Warehouse Fire ca. 1997
Warehouse Fire ca. 1997
Posted by: WayOutWardell ()
Date: January 27, 2013 12:51PM

The coverage of this week's warehouse fire reminded me of another enormous warehouse fire about fifteen years ago. It was just east of California and south of the Stevenson (35th St, maybe?), burned for several days and had to be demolished in order to put it out completely.

Anyone know what building that was? The only thing I remember about it was the name 'Dickenson' in brick on the facade.

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 01/27/2013 12:52PM by WayOutWardell.

Re: Warehouse Fire ca. 1997
Posted by: b.a.hoarder ()
Date: January 27, 2013 05:00PM

That was the Dickinson Seed Company. In addition to being an employer that was very good to his people Mr. Dickinson was an early aviator and supporter of local airports, in particular Cicero Field (at 83rd & Cicero?) and he was instrumental in founding the Aero Club in 1910.
Dickinson had financed the building of a monoplane which he had named the "American Defender" and after a lengthy dispute with the intended pilot about it's air worthiness he withdrew it from a planned 1912 air show and race. In disgust he had it moved to the Dickinson warehouse where it sat in a courtyard and rotted away.
Two things stick in my mind about that building; the huge Beatles mural that my late brother-in-law helped paint for Triangle Outdoor Advertising, and the thousands of pigeons that seemed to hang there when I was a young kid. Pigeons and seed, who'd a thought?

Re: Warehouse Fire ca. 1997
Posted by: Berwyn Frank ()
Date: January 27, 2013 08:56PM

B.A., Cicero Field was in Cicero, IL between Cicero Ave & Laramie and 16th St. & Cermak Rd. It was turned into a sub division called Parkholme in the 1920s. The 1912 Chicago aviation meet was held there.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/28/2013 01:51AM by Berwyn Frank.

Re: Warehouse Fire ca. 1997
Posted by: b.a.hoarder ()
Date: January 27, 2013 09:25PM

Thanks for the clarification Frank. I know there was an airstrip at 83rd.St. but didn't know the name and thought it might have been Cicero Field. By the way, Mr. Dickinson died in 1935. I have no idea when the seed concern went out of business; at the time of the fire the building served as a multi tenant warehouse.

Re: Warehouse Fire ca. 1997
Posted by: Lance Grey ()
Date: January 28, 2013 02:11AM

A hard to read map (probably a 'fax') of Cicero Flying field.

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 01/28/2013 02:12AM by Lance Grey.

Re: Warehouse Fire ca. 1997
Posted by: WayOutWardell ()
Date: January 28, 2013 02:29AM

Thanks BA! In doing some digging into Dickinson Seed, I found that the family was related to Susan B. Anthony, and that Charles Dickinson's problems in running an air mail route from Chicago to St. Paul played a role in the formation of Northwest Airlines years later.

Re: Warehouse Fire ca. 1997
Posted by: 222psm ()
Date: January 29, 2013 09:54AM

Is this the same warehouse that used to have a giant Jim Beam advertisement painted on the side facing California, so drivers on the Stevenson going east bound could see it? Around Christmas time it had something to do with jingle bells (JB=Jim Beam/jingle bells). I remember seeing it back in the early to mid 80's, every time we went to my uncle's place in Brighton Park.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/29/2013 09:57AM by 222psm.

Re: Warehouse Fire ca. 1997
Posted by: jak378 ()
Date: January 30, 2013 04:09PM

The field at 83rd and Cicero was called Ashburn Airport. Until several years ao the hangar still stood on the site and had become a bowling alley I believe. That was torn down some years ago now.

Re: Warehouse Fire ca. 1997
Posted by: WayOutWardell ()
Date: January 30, 2013 11:36PM

Not having much luck finding a photo of the Dickinson plant - the Campbell Soup factory turns up more often. I did, however, find a rendering of the plant in a trade magazine:

[url=http://www.flickr.com/photos/29821940@N00/8431832812/]Dickinson Seed, 1915[/url]

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/30/2013 11:55PM by WayOutWardell.

Re: Warehouse Fire ca. 1997
Posted by: 222psm ()
Date: February 13, 2013 09:51AM

Found some pics on Eddie's Rail Fan Page: http://eddiesrailroad.blogspot.com/



No pics of the whole building however. This is where the Jim Beam advertisement was back in the early 80's!

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/13/2013 09:55AM by 222psm.

