Century Building in Chicago

Photo of Century Building in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation

Railway Exchange Building

Posted to the Flickr Pool by 143261836@N06

Add your photos!

Royalty-free architecture stock photography

Century Building

202 South State Street, Chicago, Illinois, The Loop 60604
Previous   Random   Next


Print this page   •   Share this page   •   Map This

202 South State Street is located on the southwest corner of State and Adams streets. The 16-story steel-framed Commercial style building has two basements and a rectangular footprint with frontage of 42 feet on State Street, and a depth of 101 feet on Adams Street. The two street elevations are clad in cream-colored terra cotta, while the windowless rear (west) and south elevations are clad in common brick. The 16th floor ceiling reflects the pitched roof of the north and east sides, and a penthouse and tall brick chimney are situated at the southwest corner of the building’s flat roof.

The ground level has continuous, floor-to-ceiling plate glass windows and stainless steel trim along the north and east elevations. A recessed corner entrance with a revolving door is fronted by large, stainless steel columns supporting the entrance ceiling’s overhang. A secondary entrance with recessed plate-glass double doors surrounded by gray granite is located at the southern end of the State Street elevation. Metal lettering above this entrance states: “202 S. State Street Building.” A third entrance exists near the west end of the Adams Street façade, aligning vertically with the fire escape doors of the floors above. The second floor’s street elevations are clad in gray granite and once featured ribbon windows with large, fixed-pane windows divided by stainless steel mullions (likely alterations from the Home Federal’s 1951 remodeling). The windows have been removed, and corrugated panels installed in their place. Windows on the third 3rd to 15th floors remain and are original to the building.

The building’s north and east elevations have a strong vertical emphasis, with narrow, sharply molded piers alternating with strips of recessed windows and darker, fluted spandrels. The third floor features Chicago windows (one fixed pane of glass flanked by smaller operable windows) on both street elevations—two on State Street and four along Adams. Above the third floor, wide flattened piers visually divide the State Street elevation into two bays and the Adams Street elevation into five bays. Each bay is comprised of a grouping of four double-hung wood sash windows. The westernmost bay of the Adams Street elevation varies, featuring a grouping of three double-hung metal sash windows and a door with wired glass on each floor leading to the ornamental metal fire escape stairway. This fire escape is original to the building, and an important contributing element to the design of the north façade. Terra cotta spandrels situated above the third floor feature Gothic-inspired motifs, such as shields with dragons, while spandrels above the 12th, 13th, and 15th floor windows are ornamented with curvilinear, naturalistic designs. The 16th floor features a profusion of flamboyant ornamentation in terra cotta. The upper levels of the rear (west) elevation feature a six-story sign advertising Home Federal Bank, painted directly onto the brickwork, which was located in the 202 South State Street building from 1952-65.

202 South State Street has been vacant for a number of years and the first floor’s interior exists in a deteriorated state. This floor has an open plan, with mezzanine level dividing its height in the western portion of the plan and a full two-story height near the northeast corner entry. An elevator core with 4 passenger cars lines the south wall. The main staircase, which accesses all floors, is located directly to the west. An additional passenger elevator was added on the west wall in 1951 and accesses a limited number of floors. At this date (December 2008), piles of debris and patches of fallen plaster reveal exposed clay tile walls in various locations. Remaining decorative elements include the main original marble staircase with corroded bronze newel posts and railings on the lower floors, and cast iron railings above in the southwest corner of the building. A winding staircase, with decorative Moderne handrail and balusters from the 1951 remodeling, leads to the basement near the first floor corner entrance at State and Adams. The decorative wall panels and cove ceiling above this more recent staircase and the marble cladding covering the south wall and central column are also notable decorative elements in this space. Nickel-plated elevator doors featuring American eagle medallions, nickel-plated building directory and mailbox, and glass and nickel-plated handrails and balusters (mezzanine level) from the 1951 remodeling are the only other extant decorative features in this area.

Upper floors are currently in a mostly deteriorated state and largely gutted. Almost all previously-existing partition walls and light fixtures have been removed. Remaining historic material includes paneled mahogany closet doors in the southwest corner of each floor, decorative wooden moulding above each elevator bank, radiators on several floors, a few remaining light fixtures, decorative ceiling beams, and fire escape doors.

Many of the mechanical systems have been removed or are non-operational. Some electrical power is still active.

