In its first seventy years, Chicago was the fastest growing city the world had ever seen, with its population burgeoning from some three hundred people to 1.5 million between 1833 and 1900. Grappling with this unprecedented expansion, the city built to its horizons and its sky with machine-made iron and steel, bricks, terra-cotta, glass, cement, and all other materials demanded by a permanent boomtown that was contemporary by its own definition. Though only ten, eleven, and twelve stories high, the first steel-framed structures were taller than anything yet built. They seemed to go on forever, scraping the sky.
After the construction surge was over and some of the earliest buildings had already given way to new structures, historians had time to reflect on the recent past, calling what had happened the Commercial Style or Chicago School. Symbolizing civic unity and pride, the public's aspirations of upward mobility, these buildings were awe-inspiring. Their architects were among the first in the world to implement the new British and French tech-nologies of steel-frame construction in commercial buildings. They have easily discernible unifying characteristics: a steel-frame with terra-cotta, brick or masonry cladding; a curtain wall of unlimited ornamentation pierced for large plate-glass windows; and an inner, private court for light and air, elevators, and more decoration.
As the nation's buildings began to multiply dramatically and grow ever bolder in their construction and use of materials, Barr Ferree spoke to the American Institute of Architects in 1893, telling them "current American architecture is not a matter of art, but of business. A building must pay or there will be no investor ready with the money to meet its cost." Not all were in agreement with this bold statement that buildings were strictly commercial ventures with little or no social responsibilities. Three years later Louis Sullivan penned his now famous lyrical essay in which he poetically argues that a tall building should be more than just functional, that it should be as beautiful as a tree, as stately as an ancient column, and most of all that its "form should ever follow" its function.
All agreed that tall buildings were built from the inside out, that elevators were the internal determinant, but it was the out-side-the building skin-that everyone saw. And it was the skin that made all the difference.
Knowing full well that tall buildings were built around elevators, Sullivan pleaded for art and natural beauty in tall structures to uplift the minds of those seeing them, while Ferree saw no ideal, just a straightforward approach to architecture that boldly reflected the cultural milieu of Chicago, a chaotic Midwestern cosmopolis that was proud, western and nationalistic while exalting such nebulous ideals as "American" and "democracy." All that and much more was accomplished by the First Chicago School of Architecture.
Today, Ferree is forgotten, his message taken to heart. Sullivan is now acclaimed as the developer of a Chicago style that became European Modernism and then re-turned to Chicago as the Second Chicago School led by German architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Variants of the style are still very much active today across the world.
Built on sand and mud, Chicago developed from a messy melange of humans and animals into a grid system for its streets; grain, lumber and animals for commerce; and a harbor on a slow-flowing two-branched river that also served factories and was used for sewage disposal, all the while flowing into an ocean-sized lake from which the city drank. It's an exciting story of human will over nature that differentiates Chicago from other cities.
In 1833, a small gathering of motley cabins, huts, and tempo-rary shelters near a fort named Dearborn (indications of its foundations are well below today's intersection of East Wacker Drive and North Michigan Avenue) were perched on slightly ele-vated dry patches along the south bank of an almost stagnant river. Four years later, with just over four thousand inhabitants, Chicago was incorporated as a city. It boasted a courthouse, sev-eral churches and substantial homes, a bookstore, a theatre, a newspaper, three debating societies, a candy shop and the begin-nings of a medical school.
By the 1850s, Irish, German, Italian, and Swedish immigrants, and New-England-born Americans were flooding to the city. The fact that the new city's ground was just inches above Lake Michigan's natural water table meant that the streets were mostly muddy, and there was not enough elevation for drainage to flow into the city's main sewer, the ever-stale Chicago River.
The solution was to raise the central city's buildings some 6 or more feet. Work started in January 1858 on the northeast corner of Randolph Street when a 70-foot long, four-story, 750-ton brick structure was lifted by 200 jackscrews to a new grade level 6 feet 2 inches above the old-without "the slightest injury to the building," as the Chicago Daily Tribune reported. Some fifty similar-sized brick buildings quickly followed. Even an iron building weighing an estimated 27,000 tons, along with 230 feet of attached stone sidewalk, was lifted 27 inches. Less worthy wooden structures, sometimes even joined rows, were simply moved on rollers.
While the technology was not new, its use on such a large scale was astounding to all who saw it and the world that read about it. It would not be the only time Chicago exploited technology; in fact, the whole of the ballooning city would continue to revel in its dependence on it.
Then, after a wet spring in 1871, only 3¼ inches of rain fell between July 5 and October 8, the driest period in the recorded history of the city. The dryness resulted in a summer of many neighborhood fires, until the warm, windy, and dusty-d ry evening of October 8th when the Great Chicago Fire ignited. Pushed by 20-40 mph winds, the flames rapidly spread from southwest to northeast through the downtown and many neighborhoods.
At first construction was hasty and followed tradition and fash-ionable wood and brick styles. But within a decade, commercial construction in the city's downtown became ever more inno-vative, systematically deploying state-of-the-art technology that allowed the construction of ever taller buildings. Traditional hori-zontal construction was quickly transformed by these new vertical machines that were devised for the sole purpose of enhancing production, were efficient to build and easy to use. Again, many of the innovations had been developed elsewhere, but their inspired use became distinctly Chicago's and brought about the Chicago School of Architecture in the 1880s and 1890s, lasting through to the 1910s.
But Chicago's first great wave of building was not solely the result of the Great Fire; it was also inspired by architectural innovation elsewhere in the world. Its immediate ancestor can be traced to late 1853, when Victor Baltard designed Paris's first truly freestanding iron structure, the Central Market at Les Halles. Les Halles consisted of cast-iron columns connected to roof trusses. The columns supported themselves and a roof of sheets of glass without masonry assistance. Floors were, in part, made of hollow clay tiles. Easy to clean and with very little structure to burn easily, the building was thought fireproof. Not everyone appreciated these innovations, with criticism coming from supporters of masonry. Even noted architect Eugene Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc-later a champion of iron construction-criticized Louis-Auguste Boileau's use of iron, claiming that changes in temperature could result in a "hail of bolt-heads, and during rain, a shower of rust."
In New York, architect and inventor James Bogardus (180074}designed and built a skeletal 175foot tall eight-sided iron framework tower for the McCullough Shot and Lead Company of New York City in 1855. The building was a success. Others followed in New York and elsewhere.
In Liverpool, Peter Ellis, Jr. designed an iron and glass structure in 1864 known as Oriel Chambers. Iron and glass bay windows make up its two exposed fac; ades and the inner courtyard was faced with cantilevered iron cladding. Interestingly, John Wellborn Root was a teenager living in Liverpool at the time. Aspects of the Chicago Rookery he built with Daniel Burnham some two decades later may very well have been inspired by the Oriel Chambers.