Re: Warehouse Fire ca. 1997
Posted by: b.a.hoarder ()
Date: February 13, 2013 12:04PM

Great find, 222. I looked for that photo but apparently not hard enough. I notice that it was a Patrick sign, not Triangle Outdoor. I guess the passing of a quarter century gave me a foggy memory.
Just look at the size of that structure and then go to Historic Aerials to see the whole complex. Hard to believe that so much would be devoted to the marketing of seed.

Re: Dickinson Seed Company Warehouse Fire ca. 1997
Posted by: chachaholt ()
Date: February 07, 2015 03:27PM

Hey - Just found this site while searching family history. My mom is Jessica Dickinson, one of five daughters of Albert Dickinson who was Charlie Dickinson's nephew (we actually have some of his old aviation goggles). There's tons of documents about the seed company at the Chicago Historic Museum that our family donated way back when. I believe the company was sold sometime in the 1950s. My grandfather had preferred the life of the farm - breeding and raising animals on their farm (Walcowis) in Lake Geneva. Sadly in the 1950's the large family barn (3 story complex) burned down as well (because of a farmhand's cigarette, the story goes). Strange also, that the original seed company was burned down completely in the Chicago fire in 1871 and the siblings (including the sister Melissa) worked tirelessly to build the company up from scratch again. I think in the late 1800's/early 1900's it was the largest seed company in the world.
I'm hoping to put up a website about the company and farm some in the next year. I lived in Chicago from 1989 to 1994 and sadly never made it over to see the old warehouse. I didn't know it still existed. Thanks for sharing any other archives you may have. As I have time, I'll try and post as well!

Re: Warehouse Fire ca. 1997
Posted by: chachaholt ()
Date: February 07, 2015 03:31PM

The Albert Dickinson Company was organized in
1888, succeeding the business of Albert Dickinson, the
latter of which was the outgrowth of a general grain,
produce and seed business, founded in 1854 by Albert
F. Dickinson. Its founder, who was one of the oldest
members of the Chicago Board of Trade, was engaged
in business between Dearborn and State streets, on
Kinzie street. In the great fire of October, 1871, every-
thing was lost, excepting a memoranda of the debts
which the firm owed. The blow was a severe one, and
the elder Dickinson's health was failing, but in 1872 his
two sons, Albert and Nathan, who had been engaged
with him in the business, together with their brother,
Charles, who at that time was but fourteen years of age,
gathered up the remnants of the business and carried
it on for sixteen years, under the name of Albert Dick-
inson. Doing all the work themselves, the three broth-
ers, aided by their sister, Melissa, who did the book-
keeping, were able to wipe out the debts with which
they started, and place the business on a substantial and
paying basis. The quarters on Kinzie street were
finally outgrown, and the company rented part of the
old Empire warehouse on Market street, only to again
remove a few years later to the corner of Clark and Six-
teenth streets, where large elevators and commodious
offices were erected. In time, however, even these quar-
ters became too snAll, and an office, built especially for
their purposes was erected by the Chicago. Dock Com-
pany, on their property on Taylor street, into which the
company moved on May 1, 1898. The business of the
Albert Dickinson Company extends over a large part
of the world, and they are buyers, as well as sellers, in
all the large foreign markets where goods in their line
are handled. They make a specialty of clover, flax
and grass seeds, and do an extensive business; in bird
seed, popcorn, grain bags, seed grains, etc.
The officers of the company are : Albert Dickinson,
president ; Charles Dickinson, vice-president; Nathan
Dickinson, treasurer ; Chai'les D. Boyles, secretary. Its
board of directors consists of Albert Dickinson, Charles
C. Boyles, Charles Dickinson, Nathan Dickinson,
Charles D. Boyles.
Albert Dickinson, president of the,Albert. Dickin-
son Company, was born at Stockbridge, Massachu-
setts, October 28, 1841, and is the eldest son of Albert
F. and Ann Eliza (Anthony) Dickinson, both of whom
were natives of Western Massachusetts. Mr. Dick-
inson came to Chicago with his parents in 1855, and

Re: Warehouse Fire ca. 1997
Posted by: Jayg ()
Date: August 28, 2015 04:16PM

I found several photos of the Dickenson warehouse at the UIC digital collection


Re: Warehouse Fire ca. 1997
Posted by: Jeff_Weiner ()
Date: February 07, 2016 06:33AM

I was looking at this, and remembered that there were a bunch of television antennas on that tall part of the building in the 60's. The gas station on California was, at the time, a Martin Oil one, and my grandfather would stop there on occasion.

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