Sunday, February 22, 2015

Monadnock Building Addition
 by: chicago designslinger

[Monadnock Building Addition (1893) Holabird & Roche, architects /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Although the Monadnock Building has one name, it looks like it could be two buildings. Although it appears to be one building, when you look a little closer, it definitely has two distinct parts. The southern section, an addition completed by architects Holabird & Roche in 1893 pays homage to the original building done by Burnham and Root in 1891, and it somehow feels the same, but William Holabird & Martin Roche added the kind of architectural flourishes that John Root eliminated for his part. And there are many more parts to a story of one family, two brothers, and four architects.

 [Monadnock Building (1891) Burnham & Root, architects; Monadnock Building Addition (1893) Holabird & Roche, architects /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Peter & Shepherd Brooks were from one of Boston's oldest families. Their ancestor Thomas Brooks was one of the first Puritan settlers to settle in Boston, and in 1660 acquired a 400 acre farm outside of the then tiny town. The farm became the basis of the Brooks family fortune and in the mid-1880s, the Brooks brothers began investing the family's money in Chicago real estate. They predicted that Chicago would soon surpass New York in population (back then the City of New York was just the island of Manhattan) and become the nation's largest city. Among their purchases was a thin stretch of property along Dearborn Street, just south of Chicago's central business district. Architects Burnham & Root had designed the nearby Rookery Building for the brothers in 1888, and since the Rookery was a big hit, it seemed natural to give their next project to the same designing duo.

[Monadnock Building Addition, 54 W. Van Buren Street, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The first Monadnock was actually two buildings wrapped in one skin. The Brooks brothers divided the property in two so that disparate members of the family would receive income from each segment called the Monadnock and Kearsarge. The Rookery was expensive and the brothers were taking a chance investing outside of the established business district, so a supposedly very frustrated John Root said fine we'll ditch the original scheme and go with a building that is about as basic as they come. After the Monadnock/Kearsarge was finished and the brothers purchased the southern portion of the slim piece of land in 1892, the Brooks' asked architects Holabird & Roche to complete the remainder of their investment. Why the change? Two basic theories abound. First, Daniel Burnham was consumed with the massive planning and implementation of Chicago's 1893 World's Columbian Exposition. Second, John Root was dead by the time brothers were ready to build in 1892, having died of pneumonia in January, 1891. The story goes that the Brooks' Chicago agent Owen Aldis liked Root and had virtually no relationship with Burnham. So between the loss of Root and Burnham's commitment to the Fair, Aldis recommended William Holabird & Martin Roche. But Holabird & Roche weren't exactly strangers to Aldis or the Brooks brothers, the architects had designed the Pontiac Building for the investors in 1885, which was finally built in 1891.
Holabird & Roche proposed to build their buildng, which was also two-in-one, for 15% less than the first phase, and with 15% more rental floor space. They were able to achieve this because of the revolutionary new steel-framing system that provided structural support for tall buildings. Burnham & Root had used the old masonry support system which meant that at ground level the brick walls were 6 feet thick. And although Holabird & Roche followed the basic rhythm of the window bays established in the first phase, the architects added classical trimmings. They also created large, open, arched exterior entryways unlike the small, rectangular, heavy block-topped openings of the first building. And then they topped-off it all off with an elaborately detailed cornice which was quite a contrast to the simple brick curve Root had created three years earlier.
The Katahdin and Wachusett Buildings opened in 1893, and although all four names were joined together into one Monadnock, each continued to have their own individual elevator and mechanical systems. The Burnham & Root portion of the Monadnock went on to international fame and recognition. And while Holabird & Roche's piece of the pie didn't receive quite the same acclaim, their next collaboration with Owen Aldis and the Brooks brothers, the Marquette Building, became one of the most heralded buildings of the famous First Chicago School of architecture.

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