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Sullivan Center

Coordinates: 41°52′54.16″N 87°37′39.18″W / 41.8817111°N 87.6275500°W / 41.8817111; -87.6275500
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Carson, Pirie, Scott
and Company Store
Sullivan Center is located in Chicago Loop
Sullivan Center
Sullivan Center is located in Illinois
Sullivan Center
Sullivan Center is located in the United States
Sullivan Center
LocationChicago, Illinois
Coordinates41°52′54.16″N 87°37′39.18″W / 41.8817111°N 87.6275500°W / 41.8817111; -87.6275500
ArchitectLouis Sullivan; Burnham, Daniel H., & Co.
Architectural styleLate 19th and Early 20th Century American Movements
Part ofLoop Retail Historic District (ID98001351)
NRHP reference No.70000231 [1]
Significant dates
Added to NRHPApril 17, 1970
Designated NHLMay 15, 1975[3]
Designated CPNovember 27, 1998
Designated CLNovember 5, 1970[2]

The Sullivan Center, formerly known as the Carson, Pirie, Scott and Company Building or Carson, Pirie, Scott and Company Store,[4] is a commercial building at 1 South State Street at the corner of East Madison Street in Chicago, Illinois. Louis Sullivan designed it for the retail firm Schlesinger & Mayer in 1899 and later expanded it before H.G. Selfridge & Co. purchased the structure in 1904. That firm occupied the structure for only a matter of weeks before it sold the building (the land under it was owned at the time by Marshall Field) to Otto Young, who then leased it to Carson Pirie Scott for $7,000 per month,[5] which occupied the building for more than a century until 2006. Subsequent additions were completed by Daniel Burnham in 1906 and Holabird & Root in 1961.[6]

The building has been used for retail purposes since 1899, and has been a Chicago Landmark since 1975. It is part of the Loop Retail Historic District.


Decorations to celebrate Abraham Lincoln's 100th Birthday in 1909

The Sullivan Center was initially developed because of the Chicago Great Fire of 1871. In 1872, Leopold Schlesinger and David Mayer decided to open a dry good store. They had met while working together prior to the Chicago Fire. Leopold Schlesinger had immigrated to Chicago in 1862 from Germany, and David Mayer was brought to the United States of America as an infant in 1852, also from Germany.[7] In 1881 Schlesinger and Mayer had moved their dry-goods store into the Bowen Building that was on the corner of State and Madison. In 1890, Schlesinger and Mayer hired Adler and Sullivan to prepare plans for the removal of the Bowen Building's attic story and the addition of two stories across the Bowen Building and the adjacent four-story structure to the south. The facades were added to match the bottom stories of the building and the building was painted white.

In 1892, Schlesinger and Mayer hired Adler and Sullivan to do further remodeling and add a new entrance to the corner of State and Madison. In 1896, Sullivan, no longer working with Adler, was asked back by Schlesinger and Mayer to redesign the façade and add two stories to the newly leased four-story building on Wabash avenue, as well as connecting it to the State Street store. That never happened because Schlesinger and Mayer changed their minds to make it a ten-story building, which also never happened. It eventually got painted white and then a bridge was added that connected the second story of the building to the elevated railroad. In 1898, Schlesinger and Mayer decided to remove the original building located on State and Madison replace it with a new building designed by Sullivan. Sullivan had both a nine and twelve-story proposal made up for this new building. They eventually started with a nine-story portion of the building that was made on the Madison Street side next to the original portion of the Adler and Sullivan renovations.

