The Reliance Building

The Reliance Building is a historic skyscraper located in the Loop community area of Chicago. Completed in 1895, it was designed by the architectural firm Burnham and Root and is widely regarded as a seminal work of the Chicago School of Architecture. The building stands 14 stories tall and is clad in terra cotta, with intricate detailing and ornamental elements that reflect the eclectic style of the era. The Reliance Building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1970 and was designated a Chicago Landmark in 1975.

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Why should you go?

  1. Architectural significance. The Reliance Building is a must-see for architecture enthusiasts, as it is considered one of the most important buildings in the history of modern architecture. The building's steel frame, curtain walls, and expansive use of plate glass were all innovative for their time and influenced the development of the skyscraper as a building type.
  2. Preservation. The building has been beautifully restored and serves as an excellent example of how historic preservation can be used to revitalize urban areas. You can see firsthand how the building's original features have been preserved and incorporated into modern uses, including a boutique hotel and retail spaces.
  3. Design details. The Reliance Building is known for its intricate detailing and ornamental elements, including the terra cotta facade and the light court that runs through the center of the building. You can take in the stunning design details on a guided tour or simply admire them from the street.
  4. Location. The Reliance Building is located in the heart of Chicago's Loop, a vibrant neighborhood that is home to some of the city's best restaurants, shopping, and entertainment.
  5. Historical context. The Reliance Building was constructed during a time of great growth and innovation in Chicago, and visiting it offers a glimpse into the city's history and development. The building's design reflects the optimism and confidence of the era, and its preservation is a testament to the importance of preserving our architectural heritage.
  6. Photo opportunities. The Reliance Building is a popular spot for photographers, thanks to its stunning design and location in the heart of the city. Capture the building's beauty from the street or from the rooftop bar of the adjacent hotel.
  7. Education. The Reliance Building offers guided tours and other educational programming that can help visitors learn more about the building's history, architecture, and preservation. These programs are perfect for architecture students, history buffs, or anyone interested in learning more about Chicago's built environment.
  8. Cultural significance. The Reliance Building has played an important role in the cultural life of Chicago for over a century and continues to do so today. By visiting the building, you can connect with this rich history and be a part of its ongoing story.

Best places to visit near Reliance Building

There are many great places to visit near the Reliance Building in Chicago. Here are five recommendations:

  • Millennium Park
This iconic park is just a few blocks away from the Reliance Building and features many popular attractions, such as the Cloud Gate sculpture (known as "The Bean"), the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, and the Lurie Garden.

  • Art Institute of Chicago
A world-renowned art museum located just a short walk from the Reliance Building, featuring an impressive collection of artwork from around the world, including works by famous artists such as Picasso and Monet.

  • Chicago Architecture Center
Located just across the street from the Reliance Building, this museum offers exhibits, tours, and events focused on the architecture and history of Chicago.

  • Chicago Riverwalk
The Riverwalk is a scenic pedestrian path along the Chicago River, just a few blocks from the Reliance Building. Visitors can enjoy restaurants, bars, and shops, as well as kayaking and boat tours.

  • Chicago Cultural Center
Housed in a historic building just a few blocks from the Reliance Building, the Cultural Center offers free art exhibits, music and dance performances, and other cultural events throughout the year.
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    What's the best way to see the Reliance Building in Chicago?
     Here are a few ways to see the Reliance Building:

    • Walking tour. You can take a walking tour of the historic downtown area with a guide who can provide information about the building and its history. Several companies offer such tours.

    • Self-guided tour. You can also take a self-guided tour of the building by visiting the lobby and observing the ornate design elements. You can also go up to the rooftop terrace for a great view of the city.

    • Architecture boat tour. Another way to see the Reliance Building and other iconic Chicago buildings is to take an architecture boat tour along the Chicago River. This will give you a unique perspective of the building from the river.

    • Observation deck. While there is no observation deck at the Reliance Building, there are several observation decks in nearby buildings that offer great views of the city skyline, including the Willis Tower and the John Hancock Center.