CHICAGO (CBS) — Lawry’s The Prime Rib will be closing its location on Ontario Street just off the Magnificent Mile at the end of the year.
The last day of service at Lawry’s The Prime Rib, 100 E. Ontario St., will be Thursday, Dec. 31. The location has been in operation for 46 years.
The steakhouse was founded in Beverly Hills, California in 1938, but it has had a home in the McCormick Mansion on Ontario Street since 1974.
“Lawry’s longtime master carvers and brown gown servers have served endless amounts of its signature Prime Rib from antique silver carts, Yorkshire Pudding, and Spinning Bowl Salad to its valued Chicago guests over the last 46 years,” Lawry’s said in a news release.
In the release, Lawry’s Inc. chief executive officer Ryan Wilson suggested that Lawry’s does have a future in Chicago even with the closure of the iconic location.
“It was an extremely difficult decision to close Lawry’s The Prime Rib in Chicago, a stalwart location for our brand since 1974,” says Ryan Wilson, CEO for Lawry’s, Inc. “It will always hold a special place in our hearts and we will never forget the memories made in the McCormick Mansion. We welcome our beloved Chicago community to the restaurant throughout the next few months to celebrate the last 46 years and enjoy the best prime rib in the city before we close and reassess what our presence looks like in the ever-evolving Chicago food scene.”
The release did not specify the reason for the closing, but quoted in a Chicago Tribune report, Wilson said the coronavirus, civil unrest in recent months, and a lease that is expiring were all part of it.
Lawry’s The Prime Rib still operates a location in Beverly Hills, and also has locations in Dallas and Las Vegas. Lawry’s Restaurants also operates other eateries in Southern California, including the Tam O’Shanter in Los Angeles; Five Crowns and the SideDoor in Corona del Mar, Newport Beach, California; and Lawry’s Carvery in Costa Mesa, California.
There are also Lawry’s locations in Tokyo, Osaka, Hong Kong, Seoul, and Singapore.
In Chicago, the mansion that houses Lawry’s at Ontario and Rush streets was commissioned in 1889 by L. Hamilton McCormick – nephew of McCormick Reaper inventor and International Harvester founder Cyrus McCormick and a cousin of famed Chicago Tribune publisher “Col.” Robert R. McCormick, for whom McCormick Place is named.
The Italian Renaissance-style home was built at the northeast corner of Rush and Ontario streets from designs by the firm of Cowles and Ohrenstein.
“When the new mansion was unveiled, its massive fireplaces, splendid wood-work and central majestic winding staircase were the talk of the city,” Lawry’s said on its website.
L. Hamilton McCormick and his wife, Constance, held high-society soirees at the mansion around the time of the turn of the last century. The fourth-floor ballroom – which accommodated 400 people and was the largest ever built in a private home at the time – hosted foreign dignitaries such as the Duke of Kent and the Prince of Wales, Lawry’s said.
McCormick died in 1934, and the family leased the house. It first became a private nightclub, and then was taken over in 1937 by restaurateur Fredrik A. Chramer to become the Kungsholm restaurant, which served Scandinavian cuisine, Lawry’s said.
In 1940, Chramer also opened the Kungsholm Miniature Grand Opera puppet theater in the ballroom, where productions of recorded operas were performed using costumed marionettes.
A fire destroyed the puppet theater in 1947, but it was rebuilt a few years later and continued on even after Chramer died in 1960 and the Fred Harvey restaurant chain took over the Kungsholm, Lawry’s said.
The puppet operas continued on until 1971 at the restaurant, and the tradition continued afterward on as onetime Kungsholm artistic director William Fosser opened Opera in Focus – which has been closed for the COVID-19 pandemic since March, but continues to operate in Rolling Meadows. Some of the Kungsholm puppets were also acquired by the Museum of Science and Industry.
Meanwhile, the Harvey chain turned the Kungsholm restaurant into a new restaurant called Shipwreck Kelly’s and rechristened the theater as the New Theater at the Kungsholm. Both were out of business by 1972, but at that time, then-Lawry’s chief executive officer Richard N. Frank was looking for a new Lawry’s The Prime Rib Chicago location and acquired the lease, Lawry’s said.
The building was in disrepair by then, but Frank worked with Hutchason, Butkus Associated Architects to restore it to its former glory with the feel of an English manor house, Lawry’s said.
Lawry’s opened for business in the mansion in May 1974 and has been an icon of the Chicago dining scene ever since. In just one of the times CBS 2 paid a visit, then-Executive Chef Hans Aeschbacher taught CBS 2’s Bob Wallace how to cook and carve a turkey for Thanksgiving in 1983.
As Lawry’s now winds down, it plans to host a variety of celebrations in the coming months – including private mansion tours, intimate special occasions, and holiday celebrations.