Saturday, March 28, 2020

The History of the Pittsfield Building in Chicago.

The Pittsfield Building is a 38-story skyscraper located at 55 E. Washington Street and a secondary Wabash Avenue lobby entrance, in downtown Chicago. 
The Pittsfield Building, Chicago
The Pittsfield Building on Wabash under the 'L' Elevated Loop
It was the city's tallest building at the time of its completion in 1927. Fourteen passenger elevators served the building.

The property, in "Jewelers' Row" (now a landmark district), was developed by the Estate of Marshall Field constructed the Pittsfield Building. It was named after Pittsfield, Massachusetts, where Marshall Field obtained his first job as a clerk in the dry goods store of "Davis & Grant" at the age of 17.
The Pittsfield Building Entranceway Plaque
The Pittsfield Building Entranceway
Designed by Graham, Anderson, Probst, & White, the structure combines both art deco and Gothic detailing, while complying with a 1923 zoning ordinance which mandated skyscrapers setbacks. The interior of the building features a five-story atrium, lined by balconies and shops, that is detailed with glowing marbles, gleaming brass, and Spanish Gothic style carvings.
The Pittsfield Building Atrium
The Pittsfield Building Atrium
The Pittsfield Building Atrium
The architecture of the Pittsfield Building was designed with two different commercial spaces. The upper floors, from 5 to 37, were professional offices for lawyers, dentists, and doctors. The lower levels, from the basement to the 5th, were for small retailers such as jewelers, restaurants, tobacco stores, and newsstands.

The lower levels were decorated in a “Spanish Gothic Revival” style with some Art Deco touches. The architectural style unmistakably recalls the 1920’s, which gives you a taste of history. When you step inside, the coffered gilt elevator lobby ceilings thrum with a maze-like hexagonal pattern. The central atrium soars five floors above, crowned with a gigantic chandelier. Marble covers seemingly every spare surface in the lobby and atrium. The beauty of this space makes the Pittsfield a rental for the occasional wedding.

The first of three basement levels was a part of the arcade and housed several shops, a wonderful restaurant, and a barbershop. The barber shop's owner was at one time the "Royal Family Barber" in London England and had several photographs hanging in the shop to prove it. Mike Royko, Chicago newspaper columnist (winner of the 1972 Pulitzer Prize for commentary), was a regular for a weekly trim. I talked with Royko many times. My Dad was Royko's Optometrist. 

The effect of all the architectural ornamentation is stunning in its opulence and aesthetic appeal. Of course, that fits right into the flashy architectural approach that Marshall Field pioneered at his store.
The Pittsfield Building Brass Elevator Doors
The Pittsfield Building Ground Floor Elevator Floor Indicator
The Pittsfield Building Brass Restaurant Sign at the Staircase to the Lower Level.
Marshall Field III presented the property as a gift to the Field Museum of Natural History in honor of the museum's 50th anniversary. The museum held the property until September 1960 when the museum sold it. The building was designated as a Chicago Landmark on November 6, 2002.
The Pittsfield Building Sign to Lower Level Atrium
The Pittsfield Building Atrium Chandelier
The Pittsfield Building Elevator Foyer
Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D.

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