The French, British and American ideas of fireproofing with iron construction, terracotta tiles and glass gained traction in France and Britain and were probably brought to Chicago first by George H. Johnson, master builder of fireproof grain-elevators, who had patented a system of hollow clay tiles for flooring, similar to ones he had seen in France early in 1871.
In Chicago, Johnson associated with John M. van Osdel, who was considered Chicago's first architect, and whom Johnson had worked for in the later 1860s. Van Osdel was working on a building at 40 North Dearborn Street that needed fireproofing of the kind Johnson specialized in. The foundation and walls of the Kendall Building had been built when the Great Chicago Fire temporarily halted construction. Construction continued immediately after the fire, but technical limitations of fire fighting and the problems associated with fire in recently invented elevator shafts restricted its height to five stories, one short of the planned six stories which would have made it the city's tallest building. Johnson and the manufacturer claimed the system to be completely fireproof; however, the identity of the manufacturer of Johnson's patented tiles for the Kendall Building remains a mystery. Speculation points to the recently organized Chicago Terra-cotta Company. Directed by architect Sanford Loring and based on British technology, Chicago Terra-cotta had the capacity and at the time it was acclaimed as the leading manufacturer of terra-cotta in the US. Possibly because they were expensive, Johnson's hollow tiles never caught on.
It also did not help that Chicago was affected by the souring of the nation's economy after the September Panic of 1873, followed by what may have been a severe recession, if not depression. At the same time, the insurance companies that had willingly paid out for the Great Fire of 1871 had also loaned large sums for Chicago's reconstruction; sums that due to the Panic of 1873 were now being defaulted on in unsustainable numbers. In addition, the tinder-quality construction that had led to the Great Fire still existed in the unburned South Side, at least until July 16, 1874, when 47 acres of it went up in flames. The flames quickly took in an area bounded by Clark, Polk, Michigan and Van Buren streets, stopping at the new masonry construction of Chicago's downtown known as the Loop. This second fire burdened the insurance companies even more, to the point that The National Board of Underwriters petitioned the city council to enact reforms in construction, or the underwriters wou Id have all existing fire policies cancelled.
Both the Great Fire of 1871 and the Fire of 1874 showed that cast iron was not fireproof. One of the reforms that the insurance companies wanted enacted was a ban of all cast-iron supports in favor of heavy wooden ones. If the insurance companies had their way, architectural cast-iron business would be over, at least in Chicago, meaning tall buildings could not be built and so ending Chicago's competition with New York. Something had to be done and quickly. It was in Chicago that Peter B. Wight, an architect, and Sanford Loring proved that their iron supports clad in fire-clay bricks would continue to support an exterior masonry skin even in great heat or when doused with water.
In 1874, Wight patented the process. With the nation's economic recovery after the 1873 crash, Wight's process survived a series of lawsuits and became the favored Chicago way of fireproofing a building. This solution became Chicago's singular contribution to tall building construction.
With fireproofing somewhat mastered, and Chicago having become something of a dry-topsoil city with the help of jacks and infill, large buildings were always a risk in the city's actual sandy, damp, often wet soil below the infill. Foundations built for the Washington Block, corner of North Wells and West Washington, in 1873-4 are a good example of how early builders of tall buildings tried to stabilize them in the city's moist soil. Built by brothers Frederick and Edward Baumann, at five stories it was one of Chicago's tallest buildings at the time.
To reach this height above the city's sandy, wet soil, Frederick Baumann invented a new support system. An isolated pier, acting much like later-developed pylons, was placed on its own foundation at each load-bearing point of the building to become a specific foundation segment. Walls were filled in between as needed. With this technique, any settling would be localized, isolated, and of little risk to the other supports. It worked, giving Chicago a cost-effective solution to erecting tall buildings in a swamp without compromising the building. For a decade or so, Baumann's isolated-pier foundation was a Chicago favorite.
Chicago's Marshall Field and Levi Leiter commissioned William Le Baron Jenney (1832-1907) in 1879 to design a five-story warehouse for the northwest corner of Wells and Monroe streets. Today known as the First Leiter Building, it is generally acknowledged as the first Chicago School building. It was demolished in 1972. With its slender, widely spaced piers and spandrels, it was almost a copy of McLaugh-lin's Cincinnati design. Three windows, each almost floor to ceil-ing, filled large rectangular areas. Bricks surrounded by cast-iron mullions framed the windows. The remaining walls served no weight-lifting function. These windows are the direct prede-cessors of what by the mid-188os came to be called the "Chicago window." In the First Leiter, Jenney used the French technique of placing the iron pilaster on the inside of the masonry piers on the Wells Street side to support its timber floor girders. This sleight of hand feature rendered the masonry piers unnecessary for carrying any floor loads. It also allowed them to be thinner, maximizing window size for more light. The resulting fac; ade, though small, appeared as one large unit almost making the building a glass box something of a commercial kin to Sainte Chapelle, Paris.
Frank A. Randall noted in 1949, "had the wall columns been inserted in the piers, and had three more columns been added, the construction would have been essentially skeleton construc-tion." Clever as First Leiter was, Jenney seems not to have taken a real step beyond the French system.
He would not take this step until 1884, in his Home Insurance Building, on the northeast corner of LaSalle and Adams, and then only on two fac; ades facing the street. The other two re-mained traditional load-bearing brick walls. Jenney's overall design employing bolted and clamped iron elements was not a fully rigid load-bearing iron skeletal system as is often laimed, but a mix of the old, tried, and the new, untried, all in an effort to maxi-mize the available light through large window openings. Light and air ventilation were necessary to make tall buildings func-tional and efficient, and most important, to sell interior space. To brighten interiors Edison's recently invented lightbulb was a step better than traditional gas, and certainly safer and cooler burn-ing, but at around sixty watts, lighting was not sufficient to make the new sky-high stack of interiors functional and efficient work spaces without large windows. At 138 feet high, the Home Insur-ance Building stood ten stories tall and had a weight of about one-third that of an all-masonry building of equivalent height and mass. The Home Insurance building was demolished in 1931 to make room for the 535-foot forty-five-story tall Field Building, which has been called the Bank of America Building since 2007.
William Le Baron Jenney designed the Home Insurance Building in early 1884 and completed it in 1885. At the time, not much was said about it, but a few years later it would be correctly claimed as the first iron-framed tall office building in the nation and indeed the world. Building in iron, masonry and brick were not invented in Chicago, but the way they were assembled was.
