THE MANY LIVES OF THE MARIGOLD GARDENS, STEPS FROM 3750
PART I of III: BISMARCK GARDEN (1896-1917)
By Todd Cannon, 4B
When writing a short history for the newsletter about our neighbor to the north, 3800 LSD (the construction of which in 1926 paralleled that of 3750), I became interested in the two area attractions which the 3800 developers mentioned in their 1926 newspaper advertisements. The first of these two drawing cards for prospective renters of the 3800 luxury apartments was the Chateau Theater at 3810 N. Broadway, on the corner of Grace and Halsted, a mere two blocks distant (and the subject of a future newsletter article). Built in 1915, the Chateau featured a restaurant, ten stores, a buffet, twenty-two billiard tables and twenty-two bowling alleys, and a 1,800 seat theater (which earlier had featured such stars as Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, and Ethel Barrymore.
The second attraction was the Marigold Gardens, located diagonally across the street from the Chateau Theater and bordered by Grace, Halsted, and Bradley Place (picture the site of today’s International Pancake House, the parking lot to its south and beyond and the Tabernacle Church to its west). This is the first of three articles which chronicle the fascinating history of the Marigold Gardens which begins in 1896 when the originally named Bismarck Garden opened on the spot. It soon became one of Chicago’s most popular German beer gardens and restaurants (actually known as “America’s most beautiful restaurant garden,” featuring classical and operatic music which rivaled that offered at Ravinia. Next came a name change in 1917 to Marigold Gardens (likely caused at the time by anti-German sentiment when the US declared war on Germany, 6 April 1917). The Jazz Age of the 1920’s saw an expansion of the Gardens’ restaurants and the addition of cabaret and musical revues (featuring stars such as Joan Crawford and Sophie Tucker). Rudolph Valentino and Al Capone were patrons! Finally Marigold Gardens in the early 1930’s became one of the most popular boxing and wrestling arenas in the city, covered eventually by weekly WGN telecasts. In 1964 the outdoor gardens and dancing pavilions were all demolished leaving the indoor boxing arena (formerly the famous Marigold dining/ballroom) which became the Tabernacle Church which remains today.
Brothers Karl and Emil Eitel came to Chicago from Stuttgart, Germany and in the 1890’s founded the Bismarck Hotel Co. which owned the Bismarck Hotel (180 Randolph street), the Bismarck Garden, and the Old Heidelberg Inn. On 30 January 1900 the Anheuser-Busch Brewing Ass. bought the Bismarck garden property from Eugene Muchlemann of St. Louis for $51,000. (Chicago Tribune, Chicago, IL, Sunday, 20 August 1906, p. 34). The Eitel brothers secured a five-year lease on the property for an annual rent of $4,815 with an option to buy the property at the end of the lease for $86,317. Improvements by 1911 made by the Eitels totaled $80,000 with the Garden having a seating capacity for 4,000 and new indoor construction in process accommodating another 600.
BISMARCK GARDEN COMPANY PAYS $123,817
Exercising an 18-year old option, the Bismarck Garden Company purchased from the Anheuser-Busch Brewing Ass. the site the Garden occupied for eighteen years. “The property, which comprises 85,000 square feet, has a frontage of 326 feet on Halsted street, 315 feet on Grace street, and 186 feet on Bradley place….It is said that the Bismarck Garden company will expend about $175,000 in improvements, including a two story building on Halsted and Grace street fronts, with large additions to their present dining and concert hall for their winter garden. Rooms for club and private parties also are contemplated. About $80,000 will be expended on the summer garden.” (Chicago Tribune, Chicago, IL, Thursday, 26 November 1914, p. 20)
A trust deed was taken out by the Bismarck Garden company to the Chicago Title and Trust company to secure a loan of $248,817. “The loan, it is stated, covers not only the purchase price of the property, $128,817, but a building loan of $125,000 in connection with proposed improvements to be made on the property.” (Chicago Tribune, Chicago, IL, Wednesday, 2 December 1914, p. 18)
Before 1896, the site was a beer garden known as “De Berg’s Grove” which offered beer, food, music, dancing, and bowling. The following article from the 31 May 1896, Sunday edition of the Chicago Tribune, p. 3, describes the grand opening of the Bismarck Garden:
A BEAUTIFUL SUMMER GARDEN WHERE CONCERTS WILL BE GIVEN NIGHTLY.
