Chicago is home to the world’s first steel skyscraper structures: the Oliver Building and the Delaware Building. In October of 1871, Chicago experienced a great conflagration, burning the entire city for two days. The fire destroyed more than 3 square miles leaving hundreds of thousands of residents without a home and killing over 300 people. Through the Great Chicago Fire, the importance of building with steel instead of wood became imminent. Not only does it survive better during a fire, but there are also many other benefits to constructing with steel instead of wood such as steel’s durability, versatility, sustainability, and affordability. I’m proud to say that both of these properties were owned and renovated by me.
The Oliver Building
The Oliver Building was constructed in 1907 for the Oliver Typewriter Company and is located at 159 N. Dearborn Street. The construction took two years to complete and was overseen by the architectural firm Holabird & Roche. In 1920, Holabird & Roche were again hired to construct the expansion of the top two floors. The exterior of the building has cast iron detail featuring motifs of typewriters and typewriter-related items. The windows above the second floor are also something to note as their wide window panes have narrower double hung windows as brackets and are now famously known as “Chicago Windows.”
On May 9, 1984, the Mayor of Chicago, Harold Washington, along with the Chicago City Council, declared The Oliver Building a Chicago Landmark. Since then, the building has gone through a few renovations. The Oriental Theater, a neighboring building, wanted to expand its backstage area in the 1990s. Daniel P. Coffey designed a plan that preserved one-third of the original steel structure as well as the facades facing N. Dearborn Street and Death Alley.
The Delaware Building
The Delaware Building is another historic landmark of Chicago. It is located in the Chicago Loop, at 36 W. Randolph Street, directly beside the Oliver Building. The Delaware Building has an Italianate structure, making it one of the few left in the city to maintain its 1870s character. Its precast concrete facade is what makes it stand out among the more modern styled buildings surrounding it.
On July 18, 1974, the National Register of Historic Places added the Delaware Building to its list deeming it worthy of preservation. Chicago Mayor Harold Washington and the Chicago City Council then declared the building a Chicago Landmark on November 23, 1983, just six months before the declaration of the Oliver Building. The last major renovations this building has seen was in 1889 when they added two floors.