Chicago Varnish Company (Harry Caray’s Italian Steakhouse)

The first time you see the building at the southeast corner of Kinzie and Dearborn, you’ll do a double-take. Then a triple. You’ll realize you’re staring. “There’s a whole lot going on,” you’ll think, what with those red bricks and white accents, an exuberant number of dormers and stepped gables and a steeply pitched roof. There are quoins and voussoirs and all sorts of other architectural elements that combine to create a distinctive and complex exterior. The Chicago Landmarks Designation Report states there’s a “nearly hedonistic pleasure in decoration,” yet the architect displayed a “controlled sense of craft.” You agree with that assessment.

If you think there’s a lot happening on the outside, just wait until you find out what happened inside, underneath, and before the building even existed. Bootleggers, tee-totalers, insects frozen in amber and vaults encased in walls, hidden tunnels, future presidents, and egg-throwing apes all played a part in the history of what is now Harry Caray’s Italian Steakhouse.

Read more about this landmark in Living Landmarks of Chicago.

Completed: 1895
Architect: Henry Ives Cobb
Address: 33 W. Kinzie St.

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Sources for Chicago Varnish Company (Harry Caray’s Italian Steakhouse)

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.

  • “Apes Throw Eggs and Bear Empties Saloon.” Gettysburg Times. 5 Jan 1934.
  • Chicago (Ill.). Commerce, Manufactures, Banking And Transportation Facilities, 1884. Chicago: [s.n.], 1884.
  • City of Chicago Landmark Designation Report
  • “Historic Landmark Building with Ties to Al Capone.”
  • National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form
  • Notices of Judgement Under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act …. United States, U.S. Government Printing Office, 1940.
  • Report on the Progress and Condition of the Illinois State Museum of Natural History. United States, The Museum, 1917.