Chicago in Cook County, Illinois — The American Midwest (Great Lakes)
Chicago Cultural Walk
Chicago’s Great Street
There is only one State Street. Widely celebrated in song, “That Great Street” has been known since the 1870s for its concentration of premier department stores and world-class architecture.
Chicago's earliest shopping district was located along Lake Street. Parallel to the Chicago River and only one block south, Lake Street absorbed the traffic in commerce that already existed along the river’s edge. State Street developed when entrepreneur Potter Palmer recognized that the curve of the river would limit Chicago's potential economic growth and envisioned State is the city’s major retailing thoroughfare.
State Street in the 1860s was a narrow, unpaved street edged by wooden sidewalks and a confusion of small shops. Palmer, who had been in business with Marshall Field and Levi Leiter in a Lake Street store before the Civil War, translated his dream into reality by purchasing a ¾ mile stretch of land along State Street, convincing Field and Leiter to open the street’s first major department store at the northeast corner of State and Washington Streets.
By 1870, State Street had become Chicago’s shopping destination. Widespread destruction caused by the Chicago Fire of 1871 merely delayed its growth. Find the 1890s, State Street
Department store architecture is as important to Chicago as State Street’s retailing history. It reflects the genius of the city's earliest great designers. Lining State Street are buildings by William Le Baron Jenny and the architects who trained under him: Louis Sullivan, William Holabird, Martin Roche, and Daniel Burnham. Taking advantage of Chicago's location as a railroad hub, its rapid commercial expansion in the lumber, coal, and steel industries, its population explosion (Chicago tripled in size between 1870 in 1890), and its immediate need to rebuild following the Chicago Fire, these men set out to create a new building type with a whole new look. Because Chicago’s central business district was restricted in size by Lake Michigan, the Chicago River and, to the south, railroad yards, the only direction to build was up. The result was the skyscraper.
The commercial style developed by these pioneers in Chicago's Loop between 1880 and 1910
In 1893, Jenney firmly established his reputation as a pioneer in the development of steel skeleton construction, designing huge buildings to house Siegel, Cooper & Co. (known as the Second Leiter Building) and the Fair Store (demolished). Distinguished by broad open floor space, impressive height, and simplified exteriors, both ushered in the era of the “Big Store.”
Carson, Pirie Scott & Co., before moving to its current location, operated on the ground floor of the Reliance Building. This tall narrow building sheathed in white terra cotta, was designed by Burnham and Root. It is universally recognized as one of Chicago’s
Several handsome commercial buildings never intended for department store use also dot the street. The Chicago Building, by Holabird & Roche, is among the city’s stellar Chicago School office buildings. Rapp & Rapp’s 1921 Chicago Theatre recalls romantic time of movie palaces. The elegantly detailed Mentor Building, designed by Howard Van Doren Shaw, echoes the design ingenuity typically found in his beautiful country houses. The current Palmer House Hilton is the third Palmer House Hotel and serves as a constant reminder that Potter Palmer was State Street’s major developer.
Department stores and significant architecture tell the story of State Street. As the 20th century progressed, retailing became firmly established―anchored by numerous distinguished department stores. At the same time many of the city's
19 Maurice L. Rothschild Building, 300 South State Street
Holabird & Roche, 1906, 1910; Alfred S. Alschuler, 1928.
Maurice L. Rothschild, before he hired Holabird & Roche to build this State Street store, operated a successful retail clothing operation in Minneapolis and in St. Paul. Taking advantage of the growth potential for department stores on State Street, he erected an eight-story building in 1906, added a section three windows wide along State in 1910, and four more floors in 1928 designed by Alfred S. Alschuler. The buildings underlying steel skeleton made this expansion possible. It also allowed for large windows to maximize interior light and ventilation. The construction techniques and design simplicity of the Maurice L. Rothschild Building made it a fine example of the Chicago School of Architecture. The store kept its State Street operation until 1971. In 1979 the building was acquired by The John Marshall Law School. The first floor houses retail shops; the other 11 floors house classrooms, offices, conference space, and the law school’s library.
20 A.M. Rothschild & Co. Building, 333 South State Street
Holabird & Roche, 1912.
21 Second Leiter Building, 401 South State Street
William Le Baron Jenney, 1891.
The Second Leiter Building is internationally known as an early Chicago School skyscraper. It introduced a new age of architectural design, with a simple gridlike exterior reflecting the building’s interior metal frame construction. Its architect, William Le Baron Jenney, trained
22 Chicago Public Library Harold Washington Public Library Center, 400 South State Street
Hammond, Beeby & Babka, 1991.
The Chicago Public Library's central library is located in the Harold Washington Library Center. On the exterior, this grand civic building as a bold presence. Like many of the other buildings which define State Street's character, the Library occupies an entire city block. Inspired by neoclassicism, its design draws heavily on Chicago's rich 19th and 20th century architectural heritage. It stands 10 stories, with a rough-faced stone base resembling that of Burnham and Root's Rookery and five-story arched windows reminiscent of Louis Sullivan's Auditorium Building. The steel and glass curtain wall at the rear of the building recalls the many modern Chicago buildings design by Mies van der Rohe. As its roof, the building is adorned with sculptures of owls symbolizing wisdom, and seed pods and foilage representing the natural beauty of the Illinois prairie. Inside, the public can enjoy an extensive collection of over nine million items. The Library has several performance and meeting areas, including a 385-seat auditorium and a ninth-floor winter garden where free programs, author talks, concert, theater, dance and children's activities are presented.
Erected 1996 by City of Chicago.
Location. 41° 52.659′ N, 87° 37.668′ W. Marker is in Chicago, Illinois, in Cook County. Marker is on South State Street south of West Jackson Boulevard, on the right when traveling south. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 310 South State Street, Chicago IL 60604, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Harold Washington (about 500 feet away, measured in a direct line); Dearborn Street (about 700 feet away); The Morton Building / Hotel Blake (approx. 0.2 miles away); Auditorium Building (approx. 0.2 miles away); The Chicago Board of Trade's Statues (approx. 0.2 miles away); Palmer House Hotel (approx. 0.2 miles away); The Standard Time System in the United States (approx. 0.2 miles away); Rookery Building (approx. ¼ mile away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Chicago.
Categories. • Notable Buildings •
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on March 13, 2015, by Bernard Fisher of Mechanicsville, Virginia. This page has been viewed 309 times since then and 47 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3. submitted on March 13, 2015, by Bernard Fisher of Mechanicsville, Virginia. 4, 5, 6, 7. submitted on March 14, 2015, by Bernard Fisher of Mechanicsville, Virginia.