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Cook County and City Hall Competition
Life Span: 1872-1885
Location: LaSalle, Washington, Clark, and Randolph streets
Architects: J. C. Rankin & Geo. O. Garney, Boyington & Murdock, Burling and Adler, William LeBaron Jenney, Henry Lord Gay, H. Rehwoldt, Wheelock & Thomas, Sturgis, Armstrong & Egan, Otto Metz (“Justica”), A. J. York, Adam L. Robb, De Forrest & Fishe, L. C. Welch and Others.
The County of Cook, and the City of Chicago, being about to erect a Court House, and City Hall, in said City, in which all the accommodation required for the business of every department of said County and City, is to be provided, have determined to invite Architects generally to send in designs in competition. The designs must include the principal elevations, which must be prepared in either Indian ink or Sepia, without the introduction of any other color, and also complete plans and sections of each floor.
All drawings must be made to a scale of eight (8) feet to an inch, on sheets of plain paper, and mounted, without frames or borders.
The plans of the building must show the relative position of the offices assigned to the several departments, and the size of each room must be clearly marked thereon in feet and inches.
Entrances will be on the four sides of the building.
The main, or principal floor will be elevated so as to admit of a thoroughly lighted Basement underneath.
Each design must have a device or motto marked on each drawing, and be accompanied by a sealed letter, giving the name of the author, which will be opened after the final award is made only for the purpose of ascertaining the names of the successful architects, and for the return of the unsuccessful drawings to their authors. As it is the wish of the County and City to secure, in this important work, the largest possible competition, they offer jointly the following premiums:
For the best design, $5,000.00
For the second best design, 2,000.00
For the third best design, 1,000.00
The Building Committees and Board of Public Works will reserve the right to exhibit the whole of the designs for one month, either before or after the award is made, as they may see fit.
Each competitor will give the cubical contents of his building, and an estimate of the cost of the same complete.
The whole building must be made, as far as practicable, fireproof.
Sealed Drawings will be received at the office of the Board of Public Works, corner of Adams and La Salle Streets, until the 15th day of March, A. D. 1873, at which time and place they will be opened by the Building Committees of the County Commissioners and Common Council, and the Board of Public Works.
A plan, showing the size of the square upon which the building is to be erected, together with a statement as to the nature and approximate extent of the accommodation required, will be found in the appendix hereto annexed.
Chicago Tribune, March 7, 1873
DESIGNS FOR THE NEW CITY HALL
The time is rapidly approaching when the sixty or seventy architects throughout the United States will have their labors on the designs for the new City Hall. It is stated by competent authorities that there never was so much competition among architects in the United States as the Court-House has produced. The foremost designers in Boston, New York, Philadelnhia. Cincinnati. and Chicago. are all busy upon their plans, and the result will be astonishing. They have all gone to work with the intention of winning the first premium. This done, the work will be of so immense a character as to make the fortune of the fortunate competitor. The specifications require the arrangement of the various rooms and offices to be similar in all the designs, and, further, prohibit any architect from putting his name to his plan. He is required to affix a motto or mark- to the drawing, with the key to it in a sealed letter. The letter is not to be opened until the award is made. For this reason, and for others equally obvious, re- porters are not permitted to study the plans by the architects; and, except by accident, they will have no access to them until March 15. when they will become public property. Several gentlemen have permitted reporters to look at the drawings of the elevations, and as these have been studied with the utmost care. the pictures are superb works of art in many cases. They are all Of very large size. The question naturally arises, where will they be hung during the month of public exhibition? Each drawing will be five feet long; and there are eight drawings by each competitor, or about 160 square feet to each. Multiplied by sixty, the result is 9,600 square feet of exhibiting space, which the City Hall told, does not contain, for the drawings must not be placed out of sight near the ceiling. This wss not foreseen by the city authorities, and may prove to be a serious one.
There is one other hitch whichis not generally understood by the public. The rules Of the American ArchitecturalInstitute forbid – her from entering into competition where -the Jury is not composed Of scientific men,-experts in the art. The authorities have not as yet, and probably will not, appoint a professional jury, but reserve the right of decision to themselves. Hence a number of Chicago architects have nominally held aloof from competition, actually competing through their . Other mem- bers have gone to work, shielding themselves behind the plea that there is no reason to believe that a jury of experts will not be appointed. Present indications point to a magnificent building at the magnificent cost of building $3,000,000.
