The world's largest retail renovation
Totaling more than one million square feet, the renovation of the State Street store was the world's largest retail renovation in history at the time. Far from a simple face-lift the project involved a massive demolition and structural restoration effort.
Over the years, as retail grew up and evolved around Marshall Field's, the store remained much the same. New walls went up to create new departments, and a few modern touches were added in an effort to compete. But what was once awe-inspiring in its heyday was starting to look worse for the wear. So, in the late 1980s, the store began a series of renovations to unify its structures and bring the building back to its original glory. Because of our deep understanding of the building, Pepper was asked to complete the work.
When we started the project, Marshall Field's gave us the original blue prints. But even with the best set of drawings and knowledge of what’s supposed to be there, in historic buildings like Marshall Field's you never really know what to expect. Things are not always what they appear. Along with the blue prints, researchers who were preparing for the renovation came across drawings for a 6-ton cast iron fountain that was designed by D.H. Burnham and Company for the original store. Marshall Field originally nixed the idea, and now they wanted to add it.
Looking down through the alley-turned-atrium at Marshall Fields
Next, we had to set up the site to make the area safe for the store to remain open during the renovation. We built decks to work above the sales floor and first basement below. Nine new stairwells were added from the 13th floor down to the 3rd basement for egress, and then we scaffolded the core.
Then the delicate deconstruction began. The brick and windows were removed on the inside of the core. Then we removed the steel and clay tile arches. We installed new steel to support the escalators that would later be installed. Once floors 1-9 were finished, the scaffolding came down and we cut a hole in the floor of the 9th level for the new escalators. The orchestrated process was like a silent symphony, working together in the background until the masterpiece would be revealed to unsuspecting patrons at the end.
Respecting the old
Buildings today aren't constructed with the same materials and methods they used a century ago. The attention to detail and level of craftsmanship found in these landmark structures garner respect, but the materials and methods today offer a higher level of safety and security for building occupants. Our goal is to take advantage of both qualities – retaining the historic charm while bringing it up to modern code, which requires a special knowledge of how things worked back then.
For example, historic building structures were often built with clay tiles between the support beams. Though designed to be resilient, the integrity of the structure relies on their strength together. When we removed the damaged steel, we also had to remove clay tile arches. Having worked there over many years, we knew that the tiles had to be removed in the same direction as the large beams. Otherwise, perpendicular, the whole structure could drop.