In 1902, Schlesinger and Mayer came back to Sullivan wanting a twenty-story building on State and Madison, eventually settling for the final twelve stories. The Madison Street portion that was added earlier could not structurally support twelve stories so was left as is. Sullivan came up with a three-stage plan to finish the new building and allow Schlesinger and Mayer to keep their business running during the Christmas season.[8]

The building is remarkable for its steel-framed structure, which allowed a dramatic increase in window area created by bay-wide windows, which in turn allowed for the greatest amount of daylight into the building interiors. This steel framed structure uses the post-and-lintel technique to provide a strong, light, and fireproof steel skeleton. The exterior of the building consists of a grid of piers and spandrels that reveals the post-and-lintel technique that supports the building.[9] The design was the first use of what became known as the Chicago window. At street level, the broad expanses of glass allowed for larger displays of merchandise to outside pedestrian traffic creating the idea of the sidewalk showcase. In between the windows were bands of terra cotta, replacing an earlier plan for white Georgia marble, to save cost and weight and to avoid delays arising from a stonecutter's strike.[10] The design featured bronze-plated cast-iron ornamental work above the rounded tower. The project also included a fire suppression sprinkler system, supplied from a 40-foot (12 m) water tower on the roof.

The building's northwest entrance

Sullivan designed the corner entry to be seen from both State and Madison. The attractive ornamentation above the entrance would give the store an elegant and unique persona important to the building's competition with neighboring stores.[11] The building is one of the classic structures of the Chicago school. The way this technique was used on the lower floors of the building was so elaborate that it used the natural lighting and shadows to seem almost as if it were magically floating above the ground.[12] The top floor of the 1899 and 1904 sections of the building were recessed to create a narrow loggia topped by an intricately detailed cornice that projected beyond the facade of the building. This was removed around 1948 and the 12th floor redesigned to replicate the lower floors.[13]

In November 1897, of Schlesinger & Mayer opened a pedestrian bridge connecting its second floor to the Madison/Wabash elevated (train) station behind it amid much controversy. The city had ordered work on the bridge to stop on Saturday, November 20, but overnight 200 workmen completed the bridge in secret, and it opened the next day, as a fait accompli.[14] It would prove to make the store identifiable from far away. This bridge too was covered in elaborate metalwork and provided a sense of special entry to those who used it.[15]

In May 1904 Harry Selfridge, the founder of London's Selfridges, bought the building, and operated his store H. G. Selfridge & Co. there briefly with a grand opening in mid-June, but only two months later, in mid-August 1904, sold it to Carson Pirie Scott.

In 1961, Carson, Pirie, Scott constructed an annex south of the building adding 59,500 sq ft (5,528 m2) of sales area.[16]

Growth of the Schlesinger & Mayer / Carson Pirie Scott flagship store complex
Year Description Total sq ft Total sq m
1872 2,500 232
1881 32,000 2,973
1885 60,000 5,574
1890 90,000 8,361
1898 Louis Sullivan, architect. 300,000 27,871
1906 Expansion: Daniel Burnham, architect. Three bays on State Street. Cost est. $1,000,000.
1961 59,500 sq ft (5,528 m2) addition to the south. Holabird & Root, architects. ca. 1,000,000[17] 92,903

In February 2006, the first phase of a multi-year restoration of the building's upper facade was completed. In addition to cleaning, the cornice and supporting columns were recreated on the 12th floor.[13] A 2001 report put the budget at $68.9 million for this renovation.

In August 2006, Bon-Ton Stores Inc., parent company of Carson, Pirie, Scott, announced that after the 2006 Christmas season, the department store in the building would close. There were no immediate announcements as to what would occupy the building after the store's closure. After holding clearance sales, Carson's closed in February 2007.[18]

The 943,944-square-foot (87,695.3 m2) three-building complex, now renamed the Sullivan Center, is currently owned by Madison Capital, a private real estate company based in New York City.[19]

Detail of the marquee on the building's north facade

In 2008, a second renovation project of the decorative iron work on the lower three floors began. This included the State Street facade as well as rear portions of the building which face Wabash Avenue. Part of the funding for this renovation was provided by the City of Chicago. The Wabash facade was completed in August 2009 and the work on State Street in late 2010.[20][21]