The north elevation faces Adams Street and the east elevation faces State Street. Above the second floor, both street elevations are clad in cream-colored terra cotta. The ground level has continuous floor-to-ceiling plate glass windows and stainless steel trim along both elevations. A recessed corner entrance with a revolving door is fronted by large, stainless steel-clad columns supporting the entrance ceiling’s overhang. A secondary entrance with recessed, double plate-glass doors surrounded by gray granite is situated at the southern end of the State Street elevation. Metal lettering above this entrance states: “202 South State Street Building.” A third entry is a recessed single door at the west end of the north façade. All original finishes and windows have been removed from the second level façade. Granite cladding covering the second story, likely from the 1951 remodeling, has been recently re-secured to the building. A corrugated material has been installed over the second floor window opening openings and extends down to cover the granite below, to the top of the mezzanine windows (May 2009).

The building’s north and east elevations have a strong vertical emphasis, with sharply molded, narrow piers alternating with strips of recessed windows and darker, fluted spandrels. The third floor features Chicago windows (one fixed pane of glass flanked by smaller operable windows) on both street elevations—two on State Street and four along Adams. Above the third floor, wide flattened piers visually separate the State Street elevation into two bays and the Adams Street elevation into five bays. Each bay comprises a grouping of four double-hung wood sash windows. The exception is the westernmost bay of the Adams Street elevation, which features a grouping of three double-hung metal sash windows and a door with wired glass on each floor leading to the ornamental metal fire escape stairway. Spandrels situated above the third floor feature Gothic-inspired motifs, such as shields with dragons, while spandrels above the 12th, 13th, and 15th floor windows are ornamented with curvilinear, naturalistic designs.

Exterior alterations have mainly occurred at the storefront and second floor levels which have been completely altered from their original appearance. The building’s off-center main entrance was originally situated on State Street and flanked by storefronts on either side that were directly accessed via secondary doors along State. This highly ornamental entrance—situated just left of the central pier—featured bronze framed double glass doors, a sign plate at the transom level that read “State and Adams Building,” and a bronze canopy. A Buck & Rayner drugstore (Liggett’s after 1928) occupied the corner commercial space and extended westward along the entire Adams Street elevation. Buck and Rayner’s floor-to-ceiling glass storefront display windows were framed in metal. Terra cotta banding separating the first and second floors of the State and Adams Street elevations originally featured the Buck and Rayner name in metal lettering. Metal display cases surrounded by granite were situated at the base of each main pier. The second floor originally featured Chicago windows and was identical in appearance to the third floor.

According to building permits, storefront changes occurred in 1934 and 1944. However, the ground floor’s current appearance—featuring continuous plate glass windows, stainless steel trim and recessed corner entry with revolving door—was likely attained during Home Federal Savings and Loan’s 1951 remodeling, which occurred two years after they acquired the building.

The 202 South State Street Building’s terra cotta cladding evidently experienced deterioration as early as 1934, when a building permit was given for the replacement of 192 pieces of damaged terra cotta. In 1974, the building was cited as one of 1,100 buildings in a state of dangerous disrepair in a survey ordered by the City of Chicago. Although repairs were reportedly made, in May 1984 a four-foot-tall section of terra cotta broke loose from the 202 South State Street Building. A dark gash marked the 7th floor window frame where the four 20-pound mullion pieces fell from the building. According to one report, metal hooks that anchored the terra cotta tiles rusted through the decades of winter freezes and spring thaws due to water seepage, and finally gave way as temperatures climbed to 87 degrees. (Chicago Tribune, 27 May 1984) The building’s terra cotta cornice was removed at an unknown date.

More recently, the Critical Examination Report by the Gustitius Group, Inc. (May 2002) outlined the condition of the all façades and prioritized recommendations for repair. At that time, it was reported that existing terra cotta masonry cladding was in fair condition. Some new cracks in the terra cotta and few spalls were found. Where necessary, unsound terra cotta was stabilized. It was also reported that in 1997 and 1998, severely distressed terra cotta pieces were replaced at window mullions and corners of columns by painted aluminum sheet metal cladding. North and east parapet walls consisting of the interior and terra cotta on the exterior face are in fair to poor condition. Many cracks exist on the brick masonry, several decorative terra cotta elements have been removed and replaced by aluminum sheet metal, and terra cotta mortar joints have been sealed unsatisfactorily with sealant. The glazed brick masonry tower (chimney stack) with decorative terra cotta elements are in stable condition. A few terra cotta elements are missing.

