Hotel Burnham, Reliance Building

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One West Washington Street,  Chicago, Illinois  60602   312-782-1111

In The Devil in the White City:

“On July 4, 1909, as he (Daniel Burnham) stood with friends on the roof of the Reliance Building, looking out over the city he adored, he said, ‘you’ll see it lovely.  I never will. But it will be lovely.’” p378

In Real Life:

Wouldn’t it be great to stand on the roof of the Reliance Building and check out the city of Chicago the way the architect Daniel Burnham did in The Devil in the White CityI thought it would be – so I looked up the Reliance Building and one of my favorite things happened – I found Chicago’s Reliance Building is now Hotel Burnham. The architects who built the Reliance Building – in 1890 – were the same who had created the grounds for the World’s Columbian Exposition – Daniel Burnham and John Root. However, Root died in the middle of the Reliance project and the architect Charles Atwood took it over. He completed the job in 1895. Just fourteen years later Burnham, according to Erik Larson, stood on the roof and marveled at the city he adored. Over time – the Reliance building fell into disrepair and in 1999 – ninety years later – with the help of a public private deal with the city of Chicago and Kimpton Hotels, it was refurbished and became Hotel Burnham. The Burnham is small, quaint and it’s just been redone again so it has a thoroughly modern look. These days – the restaurant – Atwood – practically spills into the lobby. And no – I asked if I could go to the roof to see the city “lovely,” the way Burnham declared it would be – however I was told that was completely impossible. It never hurts to ask again!

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