clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Wrigley Field historical sleuthing: 1916-22 edition

Here’s a sign you might never have seen before. And, a few more words about how much of original Wrigley Field remains.

EDITOR’S NOTE: I sent this photo to Mike, saying I had never seen that sign before, and wondering when it was at Wrigley Field.

Several email exchanges later, he sent me this full article. Enjoy!

This began as a simple sleuth, then I decided to expand it to an update of my 2015 article featuring the remaining original Wrigley Field structure. So, enjoy a stream-of-consciousness post.

First, the sleuth of the featured photo.

This is the main gate area of what is now Wrigley Field during the span 1916-22, looking northeast from the corner of Clark, Addison, and Seminary.

In 1916, the right field wall was extended 10 feet in height by the addition of a screen. Facing Sheffield Avenue, letters were mounted on the screen reading: CHICAGO NATIONAL LEAGUE BASEBALL CLUB. Images taken of the playing field during this time show the lettering reading in mirror image.

A matching screen and sign was erected above the main gate at the Clark/Addison/Seminary corner, this is what the photo depicts. If more of the left field facade had been included, the two remaining campus buildings of the former Chicago Lutheran Theological Seminary (the occupant of the property before the ballpark was built), might be visible, they fronted the east side of Seminary Avenue south of the intersection with Waveland. An aside, Seminary Avenue is named for a campus which once existed along its length, but not this campus.

During the offseason of 1922-23, the grandstand was cut into rough thirds, the section backing home plate was moved west to fill the Clark/Addison/Seminary corner, the left field section was moved west and north to directly fill the Seminary/Waveland intersection (the seminary buildings having been demolished meantime, the current groundskeeper’s cottage was built at this time), the right field section remained in place. The two gaps were filled in with new seating, the right field alignment could not be made straight, resulting in the “dogleg” on that side that is not present in left field, which you can see here (this photo was taken in July 2013, before the video boards were installed):

Matthew Kosterman/MLB Photos via Getty Images

This is the footprint of the lower bowl as we now know it. The sleuth photo depicts the original relationship between the park and the streets, which were not rerouted.

It has been almost forgotten that Seminary Avenue, the western limit to the original ballpark property, once extended unobstructed all the way to Clark Street. Over the decades that right-of-way became obscured, but never legally abandoned. When I was a kid it was still readily apparent, there was a pair of yellow-and-black street signs marking the intersection, which you can see in this photo taken in June 1972:

Wrigley Field in 1972, the best image available displaying the Clark/Addison, and Clark/Seminary signage. The yellow bakelite signs began to be replaced by green signs in 1975, Clark & Seminary never had green signage.
Bettmann Archive

When the Cubs announced their development plans for the “triangle” property as part of the 1060 Project, the city stepped in to remind them that the right-of-way on Seminary had to be decommissioned, and paid for, before work could begin.

Now for the update to that 2015 article, which was written just before the major work of the 1060 Project began. The original elements of Wrigley then visible were the steel underpinning the lower bowl, the steel that formed the rooftop of the lower bowl and doubled as the floor of the upper deck, the visitor’s clubhouse, and the offices fronting Clark and Addison.

Those offices were demolished completely, what is visible now are faux façades simulating the previous appearance. There are no offices behind that façade on Addison, a Cubs Store now occupies the space.

The visitors clubhouse, which has hosted National League stars from Honus Wagner to Fernando Tatis Jr., is reportedly intact, but greatly expanded and improved. It has not been included in any subsequent STH tours, so I have not had an opportunity to see how much of the original footprint actually survives. Here are some photos that Al took during a media tour of the new visitors clubhouse in April 2019.

The supporting steel of the lower bowl was largely discarded and replaced. Nearly all the horizontal beams were removed and replaced, most of the large vertical beams were retained, but resheathed and reinforced.

The original elements now surviving to the best advantage are the lower bowl roof/upper deck floor of the three original grandstand pieces, and only the steel in the original right field bowl can be said to be in its 1914 position.

This is interesting in that the original grandstands, built “under the gun” in exactly two months’ time, were evidently designed with the idea that future moves and expansions would be done as a matter of course, and the existing structure would be readily adaptable to the changes. It’s a tribute to the original designer, Zachary Taylor Davis, sometimes called the Frank Lloyd Wright of baseball architects, who supervised all the construction and expansions of Wrigley’s first decade.

Here are two illustrations depicting the original and expansion placements of the original lower bowl.