Chicago Landmarks

Reliance Building

State and Washington Streets     Address: 32 N. State Street
Year Built: Base built in 1890; Upper stories built 1894-95
Architect: Burnham & Root , D. H. Burnham and Co.
Date Designated a Chicago Landmark: July 11, 1975

Entrance detail To Chicagoans of the 1890s, the glass-covered exterior of this building seemed to almost defy gravity. A century later, it is internationally recognized as the direct ancestor of today's glass-and-steel skyscrapers. Extremely narrow piers, mullions, and spandrels, all covered with cream-colored terra cotta decorated with Gothic-style tracery, divide wide expanses of glass and clearly delineate the interior steel framework that supports the building. The light and airy facade is almost entirely windows--both flat and projecting bays--of the type known as a "Chicago window:" a wide fixed pane with narrow movable sash windows flanking it. A flat cornice tops the 14-story structure. The severely deteriorated exterior was completely restored by the City of Chicago in 1996.