Auditorium Building

Buildings like the Auditorium don’t just spring out of nowhere, especially in a marshy place with sewage problems. Somebody thinks: “You know what we need? We need THIS!” and then figures out how to make it happen. 

Ferdinand W. Peck was one of those somebodies. His name doesn’t quickly roll off the tongue of Chicago history like Burnham or Palmer or Field, but it should. When his dream of a grand opera theater opened in 1889, he was the fourth richest man in the city, but more than wealth, he made significant cultural and societal contributions whose impact is still felt.

Ferdinand’s dad was a Chicagoan before there was a Chicago. His father, Philip Ferdinand Wheeler Peck, arrived in 1831 from New York aboard a schooner named Telegraph. The Captain of the ship was none other than John Naper, the same John Naper that would move west and start his own settlement, which would become known as Naperville. Philip F. W. Peck came prepared for the rugged frontier with supplies, set up shop near Fort Dearborn, and quickly established himself as a successful merchant. He built the first two-story frame structure in the village and took advantage of those early I & M canal lot sales. One of the few to financially survive the panic of 1837, he accumulated real estate until it was said that he was as rich as John Jacob Astor.

Read more about this landmark in Living Landmarks of Chicago.

Completed: 1889
Architects: Adler & Sullivan
Address: 50 E. Ida B. Wells Dr.

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Sources for Auditorium Building

This is a selection of specific sources used to provide details while researching this landmark. Additional sources, including books and websites, can be found on the Resources page.

  • Building Chicago
  • Harrison, Benjamin, 1833-1901, and Charles Hedges. Speeches of Benjamin Harrison, Twenty-third President of the United States: A Complete Collection of His Public Addresses From February 1888, to February, 1892, Chronologically Classified; Embracing All His Campaign Speeches, Letter of Acceptance, Inaugural Address, And the Numerous Speeches Delivered During His Several Tours; Also Extracts From His Messages to Congress. New York: United States Book Co, 1892.
  • Hubbard, Floyd Morse. Prevention of Cruelty to Animals In the States of Illinois, Colorado And California. New York: Columbia university press, 1916.
  • National Magazine: A Monthly Journal of American History. United States, n.p, 1891.
  • Peck, Joseph, and Peck, Ira Ballou. A Genealogical History of the Descendants of Joseph Peck. United States, Alfred Mudge, 1868.
  • Smith, Alson J. (Alson Jesse), 1908-. Chicago’s Left Bank. Chicago: H. Regnery Co., 1953.
  • Smith, Henry Justin, 1875-1936. Chicago’s Great Century, 1833-1933. Chicago: Consolidated Publishers, 1933.
  • Sullivan, Louis H., 1856-1924. The Autobiography of an Idea. New York: Press of the American institute of architects, inc., 1924.

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