Title Reliance Building
Work Completed Historic Structure Report; Exterior Restoration; Interior Rehabilitation
Date Completed Historic Structure Report: 1994; Exterior: 1996; Interior: 1999
Client City of Chicago
Location Chicago, Illinois
Architect of Record HSR & Exterior: McClier; Interior: Antunovich Associates

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 at a cost of approximately $21 million and the results received numerous national and local awards and great acclaim in the press.

Project Information

reliance building

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.

Photos by Hedrich Blessing