Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Arena

In the 1880s and 1890s, 1340 S. Michigan Ave. was a three-story mansion set fifty feet off the street, the home of millionaire president of the Chicago Brick Company, Patrick J. Sexton. Mr. Sexton and his wife hosted a number of important social events throughout the late nineteenth century, during which time "P. J.", as he was known, became a pillar of the business community.
P.J. Sexton died under somewhat mysterious circumstances in 1903, with rumors circulating that he had suffered arsenic poisoning, although the coroner's report came back clean. Sexton left a considerable sum of money to his wife and children, but after his death they moved out of the home.

With the new automobile industry growing in Chicago, the south Michigan area became home to a number of showrooms, but the mansion at number 1340 remained a private residence, with the windows always shuttered and no one ever remembered seeing the front door open. In fact, the home had come to be the city's most famous lovers' rendezvous, The Arena. The management of this short-term hotel allowed customers in by the rear door only, and only men and women of the upper crust were admitted -- absolutely no streetwalkers or dancers.

The Arena was closed in 1911, as public opinion turned against segregated vice, and the Mayor was forced to close the 22nd street Levee, the Everleigh Club, and all other forms of open vice trade. The building was demolished and replaced by a seven-story building operated as a furniture store in 1922. This building remains on the site today. It served as the Cook County Circuit Court for divorces and family court in the 1980s and 1990s. The building is empty today, but there are plans to remake it as a condominium complex in the near future.


Anonymous said...

P.J.'s name is PATRIK, not Peter.

Kendall said...

You're right; thanks for the correction.