Menu of the Week: Thanksgiving at the Chicago Terminal, 1899

A way to make sure those stranded at the terminal didn’t miss out on a Thanksgiving dinner

In 1899, a Thanksgiving feast could be had for 90 cents.

The Chicago and North Western Transportation Company was in operation from 1865 to 1995, and in its day was the primary provider of rail travel around the Midwest, centered around Chicago. In 1881, a new station was opened on the corner of Wells Street and Kinzie Avenue in Chicago, built to replace an older station that burned down in the Great Chicago Fire 10 years before.

In 1899, Thanksgiving fell on Nov. 30, and a simple Thanksgiving dinner was served at the terminal’s restaurant. We’re pretty sure that nobody made Thanksgiving dinner here their destination; maybe it was primarily for those who somehow ended up stranded and couldn’t get to where they were heading by the time dinnertime rolled around. Either way, it was nice of the restaurant to offer something to them, and we tracked down the menu on The New York Public Library's archive.

To start, diners had their choice of tomato soup or consommé, and for their main course they could choose between broiled whitefish or roast turkey with cranberry sauce and either mashed or boiled potatoes. Green peas, celery, and sliced tomatoes were offered on the side, and plum pudding, pies, and fruit were offered for dessert, along with coffee, tea, milk, or apple cider. It wasn’t a lavish feast, but it got the job done for those who most likely ended up celebrating it in a way they didn’t expect. It was also reasonably priced: tomato soup, roast turkey, peas, cider, apple pie, and a cup of coffee amounted to $0.90, which in today’s money equals out to about $25.

Menu of the Week: Aboard the RMS Oceanic, 1900Menu of the Week: Thanksgiving at Broadway Central HotelMenu of the Week: Thanksgiving at the Martinsville Sanitarium, 1906

As for the Wells Street Station, it was torn down in 1911 to make way for the much-larger Merchandise Mart Building. The terminal moved across the street into a grand new building,  most of which was demolished to make way for the Citigroup Center in 1984, but the Ogilvie Transportation Center still exists beneath it.