by: chicago designslinger
[Marquette Building, Chicago (1895) Holabird & Roche, architects; J.A. Holzer, Tiffany Glass & Decorating Co., Amy Aldis Bradley & Edward Kemeys, sculptors (2008) renovation & restoration, Holabird & Root, architects /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
When Bostonians Peter and Shepherd Brooks and their Chicago agent Owen Aldis asked architects William Holabird & Martin Roche to design their newest project, Aldis was on a mission. A successful Vermont lawyer, he had come to Chicago in the 1870s to represent the Brooks brother's real estate interests in the city. They had built several buildings downtown but prior to beginning construction on the Marquette Building in 1893, the attorney had determined that the highest rents were collected in the best buildings. It seems somewhat obvious today that the nicer a building looked the higher the rent, but back then constructing a building as a speculative investment venture was a relatively new concept and fancy meant expensive. Commercial real estate had come to be defined as Class A or 1st-Class office space, and Class B or 2nd-Class. Aldis realized that it cost nearly as much to build 2nd-Class space as it did 1st, but the rents collected in prime properties was much higher, and therefore much more lucrative in the long run.
[Marquette Building, Chicago, 140 S. Dearborn Street, Chicago /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
As plans were being drawn up for the Marquette, Aldis devised an 8-point plan of requirements for a top-draw commercial office structure. Third on the list was: The parts every person entering sees must make a lasting impression. Entrance, first story lobby, elevator cabs, elevator service, public corridors, toilet rooms must be very good.
[Marquette Building, Chicago, National Historic Landmark, Chicago /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
With floors, stairways, ceilings and trim in Carrara marble, panels of gleaming glass mosaics, and bronze open-cage elevators topped by bas-relief portraits, the lobby fit Aldis' mandate to a tee. The mosaic artwork, designed by J.A. Holzer and executed by the Tiffany Glass & Decorating Co., depicted romanticized scenes of explorers Pere Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet. While the bronze portraits of Native Americans and those early Chicago explorers, were created by Chicago-based artist Edward Kemeys, with two of them provided by Amy Aldis Bradley, Owen's sister. And because of this attention to detail, no one could enter the Marquette without being wowed by what they saw. Preserved almost entirely intact in its 1895 splendor, the lobby still bears all the hallmarks of Owen Aldis' vision of a 1st-class office tower.