Currently an exterior stabilization project is underway. As of May 2009, repairs to the brick facades, stabilization of the exterior granite at the second floor, and covering the second floor window openings with a corrugated material are nearing completion. The construction of a temporary canopy at the second floor level along State and Adams Streets is underway along with the replacement of the vaulted Adams Street sidewalk’s concrete wearing surface and corner curb ramps.

The 202 South State Street Building has been vacant for a number of years and the first floor exists in a deteriorated state. Piles of debris and patches of fallen plaster reveal exposed clay tile walls in various places. The first floor tenant space has an open plan and a false ceiling throughout most of the space, ending near the State Street entrance where the space reveals its 1.5 story height. A 1951 curving staircase leading to the basement is situated near the first floor’s corner entrance at State and Adams. Decorative steel and glass balustrades and railings line this stair as well as the east and north sides of the mezzanine; the east mezzanine railing has been removed. The marble-clad elevator wall and central column, four nickel-plated elevator doors with American eagle medallions, the building directory and mailbox, also nickel-plated, are the only extant decorative features in the lobby.

A curving glass wall once separated the tenant space and the entry/elevator lobby space to the south. While the glass no longer exists, the concrete curb on the floor and a wooden support on the top are still in place.

Branch circuit panels, risers, conduit and wiring are in poor condition throughout the zone. The fire alarm system does not appear to be functioning. The system configuration does not meet current high-rise fire alarm system requirements. There is no emergency electrical system in the building.

The building superstructure consists of steel columns and beams, connected by rivets. Lateral loads are resisted by wind bracing girders located on both the North and South building elevations and each column line in the North-South direction. However, the North-South bracing girders do not extend through the elevator core. The bracing girders include triangular gusset plates either below, or above and below, the beams where they connect to the supporting columns.

An original marble staircase with corroded bronze newel posts and railings on the lower floors and cast iron railings above is situated in the southwest corner of first floor. This stair is completely open to each floor, but is dimensionally compliant with exit stair codes.

The pipe riser running up the main stairway is a fire protection standpipe.

The windowless rear (west) and south elevations are clad in common brick. The upper levels of the rear (west) elevation feature a six-story sign for Home Federal Bank, located in the Century Building from 1952-65, which is painted directly onto the brickwork. The sign appears to advertise a building that once existed across Adams Street. The east end of the south façade features a sign indicating the address of the building and advertising tenant space and a restaurant. The date of this sign is unknown but is not considered historically significant. It is also painted directly onto the brick face. Other than these features, the south and west façades are utilitarian and void of historically significant elements.

According to the 2002 Critical Condition Report, brick masonry on the south and west walls was also found to be in fair condition. Several spalled brick units were observed & mortar joints were in poor condition.

The 16th floor, penthouse, and roof are mostly utilitarian while the tower projecting several stories above the rooftop is quite decorative and an important historic element of this building. The tower was repaired in 2008. Original skylights through the roof of the 16th floor have been covered. An interesting Art Deco wall sconce exists in the stairway between the 16th floor and penthouse level.

According to the 2002 Critical Examination Report, mechanical penthouse walls, constructed of glazed brick, are also in poor condition.

Natural gas serves one domestic water heater and one heating hot water boiler (1,500 MBH output). The domestic water heater is not properly vented to outdoors. The hot water boiler and associated piping, expansion tank, and valves are uninsulated and in poor condition. The cooling tower has been removed from the roof and piping demolished to a point above its roof penetration.

In the penthouse there are two large steel domestic water tanks that serve the domestic water needs and the original fire protection standpipe systems. There is also a domestic gas fired water heater that services the domestic hot water needs of the building.

A clay tile structural arch floor system was typically used throughout the building for the first floor and above. The system consists of a topping slab and clay tile infill between steel floor beams with tension rods spaced along the span to resist the resulting thrust from the arch. The upper levels of the structure also include reinforced concrete slabs and concrete encased beams in the mechanical and roof areas.


The building has two levels below street level. With the exceptions of the ornamental stair, elevator doors matching those on the first and second floors, and decorative tile mosaic floor, these areas are utilitarian and void of material of historic significance.

