The Dexter Building was a landmark building located at 630 South Wabash Avenue, in the South Loop area of Chicago, Illinois. The building was designed by the firm of Dankmar Adler and Louis Sullivan, and built in 1887. Prior to its destruction in 2006 it was one of the earliest surviving Louis Sullivan buildings, and was considered a precursor of the nearby Auditorium Building. It was designated as a Chicago Landmark in 1996 and was described by the Landmarks Division of the City of Chicago Department of Planning and Development as an "irreplaceable link in the chain of work of one of the nation's most important architectural partnerships". It was distinctive in its use of exterior perforated girders, prefiguring designs of seven decades later.
The building was commissioned by Wirt Dexter, a Chicago attorney and real estate developer. Originally it was used as a factory and showroom for the R. Deimel & Brothers furniture manufacturing firm. From 1967 it was the home of the George Diamond Steak House, and the upper floors later housed the Sawyer Secretarial College.
On October 24, 2006, scrap dealers were cutting up a boiler in the basement for salvage with acetylene torches that sparked a large fire. The fire was allowed to get out of control and gutted the building. At its peak, the fire, which started in the basement at around 3 pm, was a five-alarm fire, the Chicago Fire Department's highest level of alert, with over 250 firefighters responding. Following the fire, the surviving shell of the building was too unstable to save and was demolished. At the time of the fire there was no insurance on the building.
In popular culture
The Wirt Dexter Building can be seen in the near background of one scene in the 2001 movie Just Visiting.
- Dexter Building, Chicago Landmarks, City of Chicago, retrieved October 4, 2011.
- Ron Grossman, Michelle Keller and Tony C. Yang, "Fire guts historic building: 2nd Louis Sullivan structure destroyed this year in Chicago," Chicago Tribune October 25, 2006.
- Ron Grossman and Josh Noel, "Woman's dream now lies in ruins," Chicago Tribune October 26, 2006.
- Article about the fire by Lynn Becker
- Save a Landmark; Put Down the Blowtorch, Landmarks Illinois: Article about the fire and use of acetylene torches in rehabilitating historic buildings, with pictures