Sunday, February 22, 2015

Bank of America - Field Building
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Bank of America - Field Building (1934) Graham, Anderson, Probst & White, architects /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Named for its original owner and developer the Marshall Field Trust, today the Field   Building carries the name of its recent owner and largest tenant, Bank of America.

  [Bank of America - Field Building, 135 S. LaSalle Street, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Built over a period of 4 years and in three sections, the Art Moderne tower was designed by a firm that had been associated with the Field name for over 30 years. Ernest Graham the senior partner of Graham, Anderson, Probst & White, was a key player in the firm of D.H. Burnham & Co. when Burnham built the first section of the Marshall Field department store on State Street. Graham continued the association with the Field company after Burnham's death and oversaw construction of the remaining sections of the giant retail emporium. The relationship continued on with the trustees, of the Marshall Field estate, who oversaw a trust that in 1931 was worth around $280 million when construction on the Field Building began.

[Bank of America - Field Building, City of Chicago Landmark /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The trust owned the property and the three buildings that stood on the site, including what has been called the first modern skyscraper. Designed by architect William LeBaron Jenney in 1885, the Home Insurance Building was one of the first, if not the very first building to incorporate a metal skeletal-framed, structural support system into the design. It's hard to imagine today that such a significant historical structure could be demolished, and although it was, it might have hung on a little longer. While plans were being drawn and bids being let, Marshall Field III, sole heir to his grandfather's fortune, got cold feet. The trust was a big player in the Chicago real estate market and was one of the city's largest property owners, but as the Great Depression really began to tighten its grip on the nation's economy, Field got cold feet. Ernest Graham's right-hand-man, architect Charles Murphy went to visit Field in his New York offices and was told to stop the project. After hearing the news back in Chicago, Graham asked all the subcontractors how much it would cost to cancel and buy-out their contracts, and when the tally added-up to more than the building's estimated $11 million tab, construction went ahead.
The project provided over 7,500 jobs at a time when the unemployment rate was nearing 25%. And although the vacancy rate in the downtown district was 18%, the Field Building, with 1.2 million square feet and the largest office structure in the Midwest at the time, had no problem finding tenants. When Field got control of the entire estate in 1943 when he turned 50 as stipulated by his grandfather's will, Marshall III created the Field Foundation and gave the building to the organization so they could use the rental income as a source of revenue. The Foundation sold the building years ago, and although owned by Bank of America for a short time in 2008, they now rent 800,000 square feet on a lease that expires in 2020.

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