The Land Owner, May, 1873
Plan No. 1, Submitted by J. C. Rankin & Geo. O. Garney
Plan No. 17 “Aut Caesar and Nihil” Submitted by Henry L. Gay
Plan No. 7 Submitted by L. C. Welch
Plan Submitted by H. Rehwoldt
Plan Submitted by Messrs. Boyington and Murdock
Plan No. 45 Submitted by Messrs. G. P. Randall & Co.
Plan Submitted by Messrs. DeForest & Fisher
Plan Submitted by W. L. B. Jenny
Plan Submitted by P. H. Decker
Plan No. 40 Submitted by Messrs. Wheelock & Thomas
Plan No. 2 Submitted by Messrs. Cochrane & Millr
Plan and Floor Plan No. 5 “Eureka” Submitted by Thomas Tilley
Chicago Tribune, July 18, 1873
The general reader has already become apathetic and indifferent about the Court-House plans, small blame to him. There has been so much fuss and so little work accomplished by the Joint Committee on Court-House Plans, that the weariness of the tax-payer is pardonable. The whole matter has become a standing joke in this community, and when delay is alluded to it is, in mathematical phrascology, “in terms of” the Court-House Plan Committee.
But their work is complete. They have made their final selections, and nothing remains for them now but to report to the Common Council and County Commissioners. Whether their report will be adopted or not, remains to be seen. There is reason to suppose that there will be wanting a certain expected unanimity of action when those two bodies consider the report. Whatever of personal prejudice and petty spite may have governed one or two members of the Committee cannot be expected to prevail in the two legislative bodies whose approval is necessary. Hence, although the general tenor of the Committee’s work may be regarded as a final disposition, changes may be made by the Aldermen and Commissioners.
The Joint Committee had agreed to come to an understanding yesterday upon the subject. They met at 2 o’clock, resolved to finish the business and go home relieved of a heavy responsibility. When they met Ald. Ogden was absent, but Mr. Bengley was allowed to explain to the Committee the merits of his plan. This done, Mr. Ogden was sent for and the Committee gathered in the little room at the head of the stairs, where the thermometer was at about 120 degrees, and there stood up to deliberate. The excitement was intense,—so was the heat. Everybody has a voting plan to offer, but finally something like order was accomplished, and a window was pried open with a chisel.
The Committee came to order, Commissioner Singer in the Chair.
Ald. McGenniss supposed that the Committee were ready to decide upon the three plans deserving of the premiums offered. They had spent weeks upon them, and were now thoroughly conversant with their respective merits. He therefore moved the passage of the following resolutions:
Resolved, That the Committee proceed to ballot for three plans in open ballot, and that the Secretary call the yeas and nays.
The amendment was laid on the table—yeas 9; nays 4, and the resolution of Ald. McGenniss adopted.
Commissioner Thompson moved that the Committee ballot for one plan at a time, which was agreed to.
The Committee then informally discussed the difficulties that lay in the way of voting. It was determined, on the suggestion of Mr, Prindiville, to vote for one of fourteen plans, and select the three highest receiving a majority of the votes.
Then it was decided to let each member vote for one plan without confining him to any particular range, Then it was not.
Commissioner Prindiville offered the following:
Resolved, That the Committee proceed by ballot to choose three plans by commencing at the lowest number of 14 plans that received 4 votes or over, the whole number to be voted on whether any number receive a majority or not; when all are voted for the three receiving the greatest number of votes to be the three. Then a ballot to be taken for the first, second, and third of the three selected.
This resolution was adopted—yeas, 11; nays 2. The ballot was then had, resulting thus:
Mr. Prindiville moved that all the plans receiving five votes and over be balloted for.
Commissioner Carter moved to substitute “all plans receiving four votes and over.”
The amendment prevailing, a ballot was has, as follows:
This ballot selected Nos. 9 and 17 for two of the sacred three.
Ald. McGenniss moved to select a third premiated plan, those receiving four votes and upwards, which was done as follows:
No. 39 was now dropped, and another ballot had, as follows:
During the progress of the ballot, Commissioner Herting announced that he had voted in the negative on No. 8, and would like to change his vote. He was permitted.