Jenney received his formal education at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts and then at Harvard's Lawrence Scientific School. Seven years later, in 1853, Jenney went to Paris, to l´Ecole Central des Arts et Manufactures to study engineering and architecture. He graduated in 1856, one year ahead of Gustave Eiffel, an engineering genius who would have a profound influence on him when it came to designing the Home Insurance Building. Jenney remained in Paris for several more years, during what was an exceptionally fertile time for French iron construction, only returning to the United States in 1861. Changes in the Paris construction code led directly to Eiffel's use of his technological advancement for the addition of a free-standing five-story wrought-iron framework inside the Grands Magasins du Bon Marche in the heart of Paris. The construction world was astounded and inspired.
In 1891, Jenney was commissioned to design another building for Leiter, known as the Second Leiter Building, and later the Sears Building. It occupies the entire block along South State Street between East Van Buren and East Congress Parkway. At eight floors, each some 50,000 square feet, it is not particularly tall, but massive in its proportions. Faced with pink granite, each of its nine grid-like bays facing State Street expresses the interior steel frame and is separated by wide pilasters with simple wide-leafed capitals. The north and south façades, measuring 400 feet by 143 feet, are three bays wide, with each bay having eight narrow or four wide sash windows. While owned by Levi Leiter, it was leased to Siegel, Cooper and Company department store for seven years. Claiming to be the largest retail floor area in the world, Siegel, Cooper called itself simply “Big Store.” Jenney’s unobstructed floor area certainly made it appear so. The building then went through various tenants before it became the flagship store of Sears, Roebuck & Co. from 1932 until 1986. Designated a Chicago landmark in 1997, it became the Chicago campus of Robert Morris University the following year.
Just up the street, at 126–144 South State, along Adams to Dearborn, the Fair Store was designed by Jenney and his then partner Mundy in 1892. Founded in Chicago in 1874 by Ernst J. Lehmann, the Fair billed itself as a discount department store and offered many different things for sale at odd prices, rather than at the customary multiple of 5 cents, saving the customer pennies on each purchase.
Constructed much like the First Leiter building, the Fair was criticized for its gaudy ornament: heavy, huge capitals on the piers, a weighty cornice, all in an unforgiving salmon-toned terra-cotta, the whole considered a profusion of tasteless ornament which did not stop the Fair store from claiming to be the “largest mercantile establishment in the world.” In 1896, the Economist claimed that it was even larger than Bon Marché of Paris. The Fair was purchased by Montgomery Ward in 1957, becoming its State Street flagship in 1963. It was sold and demolished in 1984.
The Reliance Building shows how by 1894 Burnham & Root had reduced the facade to a skeleton, lightening the load, reducing visible materials to what Ludwig Mies van der Rohe would later call “beinahe nichts” (almost nothing). Within four years of receiving the commission for alterations, Burnham & Root turned their proposal into a demolition and new construction. With plans completed by Charles Atwood in 1894, and structural engineering by Edward C. Shankland, the remarkable fourteen-story Reliance Building was occupied within a year.
Building in Chicago is often deservedly described in superlatives. The steel frame of the top ten stories of the Reliance was completed in fifteen days, remarkable speed given the available technical support in 1895. This steel system is different from others nearby. For wind bracing it consists of a series of 24-inch-deep spandrel girders with some clever supports that rigidly bolt the structural webbing securely to the two-story-long columns at staggered intervals. The resulting façade is almost not there, “beinahe nichts” in its series of vertical anorexic mullions inter- rupted by large expanses of glass—that looks as if it can’t pos- sibly hold itself up, a functioning nothing that is breathtaking. The dark horizontal ground floor sets the pace for the stack of horizontal slabs, each cloaked by an articulated band of creamy terra-cotta. The serious support system of columns and girders is inside, hidden from view. The large, single-paned sheets of glass flanked by a narrow movable sash are set nearly flush to their frames, giving them a skin quality that had not previously been achieved in Chicago windows. Atwood did not retreat from the airy, apparent nothingness of the façade, a nothingness that Ludwig Mies van der Rohe would take up again almost fifty years later, in 860–880 North Lake Shore Drive.
Before Jenney's Home Insurance Building reached for the sky, others in Chicago were also striving for height. One such venture was the Montauk Building-also known as Montauk Block-designed by the architectural team of Burnham & Root (Daniel Burnham, 1846-1912, and John Well-born Root, 1850-91). Built in 1882-3, the Montauk Block was demolished just twenty years later, in 1902, but not before Thomas Talmage, the famed Brooklyn clergyman, could praise, "What Chartres was to the Gothic cathedral, the Montauk Block was to the high commercial building," And, if Erik Larson, author of Devil and the White City , is correct, the Montauk is the first building called a "Skyscraper." At 115 Monroe Street, on a frontage of 90 feet with a depth of 180 feet, the Montauk stood 130 feet tall, counted ten stories, and boasted 150 offices for 300 occupants. Two elevators provided service to the upper floors. After the Montauk was demolished, the First National Bank was built on its site, 1903-6, which in turn was demolished in 1965 to create the First National Bank and Plaza. now the Chase-Morgan Bank and Plaza.
Of the Montauk and other Root-designed buildings, architectural historian Carl Condit writes in his monumental The Chicago School of Architecture,
It was John Wellborn Root who led the way in bringing the building art of the nineteenth century to its maturity. It was Root who took the ultimate step of freeing the big commercial building from any dependence on masonry adjuncts and creating the plan and structure of the urban office block as we know it today!
That may be so, but Root, until his death from influenza in 1891, found much inspiration around him in Chicago.
Just before the “ultimate step” described by Condit, Burnham & Root designed the Rookery in 1887. Completed in 1888, the Rookery still stands on the southeast corner of the West Adams at 209 South LaSalle. Measuring 181 feet tall, twelve stories, the Rookery is the oldest high-rise standing in Chicago. At one time the offices of Burnham & Root were on its top floor. The Rookery’s internal steel frame is in keeping with the most current technology while its exterior load-bearing walls appear to be traditional granite, brick, terra-cotta, cast-iron and glass. This mix of old and new is one of transition. Eventually the visual hybrid of the Rookery gave way to an economy of fire-resistant materials aesthetically cloaking the skeletal steel frame that became universally accepted for tall structures.
One important architectural innovation did set the Rookery apart from its contemporaries: the use of a reinforced concrete slab that in effect “floated” on the city’s soft, swampy belly. Also called a grillage foundation, it was a crisscross of iron rails and structural beams encased into a concrete slab thick enough to support the full weight of the building that rose on it.
Like St. Christopher carrying his burden, the floating slab became ever more supportive as the building gained height, its weight forcing water out of the moist Chicago soil until the whole of the foundation was stable enough to support the completed building. This technique eliminated traditional, heavy individual piers, or building stones, each of which settled at its own pace, thus weakening itself and unbalancing what it supported. Traditionally a mason used his skills and experience to judge that the weight distribution was uniform enough to press evenly across all the foundation stones as the height of the building increased, a tradition fine for dry soils and relatively low buildings. In Chicago engineering supported by science and technology converted the damp soil to solid foundations.
