I am pleased to share new details about my upcoming wine bar and restaurant. We have finalized the location at 720 North Wells and have named the restaurant The Boarding House. I was drawn to the space because of its history. It was built shortly after the Chicago fire during a time of great economic growth for our city. Like many Chicagoans, I became fascinated with The World's Columbian Exposition of 1893 after reading books like Devil in the White City and Sin in the Second City. With characters such as Marshall Field, Potter and Bertha Palmer, John "Bathhouse" Coughlin, Hinky Dink Kenna and the Everleigh Sisters running around, it's easy to see why. During the 19th century, Chicago's central location and proximity to waterways made it an economic powerhouse and central hub for trading, manufacturing, distribution and shipping.
Exterior of The Boarding House at Superior and Wells
For the past few decades, 720 N Wells was home to various nightclubs including the legendary Cairo. I wanted to go back further in time so we paid a visit to the Chicago History Museum to see what secrets we could unearth. By accessing the criss-cross directories, we discovered that the building had functioned as a grocery store, saloon, tobacconist and even a cheese company.
During my research, I was flipping through an 1860's directory that listed Chicago businesses by name and came across hundreds of female names. I found this rather odd as it was rare during this time period for a woman to own a business. I realized that the names were proprietors of boarding houses. The helpful staff at the CHM nformed me that it was very common for women to take in boarders as way to earn extra income or earn an outright living. The boarders were often immigrants who came to Chicago to seek their fortune by working in one of the many factories in the city. A boarding house provided food, lodging and often a sense of familial comfort. Upon further research, I discovered that the building at some point had operated as a boarding house and I knew we had found our name.
The Boarding House speaks of my passion for history, my love for the great City of Chicago and my desire to convey a familial sense of comfort with food and wine as a female proprietor. We will be working with our architect Jeremiah Johnson of Chicago Building Design to stay true to the building's structural integrity and capture the essence and spirit of this very fascinating era of Chicago's history.