About the image
Left to right: William Holabird, Martin Roche, and Edward Renwick. Chicago History Museum, ICHi-39473, ICHi-33655, ICHi-33650.

Holabird and Roche met while working for William Le Baron Jenney. They started a firm in 1880, and Edward Renwick was their first employee. Owen Aldis gave them the opportunity to work with the Brooks brothers on buildings such as the Pontiac, part of the Monadnock, and the Champlain, Monroe, and Brooks Buildings. 

Their skyscraper days might have been cut short when the City limited building heights in 1891. On a Thursday, Renwick learned that a bill limiting buildings to 130 feet would likely pass on the following Monday. “We decided to make an offer to some of our clients to make the necessary permit drawings at our own expense for several sixteen story buildings, providing the owners would pay for the…permits. If our clients could be persuaded to act quickly enough, we could get the permits out before Monday night…” Then the City could not block what was essentially “in construction.”

Holabird & Roche convinced clients to order five buildings, “Mr. Roche started making the designs, working at top speed. The entire force was put on the development…but still we didn’t have enough men…I got enough men by the night so we could make a relay organization, twelve hours through the day and twelve hours through the night, time out for meals of course. By Friday morning I had forty draftsmen at work. Monday at ten o’clock the sets of drawings, basement, first and second stories, typical floor plan, roof plan, elevation, sections, steel diagrams, plumbing diagram for all five buildings were complete. I took them to the City Hall to take out the permits…By four o’clock the permits were obtained and paid for, and I left for home and bed.” One set was for the Marquette Building.

Today, their successor firm, Holabird & Root, has its offices in the Marquette Building. 

© 2012 John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation