Architecture and Chicago and Mayfair and Signs11 Jan 2012 06:17 pm

Building names always seem a bit gloomy for me—particularly when they’re etched in stone. Undoubtedly intended to display the affluence and influence a wooden sign could never convey, most only cement (no pun intended) their original owners’ anonymity, inspiring the modern passerby to look up and comment, “Who the hell is that?”

In Mayfair, one such mysterious appellation is chiseled into the limestone-faced storefront at 4407 N. Elston Ave. Calmly regal, whoever designed the building back in 1899-1900 knew what he was doing, especially in the creation of the sign on top, which strikingly states “TRYON & DAVIS.”

But who were Tryon and Davis? I wish I could say. Beyond discovering that Tryon is a British name and Davis a Welsh one, information is spotty about the two (assumed) men. A review of historical newspapers and Google Books suggests that T&D was a real estate agency, and probably a developer as well, owing to occasional references on real estate sites to a “Tryon & Davis subdivision” located near Lawrence and Pulaski.

Obviously, T&D were successful enough to construct their own office building, but otherwise they made little impact on Chicago history. All I’ve turned up are two meager references to plumbing work being done for several single-story dwellings near 2345 W. Roosevelt Road (apparently demolished) in 1921, and the management of a property at 118 N. LaSalle St. (also gone, but now occupied by Murphy/Jahn’s 120 N. LaSalle building—the one with the whacky Daedalus and Icarus mosaic).

The firm later listed an address in the 1915 edition of Polk’s Real Estate Register and Directory of the United States and Canada at 4601 N. Crawford (now Pulaski Rd.), which is currently occupied by a Citgo gas station. Did T&D move there from their Elston digs? Did they expand? Without a day’s visit to the history museum or library, I can’t say. I’ve sent an inquiry letter to the building’s current resident, a lawyer, and I’ll provide an update if I find out anything else.

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