A fine, granulated red granite worked in three distinct techniques—-rustic, dressed, and polished--gave the pedestrian a reassuring façade along Adams and LaSalle. Stacked bay windows flooded the ground-floor shop with natural light, showing products as clearly as if they were on the sidewalk. A few years later this display technique would be fully exploited on State Street. This was a tradition in the making.
The massive two-story ground-floor façade is pierced by two entrances, a secondary one facing Adams and a primary one of huge rusticated blocks and finely dressed ornament which would promote strength and ancient stability if it were not for the whimsy of eye-level left and right high-relief capitals depicting squabbling birds designed by Root, hence “Rookery.”
This is Root’s take on Richardsonian Romanesque, an American aesthetic developed by Henry Hobson Richardson in Boston with recently completed key Chicago exponents, the Marshall Field’s warehouse, downtown, and the Glessner House, Prairie Avenue at 18th Street.
Above the massive entrance, half-round columns reach for the cornice, separating sets of windows stacked five high into ribbons that encircle the building. Ornamental terra-cotta spandrels tether the columns and decorate the underside of the balcony. Just under the cornice a ribbon of window allows maximum light into these upper offices, once those of Burnham & Root.
Today called a doughnut-shaped building, the inside central light-court with its twelve floors of white glazed bricks and reflective gold leaf ornament was highly innovative in 1887 for allowing almost the same amount of light inside offices as do the windows of the exterior offices. The interior-court ceiling is a skylight covered in ornamental ironwork and glass with its own small movable windows to enhance air circulation. All around the inner court large windows allow light into the shops facing the court. Above these windows is a metal-grid walkway paved with glass squares admitting a faint glow to penetrate the shops from above. At a time when the electric bulb was still a controversial alternative to gas, every surface in the Rookery’s courtyard was designed to let in natural light.
In 1905, when the Rookery was almost twenty years old, Frank Lloyd Wright was hired to update its interior. He cloaked much of the dark ornate metal in fine white Carrara marble, which he “enhanced” with high-relief vines set against a gold leaf ground. Wright reconfigured the grand stair’s supports and painted all but the stair metal and balustrade a creamy white in keeping with the glazed bricks of the inner court walls. Wright also designed hanging lights using Luxfer’s newest prismatic bulb covers. In 1931, William Drummond, a former Wright assistant, again modernized the interior, including new elevators and light fixtures. The building hit hard financial times in the 1950s and it was not until the early 1990s that another restoration and a general repair occurred. In 2007 a full restoration was undertaken.
Outside along Quincy Street and continuing around the corner along Rookery Court to Adams, large double windows set in cast-iron frames are the ground-floor façade. This is the first glass curtain wall of its kind in a tall building in Chicago and in the United States. The skinny vertical supports holding the glass also appear to be holding up the upper dozen floors of brick. They do not. The cast iron columns are holding themselves and the glass, while the inside steel frame is holding up most everything else. In his History of the Development of Building Construction in Chicago, John A. Randall quotes Edward A. Renwick as writing,
When Owen Aldis put up the Monadnock on Jackson boulevard there was nothing on the south side of the street between State street and the river but cheap one-story shacks, mere hovels. Everyone thought Mr. Aldis was insane to build way out there on the ragged edge of the city. Later when he carried the building on through to Van Buren Street they were sure he was.
For the then “ragged edge of the city,” Burnham & Root designed an unadorned slab, two bays wide and sixteen stories high (197 feet). Funded by Peter and Shepherd Brooks and Owen Aldis between 1889 and 1891, the Monadnock was and remains a radically different building than all the others of the First Chicago School. Upon completion the Monadnock was the world’s largest office building. Randall also told his readers in 1949 that the Monadnock was the heaviest building built in Chicago. Its narrowness allowed outside exposure for every office opening into a single corridor running down the central length of each floor. Where the Rookery was built only a couple of years before in a doughnut shape for internal light, the atrium of the Monadnock is more like a light shaft than a doughnut, and is filled with a single iron staircase rising the full sixteen floors of the building.
The stair’s ground-floor newel and stair-sides and baluster grills are of a new material, aluminum. Aluminum was also cast into light fixtures, mailboxes, and heating grates, resulting in the first ever large-scale use of aluminum inside a building.
Yet it is the unadorned exterior that inspired awe—sixteen stories of brick, not a brick facing, but solid through and through, more than 6 feet thick at the base. Massive, dressed red-granite blocks support lintels across the entrances.
Below grade the granite giants stand on a great concrete and steel raft that extends some 11 feet out from the exterior walls of the building. The eventual weight of the building was calculated to sink the foundation by 8 inches. It finally sank it by some 20 inches, requiring a raising of the inner ground-level floor.
The Schiller Theater Building Chicagowas designed by Adler & Sullivan for the German Opera Company. At the time of its construction, it was one among the tallest buildings in Chicago. Its centerpiece was a 1300-seat theater, which is considered by architectural historians to be one of the greatest collaborations between Adler and Sullivan.
While Chicago was defining the skyscraper, another building with an office tower actually defined Chicago. This other building was the Auditorium Building, designed by Adler & Sullivan. Born in 1844 in Stadtlengsfeld, Thuringia, Germany, Dankmar Adler came to Chicago in 1866, set up his own firm in 1880, hired Louis Sullivan as a draftsman and then made him a partner in 1883.
In 1885, the firm of Adler & Sullivan won a commission underwritten by Ferdinand W. Peck, an ardent supporter of the arts—to design an enormous multi-use auditorium complex to be called, simply, the Auditorium. By early 1887 overall plans were completed and construction started. Two years later the Auditorium opened to the public. At the time, the Auditorium was the most complex structure built in the United States. At ten stories high, with a tower extending to seventeen stories, its 63,350 square-foot plan covered the block along Congress Avenue between Michigan and Wabash. Serving as its name implies, as an auditorium, it housed a hotel, restaurants, and offices, and was the south anchor of Michigan Avenue.
The Auditorium’s visible foundations are traditional load-bearing walls of solid masonry clad in rough-faced gray granite for the first three stories, limestone the next seven. Before the widening of Congress Boulevard, the main Auditorium Theatre entrance was indicated by a tower, whose initial function was to hold the water tanks required in part by the hydraulic lifts of the stage. The tower was billed as the tallest building in Chicago until the plans released for the Monadnock Building, by Burnham & Root, showed their building to be intentionally one floor taller. Although several floors of the Auditorium’s tower were already constructed, the Auditorium’s board pressured Sullivan (Adler was in Budapest looking at stage machinery) without consulting Adler, to redesign it taller. Sullivan’s tower added an extra 1,200 tons over the entrance, and caused the Auditorium’s outer lobby to warp significantly, but it won the day, no doubt to the great surprise of the developers of the Monadnock.
