Chicago Landmarks

Washington Block

Washington St. elevation     Address: 40 N. Wells St.
Year Built: 1873 - 1874
Architect: Frederick and Edward Baumann
Date Designated a Chicago Landmark: January 14, 1997

Wells St. elevation obstructed by EL tracks Italianate window detail At the time of its construction, in the aftermath of the Fire of 1871, the Washington Block was one of the tallest buildings in the city. It is a critical link to understanding the evolution of the Chicago skyscraper, a rare surviving example of the use of the "isolated pier foundation," which was an engineering advancement that helped develop the high-rise office building. The ornate detailing of its virtually intact limestone facades makes the Washington Block a building of individual architectural distinction. The building originally featured an outside staircase that led to an ornate, second-floor corner entrance. The lobby still includes a rare example of a curving hardwood staircase.