Essential Architecture-  Chicago Loop North

Former Chicago Historical Society Building


Henry Ives Cobb


632 N. Dearborn St.




Romanesque Revival




One of the city's few remaining and best examples of Romanesque Revival architecture, this monumental, picturesque-style structure was designed by one of the era's most successful architects. It is generally considered one of Cobb's finest works. The Chicago Historical Society occupied the building from the 1890s until 1931; it was that organization's need for a fireproof structure that accounts for the structure's granite-clad construction. The building's later uses included the prestigious Institute of Design and recording studios for influential blues and rock n' roll performers in the 1950s and ‘60s.

The forms of the Romanesque Revival actually derive from the 11th and 12-century architecture of France and Spain, although the style enjoyed a resurgence in the 1880s due to the work of architect H. H. Richardson. It was used for many building types, including houses, clubs, and commercial buildings, before its popularity ended in the late 1890s. Examples can be found in many community areas, including Douglas, Grand Boulevard, and Kenwood.

Common characteristics are:

heavy, rough-cut stone walls
round arches and squat columns
deeply recessed windows
pressed metal bays and turrets



With special thanks to the City of Chicago website, , for much of the info on this page.
Photos copyright City of Chicago.