New Website Highlights Architecture, History of Chicago's Marquette Building
January 12, 2010 | Press Release | Culture, Equity, and the Arts in Chicago

A new website opens the doors of the historic Marquette Building, a Chicago landmark and one of the city’s earliest skyscrapers, to visitors from around the world. The website, highlights the building’s history, architecture, and recent renovations, drawing on the content contained in a free exhibit located in the building’s arcade. The building is owned and was restored by MacArthur, which also constructed the exhibit and website.

Named a National Historic Landmark in 1976, the Marquette Building is a classic example of the renowned Chicago style of architecture, which is characterized by steel skeletons holding up facades of brick and ornamental terra cotta. It was designed by Holabird & Roche and built by the George A. Fuller Company in 1894 using steel frame construction. The building is named for French Jesuit missionary and explorer Jacques Marquette. The lobby boasts Tiffany mosaic panels and decorative bronze heads of native Americans, early explorers, and animals.

In 1977, Banker’s Life and Casualty Company acquired the Marquette Building. The Company was owned by John D. MacArthur, one of the wealthiest men in America. After John’s death in 1978, the Foundation he endowed chose the Marquette Building as the headquarters for its philanthropic work around the world. MacArthur proudly restored the building to its original glory.

MacArthur worked closely with preservation specialists in architecture and engineering to return the building to its original design. The past century had brought non-historical renovations, removal of the cornice, and damage from pollution and the elements. A team of experts thoroughly researched the building’s history, construction, original details, and alterations made over the decades. MacArthur recreated the cornice, a massive, ornamental molding that encircles the top perimeter of the structure, restored the building’s façade, and reconstructed the original windows.

“The story of the Marquette Building is the tale of a landmark preserved,” said MacArthur President Robert Gallucci. “The MacArthur Foundation is proud to have restored this historic building, returning to Chicago one of its true architectural masterpieces. Through the exhibit and now the website, we hope countless visitors will enjoy the building’s history and splendor in person and online.”

The free exhibit in the building’s arcade, just west of the lobby, at 140 South Dearborn Street, is open to the public from 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on weekdays and 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on weekends. It features:

  • An interactive kiosk with close-ups of some of the building’s key architectural features and its rich décor, including the semi-precious stone and glass Tiffany mosaics in the lobby;
  • A scale model of the building to help visitors understand its shape and construction;
  • Interviews with experts on the building’s historical significance and its recent restoration; and
  • Interactive kiosks that provide information on the MacArthur Foundation’s grantmaking.

MacArthur supports creative people and effective institutions committed to building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world. In addition to selecting the MacArthur Fellows, the Foundation works to defend human rights, advance global conservation and security, make cities better places, and understand how technology is affecting children and society. Over the Foundation’s 30-year history, the Chicago region has received the largest share of its philanthropy: more than $800 million to about 1000 organizations and individuals.

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