- The Reliance Building in Chicago, Illinois
- Left: An image of the Reliance after construction in 1891 Right: An image of the building after the 1950's era cornice removal
- A HABS photo of the building's base
- A HABS historic photo of the altered storefront and deteriorated terra cotta facade
- Exterior facade after restoration (Photo by Hedrich Blessing)
- Elevator lobby before restoration
- Elevator lobby after restoration (Photo by Hedrich Blessing)
Originally designed by Burnham and Root in 1891 and finished after Root’s death by Charles Atwood of D.H. Burnham and Company in 1896, the Reliance Building is one of the most important early skyscrapers in America. Its large expanses of glass and minimal bands of white glazed terra cotta are often referred to by architectural historians as a “proto-modern” building. Its significance is recognized by its being listed as both a National Historic Landmark and a City of Chicago Landmark.
After decades of neglect and abuse, and near demolition, the City of Chicago stepped in and acquired the building and allocated $6.7 million to restore its exterior and ensure its preservation. Harboe Architects personnel, then with McClier, served as preservation architects for the writing of the Historic Structure Report and the Design/Build restoration of the terra cotta exterior. The windows, which were beyond repair, were also replaced and the original cornice that was removed in 1948 was reconstructed in cast aluminum.
Following the completion of the exterior restoration, the City sold the 70,000 square foot building to a developer who converted it into the Hotel Burnham. Working with the architect of record, Antunovich Associates, Harboe Architect personnel (then still with McClier) completed the project. Using historic photographs, drawings, and a few remaining fragments, the architects were able to faithfully reconstruct the original granite and bronze storefront and elaborate ornamental iron and multi-colored marble elevator lobby. The project was completed in 1999 and the result received numerous national and local awards and great acclaim in the press.