Stop 12: The Marquette Building

140 S Dearborn St Chicago

The Richard H. Driehaus Museum
Written By The Richard H. Driehaus Museum

The Richard H. Driehaus Museum explores the art, architecture, and design of the late 19th century to the present. Its permanent collection and temporary exhibitions are presented in an immersive experience within the restored Nickerson Mansion, completed in 1883. Vibrant educational and cultural programs, as well as exhibitions, place the Gilded Age in context and illuminate the history, culture and urban fabric of Chicago. Photo by Alexander Vertikoff, 2014.

Marquette Building

At the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair the Tiffany Glass & Decorating Company advertised their glass mosaics as the ideal decoration for industrial buildings, citing them as fire-proof, indestructible, and able to resist the soot and smog of a growing city. After the Chicago Fire of 1871, this was especially appealing to the investors and building manager of the Marquette Building. Completed in 1895 the Marquette Building was one of the most profitable Chicago skyscrapers built after the Chicago Fire. Boston real estate investors Peter and Shepherd Brooks financed the building and it was designed by the architectural firm Holabird & Roche. Although the Brooks brothers were based in Boston and rarely visited Chicago, they worked closely with Chicago developer Owen Aldis to create a profitable and state of the art office building for the growing city of Chicago.

In addition to the decorative and fireproof Tiffany mosaics in the lobby, other features of the Marquette Building include a fireproof terra cotta exterior and large Chicago windows to increase the flow of light and air. During the mid-twentieth century occupancy in the Marquette Building declined and original terra cotta cornice was removed. However, when the MacArthur Foundation bought the building in 2001, they replaced the cornice with a replica of Holabird & Roche’s original design.

The balustrade around the lobby atrium is decorated with a mosaic frieze designed by Jacob Adolphus Holzer and executed by Tiffany Glass & Decorating Company of New York. The frieze contains twelve panels comprised of two-hundred thousand pieces of iridescent glass and ten-thousand pieces of mother of pearl. The panels depict the building’s namesake, Father Jacques Marquette, a French Jesuit missionary and explorer who spent the winter of 1674-75 in the area that is now Chicago, and French-Canadian explorer, Louis Joliet. The mosaics show the exploration of Illinois and the explorers meeting with the Peoria tribe. Using a variety of glass mosaic techniques to create depth and texture, the colorful array of seventeenth-century characters come alive in the mosaic.

It is important to note that Tiffany’s artists have incorrectly depicted the Peoria Tribe as wearing the stereotypical dress of Plains Indians. To learn more about the people and scenes displayed in this mosaic, as well as the techniques and craftsmanship of Tiffany Glass & Decorating Company, visit the interactive stations located behind the lobby, through the doorway behind the information desk.

Open Sunday-Saturday, 7am-10pm, Free.

Cover photo from Sandra and Colin Rose via Flickr.

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Stop 12: The Marquette Building

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