Essential Architecture-  Chicago Loop South

Reliance Building


Burnham and Root


32 N. State Street


Base built in 1890, Upper stories built 1894-95


Chicago School 


Extremely narrow piers, mullions, and spandrels, all covered with cream-colored terra cotta decorated with Gothic-style tracery, divide wide expanses of glass and clearly delineate the interior steel framework that supports the building.


Office Building
To Chicagoans of the 1890s, the glass-covered exterior of this building seemed to almost defy gravity. A century later, it is internationally recognized as the direct ancestor of today's glass-and-steel skyscrapers. The light and airy facade is almost entirely windows--both flat and projecting bays--of the type known as a "Chicago window:" a wide fixed pane with narrow movable sash windows flanking it. A flat cornice tops the 14-story structure. The severely deteriorated exterior was completely restored by the City of Chicago in 1996.
The Reliance Building is the first skyscraper to have large plate glass windows make up the majority of its surface area; foreshadowing a feature of skyscrapers that would become dominant in the 20th century. It is located at 20 North State Street, Chicago, Illinois, and as of 2006 houses the Hotel Burnham.

The building was designed by Charles B. Atwood of Daniel H. Burnham's architectural firm, with E.C. Shankland as engineer. Its first four floors were erected in 1890. The addition of ten more floors in 1894–1895 completed the building and marked the "first comprehensive achievement"[1] of the Chicago construction method. The building's plate glass windows are set within a tiled facade. Its steel-frame superstructure is built atop concrete caissons sunk as much as 125 feet beneath the footing.


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