Fine Arts Building (Studebaker Building)
View of the Fine Arts Building facade on Michigan Avenue (image courtesy of the Chicago Architecture Foundation).
View of interior courtyard, Fine Arts Building (image courtesy of Open House Chicago).
View of murals on tenth floor, Fine Arts Building (image courtesy of Chicago Architecture blog).
Mural by Frank X. Leyendecker, tenth floor, Fine Arts Building (image courtesy of Chicago Architecture blog).
A Studebaker buggy from the early 1890s, one of many models that would have been on display at this building prior to its conversion to artist studios.
Backstory and Context
The building's facade was one of the most splendid of its day, including its iconic pair of massive granite columnns inset above the main entryway that measure more than three feet in diameter. As demand for the company's products grew, Beman's plans were modified to incorporate space to manufacture components on site. To achieve this goal, Beman removed the culminating floor of the building in the late 1890s so he could add three more stories (a distinction somewhat visible in the face today). By the time these modifications were complete, though, Studebaker had found a more suitable manufacturing facility elsewhere. As a result, the modified building on Michigan Avenue was transformed into studios for artists.
At the time of this transformation, the building was further adorned with an array of Art Nouveau accents, including a painted mural cycle on the tenth floor. Incorporating works by some of the most innovative artists of the late 19th-century - including Frank X. Leyendecker, brother of famed illustrator J.C. Leyendecker - these murals became the perfect capstone to a building wholly dedicated to the arts. Many of Chicago's most notable artists and architects worked in the Fine Arts Building over the years.
One such artistic resident was Lorado Taft, who one of the most prominent sculptors in Chicago in the 1890s and who contributed extensively to the sculpture of Chicago's Worlds Columbian Exposition in 1893. One of his works, the Fountain of the Great Lakes (1907-1913), can be seen across the street (and two blocks north) in the southern outdoor courtyard adjacent to the Art Institute.
Fine Arts Building. Chicago Architecture Foundation. Accessed December 30, 2016. http://www.architecture.org/architecture-chicago/buildings-of-chicago/building/fine-arts-building/.
Fox, Fred. A brief history of Studebaker, 1852-1966. Hemmings Daily. September 16, 2015. Accessed December 30, 2016. https://blog.hemmings.com/index.php/2015/09/16/a-brief-history-of-studebaker-1852-1966/.