The Reliance is a perfect example of the emerging Chicago School or style, which emerged during Chicago's building boom in the wake of the Great Fire. The first wave of that style reached its peak in the late 1890s when the Reliance was constructed. The Reliance celebrates the use of metal framing, hidden only subtly by the terra cotta exterior. Meanwhile, the bays between the framework are filled with rectangular glass known as Chicago Glass, Indeed, the walls consist of two-thirds glass.
Sadly, Root died in 1891 well before the building was finished. Burnham hired Charles B. Atwood to complete the project (and his name now adorns the cafe on the lowest floor). Together, the building enjoyed the fruits of modern innovation. For instance, the Reliance Building offered full electric and phone service in each office. Over time, numerous physicians and dentists leased offices in the Reliance (including Al Capone's dentist). On the other hand, the idea of trying to combat stains created by the thick coal-induced smoke with a smooth terra cotta that would easily wash in the rain -- exist as self-cleaning, proved unsuccessful.
The Great Depression took its toll on the building, as maintaining full occupancy rarely materialized. The building fell into disrepair until the 1990s when the city purchased the building and funded its restoration; the windows and terra cotta enjoyed full repair. The renovation made the building worthy of sale and, as such, a private developer purchased it and subsequently renovated the interior. In time, it became the Hotel Burnham, and now, today, it is part of the hotel chain known as The Alise -- a luxurious hotel and boutique.