Louis Sullivan was one of the great Chicago architects of the 19th Century. He is best remembered for his design for the Auditorium Theater at Roosevelt University and for the Carson, Pirie, Scott Store at the corner of State and Madison.
Sullivan was born on Sept. 3, 1856 in Boston and studied architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.) in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He worked with Frank Furness in Philadelphia. Sullivan first came to Chicago in 1873 to work for William LeBaron Jenney, "the father of the skyscraper." Chicago was in the middle of a building boom to rebuild the city after the Great Fire of 1871. He completed his formal studies in one year at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris and returned again to Chicago when he was just 19.
In 1879 he went to work for the great stuctural engineer Dankmar Adler and two years later they formed the archtectural firm of Adler and Sullivan. They remained partners for the next 15 years until about 1896 during a period of creative experimentation with new building materials such as steel girders that made taller buildings possible. Sullivan had creative differences and feuded over style with Daniel Burnham, planner for the Columbian Exposition in Jackson Park in 1893 and with one of his students, Frank Lloyd Wright. Sullivan taught his associates that "form follows function" by which he meant that the purpose of a building dictated how the building would be designed.
In 1882, Adler and Sullivan built the Jewler's Building at 17 S. Ashland Avenue. The building still stands today and was designated as a Chicago landmark in 1981. They also designed and built the Kaufman Store and Flats at 2312-2314 N. Lincoln Avenue. It also stands today and was named a landmark in 1996.
One of Sullivan's most beautiful designs and one of the most beautiful churches in Chicago is the Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Cathedral and Rectory located at 1121 N. Leavitt Street. It was built by Sullivan alone in 1903 after his partnership with Adler was over. It became a Chicago landmark in 1979. For a list of key Louis Sullivan designs and pictures of his buildings that are still standing in Chicago, see the Chicago Landmarks web page for Sullivan buildings by clicking here.
Sullivan's last commission was the Krause Music Store at 4611 N. Lincoln Avenue that was built in 1922. Late in life, Sullivan reconciled with his former student, Frank Lloyd Wright. When Sullivan died almost broke on April 14, 1924, Wright helped to pay for Sullivan's funeral expenses. Louis Sullivan is buried in Graceland Cemetery. Chicago is fortunate to have so many examples of his designs still standing in many parts of the city.