Alluding to what lay inside, green copper stamped with Sullivan’s ornaments was used to accent the door and window surrounds of the Michigan entrance. Variegated onyx wainscoting in the Michigan Avenue lobby and first stair-landing adds an abstract display uncommon in the 1880s, with its Japanism styling presaging Art Nouveau. Throughout the Auditorium acanthus foliage tops doorways, ribbons around rooms, capitals, and balusters. Scagliola resembling marble and other stone decorates columns and walls. Cast-plaster rosettes (fabricated by Decorators Supply, a Chicago firm that continues to thrive) studded with clear-glass, carbon-filament bulbs brighten the walls and ceilings to an amber glow. Healy & Millet, a Chicago decorating and design juggernaut, fabricated the Auditorium’s stained-glass windows and floor mosaics, as well as metalwork, wood carvings, murals and gilding after designs by Louis Sullivan. Healy & Millet were unmatched in the US and in Europe at the time. When Sullivan’s designs from the Auditorium Building, as fabricated by Healy & Millet, were exhibited at the Paris World’s Fair of 1889, they won a government purchase prize and remained in Paris on exhibit after the fair, eventually moving to the Musée D’Orsay where they remain on view. To this day, a tour of the Auditorium building gives a good idea of the work of Adler & Sullivan and Healy & Millet as it was seen by the world for the first time in 1889.
Seating 4,237 people, the Adler-designed Auditorium Theatre is the core of the structure. A vast, high-arched room with no conventional chandeliers, it featured only the newest technology—air-cool-ing through its enormous supporting arches, variable adjustable interior spaces and a stage that could be elevated in sections, which lent the interior multiple uses. All the while, cool, clear glass bulbs washed each patron evenly in an amber glow. The great overhead arches made columns unnecessary, giving each seat a clear line of sight while Adler’s superb engineering delivered perfect acoustics. Technically the Auditorium could do anything, except make money.
With the construction of the Union Loop elevated streetcar line, the Auditorium’s offices facing Wabash Street became noisy and did not rent as expected. By 1906, Theodore Thomas and the Chicago Symphony moved from their original home in the Auditorium to Symphony Hall, designed by Daniel Burnham. In 1946 Roosevelt College (now University) took over the complex, changing much of the interior into offices. Within a decade Congress Parkway was widened to accept the Eisenhower Expressway and the long bar inside the Auditorium Building made way for a sidewalk. More changes happened until the Auditorium became the venue for rock shows and Broadway spectacles—anything that paid the bills. It was not until the 1980s that the genius of Louis Sullivan and Dankmar Adler was again recognized and the Auditorium began to be cared for as one of the nation’s most influential architectural monuments.
While the Auditorium became an immediate international sensation, Chicago architects explored other styles, seemingly not feeling an urge to nurture what the world took note of in the Auditorium. Nor apparently did Chicagoans have the leisure to theorize a movement. The result was a series of commercial buildings, each majestically important and trendsetting in its own way without being a unique force for its own aesthetic. This was not the case in Europe, where, once the Auditorium’s decoration was exhibited in Paris, any number of architects and artists, such as Victor Horta or Henry van de Velde, championed the new look as a style of their own creation, a style that by 1900 was known in France and Belgium as Le Art Nouveau; in Germany as Jugendstil; and in England, Italy and throughout the Balkans as the Liberty Style.
With the Auditorium Building still new on the city skyline, the Tacoma Building by Holabird & Roche rose on the northeast corner of LaSalle and Madison in 1889.
Because of its bold, new system of construction and rational and functional use of materials, the Tacoma would today be the poster-child of Chicago School buildings if it were still in existence. The Tacoma introduced several innovations, in particular its unique foundation.
Before Holabird & Roche started to build, they initiated several 50-foot test borings that found water and soft clay. These deposits were emptied and the borings were then filled with concrete forced in under pressure. Then highly innovative, today this is a common practice.
To stabilize the foundation, columns supporting the building were secured on floating rafts of concrete 20 inches thick, and reinforced with steel I-beams. Carl Seiffert was the inventive structural engineer. Cast iron, wrought iron and Bessemer steel made up the floor, roof, and wind-load supports of the Tacoma.
Although it was long known that this construction was inspired engineering, it was not really understood how exemplary Holabird & Roche and Seiffert had been with the Tacoma Building until it gave way in 1929 to the One North La Salle Building by Vitzthum & Burns.
At 431 South Dearborn, a city block south of the Monadnock, the sixteen-story Manhattan Building was designed by William Le Baron Jenney and built between 1889 and 1891. Though probably the first structure to employ smaller upper stories—-later called set-backs-—today the Manhattan is acclaimed as the oldest surviving skyscraper in the world to use a skeletal support structure exclusively. A granite façade topped by one of bricks makes for a solid-looking yet sturdy structure that lightens the load on its internal steel frame as it goes up. Bay windows provide light for the interior and also help lighten the façade. The north and south walls are of brick and hollow tile, supported on steel cantilevers cleverly hooked back into the internal framework to lighten the load on the façade. Variations of this technology are still in use today.
Upon its completion in 1892, the Burnham & Root-designed Masonic Temple, on the northwest corner of Randolph and State, attracted special attention. At twenty-one stories it was tall—the tallest building in the world at the time. Its central court, a hollow core for all of its twenty-one stories, was topped by a skylight.
The hollow core soon became a standard for tall buildings in Chicago and elsewhere. Like the Auditorium, it was a mixed-use interior of which its first nine floors were retail shops, above which followed twelve stories with some five hundred offices, including rooms for the Masons. An observation deck at 302 feet gave the public a fine panorama of the lake and city. All this was supported by a rigid steel frame and wrought-iron wind- bracing above the tenth floor.
In 1893, Peter Brooks, a Boston real-estate speculator, built the Marquette Building on the northwest corner of Adams and Dear- born, today, 140 South Dearborn. Brooks was no stranger to Chicago. With his brother Charles, he had most recently com- missioned the steel-frame terra-cotta and brick-clad southern addition to the Monadnock from Holabird & Roche. For his new venture, Brooks again turned to Holabird & Roche.
The Marquette is a sixteen-story, steel-framed structure engineered by Purdy and Handerson. The Marquette opened for occupancy in 1894. Today, carefully restored for the McArthur Foundation, the Marquette is arguably the defining First Chicago School building because it incorporates and radiates all the various technical and architectural nuances that made Chicago such an influential center of architecture in the 1880s and 1890s.
