Two impressive buildings – contributed by Rebecca Gohm

While walking around Chicago I saw a lot of buildings and architectural details that impressed me. I have been trying to decide between writing about the lions I saw on just about everything in Chicago or a building. I decided to go with the building that currently houses Target on the first two floors and offices on the rest of the floors.

At first I worried that this building would not be interesting to anyone other than me, despite the façade, after all its main business is the Target. I did some research and found out that it is interesting, not just for the ornate cast iron work, but also for the person who designed it to begin with.

Louis Sullivan was the architect on this building. I was so excited to find that out!  It was nice to understand a little about him from the book and see some of his work up close.

The Sullivan Center in the early years. Photo credit
The Sullivan Center in the early years. Photo credit
More recent picture of the Sullivan Center. Photo Credit
More recent picture of the Sullivan Center.
Photo Credit


It’s design could be described as Art Nouveau. Art Nouveau was popular in the late 1890’s and a little beyond. It is, according to Google, recognized by “intricate linear designs and flowing curves based on natural forms”. I read a very interesting article about the building that explained a lot about why it was designed the way it was. (

I found it very sad that in 1948 they started removing some of the ornate beauty of the building. In the late 1970’s they started to restore it to almost its original grandeur.

The side of the building in it's original splendor. Photo credit
The side of the building in its original splendor.
Photo credit

You can see the that they didn’t bring back all of the grandeur of the building when they started to restore it. I am not sure if that is a good thing or not.

sullivan 4
Photo Credit

Sullivan also put his initials into the building which to me says he loved the building. Notice the initials LHS?

Louis Sullivan's initials. Photo Credit
Louis Sullivan’s initials.
Photo Credit

When I look at this building I think of how anchored it looks. It looks like it has been there a thousand years and will remain a thousand more. It invites you to come inside and explore, of course if you are running low on time it seems more like a taunt! I wish I would have had more time to go inside and explore the beauty inside.

The second building I picked was the building at 315 Center Ave in Bay city. In big letters near the top of the building it proclaims “Shearer Bros Block 1886”.

Shearer Brother's Block  Photo Credit
Shearer Brother’s Block
Photo Credit

This building doesn’t have the iron work that the Sullivan Center had, unfortunately, it is only made to look like it has iron on the bottom of the building. The reason I did pick this building is because of the similarities with the Sullivan Center. The first one would be that both buildings are gorgeous, of course. The second thing they have in common is that they are both huge. These buildings were meant to be useful as stores, offices and anything else imaginable. The third thing is the “block” idea. These buildings say a lot about the owner’s wealth and standing in the community. You can’t build something this big let alone something this pretty without some serious money. These buildings are similar because the people who designed them were important. Louis Sullivan was an important person because of architectural contributions and his hand in the World’s Fair. James Shearer was appointed to be one of three men to oversee the construction of the new capitol building in Lansing Mi. The last thing they have in common is that despite a few “bumps in the road” these historic places are finding new uses and are thriving!


Work Cited





6 thoughts on “Two impressive buildings – contributed by Rebecca Gohm

  1. Hi Rebecca,

    I like that you use the word “anchored” to describe both of these buildings… it’s perfect. Despite the ornamentation, these buildings both convey squat permanence. Did you notice that both buildings have a different ground floor? It is really noticeable in the Sullivan Center because the dark and ornate ironwork of the bottom two floors contrasts so starkly with the light and plain floors (10?) that cap the building. The contrast is noticeable in your fourth photo and is really obvious in the link below.

    I can see that same feature in the Shearer Brother’s Block. The shop fronts in the ground floor are in clear contrast to the packed windows on the upper floors. Given that it is Bay City, I can imagine these floors repurposed as condos 😉

    Maybe the ability to repurpose the Sullivan Center as a Target is key to the survival of these beautiful buildings. Saginaw’s Potter Street Station in Courtney’s post is just as beautiful, but maybe it is so obviously a train station that it languishes. Yes, the underlying economic structure of a city matters, but your post has me thinking about other factors that might influence a historical building’s future.


    1. Hello Donna, I did notice the differences in the top and bottom of the building. In the article it said that it was thought to have been so that woman would be drawn into the bottom floor to shop. The article argued that the curves and nature like look in the cast iron would attract women and that the top floors would look more masculine since it housed offices. I also found it interesting that the Sullivan Center had a water tower on top so that if there was a fire it could be taken care of.

      The Shearer Bros Block does, in fact, have condos in the upper floors of the building. Both of these building have left an impression on me.


  2. Hey Rebecca, I also noticed all of the lions that were prominent in Chicago’s architecture. I was going to relate the lions to the historical Epic of Gilgamesh as well as them being a sign of power and social status in the past. I found it ironic that the city tore the building down and then thirty years later restored it. Lastly, I enjoyed that you noticed the use of iron in the buildings, because most architecture I’ve found has used steel as the dominant resource

  3. I love to see old buildings restored. We had our depot restored in our town and it’s beautiful. This trip may inspire me to join a committee to help restore other buildings in our area.

  4. Hey Rebecca
    Love the building that you picked in Chicago, the outside is super pretty and its a shame that anyone ever thought about taking parts of it down. The building on Center Ave is also a really cool building, I love driving down there and seeing all the big homes and thinking about all the things that must happened in the past there. My Favorite point that you made was that you mentioned that they were both on corners which I never really thought about it but when you give directions in a big city you often say at the corner of so and so. This would be the ideal spot for a building trying to grab attention so it makes sense why its there.

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