Bryant Block (Real Estate Board Building, Delaware Building)
Life Span: 1873-Present
Location: Northeast corner of Dearborn and Randolph Streets
Architect: Wheelock & Thomas
Chicago Tribune, February 2, 1873
Work on the Bryant Block, at the corner of Randolph and Dearborn streets, has been delayed for want of iron, is now going on finely.
The Land Owner, June, 1874
REBUILT CHICAGO.—NEW BUILDINGS IN THE BURNT DISTRICT.
The Bryant Block.
Among the finest of the office buildings recently completed is the Bryant Block, at the northeast corner of Dearborn and Randolph streets, which the artist of The Land Owner has chosen for an illustration this month.
This edifice is 80 feet front on Dearborn street by 120 feet on Randolph street, and five stories and basement in height. It is divided on each floor into offices, which are fitted up with all modern appliances and conveniences. The fronts are of cut stone of uniform design in the Italian style, with bold Corinthian pilasters, running up two stories. The windows have columned jambs and arches throughout. The whole is surmounted by an elaborate cornice and balustrade. Messrs. Wheelock & Thomas, the architects, endeavored in this building to obtain the greatest possible amount of light, with an appearance of boldness and solidity. That this result has been accomplished, and was a desideratum, is shown in the rapid manner in which the the building has found tenants, among whom we may mention the following:
Levi Wing and Co.’s Real Estate Bank
This popular firm of real-estate dealers occupy a very handsome and well-appointed office at 57 Dearborn street, in the Bryant Block. They do a regular banking business, on real estate securities only, not receiving commercial deposits subject to check. They receive savings deposits in any sum, and allow from $5 to $25 to be drawn at pleasure, paying for these deposits six per cent per annum for each full month. For deposits of this $25 and upwards certificates of deposit are issued for specified time. On these certificates they allow from six to nine per cent, according to the length of time the money is left with them, with special rates for amounts over $5,000. Many of the features of their real-estate banking business are new, and contain special advantages over any other system. All deposits will be loaned on notes secured by first mortgage securities on Chicago real-estate, Government bonds, stocks, and other bonds of known value. They are prepared also to pay taxes, examine titles, and manage estates. From their long experience in the real-estate business, their thorough knowledge of land values, their long connection with the loaning business, and their uniformly excellent standing among Chicago business men, they are heartily commended to the people as a reliable, efficient, and thorough going firm, deserving of the unlimited patronage and confidence of the public.
Corner of Randolph and Dearborn Streets
The Chicago Portable Track and Car Company.
This company manufacture Portable Track and Cars for use in railroad construction, on public works, or any work where material is to be wheeled. As the name implies, the track is perfectly portable, easily and quickly shifted, and may be disconnected and relaid in any direction. The saving alone between doing work with these cars and track and with wagons will pay for a complete outfit in three months’ work. This company also make a specialty of coal and mining cars. Contractors, miners, and all requiring the removal of material in the cheapest and most expeditious manner, are invited to examine the cars and track at the company’s office, 57 Dearborn street, in the basement of the Bryant Block.
The Northwestern Mutual insurance Co.
Represented by Messrs. Dean & Payne, Illinois Agents, occupy the bank floor. This company, the oldest and largest in the West, possesses $15,000,000 assets, and is the seventh largest life company in this country. Messrs. Dean & Payne are popular and successful men, and do a large business.
Samuel H. Kerfoot and Co.
The original firm of S. H. Kerfoot & Co., now in business for twenty-two years past, have returned to Dearborn street, No. 61, and have opened their new office with special reference to enlarging their already extensive business. We need merely make this announcement without one word of eulogy from us. The name and reputation of this house during the whole term of its existence have been such that we could add nothing to it by our praise. In every branch of the real-estate business—agency, negotiation of loans, and in fine in all things pertaining to the conduct of this business on high-toned principles—this firm stands unsurpassed.
The senior member of the firm, Mr. S. H. Kerfoot, has now been in Chicago for upwards of a quarter of century, and has amassed a large fortune himself besides having aided many others in doing the same. He is very ably assisted by an efficient corps of gentlemen, all well versed in all the departments of their very extensive business.
Boyd & Wisner.
This Real Estate firm is pleasantly located in the Bryant Block, at No. 59 Dearborn street. They do a general real estate business, making a specialty of no one-department, like so many others, but making real estate all its branches a specialty, and endeavoring to transact all their business well and faithfully. The firm consists of John Boyd and Albert Wisner, both of whom are old residents of Chicago, and thoroughly conversant with their business.
Inter Ocean, January 20, 1889
On the boards, Mr. Haber has alterations of the Bryant Block, Dearborn and Randolph streets, into a modern eight-story office building with imptovements.
City of Chicago Landmark Report, Commission on Chicago Historical and Architectural Landmarks
The Bryant Block was significantly remodeled (both inside and out) in 1889 when the Chicago Real Estate Board moved into the building and it was renamed the Real Estate Board Building. It has since been renamed the Delaware Building. The 1889 remodeling affected the first and second stories and a two-story addition to the top; these alterations were made in a manner commensurate with the original design. The facade design is remarkably intact. It is the opinion of the Advisory Committee that the preservation of this building is well merited. Due to its interior plan this building could readily be adapted for use by small retail establishments taking full advantage of its unique interior spaces.
