Thursday, February 19, 2015

Chicago Savings Bank Building - The Chicago Building
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Chicago Savings Bank Building - The Chicago Building (1904) Holabird & Roche, architects /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

These 15 stories of dark brown brick and terra cotta present you with one of the best surviving examples of one of the most innovative and forward thinking eras in modern architectural history known as the Chicago School. Designed by Holabird and Roche and built in 1904, the Chicago Savings Bank Building has survived over 100 years with all of its original Chicago windows and cap-topping cornice intact. There are more acclaimed and recognized examples from the School's heyday located just blocks away, but they've lost bits and pieces, or entire sections, of their original pace-setting architectural elements in the intervening years, only to be restored after extensive renovations. Through neglect and deferred maintenance, the Chicago Building is truly unique.

  [Chicago Savings Bank Building - The Chicago Building, 7 W. Madison Street, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

By 1904 the draftsmen in William Holabird & Martin Roche's offices could probably draw up the details of a building like the Chicago with their eyes closed. The architects had devised a formula for an efficient and quick way to build a tall structure while keeping it light-weight and light-filled. The first press reports and published illustrations showed a building covered in white glazed brick and terra cotta, which would have been in keeping with the large department stores rising along the Chicago's State Street address. But the designers and builder, the Otis estate, decided to go with the dark brown theme used so exquisitely in Holabird & Roche's Marquette Building located a few blocks away.

  [Chicago Savings Bank Building - The Chicago Building, Loop Retail National Historic District, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

This corner of State Street and Madison was marketed by city boosters as the busiest intersection in the world. Packed with horses and buggies, hundred of thousands of pedestrians, and eventually automobiles, the intersection was jamming. But when the city was surveyed in the 1830s, the corner was just part of a grassy, prairie landscape extending westward as far as the eye could see. When the first plat was put down on paper, this future building site marked the far northeastern corner of a huge tract of land called Section 16, comprising 640 acres of land which ran from the future Madison Street south to Roosevelt Road and from State west to Halsted Street, deeded to a non-existent school district by the Federal government.
Way back in 1787 when the United States was just coming together as one nation, the Continental Congress passed the Northwest Territorial Ordinance to help assist in settling lands out beyond the borders of the original 13 colonies lining the Atlantic coast. There was a provision, Section 16, which that set aside one square mile in each 6 mile by mile township for school purposes. So when the Feds surveyed the site of the future Illinois and Michigan Canal connecting the Great Lakes to the Mississippi River via the Chicago River, surveyors laid out a grid over the prairie in 1830 and designated a section, number 16, as school land.
The newly formed School Board began selling off pieces of their property as soon as 1833, but still controlled a prime square block of downtown real estate which included the corner plot of land where the Otis estate, under a 99 year land lease that started in 1886, built the Chicago Building. When the leasehold expired the building became the property of the Chicago School Board. They retained title until 1997 when the site was sold and the former office building was restored, renovated and converted into housing for students attending the nearby School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

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