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'999: A History of Chicago In Ten Stories' Reveals The City's Rich, Multi-layered History

By Jaclyn Bauer in Arts & Entertainment on Aug 11, 2014 6:00PM

2014_08_999_history_book_cover.jpg 999: A History of Chicago in Ten Stories tells the tale of the famed rental complex, turned co-op, turned rental, turned co-op that was built along Lake Shore Drive in 1912. Apart from the catalog of renowned residents, the building’s address has remained an anomalous mystery given that, in relation to its location, it should be labeled as 944-956 North Lake Shored Drive, not 999.

Author Richard B. Fizdale, a resident of 999, originally adopted the concept for the book as an eight-sixteen page marketing ploy to help current resident’s sell their units. As Fizdale’s research mounted, though, he realized he had the material to create a full-length history of not only the building, but of Chicago’s intricate and richly layered past as well.

From the city’s settlement, through The Industrial Revolution and The Great Chicago Fire, up to the present day, Fizdale tells the story of Chicago by tracing the lineage of the residents of 999. Many of the residents were the elite of Chicago in their time, graduating from Harvard, Yale and Oxford and founding major corporations, working in government positions or making their way into the news on account of their ostentation and boisterousness. A number of the residents were prominent figures, not only of Chicago history, but of United States history.

Past notable residents included:

  • George Alexander McKinlock, for whom a large gate at Northwestern University is named

  • The Stuart family, descendants of King James IV of Scotland, who ended up being connected to the company ComEd.

  • Terry Drugan (under the pseudonym Edward Mulvihill), a noted gangster within Al Capone's cohort

  • Henry Field, nephew of Marshall Field (founder of the Field Museum and Marshall Fields), who acquired the Magdalenian Girl, the most complete Skelton from the Neo-Paleolithic times, for the Field Museum

  • Preston Tucker, whose life was made into the movie by Francis Ford Cupola entitled Tucker: The Man and His Dream

  • Ray Edgar Dodge who gold-plated a nude statue for what is now known as the Oscars

In addition to the above catalogue of interesting residents, I garnered a slew of other fascinating information while reading 999:

  • The Palmer House hotel, rebuilt after The Great Chicago Fire, was the first fireproof building.

  • John Kinzie was the first permanent settler of Chicago.

  • William Butler Ogden built the first railroad in Chicago and was the city’s first mayor.

  • Joseph Medill was the publisher of the Chicago Tribune prior to being mayor of Chicago in 1871: The Northwestern Medill School of Journalism is named for Medill

  • The Chicago Public Library was started as the “English Book Donation” after the Great Chicago Fire destroyed a majority of Chicago’s literature. Notable contributors included Queen Victoria, Alfred Lord Tennyson, John Stuart Mill and Benjamin Disraeli

Riddled with stories of murder, scandal and a surprising number of divorces, Fizdale’s account of 999 is an adventurous account of the opulence that is bred into the land that is Chicago.