[Legacy at Millennium Park (2010) Solomon Cordwell Buenz, architects /Image & Artwork: designslinger]
There are certain days when the 72-stories of architects Solomon Cordwell Buenz sleek glass tower nearly disappears into the deep blue skies over downtown Chicago.
[Legacy at Millennium Park, 60 E. Monroe Street, Chicago /image & Artwork: designslinger]
Constructed over a 5 year period from 2005 until its completion in 2010, the building stirred-up some controversy when developer Mesa Development applied for a permit from the City of Chicago to demolish the buildings at 21-31 South Wabash Avenue, but maintain and refurbish their facades. The facadectomy would preserve what was left of the original building front and restore was was removed in the intervening years. It caused a split in the preservation community because some folks thought that demolishing the interior compromised the building's integrity, while others felt that the original interior loft-style construction had been so altered that the concession was a fair trade for the preservation and restoration of the 1870s exteriors. The buildings were also in the historic landmark Jewelers Row District, so the city's Landmarks Commission had to decide just what constituted the landmarked portion of their designation.
[Legacy at Millennium Park, Wabash Avenue facades /Image & Artwork: designslinger]
The older structures dated back to the days right after the big fire in 1871. Frederick Baumann, one of the city's first architects and an innovator in figuring out how to build tall buildings in the city's swampy soil, designed the loft building at 21-23 South Wabash in 1872. No. 25-27 came along around the same time, and both structures had their facades reworked a bit in the mid-1920s. 29-31 South Wabash was once the home of "The Largest Bookstore in the World." In 1952 when Carl Kroch took over his father Adolph's 45-year-old book business and bought-out Brentano's Books, he opened the flagship Kroch's & Brentano's with a whopping 15,000 volumes available for sale in the 5-story building, which closed-up shop in 1995.
In 2006 the building interiors began to fall, and as the tower rose out of the ground the facades were spruced-up. Another part of the deal, called for the developer to set aside funds to refurbish the exterior of the former Powers/Champlain Building at the corner of Wabash and Monroe. Occupied by the School of the Art Institute since the late 1980s, the Monroe Street entrance of the 1902-era building was reworked into a stylish new lobby entrance for the high-rise tower, while the school gained additional classroom space inside the new building, built behind old walls.
See more of the Powers Building at: Champlain Building, and another of Baumann survivor at: Pile Driven.