The Monon Building

436 S Dearborn St Chicagoundefined

The Windy City Demon/The Monon Building
HistoryCop
Written By HistoryCop

HistoryCop was founded by Ray Johnson, a life-long Chicago area resident and history buff who is a former criminal investigator.

The Monon Building and the A.B.C. Copier Company

If you are standing on the northeast corner of Congress and Dearborn you will be standing next to the Manhattan Building. The building, erected in 1890 and designed by William Le Baron Jenney, is the first 16-story skyscraper in the world. If you’re starting this adventure early in the morning (or you’re just itchin’ for a caffeine fix) you can grab a cup of coffee at Hero Coffee Shop on the corner. As historic as the Manhattan Building is, we are concerned with the gas station and parking structure directly across the street. (No, this is not the gas station where Holmes bought the fuel for his incinerator.) We are going to discuss The Monon Building.  

The Monon Building

The Monon Building would, if it were standing today, have the address of 436 – 444 S. Dearborn, which would be almost exactly across the street from the Manhattan building, which occupies 423 – 439 S. Dearborn. The Monon, built in 1890, was the first modern 13-story building and was the last building designed by architect John M. Van Osdel, who was Chicago’s first architect. It was named for the Monon Railroad, whose offices occupied most of the building while patent lawyers and publishers filled the rest of the offices. There was one tenant however that the owners didn’t count on: Dr. Henry Howard Holmes.

The Start of the A.B.C. Copier Co.

Holmes made the Monon home to one of his several bogus business ventures. This particular bogus company was probably the closest to legitimate of all of his schemes. It was called the A.B.C. Copier Company. The name was pretty ingenious for the time in that it placed Holmes’ business on the first line of the Chicago Lakeside Business Directory. The company was originally started by Frederick Nind, Thomas Barbour Bryan and J.D. Vandercook after Nind had purchased a patent for the A.B.C. Copier in London. Nind was introduced to Holmes as an investor looking for a business opportunity and convinced Thomas Barbour Bryan, the eventual Vice President of the 1893 Columbian Exposition, to sell him his stake in the company. Bryan agreed and of course the $1,500 note endorsed by Kate Durkee, one of Holmes’ many female notaries, was worthless. The business operated in suite 720 on the seventh floor of the Monon building and involved the services of Pat Quinlan (“murder castle” custodian) Wharton Plummer, one of Holmes’ attorneys, Kate Durkee and Mary Kelly, two of his notaries, and an occasional appearance by Holmes’ second wife, Myrta Belknap.

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The A.B.C. Copier Scam

The company actually did business with a few reputable individuals and companies such as architect Henry Ives Cobb, who designed the Fisheries Building at the Columbian Exposition, and the Pullman Palace Car Company. Where they made their "real" money was selling "exclusive" sales territory for the machines.  Holmes would sell the same area multiple times for as much as $5,000 for the State of Ohio.

The Scam Can't Last Forever

No scam can last forever and Holmes always had an angle.  He would create multiple businesses and have one of his businesses sue the other so that he could steal the money from the one individual who actually had money to lose.The A.B.C. Copier Co. ordered a large quantity of glycerin from another Holmes business called William Green & Co. The suit bankrupted the A.B.C. Copier Company leaving Frederick Nind and J. D. Vandercook holding the bag with proceeds of the Sheriff's sale of A.B.C. Copier going to Holmes' William Green & Co.

The End of the Monon Building

The Monon Building was demolished in 1947 to make room for the expansion of the Congress Expressway.  Only a gas station and a parking structure remain.

The nearest Divvy Bike rental station is two blocks west of this location at Congress and Clark.

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