Ald. McGenniss moved to chose between the plans receiving the highest votes—Nos. 5 and 8. The motion was lost, and another ballot had, No. 45 being dropped. The result was announced as follows:
When No. 5 was announced as having received eight votes, there was considerable jubilation. Then the Committee got reckless, and voted just as liberally for No. 8. Commissioner Bogue threw in a ballot for the plan “in fun.” as he called it, and was horrified at the announcement. It was found, however, that the first announcement was erroneous, No. 8 receiving only eight votes.
The “complimentary” system of distributing premiums from the City Treasury appeared to meet with favor, Ald. Ogden and Commissioner Galloway insisting that No. 8 was chosen. The wrangle became tiresome.
Commissioner Prindiville moved to proceed to ballot for the final plan, to be decided by one ballot.
Ald. Ogden was observed to be absolutely importuning each member of the Committee to vote for No. 8. This did not affect the result, however, for the next ballot stood thus:
So the famous “Eureka” plan finally was admitted.
The Committee then proceeded to vote for the premiums in order, each member naming the plan deserving of the first place.
The first ballot resulted thus: No. 5, 5; No. 9, 5; No. 17, 8.
The second came out: No. 5, 3; No.9, 5; No. 17, 5.
The third was similar to it.
The fourth was: No. 5, 4; No.9, 5; No. 17, 4.
The fifth was: No. 5, 5; No. 9, 5; No. 17, 9.
Then a friend of the “Eureka” plan left him, and the sixth ballot was: No. 5, 4; No. 9, 6; No. 17, 3.
One of Mr. Gay’s friends went back on him,, and the seventh ballot resulted: No. 5, 4; No. 9, 7; No. 17, 2, and Otto Matz was declared the winner of the first premium of $5,000.
A struggle for the second place was then made. One Alderman, whose Eastern plan failed to get a “complimentary” premium, worked bitterly against the “Eureka” plan, and the result was: No.5, 6; No. 17, 7; and Mr. Gay was the winner of $2,000 by the operation, Mr. Tilley being left for third place, with only $1,000 premium.
Generally speaking, the public will be satisfied with the result. Unquestionably the three plans chosen are the three best that have been submitted. Either one of them would make a beautiful building. Two of them are open to an objection, and that is, that they are not alike on every street. Mr. Matz’ design (No. 5) has a lofty tower on the Washington street front; and property-owners around the Court-House Square have already protested against any discrimination. Mr. Gay’s plan gives prominence to Clark and La Sale streets, and is open to the same objection. There is every reason to believe that these protests will be removed before the Common Council and the Country Commissioners. It will need the confirmation of these bodies to render the action of the Joint Committee valid.
There was one thing very noticeable in the balloting, and that was the ignorance displayed by some members of the Committee. Of the seven votes received by Mr. Metz, three of the affirmative ballots contained the letter “I,” the writer evidently supposing the word “aye” was thus indicated on paper; two of them were marked “jas,” which told of the nationality of the voter. Some of the ballots required a tedious amount of investigation before the words “aye,” or “ay,” as they were more frequently spelled, could be deciphered by the tellers.
Chicago Tribune, August 26, 1873
The “Eureka” Court-House plan, designed by Mr. Tilley, was adopted last night by the County Commissioners as the plan by which to build the City Hall. The Common Council must concur to make the action conclusive. The Commissioners reserved the right to make such alterations as they and the Council may determine upon, and to have Mr. Tilley’s estimate of the cost of his structure verified.
Chicago Tribune, December 12, 1875
Yesterday afternoon, in the office of the Board of Public Works, the Joint Court-House Committee of the Council and the County Board, together with the Board of Public Works, and the Architects,—Messrs. Egan and Tilley,—held a final session, at which Egan’s new plan for an elevation was finally adopted, so far as the Committee were concerned, and further constitutions made unnecessary. There was a good deal of personal talk and not a little bumcombe expressed, which had very little connection with the matter at issue, and was of really no interest to the general public. As has been the case before, Egan received more than half the praise, while Tilley received the other end of the stick., especially from Ald. Schaffner and Commissioner Wahl, who seemed not a little out of temper. The following named gentlemen were present:
Mayor Colvin, Messrs. Prindiville, Wahl, and Thompson, constituting the Board of Public Works; County Commissioners Johnson, Guenther, Tabor, McCaffrey, Lonergran, C. C. P. Hollen, Schmidt, Cleary, and Malloy; Aldermen Schaffner, Scott, O’Brien, Ryan, Stone, Quirk, and Gundesrson; Architects Tilley and Egan, and the latter;s partner, Mr. Armstrong, besides a number of outsiders.
