78 East Washington Street
Chicago, IL 60601
Original Architect: Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge
Restoration Architect: Mary Brush, Holabird & Root
The building was designed in 1893 by Shepley Rutan Coolidge. They designed the building as Chicago’s primary public library with collections funded in part by Queen Victoria after the Chicago Fire. The building united the library spaces and provided ceremonial spaces for the Grand Army of the Republic for the Union army following the Civil War. The building was converted to the Chicago Cultural Center in 1984 by Holabird & Root after a dramatic preservation battle. Preston Bradley Hall is the original reading room and is used almost daily for free concerts and special events. Surmounting the hall is an art glass dome designed by J. L. Holzer of Tiffany Studios. A second art glass dome, designed by Healy and Millet surmounts the central space of the G.A.R spaces.
Preservation and Building Pathology Challenges
Ms. Brush joined the design team at Holabird & Root to be the project manager through construction. The design was underway and conformed to high preservation standards including the conservation of the art glass, assessment of historic finishes, and the replication of the original curved glass dome outside of the art glass.
Ms. Brush lead the team through approvals of the historic finishes including aluminum leaf gilded with a gold patina, the process approvals of the art glass conservation, implementation of the design standards and specifications. She designed solutions to the unforeseen conditions discovered once the project was underway. Notably it included wiring the internal ring of vintage lighting and rosette fixtures with code mandated conduit and UL certified fixtures. The publicly funded project had strict financial constraints and as a popular ceremonial space, we had an absolute deadline for completion. The project was completed on budget and on schedule.