Description: Constructed primarily of stone and brick, the Delaware Building is Italianate in style. It originally had five stories and an English basement. stairways, located at the angled corner and on both the Randolph and Dearborn Street sides, led up to the main floor and down to the lower level. Businesses and shops were located on the two lower floors while the four upper floors were used for offices. The Building originally had a frontage of 80 feet on Dearborn Street and 120 feet on Randolph Street. The Randolph Street entrance leads to an interior light court, the stairs and floors of which are metal with glass prisms . The glass prisms allow a maximum amount of light to penetrate to the lower floors from the skylight above. The stair railings and balusters of the light court are brass and wrought iron.
Metal was used in the construction of the ground floors to permit the opening of the walls for display windows. The upper floors are brick and artificial stone metal support.
When the building was remodeled in 1889, three bays were removed from the eastern end of the Randolph Street facade. The ground and main floors were remodeled and two additional stories of artificial stone were added. A denticulated cornice with a wrought iron balustrade topped the building. The 1889 remodeling was sympathetic with the earlier design. Although the corner of the top two stories is rounded rather than angled, the spacing of the columns and bays is in harmony with the lower floors.
Today, the first two stories have again been remodeled and are largely glass. The upper six stories are intact and the building still has a bracketed and denticulated cornice.
Comparison: The Delaware Building dates from the same period as the McCarthy Building and both are good examples of the type of construction that dominated the central business district immediately after the Fire.
Both the Delaware and McCarthy Buildings are Italianate in style and their facades are similar in many respects. They employ some of the same ornamental features, have arches above the windows, and similar Corinthian columns supporting these arches. The stilted segmental arches of the McCarthy Building are joined to form arcades, creating a facade more unified than that of the Delaware Building. These arcades give the McCarthy Building a pronounced horizontal emphasis, which is strengthened by a continuous string course at each sill level.
The facade of the Delaware Building is less unified because of the variation in the width of the bays, the variety of arches (conventional, rectangular, and stilted segmental arches) above the windows, dissimilar string courses, and the lack of a dominant horizontal or vertical emphasis. The Delaware Building is an example of a variety of Italianate design that was later to become very popular. This variety, High Victorian Italianate, is, according to Marcus Whiffen, characterized by a “profusion of shadow-forming moldings, variform openings, and small-scale ornament.”
The major difference between the Delaware and the McCarthy Buildings is seen in the interior plan. The Delaware is a hollow square in plan with a glass-covered light court in the center. The offices open directly onto, and consequently building circulation is organized around, this central light court.
Significance: The Delaware Building is the only major building in a visually prominent Loop location which has retained its 1870s character. As a representative example of the Italianate style, it provides a complex and varied facade which contrasts nicely with the Miesian qualities of the Civic Center across the street.
Recommendation: The McCarthy Building has been continuously occupied and today the entire building is tenanted by small firms. It is still in rather good condition. The Delaware Building is today largely unoccupied (there are no tenants above the third floor) and is in questionable condition. The stone facade is deteriorating and the Advisory Committee feels that unless the stone can be stabilized, continued use of the building would be impossible.
Chicago Sun-Times, January 3, 2023
Landlord says McDonald’s is blocking a landmark renovation
The owner of the Delaware Building said the fast-food chain is using a lease to block work that could bring an improvement to Randolph Street.
By David Roeder
The owner of a landmark office building downtown had to deal last week with any landlord’s nightmare — a busted pipe that sent water gushing down several floors. But he said that’s not his biggest problem with the property.
Attorney Steven DeGraff wants to convert the old Delaware Building at 36 W. Randolph St. into residences, in line with a city government push for more housing in the Loop. But he said he’s being stymied by fast-food giant McDonald’s, which had a restaurant in the building until a couple of years ago.
McDonald’s still has a long-term lease for the first two floors. DeGraff said the Chicago-based company won’t agree to a design change he needs for the renovation.
DeGraff, with the law firm Much Shelist, said McDonald’s is being obstinate even though it has told him it will never re-open the location. At issue is about 93 square feet DeGraff said he needs to take from the shuttered restaurant space. He said it would provide a second entrance needed under fire codes if he converts the building to residential.
“They have their lease and they’ve said they’re never coming back. But they’ve rejected every proposal I’ve ever given them” for the second entrance, DeGraff said. “Their attitude is, ‘Buy me out.’”
A McDonald’s media representative had no comment; a real estate executive for the company could not be reached.
The building is eight stories and only about 32,000 square feet, its small floors and windows unappealing to many of today’s companies. It’s mostly vacant, but with a jeweler on the ground floor. DeGraff said that with a site near the James M. Nederlander Theatre, Petterino’s restaurant and Block 37, the building would work better as about 64 apartments. He estimated the work would cost about $15 million.
DeGraff, part of a partnership that owns the site, said McDonald’s pays only $1 a year in rent plus 39% of the building’s property taxes. He called it a “sweetheart deal” that dates from when the company owned the building decades ago.
The Italianate-style building with a cast-iron base was started shortly after the Chicago Fire of 1871 and is among the few remaining buildings of that era. It’s a Chicago landmark and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
DeGraff said a new use would bring the building to life and add energy to the Loop. He said the water leak, which happened during the onslaught of subzero temperatures, was quickly stopped and that insurance-funded repairs are underway.
“I’m a steward for this site. It’s a great building, and it should be great for many years to come,” DeGraff said. “The ownership group is passionate about doing something with this building.”
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