A Preserved Piece of
Chicago's Architecture History

Designed by Dankmar Adler and Louis Sullivan, the Schiller Theater Building stood at 64 East Randolph Street in downtown Chicago. Originally built for the German Opera Company, it was among the tallest buildings in the city at the time of completion in 1891.

The Schiller Building

The main attraction of the building, a 1,300-seat theater with ornate cast and painted decorative panels and high arches, underwent a few changes to its name and function over the years. The theater was named Dearborn Theater between 1898 and 1903 until it was decided on Garrick Theater. In the 1930s, the building was acquired by Balaban & Katz who turned it into a movie theater due to the increased demand for motion pictures. In the 1950s, the theater became a TV studio before it was reverted back to a movie theater in 1957.

Decorative panels inside the Garrick Theater, c. 1950

Despite the turbulent history it was subjected to, the original decoration in the theater by Adler & Sullivan remained largely intact until the demolition in 1961.

Demolition of the Theater, c. 1960

The building's identity resides in the ornament.

Louis Sullivan

Louis Sullivan

Louis H. Sullivan, born in 1856, became known as the “Father of Skyscrapers” for his contributions to the modern Chicago skyline. He began his architectural training at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and apprenticed as a draftsman for the Boston architect Frank Furness, but was soon drawn to Chicago’s building boom and moved to the city with his family in 1873.

After returning from study at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, Sullivan was hired by Chicago-based architect Dankmar Adler as a draftsman in 1879. Deeply impressed with the creative designs of Sullivan, Adler made him a full-time partner in 1881. It was this partnership that created some of the most pioneering and prolific buildings in Chicago including the Wainwright Building, the Schiller Building, the Auditorium Building, and the James Charnley House. However, it was the Chicago Stock Exchange, built at the height of the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893, which was undoubtedly the magnum opus of the pair. The interior of the building was decorated with lavish organic designs inspired by the flora of the prairie landscape—later influencing apprentice and protégé Frank Lloyd Wright.

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