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Saving a piece of the Jordan block

Working gingerly, Mike Sutfin uses a hammer and pry bar to remove a section of the tile mosaic inside the former La Salle Hotel in this December 2006 file photo. Located at Lincoln Place and La Salle Street in downtown Ottawa's Jordan block, the structure and its tile mosaic dating from the 1920s was scheduled to be destroyed when the block's buildings were demolished later that month. But Sutfin convinced Tom Heimsoth, whose development group owned the block, to allow him to remove and preserve the mosaic for use elsewhere in Ottawa.
Working gingerly, Mike Sutfin uses a hammer and pry bar to remove a section of the tile mosaic inside the former La Salle Hotel in this December 2006 file photo. Located at Lincoln Place and La Salle Street in downtown Ottawa's Jordan block, the structure and its tile mosaic dating from the 1920s was scheduled to be destroyed when the block's buildings were demolished later that month. But Sutfin convinced Tom Heimsoth, whose development group owned the block, to allow him to remove and preserve the mosaic for use elsewhere in Ottawa.

Before Mike Sutfin was Ottawa’s building official, he worked in the stone tile building business.

When the Jordan block was set to be demolished after the March 18, 1998, fire, he didn't want to see architectural gems destroyed. He was interested in salvaging the porcelain mosaic arch in the entry of the former La Salle Hotel, which was located in the Jordan Block and closed in the 1960s.

“I didn’t want to see this mosaic get tossed in the landfill,” Sutfin said of the arch, which is about five feet wide and four feet tall.

The tile is similar to that found at the Zeller Inn, 615 Columbus St., Sutfin said, noting it likely dates to the late 1800s.

He received permission from the owner to remove the archway from the building, and was asked not to sell it — but rather find a new home for it in the city.

Currently, it's being stored at his wife’s business awaiting a new home. Sutfin is hoping there might be a use for it at the former Woolworth’s and Carson Pirie Scott buildings under renovation in the 800 block of La Salle Street.

Sutfin also saved art deco glass tile from the Flamingo Lounge.

They're likely some of the few mementos left from the businesses that lined the 100 block of West Main Street and Lincoln Place. After the fire, some closed — never to reopen — and some relocated.

According to the city directory and Times archives, businesses on the block at the time of the fire included 4th and Goal Pub & Grill, Taco Bell, Jimmy John’s, Flamingo Lounge, Weber Insurance, Royal Schwinn Cyclery, S&B Awards, the office of Dr. Abdul Majid and NAB Builders. Walgreens had recently relocated to a new location.

Remembering an Ottawa mainstay

The community particularly felt the loss of Jordan Hardware, a historical landmark in downtown Ottawa, and where the fire originated.

“Any loss of fire is certainly a tragedy. But the loss of one of our mainstay stores — one of the oldest in Illinois — is doubly so,” Ottawa Mayor Forrest Buck told the Ottawa Daily Times in 1998. “Jordan’s has been a mainstay for (141) years. It had a long established history as one of the progressive businesses in Ottawa. It will certainly be missed in the downtown area.”

John Manley began Jordan Hardware in 1840 in a wooden building at 119 W. Main St. In 1857, he built the building that burned down in the 1998 fire. The store became known as Jordan's after Manley's daughter married Richard Cook Jordan and they took ownership of the store. The well-liked family, who had a reputation for treating customers and employees well, owned the business for four generations, until selling it in 1983 to Dan and Cathy Kain.

In 1998, readers recalled a general store where they were able to buy most of their household needs. In a 1998 Daily Times article, Michaela Hall spoke of childhood memories that included an antique donkey marionette above the main counter, a motorized monkey that sat on a shelf and played cymbals and employees who handed out suckers. 

The hardware store never reopened.

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