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Life Span: 1892-1926
Location: SW corner of Monroe and LaSalle Streets
Architect: Burnham & Root
At the southwest corner of Monroe and La Salle streets, is the most conspicuous office building in this part of town. It was erected in 1892, at a cost of nearly $1,500,000. The lot is 96 feet wide on Monroe and 190 feet deep on La Salle. The Temple is 185 feet high, in 12 stories and basement, with 300 offices. Seven passenger elevators carry 15,000 persons daily. The construction is fire-proof, of steel, granite, brick, and terra cotta, with white marble rotunda, staircases , and wai nscoat ings . Four banks— the National Bank of America, the Bank of Commerce, the Metropolitan National Bank, and the Bank of Montreal—are to be found here, and Willard Hall may be entered on the ground floor, from Monroe Street. Main entrance on La Salle Street, where the semicircle of elevators should be seen
The Woman’s Temple, perhaps second or third in size and usefulness among commercial structures in Chicago, stands at the southwest corner of Monroe and La Salle streets. For years the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union had its headquarters near by, in the Republic Life Building. Here a sub-organization of society grew apace which has already shown its power. Here women, by holding conventions, circles, debates; by keeping restaurants, establishing hospitals, promoting prohibition politics, variously sought their own happiness and the public good. It had been supposed that women would not follow the leadership of a woman, but nothing proved to be further from the truth, and Miss Frances E. Willard of Evanston early acquired an influence over women in America that probably no man has ever attained. As we have seen the prodigious associate force and ambition of the Free Masons in their huge Masonic Temple, so we are to come upon a marvel still greater in the achievements of associated women in Chicago. As Mr. Gassette was the chief promoter of the Masonic Temple, so Mrs. Matilda B. Carse was the most indefatigable worker toward placing the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union in a colossal building of its own. Her labors, after many disappointments,
resulted in the organization of the Woman’s Temperance Building Association, with Marshall Field and other wealthy men as heavy stockholders.
SW Corner of Monroe and LaSale
Rand McNally’s Birds Eye Views of Chicago
Rand, McNally’s Bird’s Eye View and Guide to Chicago, 1893
The site of this building had a remarkable structural history. As early as 1884 Mr. Field had ordered the erection of a tall building. Following the example of the Montauk, Calumet, Board of Trade, and other pioneer buildings, he filled the basement with pyramids of stone-work that would preclude business operations thereabouts. But for the pyramid under his western wall it was necessary to impinge eighteen feet upon the premises of L. Z. Leiter, a former partner, with whom Mr. Field had a party-wall contract. Long litigation ensued, during which a stockade stood around the foundations, which had already cost, it was said, $100,000. Meanwhile, as the years went by, the Tacoma Building rose at Madison and La Salle, and the new style of steel and concrete foundations relieved its basement of the vexatious stone pyramids, and by actual test proved the needlessness of the old fashion. Thereupon, when the Woman’s Association acquired this site through a lease from Mr. Field for ninety-nine years, the entire mass of stone was taken out, at great expense of time and money, and operations were begun anew. The edifice which dominates that region of the city to-day is a union of the ideas of the Masonic Temple and the Pullman Building. There are the re-entering spaces of the Pullman and the sloping upper stories of the Masonic Temple. By some sacrifice of space in the center, at front and rear (thirty feet and eighteen feet respectively), the occupants receive additional supplies of light and air, as in the Pullman, and the Mills Building at New York. The whole building rises ten stories, and at the cornice surmounting the?e the three additional stories begin their sloping ascent to form the superstructure.
In the lower part of the Woman’s Temple, besides sumptuous quarters for four of Chicago’s largest banking institutions the National Bank of America, the Bank of Commerce, the Bank of Montreal, and the Metropolitan National is Willard Hall. The entrance is from Monroe Street. This beautiful room, in which symbolical fountains of water play, is lighted by windows commemorating temperance workers, and is ceiled, wainscoted, and walled with marble tablets, recording the names of those who put money in this edifice. Commercial interests and the necessity of immediate profit modified somewhat the original plans of the Temperance Union. More business gradually forced its way into the enterprise, until, instead of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Temple, it is the Woman’s Temple, with an option in contract whereby, for so many years, the property is open to redemption by the Union itself, in which event it may call it what it pleases, and use it as the Union sees fit. There will naturally gather in the Woman’s Temple a high class of tenants. Sculptors, architects, and painters, men of genius generally, will find many encouragements where the atmosphere is so largely one of public spirit. Carl Kohl-Smith, the Danish sculptor who designed the statue of Franklin at the Electricity Building in Jackson Park, was one of the first to establish himself here. The building, of course, presents all the marvels of modern domestic construction. White marble, black iron, shining brass, green onyx, red tiling, and yellow oak combine to gratify the eye with color. Modern plumbing, mail-chutes, electric calls, gas and Edison lights, equable warmth, ventilators, hot and cold water, cafe”, and many hundred fellow-tenants, whereby a city life and correspondence may be established within the building these things prophesy the destruction of all old-style business buildings. The Woman’s Temple cost nearly $1,500,000 of well-expended money, and was opened in 1892.
Chicago Tribune, August 12, 1926
Lofty in its design and purpose and in the ideal upon which and through which it was built, the W. C. T. U. temple at La Salle and Monroe streets, erected in 1890, is tottering to debris under the sledges and electric drills of an army of workmen who are demolishing it to make room for the 22 story home of the State Bank of Chicago.
Passersby watch the removal of the countless slabs of marble and recall that on each one is inscribed the name of what in olden days was referred to as a “white ribbon” firm, meaning contributors to the fund for the erection of the temple.
And they note the great block of granite, the ten ton cornerstone on which is the W. C. T. U. emblem, the date of the society s organization, 1874, and the smaller b!ocks of granite brought from every state In tho union to line the wide entrance hall. When the solid block of granite is removed and the last of the foundation is gone the new builders propose to sink the foundation for the skyscraper two more stories down to provide a triple basement.
In the passing of the temple, Chicago loses one of the last works of John W. Root, and one of the finest examples of his architecture In the city, it is said.
Working with the sketches and the suggestions of the W. C. T. U. members, Mr. Root embodied in the building many features requested by the women who were determined it should be a structure symbolical of their respect for their leader, Frances Willard, to whom it was dedicated.
Records of the firm of Burnham and Root, which have come into the possession of Howard J. White, of the firm of Graham, Anderson, Probst and White, builders of tbe new bank building, show that the cost of tho temple was $9S7,62S. or about 39 cents per cubic foot. The bank’s new home will cost about 60 cents per cubic foot.
RIGHT: Demolition of loop skyscraper, at Monroe and La Salle streets as viewed from 137 South La Salle street.
Chicago Tribune, July 18, 1894
Miss Frances E. Willard came down to her office in the Women’s Temple shortly after 3 o’clock yesterday afternoon. For an hour or more she was busy with the meeting of general officers.
She said, “This was our first meeting to make plans for our national convention which will be held at Music Hall, Cleveland, Nov. 18 to 21. It will be the celebration of coming of age of the society, and will be held in the very city where twenty years ago the crusade was begun. Perhaps Lady Somerset may come here.”
Sept. 28 is Miss Willard’s birthday. It will be celebrated by the unveiling of the Cold Water Girl, a fountain built by Mrs. Anna Gordon, who collected $3,000 in pennies from children. The fountain will be placed in front of Willard Hall. Miss Willard, it is expected, will make the speech at the unveiling.
Cold Water Girl Fountain in front of Willard Hall, Women’s Building
LaSalle and Monroe Streets