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Sidney Epstein (1923-2016)

Dates of Interview:

August 25; September 14; December 9, 14, 15, 1993

Location of Interview:

Epstein's office in Chicago


Betty J. Blum

Length of Transcript:

210 pages
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Photograph courtesy of Arthur Dubin.

Biographical Summary

Sidney Epstein was born in 1923 in Chicago and studied at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, from where he received a degree in civil engineering in 1943. After serving in the military during WW II, Sidney joined his father Abraham and brother Raymond in their family business, A. Epstein & Sons, an engineering firm that hired architects. They specialized for many years in industrial parks but extended their work to highrise office buildings after WW II . Epstein's firm was included in the consortiums that built the Mies van der Rohe-designed Federal Center in Chicago, the Maine Montparnasse Tower in Paris, and the Harold Washington Public Library in Chicago. From a small family-owned and -run business Epstein's firm, now A. Epstein & Sons, International, has grown to an international company with offices worldwide. Epstein was elected a Fellow of the American Society of Civil Engineers in 1959, and a Fellow of the Society of American Registered Architects in 1969.

Interview Highlights

Sidney serves as the spokesman for the history of his family's firm. He speaks about his father Abraham's jobs with S. Scott Joy and the Central Manufacturing District; founding the firm of A. Epstein, Structural Engineer; the Depression and how they survived; rebuilding the Union Stockyards in 1934; postwar work of industrial parks; highrise buildings such as the Borg-Warner building and the Federal Center in Chicago, and the Maine Montparnasse Tower in Paris, France; overseas work; design/build; the personal and professional legacy left by Abraham.

Abraham Epstein. International Ampitheater, Chicago Stockyards, Chicago, 1934.
Photo by Abernathy.

A. Epstein & Sons, with William Lescaze. Borg-Warner Building, Chicago, 1959.
Photo by Annemarie van Roessel.

Interview Excerpt

"[Abraham] gave us a legacy of trying to satisfy the client, building a quality building, being on time and on budget. He left us a legacy of participating in communal and philanthropic work. That was a requirement. My father believed to the core in civic work...He gave us a legacy of dealing ethically and honestly. My father valued his reputation in the community much more than any wealth." (p. 77)

Additional Resources

Sidney Epstein images in the R&B Archives
Related archival materials in the R&B Archives

Funding for this oral history was provided by a gift from the Estate of Norman Schlossman.