Tenants of the Sullivan Center include The Chicago Community Trust, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and Gensler. In December 2010, Freed and Associates announced it was in talks with retailer Target, who expressed an interest in occupying part of the structure.[22] On February 15, 2011, the retailer announced it would lease 125,000 sq ft (11,600 m2) spread over two floors of the building. The new store opened July 26, 2012, and was met with favorable reviews for its clean design while being sensitive to the historic character of the structure.[23] In October 2021, the Target entrance's dark facade went viral on TikTok, affectionately nicknamed as the "Goth Target".[24][25]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. March 15, 2006.
  2. ^ "Carson, Pirie, Scott and Company Building". Chicago Landmarks. Archived from the original on June 13, 2008.
  3. ^ "Carson, Pirie, Scott and Company Building". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Archived from the original on March 5, 2008. Retrieved July 20, 2008.
  4. ^ Baeb, Eddie (February 11, 2008). "New space boosts Loop retail vacancy rate". Crain's Chicago Business.
  5. ^ "Big Store Is Sold - Carson Pirie Scott & Co. Buy Business of Selfridge & Co. - Large Bonus is Paid". Chicago Daily Tribune. August 12, 1904. p. 1.
  6. ^ "Carson Pirie Scott and Company Building". essential-architecture.com. Archived from the original on November 19, 2010. Retrieved November 8, 2010.
  7. ^ Leonard, John W., ed. (1905). The Book of Chicagoans. Chicago: A. N. Marquis. p. 401. hdl:2027/coo.31924012779553. Retrieved December 19, 2020.
  8. ^ Siry, Joseph (November 4, 1988). Carson Pirie Scott: Louis Sullivan and the Chicago Department Store. University of Chicago Press. pp. 3, 65. ISBN 978-0-2267-6136-7.
  9. ^ "Sullivan Center". Chicago Architecture Center. Retrieved December 19, 2020.
  10. ^ Siry, p.97
  11. ^ Siry, pp.3,65,77–79,82,88,90–93,101
  12. ^ Scully, Vincent Jr. (1959). "Louis Sullivan's Architectural Ornament: A Brief Note concerning Humanist Design in the Age of Force". Perspecta. 5: 73–80. doi:10.2307/1566883. JSTOR 1566883.
  13. ^ a b Kamin, Blair G. (February 19, 2006). "Carsons restoration would make Sullivan smile". Chicago Tribune. p. G-1. Retrieved December 19, 2020.
  14. ^ "Rush a Loop Bridge". Chicago Tribune. November 22, 1897. p. 3. Retrieved November 29, 2023.
  15. ^ Siry, pp.77–79
  16. ^ Knoch, Joanne (July 15, 1960). "Carson plans State Street addition". Chicago Tribune. p. 49. Retrieved November 29, 2023.
  17. ^ Jones, Sandra (August 26, 2006). "Flag of Change on State". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved November 29, 2023.
  18. ^ "Carson Pirie Scott on State Street closing". Chicago Tribune. August 28, 2006. p. B9. Retrieved November 9, 2010.
  19. ^ Ori, Ryan (April 27, 2016). "Landmark Sullivan Center selling for $267 million". Crain's Chicago Business.
  20. ^ Kamin, Blair G. (August 19, 2009). "Sullivan storefronts dazzle once more". Chicago Tribune. p. Live!-1. Retrieved December 19, 2020.
  21. ^ Kamin, Blair G. (January 24, 2010). "Loop landmark looking a lot like its original self". Chicago Tribune. p. I-7. Retrieved November 9, 2010.
  22. ^ Roderland, David; Spielman, Frand; et al. (December 10, 2010). "Target close to deal to move into old Carsons on State Street". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved January 28, 2011.
  23. ^ Kamin, Blair (July 26, 2012). "Retailer right on Target". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved August 21, 2012.
  24. ^ Krupp, Emma (October 27, 2021). "A history of Goth Target, TikTok's favorite Chicago building". Time Out Chicago. Retrieved May 13, 2024.
  25. ^ Lyndes, Haley (September 7, 2021). "Do Yourself a Favour and Check Out This "Goth Target" That's Taking Over TikTok". POPSUGAR Smart Living UK. Retrieved May 13, 2024.

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