Ashland Block by D.H. Burnham and Company Built 1891, Demolished 1940

Ashland Block entrance, by Burnham and Root in 1892. Demolished in 1949.
Historic Photo Credit: Ryerson & Burnham Archives, Archival Image Collection, Inland Architect Vol. 19, no.6 (720.5 I56)

Ashland Block
Architect: Burnham and Root
Location: 155 North Clark Street at NE corner of W. Randolph Street
Built: 1892
Demolished: 1949

“The Ashland Block was an absolutely delightful early skyscraper, a superior design that emerged from the prolific office of Burnham & Root. It was a robust structure, a building that revealed in its own height and plasticity. A rich red in color, it was easily recognizable along Clark Street, the thoroughfare it fronted, and it was visible throughout the Loop. This structure was faced with red brick and red terra-cotta, and its exterior walls undulated. Rounded bays rippled on the street facades and electrified the building’s midsection; it was tripartite in organization. A grand processional arch marked its main entrance, and a perfectly scaled – yet pronounced – cornice capped the building. The Ashland Block earned for itself celebrity status due to its overall pleasing appearance, lively facades, its relative height of 200 feet, and as one of the progenitors of Chicago’s modern architecture.

“This skyscraper was constructed on the northeast corner of North Clark and West Randolph Streets, just across from the Court House, a grand structure filled with city, county, and state offices, and of course courtrooms and jails. Business days found the Ashland Block housing over 1,000 occupants including attorneys, bankers, bondsmen, real estate investors, insurance men, and stock brokers. The proximity to the Chicago Court House was most important to many of the Block’s clients, and in turn to their clients. Clarence Darrow had offices in this building for many years.

“The Ashland Block was destroyed in 1949 and replaced, astonishingly, by an architecturally mediocre bus station. Mercifully, that was raised for the Chicago Title & Trust Center (Kohn Pedersen Fox, New York City) which currently occupies the site. Completed in 1992, one century after Burnham & Roots Ashland Block, the Chicago Title & Trust’s headquarters offers stark contrast to the previous wavy-walled landmark. Chicago Title’s tower stands fifty stories, 756 feet above the corner of Clark and Randolph – almost four times the height of its red brick predecessor.”

from The American Skyscraper, 1850-1940: A Celebration of Height, By Joseph J. Korom


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