Backstory and Context
The Haskell-Barker-Atwater Buildings are three neighboring post-Great Fire buildings situated on the east side of Chicago's Loop District. The three buildings were constructed between 1875 and 1877 and designed in the Italianate style which gained popularity after the Civil War. Largely considered one unit, as the majority of the post-fire buildings are now, the Haskell-Barker-Atwater Buildings were designated a Chicago Landmark in 1996 since the buildings are considered one of the best representations of Chicago’s transitional period between the Great Fire and the skyscraper boom at the end of the century.
Frederick Haskell and John Barker, railroad car manufacturers, owned the buildings at 18-20 and 22-24 S. Wabash and commissioned the architectural firm of Wheelock & Thomas to erect the two four-story mercantile loft buildings. On the southern end of the Haskell-Barker Buildings is the Atwater Building. Built in 1877 by John Mills Van Osdel, Chicago’s first registered architect, for John P. Atwater, this five-story building housed the A. G. Spalding & Bros. sporting goods store. These three buildings are examples of the typical high-style of mercantile lofts of the late 19th-century with heavy-detailed masonry upper stories and a steel-frame skeleton of the lower stories.
Then in 1896, the Schlesinger & Mayer department store purchased the Haskell and Barker buildings in anticipation of the new elevated train line – the L – on Wabash Street. Being already established on that city block, Schlesinger & Mayer sought to provide the riders of the new L line with direct access to the store. Famed Chicago architect Louis Sullivan was then commissioned to redesign the facades of the two buildings. Sullivan originally proposed an entirely new façade for the storefronts and a five-story addition; however, only the first two stories of the Haskell Building received a remodel.
By 1927, all three buildings belonged to the Carson Pirie Scott Department Store and the facades were covered with sheet metal. During the restoration of these three buildings in 2008, the façade work of Louis Sullivan was rediscovered. The Haskell-Barker-Atwater Buildings were designated a Chicago Landmark in 1996 since the buildings are considered one of the best representations of Chicago’s transitional period between the Great Fire and the skyscraper boom at the end of the century.
Haskell-Barker-Atwater Buildings. Commission on Chicago Landmarks. April 2, 1990. January 9, 2019. https://archive.org/stream/CityOfChicagoLandmarkDesignationReports/Haskell-barker-atwaterBuildings_djvu.txt.
Michael, Gabriel X.. The Surviving Post-Fire Buildings in Chicago’s Loop. Chicago Patterns. December 21, 2015. January 9, 2019. http://chicagopatterns.com/the-surviving-post-fire-buildings-in-chicagos-loop/.