Chicago YIMBY: Lost Legends #1: The Chicago Federal Building In The Loop

Chicago Federal Building in 1910. Photo credt: FJC. – FJC$file/IL-Chicago_1905_Ref.jpg, Public Domain,

    Kluczynski Federal Building. Photo credit: US General Services Administration

“The architectural landscape of Chicago is ever-evolving, with many structures meeting their end to make way for new, cutting-edge designs. While demolition is necessary for a thriving metropolis, it often comes at the cost of losing touch with the city’s historical roots and in some cases the demise of beloved landmarks in the name of pragmatism.

“In our new series, ‘Lost Legends,’ we aim to bring back to life some of the demolished Chicago landmarks that hold a significant place in the city’s architectural history. We will wind back the clock in the Chicago 3d model (see this version of the Timelapse in the enthusiast tier on today) to show what each structure would have looked like the year before its demolition. Kicking off our series, we explore the former Chicago Federal Building, an architectural marvel that once graced The Loop. Designed by renowned architect Henry Ives Cobb and completed in 1905, the Beaux-Arts style building was a testament to the grandeur and ambition of early 20th century Chicago.

“The Chicago Federal Building was situated on the block bordered by Dearborn, Adams, and Clark Streets, with its entrance facing Dearborn Street. Spanning a total area of 450,000 square feet, the colossal structure housed several federal agencies, including the U.S. Post Office and Courthouse.

“The building’s intricate façade featured a blend of granite and limestone, with ornate carvings and sculptures adorning its exterior. A massive central dome, inspired by St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, crowned the building and served as its most distinctive feature. At the time, the 297-edifice was a significant landmark on the Chicago skyline, maintaining its grand presence as one of the city’s largest buildings up until its demolition.

“Sadly, the building’s inefficient layout and outdated facilities made it increasingly difficult to maintain. By the 1950s, it was deemed obsolete, and the federal government started considering its demolition.

“Despite efforts from preservationists, the Chicago Federal Building was razed in 1965 to make way for the new 45-story, 562-foot Kluczynski Federal Building, Loop Station Post Office, and accompanying plaza. This remaining segment of the new Federal Center complex officially opened in 1974.” (Crawford, Chicago YIMBY, 3/17/23)


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