EGAN’S NEW ELEVATION
design hung on the south wall of the room, and if the objections to Tilley’s plan were mostly for its elaborateness and cost, this plan has about as much cut stone in it, and, with its caryatides and statuary, will be found to cost fully as much. The design entire, as has been fully explained in these columns, is a very elaborate affair. The dome alone, Mr. Egan estimates, will cost fully $550,000, the wall at the base being 11 feet in thickness.
Chicago City Hall and County Building
J. J. Egan, Architect
THE AMERICAN ARCHITECT AND BUILDING NEWS
August 12, 1876.
ON the first instant, a joint conference of the Building Committee of the City Council of Chicago, and the Committee on Public Buildings and Service of the County Board, was held in order to decide on some line of procedure concerning the new Court House and City Hall. Contrary to all expectations, the meeting was harmonious, and seems to have at length reached a solution of this much-vexed question. The point most definitely settled is that the proposition of Mr. Boyington and others, which apparently had never been brought before the committees in their official capacity, is irremediably rejected. As matters stood at the time of the conference, a plan presented by Mr. Egan, its accredited architect, had been accepted by the County, while the City had accepted the plan of Mr. Tilley. The two principals being unable to harmonize the plans, finally effected a compromise; but Mr. Tilley having fallen out with Mr. Egan, the building is now entirely in the hands of the latter. The discussion turned principally on the matter of the dome: whether the substructure should be carried up to the level of the main cornice and left for the present, or whether the foundation only should be laid, or whether there should be no dome at all. During the discussion, one of the advocates for constructing the dome remarked that, “A Court House that will cost us that amount of money, and be without a dome, will look like a cow with one horn.”
This discussion was at length abandoned, and all efforts were turned to ascertaining whether the City would consider the question of proceeding with the erection of its part of the building. It was finally decided, that if there were no legal objection, and if the County would authorize the issue of bonds to provide money for the undertaking, the City would consent to the County’s erecting the whole building, — the City portion being arranged to suit the City officers, – provided the City should have the opportunity of purchasing that portion of the building within a given time at the cost price; paying, meantime, a certain percentage on the cost as rent for the building.
The history of this building would form a very curious portion of ring literature, if one had the time and patience to follow it into all the details of trickery and wire-pulling. Three days after the great fire of 1871, it was decided to rebuild the Court House, the work to be done by City and County conjointly. There seemed to be at the first some likelihood of the undertaking being at once put in hand; for the State at this time accompanied its payment of some three million dollars to the City by the provision that part of the sum should be used in erecting the City’s half of the building, the idea being that the beginning of such an important public undertaking would aid in maintaining the municipal credit. Nothing came of this, however, as the City officers, having become wonted to their temporary quarters, no longer felt the urgent need of a City Hall. But the County finding itself unprovided for, now entertained the idea of erecting a separate building upon a separate site; and in June, 1872, we find them unable to decide between the plans of the Messrs. Baumann, Rose & Wilcox, and Otto H. Matz.
The plan of Mr. Matz was finally accepted, only to be abandoned, together with the scheme of which it was the offspring, in less than a week. Once more adopting the scheme of co-operation, the City and County agreed to build each its half of a building of uniform design, and called for plans, offering prizes of five thousand, three thou sand, and one thousand dollars. This resulted in a competition in which forty-nine architects took part; and on the first day of April, 1873, the designs were ready for judgment. By a process of elimination, the number was reduced to eighteen, then to nine, and, after a long period of vacillation and indecision, during which the daily papers and individual committee men were busy in advancing the interests of their favorites, finally to six; then suddenly rescinding all action thitherto they admitted all the forty-nine designs once more into consideration. Once more the number was reduced to six, when, retracting once more, they increased the number by four.
