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Bayard Condict Building 1899

by Louis Sullivan, 1856-1924

In a city famous for high-rises, it’s surprising that the man known as the “father of the skyscraper” constructed only one building here. The 13-storey Bayard Condict Building is humble by today’s standards, but during its construction in 1897, Louis Sullivan was known for creating some of the tallest buildings in the world.

The Bayard Condict Building, commissioned by United Loan and Investment and named for one of New York’s prominent families, is an important one both in Sullivan’s career and in the history of New York City. Sullivan moved away from the old standards of architecture at the time, creating one of the first steel skeleton framed buildings and covering the masonry with detailed terra cotta reliefs, an architectural innovation at the time that allowed for intricate facades to be mass produced. The vertical columns that are accentuated on the facade emphasize the height, and the higher-than-usual ratio of window to structure was a harbinger of today’s fully glass facades.

Unfortunately for Sullivan, stepping away from the norms of the times caused the Department of Buildings to raise many objections. Plans were adjusted many times, even throughout construction, before the building was completed in 1899. Ownership had transferred three times within just a few years, resulting in the name changing from The Bayard Building to The Condict Building and then back again to its original moniker.

101 years later, in 2000, the building was restored by WASA/Studio A, a New York-based architecture and engineering firm. During the restoration, each of the 7,000 glazed architectural terra cotta tiles was inspected, and only 30 were found to be damaged beyond repair.

Sullivan’s legacy included not only the skyscraper, but also a well known credo still used throughout the design world today: “Form ever follows function,” which we know more familiarly as “form follows function.” Although his contributions are widely respected now, in his lifetime his innovative ideas and architectural business frequently struggled. When he died a penniless alcoholic in 1924, it was his more famous protege, Frank Lloyd Wright, who paid for his funeral.


1897 Construction begins
1899 Construction finishes, building opens
2000 Restoration overseen by WASA/Studio A

Reference Links

article People & Events: Louis Sullivan (1856-1924)
link Chicago School of Architecture (c.1880-1910)
internal Sullivan Building (Bayard-Condict Building) - Wiki
internal Louis Sullivan - Wiki
internal Chicago School - Wiki
internal gDoc

Talking Points

  • 1899
  • Architectural Innovation: Terra Cotta Facade
  • Chicago Archittural style
  • Louis Sullivan