“An elegantly rendered programme, containing many popular airs and interspersed with interpretations from light operas, presented by Band Master Carl Bunge and a full band of skilled musicians and the attendance of many people, composed of north side German-American residents, a rare menu for those who wished to dine, distinguished the opening last evening of the ‘Bismarck Garden,’ a beautiful summer resort, located at the intersection of Evanston avenue (later Broadway), Halsted and Grace streets, just off the Sheridan drive, within an ideal environment. The garden is delightfully planned and is designed to supply to the better class of Chicago people an inviting place to go with their families in the evenings of the summer months. In its ample house, with its big dining room and a great garden of natural trees, with heavy screenings of foliage, suggestive of a pretty grove, nothing so attractive has been given to Chicago which more completely fulfilled the purposes of a place of rest and for social enjoyment….Summer concerts will be given every evening beginning at 8 o’clock….The Bismarck Garden will, in its management and the service given, be on a plane with the excellent cuisine associated with the Bismarck hotel, after which it is called, and the management of which is identical. The building utilized is two stories, and it contains a dining room on the first floor for ladies and gentlemen that will seat 200 persons. This room is richly decorated, the walls being in Heraldic finishings, and a duplicate dining room in finish and capacity is located on the second floor. The bandstand is located in the center of the garden, and a bowling alley and other features that will be of special interest to man is located in the rear of the grounds. The immense place is arranged to be beautifully lighted at night. Two thousand persons can find seats at the tables.”
A number of German societies had their celebrations at the Garden. One such affair noted that the area was decorated throughout with colored lanterns, bunting, many flowers, torches of colored fire dotting the fence surrounding the garden, and fireworks and colored powder being burned throughout the night” (Chicago Tribune, Chicago, IL, Friday, 17 July 1896)
Crowds of more than 2,000 usually attended the opening nights of the outdoor garden in early June. In 1902, a Chicago Tribune article (Sunday, 10 August, p. 42) noted that “many Germans patronize the Bismarck. They come in family groups and neighborhood groups, bringing the fraulein’s young man, or sending the son of the house after his blond-haired sweetheart to join the party. The young people enjoy the light music, but the older ones prefer Strauss and Wagner, Von Bulow, Meyerbeer and Weber.”
By 1910, with the popularity of the automobile, the audience at the Garden became more of a grand opera crowd according the Tribune: “The hundred or more automobiles parked in Grace street prove the quality of the folks who gather in the Bismarck Garden. The automobiles bring our best people not only from the North Side, but the South Side and the West Side and Evanston and Lake Forest and River View and all other points of the compass.” To direct all this traffic coming to the Garden, an electric sign was erected on the corner of Grace street and the lake shore. All the traffic congestion, noise, and crowds caused Grace street residents to frequently complain to the city.