Natural gas service enters the building through the north foundation wall in the Sub Basement at the west end of the building. Presumably the incoming service is connected to one of Peoples Energy’s old low-pressure gas mains below Adams Street. The gas piping and pressure booster are in poor condition. There is a mechanical room at the southwest corner of the Sub Basement housing a kitchen exhaust fan and a make-up supply fan. The kitchen exhaust ductwork is largely uninsulated, corroded, and unusable – and is still connected to unusable hoods in the Basement and Sub Basement. The supply fan and associated ductwork is in poor condition. There is a single width, single inlet exhaust fan in a small fan room on the south side of the Sub Basement in poor condition. The Boiler Room houses an abandoned boiler, associated steam piping; two shell-and-tube heat exchangers; one condensate receiver with duplex pumps; one combustion supply fan. All equipment is either in poor condition or unusable. The large east mechanical room in the Sub Basement houses one water-cooled chiller; two chilled water pumps; two condenser water pumps; one expansion tank; one air separator; and two air handling units with filters, heating and cooling coils; supply fans; ductwork and piping. All equipment is either in poor condition or unusable.

Electric service is rated 208Y/120V 3 phase 4 wire 3,000A. Service originates from the utility vault located in the northeast basement. The service switchboard is located in the basement adjacent to the utility vault. Service switchboard has fusible switch construction and, based on its age and condition, appears to be at the end of its useful life. Branch circuit panels, risers, conduit and wiring are in poor condition throughout the zone. The fire pump is provided with a separate 208V 3 phase metered service fed directly from the utility vault. This pump is not currently in working condition. The fire alarm system does not appear to be functioning. Manual pull stations were observed. The system configuration does not meet current high-rise fire alarm system requirements.

There were few lights in the basement, so observations were restricted to what could be seen with a flashlight. There was also no heat in the basement and it appeared the domestic water system was turned off. The incoming water service appears to come in to the building from the north and then run overhead to the domestic fill pumps on the east side of the building. The domestic water pumps consist of electric fill pumps for the water tanks located in the penthouse. The existing pumps are very old. There appears to have been a modification to the original incoming water service. The original water service most likely served both plumbing and fire protection. The fire water service was since upgraded to handle the newer fire pump located in the basement that is believed to be inactive. The domestic piping, service and valves appear to be in very poor condition. The sewage ejector in the basement consists of a duplex set of Gorman Rupp self-priming pumps, which are in poor condition, and not known to be fully operational. The sewage ejector collects both sub-grade sanitary and the drain tile’s subsurface ground water. Brick rod-out basins were observed. These pumps are most likely a replacement set of pumps from the original Shone pneumatic pumps.

The building is supported on concrete caissons below grade. The sub-basement floor consists of grade beams spanning between caissons and a slab on grade. At the perimeter is a concrete retaining wall, reinforced with rolled steel shapes spans between floors, to resist lateral earth pressures. The first basement floor is a two-way reinforced concrete slab supported by steel beams located on column lines.

The sidewalks are vaulted on both the North and East faces of the building. The East sidewalk vault has been recently rebuilt, whereas the North sidewalk vault exhibits signs of deterioration. Deterioration is most apparent at locations where there are slab penetrations, including a lift-out slab and an abandoned service elevator. Openings for a hatch and service elevator are currently being infilled. The exterior topping slab on the North side of the building exhibits severe deterioration and is currently being replaced.

On the second floor, existing elevator doors and frames were installed during the 1951 remodeling by Home Federal Savings and Loan. Doors from this period are adorned with bronze eagle medallions. On all other floors, these elements have been replaced. Moderne elevator hall call lamps once existed above each set of elevator doors. These have all been removed, but several remain on floors above. Paneled wall covering divides the elevator wall into several rectangular sections with seams corresponding to the elevator doorframes. Centered above the bank of doors, portions of an Art Moderne clock, matching those in the first floor lobby, remains.

Original design of the corridor consisted of wood, marble, and plate glass storefronts on north and east sides. Bronze elevator grilles covered the elevator doors and wall. Original crown molding from this design remains above the elevator wall and above utility closets at the west end of the corridor.

The 202 South State Street Building was designed by the noted firm Holabird and Roche. It is historically unique for two important reasons. First, the distinct vertical expression of the exterior elevations of this building and others by the firm, notably the North American Building, portend the transition from the Chicago School buildings of the late 19th Century to the Art Deco of the 1920s. This change is prominently exhibited in the Tribune Competition of 1922, in which the first three places were won by architects who accented the vertical in their designs. Second, the overall design of the façade ornament appears to be of based on a design of unique origin, contributing to the diversity of the architectural environment within the Chicago Loop.