Its façade is ribbon upon ribbon of large Chicago windows separated by vigorous vertical and horizontal bands of dry-blood-colored terra-cotta and brick clearly indicating the underlying structure. Row upon row of large horizontal sheets of glass were cut from many enormous muffs mechanically blown in the facilities of Pittsburgh Plate Glass, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to create the windows. Each window is a single sheet or two of glass flanked by accompanying small sashes that together fill a whole bay. At the time, these were the largest sheets of glass the world had ever seen. These windows allow in maximum light with adequate ventilation left and right, all the while expressing fully the steel frame holding up everything.
The Marquette is an enormous “E” with its long elevation facing Dearborn, leaving the shorter central stem, the lobby, relatively dark. But this does not matter much because, unlike earlier buildings, the lobby functions solely as a six-sided perimeter for ten double-decked elevators. This elevator configuration, inno- vative at the time, consumes the same building space as a single elevator while doubling the shaft’s capacity. Originally these were cage elevators that allowed exterior light into the cage and into the lobby. Each elevator door was topped by a bronze head of either a local Native American tribal elder or a member of Jacques Marquette’s 1673–74 expedition. Swiss artist A. J. Holzer created three scenes from Marquette’s expedition, three dedicatory panels and six standing figures in superb Tiffany-fabricated Favril glass mosaics on the solid railing that surrounds the polygonal lobby. The mosaics have a unique luster that may be due to the quality of sand used to make the glass, pure quartz crystal from Ottawa, Illinois.
For the next decade Holabird & Roche continued to dilute the aesthetic theme they had started with the Marquette. The excep- tion to this slow fade was their seventeen-story Old Colony Building, constructed in 1893–94. Engineered by Corydon T. Purdy as a mix of tried wrought-iron frame construction, and steel floor and girder beams, this highly innovative system of wind bracing created a rigid frame by means of girders, columns and bridge-like arch configurations. The Old Colony is rather nar- row and open on all four sides with none of the masonry load-bearing walls that had traditionally provided rigidity. Four slab-like façades allow a maximum of natural light through Chicago-style windows on each end. Relatively small sash windows provide light for offices otherwise. Each corner has a rounded bay that seems to serve only an aesthetic consideration of making the narrow end wall with its Chicago windows appear wider and the wide wall with its smaller windows narrower.
For the next decade Holabird & Roche continued to dilute the aesthetic theme they had started with the Marquette. The exception to this slow fade was their seventeen-story Old Colony Building, constructed in 1893–94. Engineered by Corydon T. Purdy as a mix of tried wrought-iron frame construction, and steel floor and girder beams, this highly innovative system of wind bracing created a rigid frame by means of girders, columns and bridge-like arch configurations.
The Old Colony is rather narrow and open on all four sides with none of the masonry load-bearing walls that had traditionally provided rigidity. Four slab-like façades allow a maximum of natural light through Chicago-style windows on each end. Relatively small sash windows provide light for offices otherwise. Each corner has a rounded bay that seems to serve only an aesthetic consideration of making the narrow end wall with its Chicago windows appear wider and the wide wall with its smaller windows narrower.
While structurally employing a skeleton steel frame like a typical Chicago School commercial structure, the Brewster Apartments, originally known as the Lincoln Park Palace, northwest corner of Pine Grove and Diversey, is not easily overlooked with its exterior of massive rough-cut blocks of red granite on all four sides, akin to Richardson’s medieval ideals but much rougher and seemingly larger.
It was designed by Enoch Hill Turnock, an otherwise unacclaimed architect who was born in England, grew up in Elkhart, Indiana, studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and worked for several years in the Chicago offices of William Le Baron Jenney. The Brewster apartments were built in 1893, a year of great financial turmoil in much of the United States that mostly bypassed Chicago because of its World’s Columbian Exposition.
Today, the Brewster’s overall construction and apartment lay-out is like a very old hotel that does not prepare you for its original and bold interior plan that maximizes light through its hollow, rectangular eight-story atrium interior capped by a skylight. The atrium contains a cage elevator, pierced iron stairs, railings and glazed “skywalks” that hang, bridge-like, the length of the atrium with short spurs to each apartment along its width. The translucent flooring is a grid of 4x4 inch square glass bricks set in an iron frame. To maximize available light to the interior of each apartment, windows pierce the interior atrium’s brick walls as well as the exterior walls.
The Brewster’s interior, already fully electrified in 1893, is a rare reminder of the marvelous few years when the lightbulb was young and natural light still dominated. While briefly employed by Chicago’s Essanay Studios in 1915–6, Charlie Chaplin lived in the Brewster’s penthouse.
Solon S. Beman, born in Brooklyn, New York in 1853, died in Chicago, 1914, studied with Richard Upjohn and then came to Chicago in 1879, where he quickly found success. Among his many accomplishments was the design of the nation’s first planned company town, Pullman; the eclectic Studebaker Building (1884–5), today the Fine Arts Building on S. Michigan Ave; and less well known, the nearby ten-story Studebaker Building.
Originally built in 1895 for the Studebaker Brothers Carriage Company of South Bend, Indiana, as its Chicago regional office and warehouse, the west-facing façade is all glass supported by a subordinated tracery of Gothic-inspired elements. It is an early glass curtain wall. The horizontal spandrels are structural iron plates exposed as façade elements. In total, this façade is one of the finest examples of how steel and glass were combined in the mid-1890s in Chicago.
Commissioned by Lucius Fisher, a paper mogul, the Fisher Building, at 343 South Dearborn Street, standing eighteen stories and 275 feet high on the corner of West Va Buren, follows designs of Charles Atwood of D. H. Burnham & Co. Realized in 1895–96, it followed the Reliance as another virtuoso performance of Burnham’s engineer, Edward C. Shankland. It surpassed the Reliance in speed of steel-frame construction, when its top thirteen and one-half stories were erected in fourteen days.
The foundation rests on 25-foot-long piles allowing for a footing pressure of 6,000 pounds per square foot, enough to easily support the building. At street level, the exterior composition of the Fisher Building is almost identical to the Reliance. Above, its endlessly repeated Gothic-inspired undercut, matt finished, speckled, orange, terra-cotta cast detailing lends the façade an illusionary depth, although it is actually as thin-skinned—complete with bays and stick-thin mullions—as the Reliance’s glossy, creamy façade. In 1906, a twenty-story addition, designed by Peter J. Weber, former associate of Burnham’s, was added to its north side.
Like the Reliance before it, the Fisher proved steel construction to be quick and cost-effective especially when paired with a terra-cotta skin. It also proved that intricate ornament could be produced in multiple castings at a significant cost and time saving over hand or even machine-carved stone.
