Ganz Hall - Roosevelt University
by: chicago designslinger
[Ganz Hall - Roosevelt University (1890) Adler & Sullivan, architects; Rehabilitation: (1955-2002) Crombie Taylor & Associates, John Vinci, Booth Hansen, architects; Restoration: (2000-2002) Chicago Conservation Center, Conrad Schmitt Studios /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
As the steel frame of the massive Auditorium Building rose above the ground in the winter of 1887, the executive committee of the Chicago Auditorium Association decided that they wanted the second floor dining room in the hotel portion of their multi-use project moved to the tenth. The view out over Michigan Avenue and the lake would make for an enhanced dining experience and they instructed their architects - Dankmar Adler and Louis Sullivan - to make it work.
[Ganz Hall - Roosevelt University, 430 S. Michigan Avenue, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
The biggest challenge facing the designers was in relocating the kitchen from down below to up above. An additional 4 floors were squeezed on to the top of the structural steel framework supporting the walls and ceiling of the backstage area of the enormous 4,000 seat theater then nearing completion, which was was surrounded by the structure's hotel and office sections. The addition proved fortuitous because about nine months later the committee had an additional request.
[Ganz Hall - Roosevelt University, National Historic Landmark, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
It was as though the shrewd business leaders of the city who had the financial wherewithal and shrewd business sense to build such a project had simply forgotten to put someone in place to run the hotel. Finally, in April 1889 - and with almost 3/4 of the building completed - a ten year lease was signed with James H. Breslin and R.H. Southgate, proprietors of the newly organized Auditorium Hotel Company. But before Breslin and Southgate would sign on the dotted line they wanted a banquet hall included in the deal. So Ferdinand Peck, the president of the building's stock holding Auditorium Association, called on the architects once again to request an add-on. The only space available was over the ceiling of the theater adjacent to the rejiggered kitchen addition created for the dining room. Adler consulted with his engineering team, including Charles Strobel and Edgar Marberg of the Keystone Bridge Company who supplied the steel, while Sullivan went to work on the decorative finishes for the 4,000 square foot rectangular box.
[Ganz Hall - Roosevelt University/Banquet Hall - Auditorium Building, City of Chicago Landmark /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
The theater made its stunning debut on December 9, 1889. The hotel officially opened in March 1890, and the Banquet Hall had its big reveal on October 14th. Unfortunately for the Auditorium Association the $3 million project was never the financial success everyone had hoped it would be. The Association held on by a fiscal thread for a number of years but went bankrupt in the 1930s, before being acquired by Roosevelt College in 1946. The banquet hall had been taken over by a Masonic lodge in 1901, and during their very long tenure Sullivan's specially designed "electrolier" lighting fixtures were removed, his stencils and woodwork were painted over, the stained glass blocked, and Albert Fleury's prairie inspired murals were covered in layers and layers of cigar and cigarette smoke. In 1954 when the 87-year-old Chicago Musical College merged with Roosevelt University the hall was named for Dr. Rudolph Ganz who had been associated with the music institution since 1901, and a fundraising campaign was undertaken to raise the money needed to refurbish and restore Sullivan's interior. Step by step, decade by decade, and with the dedicated commitment of architects, artisans, fundraisers, volunteers, and the University, the banquet hall was restored to its former glory - right down to an exact reproduction of Louis Sullivan's original electroliers.