William Holabird, Architect of Tall Buildings

(1854-1923)

Black and white portrait of William Holabird, receding hair, full beard, intense eyes
William Holabird. Photo by Alexander Hesler/Chicago History Museum/Archive Photos Collection/Getty Images (cropped)

Along with his partner Martin Roche (1853-1927), William Holabird forged America's early skyscrapers and launched an architectural style known as the Chicago School.

Background:

Born: September 11, 1854 in Amenia Union, New York

Died: July 19, 1923

Education:

Important Buildings (Holabird & Roche):

  • 1888: Tacoma Building, Chicago (demolished)

Related People:

More About William Holabird:

William Holabird began his education at the West Point Military Academy, but after two years he moved to Chicago and worked as a draftsman for William Le Baron Jenney, who is often called "father of the skyscraper." Holabird founded his own practice in 1880, and formed a partnership with Martin Roche in 1881.

The Chicago School style featured many innovations. The "Chicago window" created the effect that the buildings were composed of glass. Each large pane of glass was flanked by narrow windows that could be opened.

In addition to their Chicago skyscrapers, Holabird and Roche became leading designers of large hotels in the midwest. After William Holabird's death, the firm was reorganized by his son. The new firm, Holabird & Root, was highly influential in the 1920s.

Learn More:

  • The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation own and occupy the Marquette Building in Chicago. Learn more about the building's architecture, the architects, and the Chicago School on their website at marquette.macfound.org/. Download their wonderful brochure (PDF) for free.
  • The Architects and the City: Holabird & Roche of Chicago, 1880-1918 by Robert Bruegmann, University of Chicago Press, 1997
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