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Reliance Building

Photo credit: Alan Brunettin
The restored Reliance Building. Photo credit: Alan Brunettin
Photo credit: Bill Richert
The building is now home to the Hotel Burnham. Photo credit: Bill Richert

With its glassy façade and almost minimalist sensibility, the Reliance Building foreshadowed modern architecture. The building’s vast expanses of windows, interrupted only by minimal bands of terra cotta, gave it a light, weightless appearance that set it apart from its blocky, earthbound contemporaries.

The Reliance Building had deteriorated badly by the middle of the 20th century, and was even threatened with demolition. But thanks to heroic action by the City of Chicago, it was saved and was restored magnificently in the late 1990s by restoration architect Gunny Harboe. Even the original granite and bronze storefronts were faithfully recreated based on historic photos and drawings.

The Reliance Building now houses the Hotel Burnham, named in honor of architect Daniel H. Burnham, whose firm designed the building.