From left: Honorees Leslie Hindman, John McCarter, and Joan Ahrens (representing Target Corporation). Diane Alexander White Photography photo.
After decades of selling venerable objects, the shoe is now on the other foot for Chicago auctioneer Leslie Hindman. This is the year that Hindman became—at least officially—venerable.
Named a 2013 Legendary Landmark by Landmarks Illinois, Hindman was honored in a major celebration in March. Two others also were named Legendary Landmarks for 2013. One is a former president and CEO of Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History. The third 2013 honoree is Target Corporation, recognized for creating one of its City Target stores on two floors of a historic building on the Loop, the former home of department store Carson Pirie Scott. The building was designed by Louis Sullivan in 1898. The City Target is respectful of its historic and restored setting. The three 2013 Legendary Landmarks join 20 others (some are pairs or corporations) named from 2006 through 2012. Still on the sunny side of 60, Hindman is the youngest person ever to be named a Legendary Landmark. She is certainly the first female auctioneer so designated and probably the only auctioneer to be designated a landmark, anywhere.
Landmarks Illinois (www.landmarks.org) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting and preserving the character of sites around the state, from skyscrapers to rural highlights. Through a new million-dollar Richard H. Driehaus Foundation grant, monies are now available for the restoration of historic county courthouses. Bonnie McDonald, president and CEO of Landmarks Illinois, told us that Hindman was recognized because her auction house has “increased the profile of works of art and the importance of design” in Chicago and around the world. Also, Hindman has been a supporter of Landmarks Illinois, and several years ago Hindman bought the old Stouffer farm, 50 miles northwest of Chicago, after she was hired to sell it at auction and no bidders appeared. The farm involves over 22 acres of woods, ponds, houses, and a handsome converted barn. Fair Warning Farm, renamed for the last call at auction before the gavel descends, has been lovingly restored to what McDonald calls “an old property adopted for modern use.”
Furthermore, last year Hindman bought a circa 1895 house on Chicago’s Lakeshore Drive and is currently in the throes of a massive restoration of it. Call it a Legendary Landmark working on a landmark.
Previous honorees include “Mr. Cub” Ernie Banks, writer/director/actor Harold Ramis, jazz master Ramsey Lewis, cofounder of the Joffrey Ballet Gerald Arpino, photographer Victor Skrebneski, cofounder of Second City Bernie Sahlins and his wife, Jane Nicholl Sahlins, a light of the theater. Abbott Laboratories, Legendary Landmark’s first corporate honoree, made the grade in 2012.
The March 2013 celebration honoring Hindman and the two others for “their unique and extraordinary contributions to Chicago’s civic and cultural skyline” happened at the Four Seasons Hotel in Chicago, starting with a 6 p.m. reception; dinner followed. Tickets were $25,000 for benefactor, $10,000 for leader, $5000 for patron, $1000 for each patron reservation, and $500 per individual reservation.
Hindman was introduced by 2007 Legendary Landmark John H. Bryan, retired chairman and CEO of Sara Lee Corporation and a civic mover vital to the development of Chicago’s Millennium Park. This is not shabby company! An original investor in the first Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, Bryan told the audience that auctions are a method of preservation and recycling. He added that the secret to Hindman’s success is her positive attitude. Business savvy is a given. Hindman certainly has a way of making others feel good about themselves. Open and funny, she can disarm with a compliment and/or words of encouragement. If it sounds disingenuous, it’s not. She is the real thing.
Congratulated on the Landmarks honor, Hindman said, “I’m overwhelmed. This is a huge, huge honor.” (She often speaks in italics.) “I care a lot about the group, and I’m so in awe of all the individuals.”
We can vouch that Hindman was working at her desk the morning after the fete and walking on the auction show floor looking over couture for her upcoming sale of the Ebony Fashion Fair collection, meeting and greeting, and holding meetings. Much to our amazement, she looked none the worse for wear.
That’s how one gets to Legendary Landmark status. First, you start in 1982 and grow. Next, sell to Sotheby’s in 1997 and lie low for a stipulated time, then reopen under your name in 2003 and gain a reputation for selling Chicago icons and millions of dollars worth of art and antiques and a staggering array of decorative items. You build a reputation as a full-service auction house and go-to source for sellers, collectors, and decorators. Less than ten years later you have a Chicago-based business with two buildings. To that, add outposts in Naples, Palm Beach, Milwaukee, and Denver that operate full tilt and bring in top merchandise, and by 2013 auction nearly 50 packed sales per year. We recently heard that more sites are in the works. Stay tuned. This dynamo Legendary Landmark is not one to sit on her laurels.
Asked her net worth, Hindman laughed long and heartily then told us, “My net worth is in excess of a dollar.” Told you she was funny.
Originally published in the May 2013 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2013 Maine Antique Digest