For some, to be seen at the Garden, was a special occasion to wear one’s finery: “The summer gown was on display in all its elaborateness and a survey of the grounds reminded one of nothing so much as a monster sartorial exposition. White gowns predominated, but the hats, oh, the hats! They were of every size and every hue. There were small, red, rakish turbans and large, white lace creations trimmed with baby blue bows. There were purple and green hats, pink hats and yellow hats, garden hats, theater hats, walking hats, and sailors.” (Chicago Tribune, Chicago, IL, Monday, 11 June 1906, p. 3)
The classes of music offered and the numbers of different orchestras changed often from the original Professor Bunge orchestra, to the Metropolitan orchestra which alternated with the Hungarian orchestra, to a Mexican band offering free concerts on Sunday afternoons, to the famous Italian Creatore orchestra, to brass bands with 14 strolling Tyrolean singers and players, to Balllman’s 50-piece symphonic orchestra assisted by the Viennese Grand Opera Quartet, and Roemhildt’s Berlin concert orchestra. Music selections were balanced between classic/operatic and lighter fares with programs often devoted to a single composer such as Wagner (every Tuesday evening). Prior to 1903, inclement weather would force the cancelation of the outdoor concerts, but with a new hall, the orchestra could move inside and the concerts could take place rain or shine. A sample program from 1910 gives an idea of a typical classic/operatic musical evening: “Liszt’s symphonic poem, ‘Les Preludes’; the Largo from Dvorak’s ‘New World Symphony,’ the ‘Easter Prayers,’ from ‘Cavalleria Rusticana,’ the finale to the third act of ‘La Traviata’ and Chopin’s funeral march.” (Chicago Tribune, Chicago, IL, Wednesday, 6 July 1910, p. 6)
In 1913 the Garden received cabaret and vaudeville talent through the New York and Western agency. “Opening next Saturday night, the Garden announces the Stevens Cabaret Four, Mlle Natalie, a dancer, and her partner Ferrari. For the cabaret features a stage has been erected under the central arch of the Swiss pavilion and a ‘Bacchante’s Bower’ is now programmed as a ‘nook for gay gatherings of restricted number’.” (Chicago Tribune, Chicago, IL, Sunday, 8 June 1913, p. 35). In addition to the cabaret attractions, ‘an especial effort has been made to attract dancers. Mr. and Mr. K. von Rabe, professional dancers, presided at the dansant in the afternoon and gave a pleasing exhibition in the evening.” (Chicago Tribune, Chicago, IL, Sunday, 21 June 1914, p. 53)
An additional attraction for the Garden was the annual open air dog show which began in 1910 and continued until 1917:
EASTERN DOGS HERE FOR OPEN AIR SHOW
First Exhibition of the Kind in Chicago Will be Held Today
At Bismarck Garden—Animals of Class to Compete
“Chicago’s first open air dog show will open at 10 o’clock this morning in Bismarck garden. For years open air dog shows have been held in Eastern cities, but Chicago has never ventured to hold one until this year. The show will be under the direction of the Associated Specialty Clubs.” Most of the Eastern exhibitors showed only bull dogs. (Chicago Tribune, Chicago, IL, Saturday, 1 October 1910, p. 12)
The 1911 show included 300 dogs and was limited to French bull dogs, Airedales, bull dogs, collies and Boston terriers. By 1914 the number of dogs entered had grown to 400. In conjunction with the eighth annual show at the Garden in 1917, the members of the Western Airedale Terrier Club offered to the war department “twenty of the finest species of Airedales in the country for use in the war against Germany and for the establishment of a military kennel like those maintained by the allied armies. All of the dogs will be on exhibit at the annual outdoor show of the Bismarck Garden.” (Chicago Tribune, Chicago, IL, Sunday, 2 September 1917, p. 4)
Over the years the Eitel owners of the Bismarck Garden continually added new features to the property including a concert hall to seat 1,500 and a smaller hall seating 300 to be used for musicals, conventions and banquets. These halls were erected on the north side of the grounds. “The first of these, finished in the modern German style will contain the orchestra platform. Adjoining, and practically one with it is another hall fitted up in the old Dutch style. Awnings erected make it possible to shelter a goodly number in rainy weather.” (Chicago Tribune, Sunday, 8 June 1902, p. 36)