At this juncture an alderman, seeing that there was little chance of coming unaided to a decision, proposed that the mayor be empowered to appoint one architect from New York, one from Philadelphia, and one from Baltimore, as a jury of award. Nothing, however, came of this most sensible and upright proposition.
At length, July 21, 1873, the first prize was awarded to Mr. Matz, the second to Mr. Gay, and the third to Mr. Tilley, but so awarded as to leave the question of who should really erect the building an open one. The struggle having been reduced to such narrow limits, the interviewing and wire-pulling became ardent and continuous; the result of which was, that Tilley’s plan was at one ballot adopted, Gay’s being second choice, and Matz’s last; and yet one week later Gay’s plan was approved by a majority of five votes over Tilley’s. Tilley, however, kept the field. Here the matter again rested for six months, during which the order which accepted Tilley’s plan was revoked. In April, 1874, the City came to the conclusion that it would be unjust to increase the tax on the citizens, in order to construct a building for which there was no imminent need; but in spite of this good resolution, no sooner did the County decide that it was best for its interests to proceed at once, than the City gave in its adherence to the plan, and forthwith, on July 28, two architects, Messrs. Egan and Karls, were appointed by the City Council; a third architect was soon afterward appointed in the person of Mr. Tilley. The hasty appointment of Messrs. Egan and Karls by the City Council gave rise to suspicions of bribery and corruption; and the matter was placed in the hands of the Grand Jury, who, however, failed to find evidence of guilt. Nothing more occurred till 1875, when, once more determining to proceed immediately, the County, having obtained legal advice to the effect that the appointments by the City Council were illegal, appointed Messrs. Egan, Burling, and Karls, architects, with a commission of two per cent on the estimated cost of the building, — two and a half millions of dollars; at the same time the City appointed Messrs. Egan and Tilley as its architects. After much discord and ill will the County dropped Messrs. Burling and Karls, while the City decided to retain only Mr. Tilley. Finally, ground was broken, Aug. 27, 1875. Since that time Messrs. Tilley and Egan have fallen out about their designs, as might have been expected, and as we have more than once noted. The result being the adoption by the City Council of Egan’s interior, and Tilley’s exterior. The last step is the proposition mentioned above that the County build the whole building.
Chicago Tribune January 21, 1880
A HAPPY ARCHITECT.
The long-contesteed case of Thomas Tilley against the City of Chicago went to the jury yesterday afternoon about 1 o’clock, and at 4 p. m. the jury came in with a verdict for $13,000 in favor of the plaintiff. On the 9th of August, 1873, Tilley was appointed architect of the City Hall by a resolution of the Common Council, his compensation being fixed at a $37,500. He then went to work to prepare plans and specifications. These, however, were so different from those of their county part proposed by Egan, which he was to follow, that a joint meeting of the Board of Public Works and the Building Committee of the County Commissioners was necessitated. The two architects were then directed to prepare compromise plans. Egan accordingly drew up some plans, but Tilley adhered to his first designs. Some twenty or thirty days afterward, however, the latter produced what he called his compromise plans, and submitted them for inspection Jan. 13, 1874. The Committee Council passed a resolution directing the Board of Public Works to adopt Tilley’s plans on his compromise scheme, and prepared to go on and supervise the building. The city, however, did not have any funds, and could not begin work until 1876, when a reform Common Council came into power. They immediately threw Tilley’s plans overboard and obtained some plans County Architect Egan. These were put into the hands of the Superintendents of Public Buildings, and the latter went on with the work, without any intervention of any architect. Tilley thereupon brought suit to recover the whole $37,500.
The city claimed that the resolution of the Common Council provided that Tiley should produce plans satisfactory to the Board of Public Works, the Council Commissioners, and County Architect. That he, having failed to do so, had not fulfilled his contract, and therefore was not entitled to any compensation; also, that he was only an employe of the city, and if he did not prove satisfactory the latter could discharge him. Tilley was occupied almost a year in this work, and the jury, estimating the length of time for the building of the Court-House at three years, apparently thought him entitled to about one-third his whole claim. The usual motion for new trial was made.