STOCKYARDS INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX — Vacant for decades, the Stock Yards Bank building is primed for a makeover, one aldermanic candidate says.
Patrick Daley Thompson has released plans to convert the city-owned building at 4146 S. Halsted St. into a two-story banquet hall, museum and restaurant.
The building's first floor would be converted to a restaurant, which could also make use of the large square footage with a banquet hall.
On the second story, a museum would pay homage to the city's history as "hog butcher for the world" as immortalized in Carl Sandburg's poem.
"It is a history that we are proud of," Thompson said in a statement. "It is a history that we need to celebrate."
Casey Cora says renovations would be costly:
Thompson expects to pay for the project by spending from the Stockyards Annex TIF — it has an $8.3 million balance — plus contributions from private investors, philanthropists, foundations and the Chicago History Museum.
The city bought the bank building for $200,000 in 2000 — it had been shuttered about two decades prior — and has long sought a developer to refurbish it, but many plans have come and gone.
Back in 2006, the city estimated it would cost about $7 million to renovate it, the Tribune reported.
Under Thompson's plan, the city would retain ownership of the bank building and lease or sell the first floor to a restaurant operator. The second floor would be sold or leased to a foundation that would run the museum.
Opened on Christmas Day 1865, the Union Stock Yards eventually expanded to include nearly 500 acres and thousands of livestock pens.
According to the Chicago History Museum, the Stock Yards was dominated by the city's formidable meat packing companies like Armour, Swift and Morris, companies that earned high profits by industrial innovations and employing thousands of unskilled immigrant workers, who flocked to the area and worked in smelly, abysmal working conditions.
Together, the companies employed about 25,000 people and produced 82 percent of the meat eaten in the United States. That's to say nothing of the animal byproducts produced there, too, including leather, glue, shoe polish and even violin strings.
Built in 1925, the bank building debuted as Live Stock National Bank and mimicked the style of Independence Hall in Philadelphia. It later changed its name to Stock Yards Bank and Trust.
Market forces, innovations in trucking, urban growth and other others factors eventually led to steep declines in business and the Stock Yards officially closed in 1971.
Today, the area is an industrial park packed with office space, a far cry from its roots as the world's butcher.
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