One entered through a two-story, skylighted vestibule, again like the Rialto and Kansas City Board of Trade (and poignantly, Post’s Mills Building), that led directly to a rotunda formed by a curved bank of eight elevators that was located immediately to the west of the central, crossing corridor.
The vast majority of the building was dedicated to rented office space in order to help pay the cost of the annual $40,000 lease, nonetheless, there were various-sized rooms to provide space for the headquarters for the national, state, and local organizations. The project’s leader, Matilda Bradley Carse, had a vision of providing a variety of services and functions for the betterment of the city’s women. The most important space, however, was a 700-seat auditorium on the ground floor, that Carse had named Willard Hall, after the organization’s founder and national president, Miss Frances E. Willard. Similar to the Chicago Opera Block, Willard Hall had its own entry not from the building’s central rotunda, but located on Monroe Street.
Root once again worked with William Pretyman and Walter Crane (the same Pre-Raphaelite jolly band that decorated Cleveland’s Society for Savings Bank: v.4, sec.5.3). The hall “was decorated with thirteen stained-glass lights and two rostral paintings commissioned from Walter Crane… Crane’s subjects [were] Temperance, Purity, Mercy, and Justice – all of which he represented by elongated female figures in the Pre-Raphaelite style of (Edward) Burne-Jones.” (I included a copy of Crane’s mural from the Society for Savings as an example of the colors Crane employed.)
The cornerstone was laid on November 1, 1890, with a children’s chorus singing “The Saloons Must Go.” Root is reputed to have characteristically responded with a puckish suggestion that he and his friends needed to leave and have a drink.
Hoffmann, Donald. The Architecture of John Wellborn Root. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1973.
Hoffmann, Donald. The Meanings of Architecture: Buildings and Writings by John Wellborn Root. New York: Horizon, 1967.
Monroe, Harriet. John Wellborn Root; A Study of His Life and Work. Park Forest: Prairie School Press, 1966.
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