Preservation Chicago and The St. Jude League Building/The Williams Building at 205 W. Monroe donated 16 large, original cast iron window members on July 11, 2022 to the Illinois Railway Museum. The current plan is to incorporate these building elements into the IRM visitor center. We wish to applaud the The Williams Building management as well as the Illinois Railway Museum for their interest, patience and support of this effort.
The Williams Building was commissioned by Jon Williams in 1898-1899 and designed by the architectural firm of Holabird & Roche, one of Chicago’s most famous architectural firms. This building is a surviving example of the “Chicago School of Architecture” also known as “The Chicago Commercial Style.”
The 205 W. Monroe Building is a ten-story building clad with red-brick and terra cotta. The building’s metal frame supporting allows for large windows and relatively thin exterior walls for a building of its height. These cast iron components of the building’s façade and expression divided the large bands of windows vertically. This is similar in design and grouping to many of the world’s first skyscrapers within blocks of its location during the 15 years prior to its construction.
It was a multi-use building with the lower three floors intended to be sales floors and showrooms with their signature expansive glass storefronts on the ground floor and large “Chicago Windows” on floors two and three on the Wells Street façade. The upper seven floors were designed for manufacturing to service the ‘wholesale district’ of garment manufacturers in Chicago’s Loop. (Preservation Chicago)
“Like this red brick honey at 205 W. Monroe that caught my eye last week. Built in 1898 as the Williams Building, this early skyscraper is almost buried among much taller and newer buildings, and semi-obscured by the “L” tracks running next to it down Wells Street.
“But it wants to be seen, so let’s look closer. Notice the building is glassy and minimal — one of the many downtown skyscrapers of that era (such as the Reliance Building/Hotel Burnham) that seem to foreshadow the architectural modernism that would come decades later.
“And that grid of Chicago windows, each composed of a big, fixed center window flanked by sets of two originally operable windows.
“The Williams Building is the work of Holabird & Roche, a firm that later became Holabird & Root. It’s not their most notable work. That honor would go to (take your pick) City Hall/County Building, the former Daily News Building at 400 W. Madison, the Chicago Board of Trade, or many others.