodging options at one of the city's three inns - Billy Caldwell's Tavern, Miller's Tavern, and the Sauganash, in and around Wolf Point, where a parking lot for the building formerly known as the Apparel Center stands today, and where the Kennedy family plans to build three new skyscraper towers.
Within three years, the Tremont House burned down in Chicago's first major fire, on October 27th, 1839, which destroyed 17 buildings on Lake Street valued at $65,000. "This naturally awakened the people to the advantage of insurance, and the business for that year increased very rapidly." So, by the time the replacement hotel, built across the street on the southeast corner, burned down again, in 1849, there were hopefully insurance proceeds to help rebuild. The Tremont soon became known as the leading hotel in the West.
It was from the balcony of the third Tremont House, in 1858, that Stephen Douglas announced his campaign for the United States Senate. According to the Chicago History Museum's excellent The Great Chicago Fire: Web of Memory website. . .
In Lincoln, Douglas, and Slavery: In the Crucible of Public Debate, David Zarefsky describes the evening of July 9, when Douglas launched his campaign with a speech from the hotel’s balcony. Lincoln, in Chicago for the opening session of the United States District Court, was in attendance. When he heard Douglas attack his “House Divided” speech as endorsing radical abolitionism, Lincoln announced that he would appear at the hotel the following evening, as he did, to respond.And it was at the Tremont that the defeated Presidential candidate Douglas, who often stayed at the hotel, died suddenly on June 3rd, 1861, less than three weeks after the attack on Fort Sumter that marked the beginning of the great Civil War.
In 1855, hotelier John Drake, whose son built the Blakestone and Drake hotels we know today, had secured a one-quarter interest in the Tremont, and soon owned it outright. When the structure burned to the ground in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, Drake made the Michigan Avenue Hotel, at Congress and Michigan, the only hotel on the near South Side not destroyed by the flames, the temporary Tremont.
Cuba's sunny isle of fruits and flowers". The balconies of the Tremont were draped in black. Eighteen months later, his remains were interred in the $7,000 family tomb, designed by Van Osdel, in the City Cemetery. Weighing one hundred tons, it required eight horses to set into place. When the graves in the cemetery were removed in the 1870's to create Lincoln Park, it was estimated it would cost $3,000 in 1877 dollars to move the Couch Tomb, and so it remains there - with the remains of Ira Couch - to this day.
Ira Couch was here a year before Chicago's 1837 incorporation. Maybe he'll be one of the few things left after the glass towers crumble, the raised streets collapse to the terrain's normal level, and Chicago otherwise disappears from memory.