History

624 South Michigan Avenue was built by Eckstorm in 1908 as an seven-story building to house the Chicago Musical College, a concern headed by Florenz Ziegfield Sr., father of Broadway Follies producer Flo Ziegfield, Jr. A seven-story addition was designed and built in 1922 by Alfred Alschuler. The building was renamed the Blum Building and housed the studios of a dance school and boutique women’s clothiers. Tenants in the building in the 1920s included Augustus Eugene Bournique’s dancing schools and two select women’s clothiers, Stanley Korshak’s Blackstone Shop and Blum’s Vogue. Brick clad with classical detailing, this 15-story building retains its stunning a marble and brass lobby. Columbia College acquired the building in 1990 and it now houses a five-story library, classrooms, departmental offices, student and faculty lounges and the college’s bookstore.


Description

The 624 South Michigan Building is a fourteen story steel frame structure. On its principal facade, facing South Michigan Avenue, it is faced with Bedford limestone on its first two floors, and red brick with white terra cotta and limestone detailing on its third through twelfth floors. Its top floors are fronted by a two story limestone engaged colonnade; the original cornice has been removed, its pediments, balustrade and urns replaced with a simple red brick parapet. The side elevations are largely not visible, as they stand against the neighboring buildings.

Overall, it would be difficult to see the building as having a distinct style. The classical revival details on the façade are called “Italian Renaissance” in the only published reference to this building, an advertisement in the Chicago Central Business and Office Building Directory for 1929. This attribution owes its inspiration to the modest scale of the ornament, which is reminiscent of that found on Northern Italian buildings of the 1400s. Terra cotta trim is used for window sills on the upper floors, and the piers between every pair of windows have simplified classical capitals in terra cotta under a pressed metal cornice.

The 624 South Wabash Building is one of the three buildings that make up the most significant cluster of buildings on the Columbia campus, which stand on the block bound by Harrison, Michigan, Balbo, and Wabash avenues, and includes the 600 South Michigan and 623 South Wabash buildings.


Quick Facts

  • Name: Columbia College South Michigan Campus
  • Address: 624 South Michigan Avenue
  • Size: 80 feet x 172 feet, 14 stories
  • Architect:
    • Christian A. Eckstorm, 1908 for first 7 stories
    • Alfred Alschuler, 7 story addition, 1922 & exterior alterations, 1930
  • Original Name: Musical College Building
  • Subsequent Names:
    • Blum Building
    • Grant Park Building
    • Barnheisel Building
    • Torco Building
  • Acquired by College: 1990
  • Original Building Type: Office
  • Style: Beaux Arts and Renaissance Classicism

Information taken from the 2005 Campus Preservation Plan.