Mr. Robert Bruegmann, Professor of Architecture History, University of Illinois at Chicago, and author of “Holabird & Roche/Holabird & Root,” has stated;

1. John Holabird and John Root came to the H&R office in 1913. (This follows their education at l’École des Beaux-Arts, Paris). John Root was extremely interested in obscure historic styles that had not been “discovered” and someone gave him a book on Portuguese Gothic (Manueline) architecture.
2. This team knew was familiar with Cass Gilbert’s design for the Woolworth Building in New York.
3. The North American Building, at the intersection of Monroe and State Streets, just predates 202 South State Street and exhibits some verticality in the façade. Bruegmann feels the size of the property, 96’X120’ for the North American vs. 42’ x 101’for the Century, probably had something to do with accenting the verticality on the latter’s façade, i.e., the narrow bay spacing selected for State St. was carried through on Adams and the spandrels were set back.

It can be assumed that Root’s interest in obscure historic styles led him to the design of the façade of 202 South State. Manueline and Neo-manueline styles feature a proliferation of complex ornament around building openings, such as windows and doors, and often feature botanical motifs and pinnacles, among other elements. Neo-manueline surged in popularity in Portugal at the turn of the 20th century. Therefore, it is likely that the program of ornament for 202 South State was based largely on this unique historic style.

Emphasis of verticality is also seen in the design of 202 South State. Comparison to earlier Holabird and Roche designs, such as the Marquette Building, which used strong horizontals in balance with verticals, it can be understood that this trend began with a strict derivation from preceding popular architectural forms. The motif of strong, deep verticals with recessed understated spandrels was also used in Holabird and Roche’s entry for the Tribune Tower Competition seven years later. Several other entries for the competition, including Howells and Hood’s first place design and, most notably, Saarinen’s second place design, also used this design technique. Then a radically new motif, it soon became a Chicago skyscraper standard. 202 South State, constructed 7 years before the contest, was a precursor to the proliferation of this new vertically-focused style.

Louis Sullivan said of Eliel Saarinen’s entry for the Tribune Tower Competition, a design which also lauded a strong vertical emphasis:

“...it prophesies a time to come, and not so far away, when the wretched and the yearning, the sordid, and the fierce, shall escape the bondage and the mania of fixed ideas.
Qualifying as it does in every technical regard, and conforming to the mandatory items of the official program of instructions, it goes freely in advance, and, with the steel frame as a thesis, displays a high science of design such as the world up to this day had neither known or surmised. In its single solidarity of concentrated intention, there is revealed a logic of a new order, the logic of living things; and this inexorable logic of life is most graciously accepted and set forth in fluency of form. Rising from the earth in suspiration as of the earth and as of the universal genius of man, it ascends in beauty lofty and serene...until its lovely crest seems at one with the sky.

To summarize current (May 2009) levels of interior integrity: most interior partition walls have been demolished and few original finishes remain. Only the stairways (original) and main lobby (1951 remodeling) retain high levels of historic character. Overall, 202 South State Street also has poor exterior integrity. The remaining original façade, while deteriorated, is important as a rare example of Neo-Manueline influenced architecture in the Midwest and as a very early precursor of the vertically-emphasized façade that became very popular in the 1920’s and 1930’s (as manifested in the 1922 Tribune Tower Competition). The overall form and detailing is very important to maintaining the significance of this building. Alterations at the storefront and second floor levels have completely altered their original appearance, but remain in fair to good condition and have contributed historically in their own right. The alterations are significant due to the rarity of remaining Art Moderne architecture in the area, and because 202 South State Street acts as a testament to the multiplicity and diversity of styles popular in Chicago architectural design in the first half of the twentieth century. Therefore, major changes that occurred to the storefront and lobby during the 1950’s should also be considered as unique and important examples of the age that they represent.

Quick Facts
Statistics
  • Floor space: 86,945 square feet
  • Width: 42 feet
  • Length: 101 feet
Timeline
  • 1915: Construction started
  • 1915: Construction finished
  • 1928: A fire escape was added
  • 1934: 192 pieces of damaged terra-cotta were replaced
  • 1946: Clock added
  • 1951: Passenger elevator added
Rate This Skyscraper
method='post' action='/Building.php?ID=1418#Rate'>Current rating:50% 80%  name='Rating' id='Rating' value='Praise' class='Plain'> name='Rating' id='Rating' value='Raze' class='Plain'>
Your Thoughts

There are no comments. You can be the first to add your thoughts to this page.

Name:

Please tell us your name (Example: "Jim W.")
It doesn't have to be your real name, but it's more social that way.

E-mail address:

E-mail address is used for validation only. It will not be displayed.
We do not spam.

Your location:
Your rating:
Your comments:
Current month (MM): This helps fight spam bots.
Current year (YYYY): This also helps fight spam bots.