Building Feature: Chicago’s Fisher Building

Chicago is an architecture enthusiast’s dream city. From Burnham & Root and the White City, to Frank Lloyd Wright and the Prairie School, to the glass skyscrapers of Mies van der Rohe, a dozen nationally-significant trends had a role or got their start in the Windy City. I visited Chicago again recently and, as always, I couldn’t stop looking up and walking around extra blocks to catch glimpses of buildings.

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The Fisher Building was designed by Charles Atwood within the D.H. Burnham & Company in 1896. When I think of Atwood, I think of the beautiful, gleaming white 1895 Reliance Building  several blocks north, which was started by John Root and completed by Atwood (this building is now home to a hotel named after Burnham and a restaurant named for Atwood!). The Fisher Building has some visual similarities to the Reliance Building (including a large amount of glass for its day) but is clad in a warm, orangey terra cotta.

The Fisher Building has beautiful ornamentation, including terra cotta carvings of fish, crabs, and mythical creatures. Rumor has it that the fish ornamentation is, in fact, a nod to the “Fisher” name. The Fisher Building is now the oldest 18-story building remaining in Chicago. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.

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More on Chicago? I previously wrote about the Monadnock Building here, the stunning Tiffany glass mosaic that will stun you if you happen into Macy’s here, and Chicago’s Soldier Field (preservation success or preservation nightmare?) here.


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