Purchased in 2005 by Colonel (IL) Jennifer N. Pritzker, IL ARNG (Retired), Chicago's Monroe Building has been lovingly restored, updated, and reborn—now serving as home to the Pritzker Military Museum & Library. The Monroe Building: A Chicago Masterpiece Rediscovered chronicles the history of the building from conception through restoration, presenting a history of Chicago architecture through the lens of one building and detailing just how a Chicago masterpiece was rediscovered.
The Monroe Building is where the skyscraper came of age. It was built by the same team behind some of the world's first tall office buildings.
But here, at 104 South Michigan Avenue, the group turned the tables, creating a building in the trust Arts and Crafts spirit, a terra-cotta fantasy as a beautiful as it was functional, a direct challenge to the machine age and the ethos of the Chicago School.
For almost a century, the Monroe Building was largely ignored. Forgotten by architectural historians because it sported architectural details that looked back rather than forward, and by passersby, perhaps overwhelmed by the beauty of Michigan Avenue or the majesty of the nearby Art Institute of Chicago.
The restoration of the building’s interiors includes the recreation of original design elements including Rookwood tile floors, walls and vaults, decorative iron elevator grilles, doors and hardware, and lighting fixtures. Restoration of historic elements was informed by surviving original construction documents, early photographs, and much extant historic material retrieved from the site.
RICHARD CAHAN AND MICHAEL WILLIAMS are the authors of more than a dozen award-winning books on art, architecture, photography, and the city of Chicago. They are coauthors of Richard Nickel's Chicago: Photographs of a Lost City, Edgar Miller and the Handmade Home, and Vivian Maier: Out of the Shadows.
ALEXANDER VERTIKOFF has served as the principal photographer of American Bungalow for over two decades. He has photographed more than ten books on architecture, including At Home in the Heartland, American Bungalow Style, and Weird Rooms.