October 11, 2007
Sheridan Road South from Lawrence, the Old Kemper Building
Does the old Kemper Building look strange to you? That's because it's actually shorter in this image than it is now. Four more stories were added some time after its initial construction.
It was built by Harry Emmerman in 1925 and housed the Mutual Insurance company. It was one of Uptown's best and most modern office buildings, with air conditioning and stunning views of Lake Michigan (the shore was closer in those days). In 1928, Kemper insurance moved into the top floors, and eventually bought and took over the building. It would be its headquarters for forty years, until the company moved out to Long Grove. They donated the building to Chicago Ecumenical Institute in 1971. Today, it houses a variety of non-profit groups.
I have a personal connection to this building (one generation removed). When my mom was young and single, she worked for Kemper Insurance. This was in the mid-sixties. She became good friends with two women who also worked there, Marsha and Herma. (Herma is now my godmother.)
When Marsha got engaged, she had a bridal shower, and my mom attended. Someone there took home movies, which Marsha later subjected her youngest brother Ron to. Being a good brother, he humored her, but he made her stop the film and back it up when this pretty blonde—my mom—appeared on the screen. "Who is that? Can you fix me up with her?" he asked.
Marsha went to work the following day, and told my mom what happened. "You don't have to go out with the guy if you don't want to, Donna," she said. "He is my brother." But my mom was game, and agreed to the blind date. A week later they were engaged.
And that's how my parents met.