Friday, February 20, 2015

Century Building, Chicago
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Century Building (1916) Holabird & Roche, architects /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The Century Building stands, barely, with its Neo-Manueline decoration hanging on for dear life, hoping for a future that extends beyond its 20th century roots and far into the 21st.

  [Century Building, 202 S. State Street, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The Century was finished and ready for occupancy in 1916, and was the period that dotted the end of a 7-building sentence which lined downtown Chicago's State Street, written by the architecture firm of Holabird & Roche. To decorate the exterior, the architects looked to Portugal and a late Gothic period named after the country's king, Manuel the First. Portuguese architects revived the style in the 19th century, and the Chicago designers added their own twist to the 16th century ornamentation. The 16-story high-rise was built by the Buck & Rayner Drug Store Company who put one of their stores on the ground floor, and leased the upper floor offices to doctors and dentists. Soon called the Twentieth Century Building, perhaps after one of the independent drug stores the Buck & Rayner syndicate owned, the name was shortened to the Century by the late 1930s.

  [Century Building, Loop Retail National Historic District, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

And there it sat. A little worse for wear after years of coal-sooted, acid-filled air slowly ate away at its terra-cotta face, while still providing cover for small shop owners on the upper floors. The building was eventually purchased by Home Federal Savings and Loan, with a banking floor in the old drug store space at ground level and offices above. Then the Feds stepped in.
One of the Federal Center complex buildings sits directly behind the Century, and after 9/11 the government wanted to do everything they could to insure the safety of their property. They began purchasing adjacent buildings in 2003 and eventually landed the Century through eminent domain. How much longer the 20th-century structure will survive into the 21st-century is anyone's guess. But for now it's still standing, in all of its glorious, well-worn, Manulined splendor.

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