Jacked Up

Well, it's official!

After months of nervous anticipation, I've been officially accepted into the Chicago Architecture Foundation's 2013 docent training class.

To celebrate, we decided to have dinner in one of Chicago's architectural gems.

The Reliance Building
{image source 1, 2}

We chose The Atwood Cafe (1 W Washington, Loop) because it is on the first floor of Chicago's Reliance building. While waiting to be seated for our reservation, I took the opportunity to snoop around a bit. I happily discovered that the building's reconstruction in the early 1890s was a bit unorthodox.

Situated at the corner of State and Washington, this was originally a four story structure. When the Hale Company contracted architects Burnham and Root for the building's makeover, the upper three levels were occupied. Rather than wait for these leases to expire, reconstruction proceeded.

The top three floors of the occupied masonry building were jacked up and the unoccupied first floor and basement were demolished so that excavation could begin. The new foundation made the eventual 15 story Reliance building possible. Before architect John Wellborn Root's death in 1891, his first floor design had been implemented and new tenants moved in right under their "floating" neighbors.

Crazy, right?

As far as our dining experience at the Atwood Cafe, I have a mixed review.

For ambiance, I give the restaurant an A+. It's a cozy, beautiful spot right in the heart of the loop. Its art deco interior is tastefully decorated for the holidays and we were seated at a table with couches instead of chairs. I was immediately impressed and excited.

The service and food were spotty though. Our starters (lamb carpaccio and frito misto) were delicious. Our server was warm and pleasant when we arrived and during the first part of our meal. But once our starter plates were cleared things began to head down hill. We waited a very long time for our main course. Our server kept checking on us, but it was clear she was embarrassed. When it finally arrived, my rabbit was bland and uninteresting with the hericot verts easily outshining everything else on the plate. The hubby's mackerel was warm but not hot although the flavors were fantastic. But then our server disappeared for quite a few minutes. It was kind of, well, jacked up.

Thankfully we were in celebration mode, so we didn't let it get us down. We were in good company, comfortable at our swanky table and in no rush to be anywhere but where we were.

Though I'm not sure we'll be rushing back for another meal at the pricey Atwood Cafe, I can happily report that learning about the daring construction of the Reliance building was a true treat for this architecture nerd.

Would you continue living/working in a building that was being supported by jacks?!?