The consumer culture of the Industrial Revolution coincided with the Gilded Age and the resultant development of large companies and wealthy entrepreneurs, which retail outlets embodied. Places like Macy's in New York and Marshall Field's in Chicago are most famous, but the Mandel Brothers were just as big, if not bigger, than Marshall Fields. The history of the store and warehouse also provide evidence of Chicago's German immigrant culture that helped the city grown and mature. The Encyclopedia of Chicago notes:
This retail enterprise, which would become one of Chicago's leading department stores, was founded in 1855 by Bavarian immigrants Solomon Mandel and his uncle Simon Klein. Their first store was located on Clark Street. In 1865, after Solomon's brothers Leon and Emanuel joined the firm, its name became Mandel Bros. Purchasing in New York and Paris and selling in Chicago, the enterprise grew. By the 1880s, its new store on the corner of State and Madison Streets employed about 800 people. By the beginning of the twentieth century, the workforce had grown to over 3,000 people. Rebuilt in 1912 and renovated in 1948, the State Street store continued to operate into the 1970s, when the company folded amid State Street's demise as a major retail center.2
The Mandel Warehouse was designed in 1903 by Holabird & Roche, one of the great firms associated with the Chicago School of Architecture. The warehouse's primary function comprised of storing dry goods, the principal items sold by the Mandels. Typical of the 19th century, notably in Chicago, labor strife accompanied many projects. As the warehouse was to head for construction, several labor strikes commenced, principally led by a newly formed group of horse team drivers. However, in the summer of 1903, an agreement was reached, allowing the warehouse to be built.3
Today the building is used as a residence, largely made up of urban lofts. However, the Mandel Brothers name remains on the outside, a sign of Chicago as it was a century ago.