Historical Buildings In Chicago: The Universal Stove Company

There are a lot of things that we are proud of here at the Universal Building in Chicago. Not to brag too much, but we’ve done a wonderful job restoring a 19th century factory into working historic loft offices.

Visitors typically comment about the nice beam work and are genuinely impressed with all of the modern amenities that we provide, from the best high-speed internet available to plenty of gated parking, we’ve got it all covered. Yet if we have to admit, it’s not the amenities, the fine beam work or exposed ceilings that draw the most comments.

Universal Building - Stove Museum

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Almost everyone who visits our building comments on the same thing: the stoves. That’s right; we essentially have a stove museum at the Universal building.

It may cause a few people to scratch their heads at first, but once we give them a bit of the building’s history, it not only makes sense, but it becomes a highlight of their visit.

The building derives its name from Universal Stoves and Furnaces, a product line that was produced by Cribben and Sexton Co., the building’s founder. From the late 1800s through the 1950s, the building was used to produce the most popular stoves in the country.

Stoves today are viewed as standard house-hold appliances that draw little fanfare. However, at the height of Cribben and Sexton Co.’s existence, stoves were so much more. Stoves were a sign of wealth and prosperity at the turn-of-the century. The appliances were not only extremely useful to have in the house, but they also raised the profiles of the owners. Families would gather around their stoves in the evening for cooking, heat and socializing. Before cars became the big-ticket item to show middle class success, consumers purchased stoves. It’s fair to say that Cribben and Sexton Co. was the General Motors of its day.

Universal Building - Stove Museum

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Stove makers also put an incredible level of care and craftsmanship into their product. Many of them look like works of art today.

At the Universal Building, we have stoves on display from the 1890s, 1910s, 1920s and the 1930s. We have the first natural gas stove ever produced, as well as the first combined wood and coal burning stove (a marvel of its day).

As you walk through the halls of the Universal Building you will pass glass display cases that house these historic stoves, lovingly restored to working order by the current owners. Each display gives a brief overview of the stove and describes its importance.

We frequently see new tenants walking around the halls to “check out the stoves” and learn a little bit about their new office’s history. The visual history tour provides that little bit of extra charm we are trying to achieve at the Universal Building. We’re glad that our tenants have taken notice.

For more information about leasing office lofts in The Universal Building in Chicago, please call 773.342.2020.



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