Backstory and Context
In the immediate aftermath of Chicago’s Great Fire of 1871, the city sought to rebuild as quickly as possible. In the decade after the Great Fire and the skyscraper boom of the 1880s, the city sought to rebuild as quickly as possible. The Loop District, in particular, witnessed an immense surge of reconstruction of buildings similar to that of the Washington Block. Designed by Frederick and Edward Baumann and completed in 1874, the building known as the Washington Block is a five-story Italianate style commercial building in Chicago’s Loop District. At the time of its completion, the building was the tallest in the Loop.
The most unique feature of the Washington Block is its isolated pier foundation, which is several small foundations placed underneath the building’s load-bearing points to prevent cracks forming during settling. This technique created a sturdier foundation for the building in Chicago’s sandy soil and became a precursor to the foundations of the up-and-coming skyscrapers.
When the elevated train was constructed next to the Washington Block, the building suffered a loss of interest and prestige. The building remains one of the few remaining post-Great Fire buildings in Chicago's Loop District. On January 14, 1997, the Washington Block was designated a Chicago Landmark.
Michael, Gabriel X. The Surviving Post-Fire Buildings in Chicago’s Loop. Chicago Patterns. December 21, 2015. January 10, 2019. http://chicagopatterns.com/the-surviving-post-fire-buildings-in-chicagos-loop/.
Washington Block. Emporis. January 10, 2019. https://www.emporis.com/buildings/327401/washington-block-chicago-il-usa.