By1914, 4,500 diners could be accommodated in the open air gardens. The same year saw a new “Palais de Danse” with adjoining band pavilion built which featured afternoon tangos with free dance instruction. A new promenade was constructed at the south end of the garden where a new electric fountain was installed and marble statuary placed at intervals. (Chicago Tribune, Chicago, IL, Friday, 19June 1914, p. 7) Two outdoor dance pavilions accommodated hundreds of dancers and in 1915, the Garden introduced dancers from the Vienna Royal Opera who performed ballets three times each evening, twice outside and once inside. (Chicago Tribune, Chicago, IL, Sunday, 22 August 1915, p. 43)
In 1916 the new ice cooled Marigold Room, which was connected on the west to the Palais de Dance, was introduced to the Garden. It was “the fruition of the Chicago idea of luxurious entertainment. Beauty, and not flamboyancy, characterize its decoration. A fine artistry is back of its appeal to the senses. It is distinctly Chicagoesque…It has table accommodations for 1,400 guests and dancing for 450 couples. The entertainment features will be a musical revue staged by Carlos Sebastian, Paul Biese’s novelty orchestra and dancing by the guests.” (Chicago Tribune, Chicago, IL, Sunday, 14 May 1916, p. 11) Additional entertainment offerings in the Marigold Room were animated pictures—first run in Chicago: Pathe News, Selig-Tribune Weekly, Goldberg’s Humorous Cartoons, Colored Scenic Vies and Fashion Shows. (Chicago Tribune, Chicago, IL, Saturday, 30 September 1916, p. 6)
On 6 April 1917 the United States declared war on Germany. The Eitel brothers, owners of the Bismarck Garden, had for years hosted German themed concerts, dinners, and parties for their customers including a ten-day festival in 1915 for the German-Austrian-Hungarian Relief Fund, raising some $80,000. (Chicago Tribune, Chicago, IL, Wednesday, 26 August 1914, p, 2). Earlier in 1914 the annual German Club of Chicago held its banquet for 4,000 members at the Garden which was decorated with American and German flags. The Eitel brothers began to feel much pressure as anti-German sentiment grew more intense following declaration of war. Two days after war was declared, “Karl Eitel, present of the corporation controlling the Bismarck hotel and Bismarck gardens said that the names of those places would not be changed, as they were in the incorporation papers.” (Chicago Tribune, Chicago, IL, Monday, 9 April 1917, p. 1) Two weeks later “hotel and restaurant owners of Chicago decided it would be a boost for patriotism and might stimulate enlistment if they would print a verse of the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ on their menu cards. Accordingly all but one decided to do it. The one exception was Emil Eitel of the Bismarck hotel and the Bismarck gardens. Eitel says he will not do it.” (Chicago Tribune, Chicago, IL, Saturday, 21 April 1917, p. 25).
The Eitel brothers also refused to change the name of their own Teutonic beverage “Hindenburg Kuemmel”. Waiters, who were on strike at the Garden, carried placards reading “Don’t drink HIINDENBURG KUEMMEL; ‘Don’t Put the Enemy In Your Mouth’.” Waiters and bartenders refused to serve or consume the kuemmel. (Chicago Tribune, Chicago, IL Sunday, 5 May 1917, p. 3).
As pressure mounted against the Eitels to change the Bismarck name, they made certain to publicize in October 1917 that they had purchased $30,000 in Liberty bonds “for uncle Sam”. The brothers finally capitulated to public opinion:
BISMARCK GARDEN TO DROP ITS GERMAN LABEL
“Those who go forth to seek the Bismarck garden some days hence will be mildly surprised to find there ain’t no such place any more. The reason will lie in the fact that it is soon to become the Marigold gardens. Bismarck garden with its traditions and Teutonic odor has become passé, it is said, and a more lilting, joyous and pro-American name withal will reign in its stead. It is said that times have changed about the old place; for one thing the bar doesn’t open until 3 p.m.” (Chicago Tribune, Chicago, IL, Friday, 7 December 1917, p. 1). Featuring the new “ice-cooled” Marigold Room, the owners publicized that “The Marigold Room’s America-wide popularity is our reason for changing the name of BISMARCK GARDEN to the MARIGOLD GARDEN.” (Chicago Tribune, Chicago, IL, Sunday, 16 December 1917, p. 60)
The new Marigold Gardens, said to be the ‘largest outdoor natural garden in the world’, opened for the summer the first of July 1918, featuring an electric fountain, Dutch windmill, marble dance terrace, and a Swiss Chateau. “At the Marigold Room you will see more men of wealth and more women of social prominence. It is because the management caters to Exclusive People. It is the fad to visit the ice cooled Marigold Room, dine, dance and watch the Beauty Chorus. Adah O’Donnel, the star of ‘Miss Springtime,’ is an added attraction.” (Chicago Tribune, Chicago, IL, Thursday, 16 August 1917, p 8).
To be continued.