Architecture Around the World
Marshall Field and Company Store
Block bounded by Wabash Avenue and State Street, and Washington and Randolph Streets, Chicago, IL
(1892, 1902, 1906, 1914)
Architect: D. H. Burnham & Co.
TEXT Beneath Illustrations
State Street facade
With business steadily increasing throughout the 1880s and 1890s, it soon became apparent to Marshall Field that if he was to grow as Chicago grew, larger quarters would be in order. The first major expansion of the store was completed in 1893 with the opening of the nine-story structure on the northeast corner of Washington and Wabash. Although the new additional retail space helped to handle the thousands of out-of-town visitors to the store during the World's Columbian Exposition, the continued growth of everyday consumerism in Chicago soon prompted yet more expansion plans.
By the early 1900s, with the intention of expanding the store even further, Marshall Field set out to purchase all the remaining properties in the city block bounded by Washington, State, Wabash, and Randolph Streets. By 1907, the entire block of buildings, with the lone exception of the 1893 structure, had been demolished and replaced with new retail buildings, all of which offered upwards of seven floors of selling space, effectively tripling the size of the store within a five- to six-year period. (The Marshall Field Warehouse was demolished in the 1960s.)
Equally remarkable was new store's primarily neoclassical design, as most evident in its refashioned State Street facade. Toward the center of the block was the building's front portico (seen below), where Marshall Field's wealthiest and most elite customers would be greeted by well-mannered doormen and politely escorted inside the store. The portico was set off by four marble Ionic columns and was meant to suggest not only the firm's economic might and financial stability--recall, most banks and municipal buildings utilized neoclassical design elements--but also the store's apparent authority and reliability in matters of fashion and cultural tastes. The State Street store retains its neoclassical appearance to this day.