The Chicago Building is one of three remaining buildings at an intersection that was once called the “busiest corner in the world.” Built in 1904–5, on the southwest corner of Madison, it juts into State Street and since the successful campaign for a uniform house numbering system in 1908 by Edward P. Brennan, is the zero degree point for the city that marks the numerical center of Chicago from which all street addresses originate.
Designed by Holabird & Root, the Chicago is a steel-framed structure that features large Chicago windows facing State Street and alternating with three banks of bays along Madison Street. It is also among the last buildings in the business district to have a dark terra-cotta skin. For the next couple of decades creamy glaze lightened terra-cotta brightened the cityscape.
In 1881, the Schlesinger & Mayer dry goods store moved into the Bowen Building, corner of Madison and State streets. Within a decade Adler & Sullivan were sought out to provide more space for the growing store. Proposals were made, none accepted.
On July 1, 1895, Adler & Sullivan dissolved their partnership. Sullivan was retained by Schlesinger & Mayer and after several starts and changes of plans, the Madison portion was completed.
Then in 1902 a twelve-story design was accepted. It is remarkable in its steel construction, spacing the supports to allow enormous display windows at ground level creating a sidewalk showcase bathed in daylight. Passers-by could see displays at eye level, mannequins dressed head to toe in the latest style. Above the ground floor, large composites composed of many 4x4 inch Luxfer prism glass tiles flooded the showrooms with natural light. The creamy white terra-cotta exterior glowed from a distance. The steel framing allowed for light to flood in through large Chicago-style windows on the next eleven floors. Light allowed each floor to optimize the display of its goods and every floor was a point of sale. This was no office building. Sullivan achieved multi-story merchandizing. With Schlesinger & Mayer he created a new way of selling goods.
At the corner of Madison and State Sullivan created a monumental cylindrical entrance that stood out; it could be seen from afar among all the other department stores vying for attention along State Street. Schlesinger & Mayer could not be missed. Also it was fireproof.
The windows of the upper three floors retain the width of those below them, but not the height, reducing the visual blockiness of the building. Along the uppermost floor a small recess supports a loggia topped by a highly detailed cornice that projects beyond the façade of the building, further reducing the visual block of the building.
In 1904 Carson Pirie Scott acquired the building. After the Christmas season of 2006 Carson’s closed.
After restoration of the interior and exterior, and a name change to the Sullivan Center, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago became a multi-floor tenant.
After much speculation and more restoration, Target, a retailer, leased two floors in 2012.
Seen by many as one great advertisement of its product, the terra-cotta-clad Railway Exchange Building, standing on the northwest corner of Michigan and Jackson, was also corporate headquarters of the American Terra-cotta Co.
The seventeen story building was designed by Frederick P. Dinkelberg of D. H. Burnham and Co. and erected in 1903–04. Its creamy white terra-cotta façade and lobby are a distant reminder of the spectacular wealth of classical details available in terra-cotta without the need to rely on a specific classical vocabulary.
From across Michigan Avenue, the building is obviously a steel-frame structure with an undulating façade of projecting and recessing verticals of glass and terra-cotta reminiscent of the Burnham-designed Flatiron in Manhattan.
Just below the hard cornice, oculi reference Sullivan’s Wainwright in St. Louis and Guaranty in Buffalo. They soften the sudden transition of vertical surge to sky.
Having outgrown a cluster of smaller buildings, A. M. Rothschild & Co. commissioned Holabird & Roche in 1911 to design a new ten-story block-long department store at 333 S. State. A steel frame elegantly clad in creamy-yellowish terra-cotta with a proprietary “R” in a roundel, the building was a first-generation department store—conceived as a department store rather than developing into one like all the others had.
In 1936 the Rothschild Building became the flagship of the Chicago-based Goldblatt’s chain and remained so until the mid-1980s. Purchased in 1993 by De Paul University as its Loop Campus, the store was converted into classrooms, offices and retail space, losing its north bay in the process. Inside, its College of Commerce, founded in 1912, the tenth accredited such school in the US, became the Driehaus College of Business in February 2012.
For a while after 1910, it appeared as if everything had been said and done, that height limits had sucked the boost out of Chicago, and all the city could do was standardize the innovations of the 1890s. With Burnham turning his back on what had made him known, Sullivan receiving ever fewer commissions, others dying or retiring and single-family homes gaining attention and champions, the Chicago School of Architecture faded away in Chicago and the United States. Its influence blew across the Atlantic where it was strongly felt in Paris, Brussels, Vienna, Berlin, Amsterdam, Weimar, Dessau, Rotterdam, Brno, Haifa and Modernism everywhere, before it returned to Chicago and, in a different guise, again led the world of architecture.
Founded in Chicago in 1937, the New Bauhaus was the immediate successor to the Bauhaus, that was dissolved in 1933 under Nazi pressure. Although Bauhaus ideas continued elsewhere in America in principle, the full training program developed in Weimar and Dessau under Walter Gropius was taken up and further developed in Chicago.
The former Bauhaus master Laszlo Moholy-Nagy was founding director and became head of the New Bauhaus School of Design in 1938. Through disciplined experimentation with materials, techniques and forms he wanted to release the creative abilities of his students. This corresponded to the Vorkurs principle practiced at the "old" Bauhaus, which was taken over just like the strict workshop binding in the education. Natural and human scientific knowledge was increasingly communicated to students, and photography was also given more consideration in the Chicago Bauhaus.
According to these specifications, there was a »preliminary course« at the New Bauhaus (later also called "foundation course). In "basic design", the students were introduced to various materials (wood, veneer, plastics, textiles, metals, glass, plaster, etc.). so as to learn their structure, surface effects and applicability. More strongly than in Germany, the use of mechanical techniques was trained.
The various workshops then built on this basic study, including light, photography, film, publicity, textile, weaving, fashion, wood, metal, plastics, color, painting, decorating and others, including architecture. With teachers like György Kepes, Nathan Lerner, Arthur Siegel or Harry Callahan, photography at the Chicago Bauhaus may have the most significant accomplishments.
While Moholy-Nagy and Hin Bredendieck and Marli Ehrmann initially taught emigrants from the Bauhaus in Chicago, the teaching staff were later supplemented by Americans. The methodology and training objectives were also increasingly adapted to American requirements. In the process, Moholy-Nagy's successor in the Institute of Design, Serge Chermayeff, adhered to the Bauhaus-based, educational approaches and the goal of a universally thinking, holistically oriented designer.
This gradually changed as a result of the merger with the Illinois Institute of Technology in 1950, but above all with a radical, more economic-oriented restructuring of the educational program since 1955 by industrial designer Jay Doblin.
