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You are now at the basement level of the department store formerly known as Marshall Field’s. It is the 4th iteration of this retail establishment on this site, the current edifice being constructed in 5 different phases between 1893 and 1914. At the time of its completion, it was the world’s largest department store. Daniel Burnham’s firm served as the architect for the project. He was a famous champion of the Neoclassical style used on the building, having supervised the construction of the buildings comprising the mostly Neoclassical Court of Honor at the 1893 Chicago’s World’s Fair (Columbian Exposition).
If you enter the store and go up one level, you will see stylized versions of interior Corinthian columns and in the southwest quadrant of the store (cosmetics department), a spectacular Tiffany-designed mosaic ceiling comprised of 1.6 million pieces of favrile glass in the design of an oriental carpet. Famous for coining the expression “give the lady what she wants," Marshall Field was also known for many “firsts”: the first department store tearoom, the first European buying office, and the first in-store escalator as well as pioneering concepts such as bridal registries, revolving credit, personal shoppers and book signings.
The lower level of Field’s, which you are passing through, was transformed in 1988 from a “bargain basement” into a high-end shopping experience called Down Under. At that time, this section of the Pedway was created and consisted of a lively and vibrant collection of storefront shops and services. Unfortunately, the 1992 Central Loop flood closed down most of them. After some reopenings, construction at Block 37 and the Heritage Shops caused further closings. Currently, Macy’s uses most of the space behind the stained glass exhibition for storage. The far end of the corridor, across from Infield’s Restaurant (one of the few stops on the Pedway where alcoholic refreshment is available) is the new home of the Chicago Fashion Incubator (formerly on the 11th floor of Macy’s).
Installed in December 2013, the 22 backlit American Victorian stained-glass windows that you see are on permanent loan from the Smith Museum of Stained Glass Windows at Navy Pier. Unusual because they are non-religious, they were salvaged from homes and public buildings in Chicago and beyond and date from 1880-1910. This beautiful exhibition is also significant because many of the artists were women, commercial art not being a common occupation for women at that time.
Cover photo credit: ittichaicham via instagram.