This building is probably best known for its longtime tenant, Bremer's Stationers, but it has a deeper story than that.
It was built in 1913 for use as the Gillespie Printery, home of the Des Plaines Suburban Times under publisher David A. Gillespie. It opened just before its neighbor, the First National Bank, with the Cook County Herald reporting on November 14, 1913:
Mr. and Mrs. David A. Gillespie and the people of Des Plaines have just reason to feel proud of their new printing office with modern appointments. It is a handsome brick building with business office in front, composing room and job shop in a tasty well lighted apartment back of office.
The cylinder press and stock room are located in a spacious basement with cement floor. The Suburban Times proprietors and force of printers gave a public reception in honor of their grand opening in their new quarters Tuesday afternoon and evening and were delighted with many compliments.
We congratulate Mr. and Mrs. Gillespie on their success and happy surroundings.
The note in the corner of the rendering at the top of this page tells us that the building was the product of prolific Chicago architect Leon Eugene Stanhope. L. E. Stanhope was partner of prominent architect J.E.O. Pridmore from 1893-1898, and was quite accomplished on his own. He built houses, apartment buildings, churches, and commercial buildings in a variety of styles, with an emphasis on Classical and Tudor Revival, including many of the Tudor Revival buildings in Glencoe.
He served as Deputy Commissioner of Buildings in Chicago for several years and later served as President of the Illinois Society of Architects. For a few other examples of his buildings, take a look at the F.R. Long House, Eighth Church of Christ, Scientist, and the streamline modern Anti-Cruelty Society building on Grand Avenue in downtown Chicago. The Gillespie Printery is one of the only examples of Tudor Revival commercial architecture in Des Plaines - the only other one that comes to mind is the building on Thacker between Webster and Third that I think was the original sales office for the Villas. It has the typical stucco finish with half-timbering (or at least something made to look like wood,) and a tile roof imitating wood shingles.
It even came with its own streetlight, years before Des Plaines put up streetlights throughout downtown. The small picture suggests it was originally more of a putty color than the off-white it is now. At one time, it was painted light blue with white timbers.
The Suburban Times was of course the community's longest-running newspaper, founded in 1885 as the Cook County Record by William Earle of Algonquin, who circulated about 100 papers a week by foot, horseback, and boat. From then until 1897, the paper went through seven owners, including C. E. Bennett, F. Salter, and Frank Sodt, who moved publishing to Feehanville (Maryville) and renamed it the Des Plaines Suburban Times in 1895. Gillespie went to work for Sodt in November, 1896 and purchased the paper the next year. In those days, it was a two page paper, with Des Plaines news on one sheet and Park Ridge on the other. In 1904 he added a flatbed press and a smaller press. In 1921, Gillespie retired and sold the newspaper to the Des Plaines Publishing Company, with the Herald reporting:
The Suburban Times, published at Des Plaines, Ill, which under the management of Mr. and Mrs. D. J. Gillespie has attained a great success, has passed into the hands of the Des Plaines Publishing Company, the president and editor of which are experienced newspaper men of Wisconsin and other places. Mr. Gillespie has been in his present field (to quote his own words) from "way back to those days when a Washington hand press, an old fashioned jobber and a few fonts of primitive type, were the office equipment; when a subscriber came in and planked down a dollar he appeared like the spirit, of an angel." Now they retire from the present plant with full equipment of presses, type, folders, cutters, linotype and a handsome home for all. No wonder if this long time popular editor feels a bit of pride in the loyal support accorded him and his good wife by so many friends and patrons throughout these many years.
The reason for Mr. Gillespie's giving over the business is his protracted ill health. Mrs. Gillespie has assumed the burden of the work the past few months and has succeeded admirably.
The president of the new company is John W. Cruger, who will have charge of the mechanical end. His son, Harold J. Cruger is vice president and will act as editor. He has been on the reportorial staff of several large daily papers and with his father comes highly recommended.
The Cook County Herald welcomes these new men into the newspaper fraternity of Cook County.
Crueger then installed a large amount of new machinery, before being sold to employees Fred Fulle and his brother in law, Herman Gaede, in 1923. In 1925 Fulle bought out Gaede and moved the paper to 777 (729) Pearson.
The building thus emptied, the First National Bank expanded into it from 1927-1937. By 1941, the Glad-Mere Beauty Salon was in operation there. Coincidentally, by 1948, the building once again became devoted to the written word, as Frank A. Bremer & Sons, Stationers, moved in.
Bremer's Stationers, in business at 624 Lee Street in the Masonic Temple Building since 1928, became the building's longest occupant. Bremer's thrived in the early years, selling typewriters, office supplies, Parker pens, and Hallmark cards. They were also Des Plaines' school supply source for years. In succession, Frank A. Bremer, S. Charles Bremer, and Charles V. Bremer and Gene Kohl ran the business. In 1987 business began slowing down as mail-order and chain office supplies began to grow rapidly, providing supplies with deeper discounts that Bremer's could not match. Bremer's survived a few more years on the basis of personal customer service, but by 1996 it was time to retire, and with the next generation of Bremers uninterested in taking over the business, the doors were closed for good in November.
The building was quickly taken over again by the neighboring Currency Exchange, which has operated AmeriCash Loans there since. They quickly tore out the distinctive Tudor-style windows and doors that gave the building so much of its character, replacing them with characterless aluminum-clad windows that belong on a strip mall.
The upstairs has a bit of history too, having served as Des Plaines' YMCA headquarters in the 1950s before the Lattof Y was built, and later as a halfway house for recovering alcoholics, First Step House (for men, 1980-1992), and Miracle House (for women, 1992-1996). It also held Al-Anon meetings in the 1970s.