The Institute of Design itself still exists today as a professionally oriented design college. The methodology transferred from the German Bauhaus to Chicago and further developed there has been adopted by other American universities in many modified forms. It has been instrumental in pushing back the hitherto prevalent Beaux-Art tradition in the United States.
Louis H. Sullivan has an important though complex place in design history. Sullivan is often thought of as a pioneer of modernism, the advocate of the idea that "form follows function." He was the first American modernist architect, as weil as the early employer and mentor of Frank Lloyd Wright. Yet Sullivan was not opposed to the use of ornament. Most of his work includes rich ornamentation in a highly personal style that has its basis in nature forms-thus he can also be understood as an exponent of Art Nouveau in architecture and interior design in America. Sullivan studied briefly at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and then worked for a time in the Philadelphia office of Frank Furness. In 1874 he went to Paris to take up architeetural study at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, but he was dissatisfied and moved to Chicago in 1875.
He entered into a partnership with an older, German-trained architect, Dankmar Adler (1844-1900). The firm's Chicago Auditorium Building ( 1886-90) is a great opera house, hidden in a central space, surrounded by a multistory hotel and office building. The iron structural framing permits the ten-story height, but the outside walls are of masonry treated with detail reminiscent of H. H. Richardson's Marshall Field Warehouse, although visually less successful. Sullivan's principal contribution was in the interior spaces that were thc great glory ofthe project (fig. 13.19). Lobbies, stairways, public spaces in the hotel, and thosc serving the auditorium display Sullivan as an extraordinary designer both in terms of spatial organization and of ornament. The auditorium is topped with great arches that span a space studded with electric light bulbs and surrounded by florid, gilded relief orna· ment in Sullivan's personal vocabulary of Art Nouveau related detail. The sightlines and acoustics of the auditorium were excellent ancl there were ingenious arrangements for movable ceiling panels that could bc lowered to reduce the 4200 seat capacity when an event did not require so large a hall. The main dining room of the hotel, place at roof level, was a magnificent arched space with windows overlooking Lake Michigan, skylights, and painted wall and ceiling surfaces edged with Sullivan's elaborate decorative detail.
Adler's roll in the subsequent work of the partnership was strictly technical, while Sullivan controlled design. His interest in the tall building as a design problem deserving of non-historical solution led to a sequence of famous buildings with exteriors that were increasingly austere and close to the modernism of the twentieth century. Interiors and details continued to use nature-based, florid ornament. The Schiller Building in Chicago (1891-2) was an office tower with a theater with a richly ornamented interior-almost a smaller version of the Auditorium. The Wainwright Building in St. Louis (1890-1), the Guaranty Building in Buffalo, New York (1894-5), and the Bayard Building in New York City ( 1897-8) are each studies in Sullivan's approach to skyscraper architecture. All have a simple vertical emphasis externally, rich but appropriate decorative detail, and public space interiors filled with fine ornament (figs. 13.20 and 13.21).
Other Sullivan projects included private houses, such as the Charnley House of 1892 in Chicago (in which Frank Lloyd Wright had a major design role) with its particularly fine interior detail, now carefully restored; the Transportation Building for the Chicago Fair (World Columbian Exposition) of 1893; and the Schlesinger & Mayer (now Carson Pirie Scott) Department Store in Chicago (1899-1904). This store building was in many ways the most forward-looking of all Sullivan buildings. The upper ten floors of the twelve-story mass are treated externally as a simple grid of vertical bands covering the structural steel columns within, and horizontal bands at each floor level. The resulting spaces are filled with large windows, generating a "curtain wall" of glass divided by narrow bands of white terracotta. The band of ornament surrounding each window is so thin as to be almost unnoticeable, leaving the exterior startlingly modern in character. On the two lower levels around the entrance and the shop windows, there is a rich overlay of decorative ornament in metal. An overhanging roof cornice that topped the building has been removed, to the detriment of Sullivan 's overall design.
Sullivan's career declined after 1900 as American tastes changed. His Transportation Building at the Chicago Fair in 1893, with its fantastic arched, ornamented, and gilded entrance portals, was unique in its originality. lt stood in contrast with the other buildings of the fair that were designed in the historically imitative classical style that was coming into increasing favor among east coast architects, many of whom had been trained at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Both public and many critics were drawn to the whitecolumned classical pavilions around great reflecting pools, and tended to find the Sullivan Building a discordant note. As time went on, Sullivan had fewer clients and less work.
Sullivan's St. Paul's Methodist Church in Cedar Rapids, Iowa (1910-12), combines a rectangular school block with a semicircular church auditorium that gives the building its external form. A great hell tower rises from the center of the building. The church interior has seats arranged in curving rows, as in an amphitheater, with more seats in an overlooking balcony. Unfortunately, Sullivan feil out with his clients who, in order to save money, omitted much of his decorative detail and substituted cheap "art glass" for the original stained-glass windows he had designed. The building is still a striking and unusual work.
The later commissions of Sullivan 's career were mostly small bank buildings in mid-western cities, but they include some of his finest works in their simple and original concepts and in their rich external and internal detail. The National Farmers' Bank of Owatonna, Minnesota (1907-8), the Peoplc's Savings Bank of Cedar Rapids, lowa (1911 ), the Merchants' National Bank of Grinnell, Iowa (1914), the People's Savings and Loan Association Bank of Sidney, Ohio (1917-18), and the Farmers' and Merchants' Union Bank of Columbia, Wisconsin (1919), all belang to this final phase of Sullivan's career. Each one is a brick box ornamented with sculptural and decorative detail in terracotta. Each has great round or arched windows. Each uses stained glass, beautifully detailed counters, and furniture and lighting fixtures that relate to Art Nouveau and Secessionist forms so as to make a small building in a small town into an exceptional work of art. Sullivan expressed his ideas about design in various writings, most notably in Ki11dergnrte11 Chats, a serics of articles presenting his theoretical ideas, written in 1901 and 1902 and later published in book form; The A11tobiogmphy of n11 Iden; and in his drawings for A System of Architect11ml Omnmc11t (both of 1922-3).
The most important immediate successor to Sullivan was Frank Lloyd Wright. When Wright was working for Sullivan, he was referred to by his employer as "the pencil in my hand," and Wright throughout his lifetime gave great credit to Sullivan, his only significant teacher, whom he referred to as "Lieber Meister" (beloved master). Wright played a significant part in Sullivan's work during the years between 1887 and 1893 when he established an independent practice, but Sullivan's influence can be noticed in many of Wright's early works. Wright, unlike most pioneer modernists, continued to use decorative ornament throughout his lqng career, although he moved away from the curving Art Nouveau forms used by Sullivan toward a more geometric vocabulary that was entirely his own.