News / 6.23.16

Throwback Thursday – R. H. Donnelley Corporation – Direct Mail Division

At the time it was the largest single-story direct mail production plant under one roof in the world

This week's Epstein Throwback Thursday visits Oak Brook, Illinois for Part 1 of story detailing a collection of projects completed for the R.H. Donnelley Corporation from the late 50s through the mid-70s. Our tale begins in November '59 when our former chairman, Sidney Epstein, was asked by Giles McCollum, the vice president and general manager for R.H. Donnelley's direct mail division, to develop plans for a new 170,000 square foot printing and distribution center. This building which was located on a 20-acre site at 2000 York Road, just north of Cermak Road and just southeast of the I-88, and when it was completed in November of '61 it was the largest single-story direct mail production plant under one roof in the world.

This Direct Mail Division facility featured, relative for the time period, the significant amenity of air conditioning throughout the office and almost all of the plant area. In addition, the print production and warehouse spaces also included high-intensity fluorescent lighting to provide extra illumination for print proofing as well as sanitary interior finishes to help reduce maintenance issues. The production plant was also divided into five principal sections: mechanical inserting, imprinting, labeling and addressing, special bindery and homeworker department.

A funny little anecdote about this plant was that it was out of this facility that R.H. Donnelley's staff served as 'professional judges' for the various sales promotion contests that were mailed out this production plant. (How's that for random trivia?)

If you are curious, this facility still exists (for now), although it's no longer affiliated with R.H. Donnelley. It's currently known as the Oak Brook Business Center but the site was recently purchased by the Ryan Cos. & they are planning to demolish the former Donnelley plant and office building and develop a new multi-building $70M development which would encompass 300,000 to 400,000 square feet.

Next week we'll have Part 2 of the Epstein | R.H. Donnelley story which will detail the new Computer Center we designed and engineered across the street from the York Road Direct Mail Division facility. A processing facility that was constructed to produce a publication called the Official Airlines Guide, which in essence was a printed version of all domestic and international flight schedules. Yes, as I tell my kids, there was a time when the 'interwebs' didn't exist and you actually needed to open a book or reference guide to get information. I then get a blank look which is soon followed by hugs asking me how I survived the 'dark ages?'