In 1886, Ferdinand Peck incorporated the Chicago Auditorium Foundation. Together with Marshall Field, Marlin Ryerson, Charles Hutchinson, and George Pullman, they proposed a large building at the corner of Michigan Boulevard and Congress Street to include a large grand theater, office block and a first class hotel. This association retained Dankmar Adler and Louis Sullivan to design the building.
Sullivan and Adler designed a tall structure with load bearing outer walls. The exterior appearance was based on the appearance of H.I Richardson’s Marshall Field Warehouse.
An interesting feature of this building is its non traditional foundation. Due to soil conditions, a novel approach was needed. The solution was named a mass raft foundation. This consisted of a floating mat of criss crossed rail road ties. This was topped by a double layer of steel rails embedded in concrete.
In the center of the building was a 4300 seat theater. All seats were designed to have a good view and acoustics. In the original plan, there were no box seats. These were added, however.
Around the central space were 136 offices and a 400 room hotel.
In 1887, President Grover Cleveland laid the cornerstone. In 1888, the Republican National Convention in a partially completed building.
The Chicago Symphony Orchestra used the theater from 1891 to 1904. The opera company renting the theater moved to the Civic Opera House in 1929. The Auditorium Theater closed during the Depression.
In 1941, the theater was taken over by the City of Chicago as a World War 2 Serviceman’s Center.
In 1946, Roosevelt University occupied the Auditorium Building