News / 8.10.16

Throwback Thursday – Continental Coffee Co.

Manufacturing space featured 70 foot high towers for coffee roasting

This week's Epstein Throwback Thursday featured project is the Continental Coffee Co. Facility located at 2550 North Clybourn in Chicago, just north of Fullerton and along the North Branch of the Chicago River. For this 130,000 square foot project, which was completed in 1958, Epstein served as the architect and engineer, and at the time of completion, Continental Coffee was the largest independent coffee roaster in the United States. This facility not only helped Continental produce more coffee, but also their other 'allied' products including syrups, soups, mayonnaise, and coffee urns.

This building featured a little bit of everything – including manufacturing & storage space that could hold 70 foot high towers for coffee roasting. This facility also included wood trusses, steel frames, and reinforced concrete construction. This Continental Coffee plant was the 2nd such facility completed by Epstein, following a production plant in Toledo, Ohio that we delivered in 1953.

For those of you who haven't memorized all of the mid-century Coffee Producers (first off – shame on you) here's a little 'Bio' on Continental Coffee courtesy of the Encyclopedia of Chicago…

Continental Coffee was founded in 1915 by Jacob Cohn, a 19-year-old Lithuanian immigrant. Cohn started by selling coffee to local restaurants and cafeterias. By 1920, he had 15 employees. By the 1940s, when the company marketed coffee through a national network of salesmen, annual sales approached $1 million. Starting in the 1950s, the company expanded rapidly by buying competitors. Annual sales rose from about $30 million in the early 1960s to over $1 billion by the early 1980s. By 1973, when the company changed its name to CFS Continental, coffee was only a small part of its food business. In 1988, when CFS ranked as the third-largest food distributor in the nation, it was purchased by a competitor, the Sysco Corp. of Houston, Texas.

And, if you are wondering, this building no longer exists. It's sadly been replaced by a strip mall, but a mall that features a Jewel grocery store, so you can at least still get coffee on this site.

Here are some photos of the facility shortly after it was completed…

View of a portion of the upper part of the coffee roasting tower showing the complex equipment and the maze of ducts necessary for roasting coffee.

View of the "Allied' department which produced non-coffee products including syrups and soups.