The Chicago Loop is home to numerous architectural gems from the late 19th century all the way to the present. Four of the buildings built in the late 1800s stand out in particular.
The Reliance Building on State Street was built between 1890 and 1895 with a unique construction process. The original building on the site was slated to be demolished, but the tenants on the upper floors refused to terminate their leases which didn’t expire until 1894. The architect, John Root, supported the upper floors on jack screws while demolishing the lower floors to work on that portion of the building. When the leases expired and the tenants moved out, the upper floors were demolished and the rest of the building was completed. The Reliance Building was the first skyscraper with electricity and telephone service in every office. It was originally used for retail and offices, and now houses the Hotel Burnham.
The block to the north of the Federal Center is occupied by the Marquette Building, built in 1895 by Holabird and Roche. It’s one of the most impressive buildings in the city and is worth popping into to see the lobby. It’s also one of the most tourist-friendly historic buildings in the city.
The entrance to the building features relief panels of Father Jacques Marquette exploring the Chicago region in 1674.
The lobby is incredibly beautiful, with a mosaic of Father Marquette’s mission in Illinois and panels with the faces of Native American chiefs and French explorers above each elevator. Just past the lobby is a small museum chronicling the history of the building.
To the south of the Federal Center is the Monadnock Building, which was built in two parts in two different years and by two different architectural firms – Burnham and Root in 1891 and Holabird and Roche in 1893. It is the tallest masonry building ever built. The dimly lit ground floor corridor is lined with shops and has an impressive wrought iron staircase.
Not too far away is the Rookery Building. Built in 1888 by Burnham and Root, it was once the tallest building in the world at 12 stories. The Light Court in the ground floor center of the building was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1905. Wright had his offices in the building in 1898.