Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Marquette Building, 140 S. Dearborn St., Chicago
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Marquette Building, 140 S. Dearborn St., Chicago (1895) Holabird & Roche, architects; Hermon A. MacNeil,Edward Kemeys, sculptors (2008) renovation & restoration, Holabird & Root, architects /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

When attorney and real estate tycoon Owen Aldis determined that it cost just as much to build a 2nd Class office building as it did a 1st class structure which brought in higher rents, he devised a pioneering eight-point plan of design principles and management that became a standard in the real estate industry. It not only influenced the way developers thought about their buildings, but also created a set of requirements that architects had to work into their plans. Aldis also showed that decorative elements not only added to a building's curb appeal, but could be used in marketing his properties to a clientele willing to pay those higher rents.  

 [Marquette Building, 140 South Dearborn St, Chicago National Historic Landmark, Chicago/Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

He put his new theories to the test with his partners developers Shepherd and Peter Brooks, his brother-in-law Bryan Lathrop, and architects William Holabird & Martin Roche. The Marquette project was the first time the designers used an entire steel frame for structural support, which helped in fulfilling Aldis' requirements set-out in point Four: Generally, office space should be about 24 feet from good light, in number Six: Carefully consider and provide for changes in location of corridor doors, partitions, light, plumbing and telephones, and in number Seven: Arrange typical layout for intensive use. A large number of small tenants is more desirable than a large space for large tenants...  The steel frame allowed for an incredible amount of flexibility. With supports set at 23 feet on center, and by using a minimal amount of fire-proofing masonry to cover the piers, tenants were left with expansive window openings providing lots of natural light and interior partition walls could be arranged and re-arranged as needed.

  [Marquette Building, 140 S. Dearborn St., Chicago, National Register of Historic Places, Chicago/Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

No detail was too small in the building. The exterior door plates contained the portrait of a lion, or panther, head designed by sculptor Edward Kemeys. A major tenant in the building was N.W. Harris a banking company whose logo was the lion, or panther head, depending on who you ask. Over the doorways Hermon A. MacNeil created four bronze panels which told the story of Jesuit priest Jacques Marquette and his fellow explorer Louis Joliet, who stumbled upon the mouth of a river in 1674, which came to be called Chicago.
The building was a hit with tenants, owners, and the press when it opened in 1895. But like all good buildings, age and the modern appointments offered by newer buildings, put the once heralded Marquette into less desirable company. But by the 1930s, the somewhat forlorn looking building had been rediscovered by European modernists and acclaimed as a landmark by scholars Sigfried Gideon and Carl Condit in a style dubbed the Chicago School. But critical recognition wasn't enough to save the old building, and in 1971 the soot-darkended structure was threatened with demolition. In an effort to bring attention to the possible loss of another building in the city's portfolio of groundbreaking architectural innovations, preservationists picketed the site dressed like the 17th century explorers Marquette and Joliet. As a result of mismanagement by the owners, the bank foreclosed on the property and held on to the building until title was transferred to the MacArthur Foundation. The spectacularly restored building that you see today is the result of a commitment by the Foundation to preserve this historic treasure.

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