Nothing can prepare you for seeing the new cornice on Louis Sullivan’s Carson Pirie Scott building.

Some good Louis Sullivan news, (after the destruction of the temple.)

Nothing can prepare you for seeing the cornice.


The way the building now makes the corner, the way the west and north planes unfold like a book, and especially the way the solid building now meets the gaseous sky with such joy!

(kôr’nis) n.
1. A horizontal molded projection that crowns or completes a building.
2. “Why I oughta crown you!” – the Three Stooges!

The building is now bracketed, top and bottom. Now that it’s getting its cornice back – the upward thrust is even stronger than before. Since it has weight on top, and counter-thrust. And because the cornice is a flat straight horizontal line, we feel more strongly than before the rhythm of the windows in between the sidewalk and the sky. And the mid-section of the building, in its rhythm and its beauty, mimics man’s role between earth and the heavens.

Without a cornice, looking at the building was like hearing a jazz quartet with one of the instruments missing; say, the drums. Now they’re all there. You can hear what the parts are trying to do, how they mesh together into a whole. They solo and they blend, and in the cornice riff, Mr. Sullivan sings the perfect resolution of building to sky.

Along the big curve of the building, at the corner of Madison and State (one of the greatest corners on any building in Chicago,) now, along the big curve, six cylinders rise up in rhythm. They culminate in capitals, like treetops, which were not there before. The corner is such a bold statement and has such import, that these capitals seem to hold up the sky.

Before, what Sullivan was trying to say, was cut off in mid-sentence. He had something to say to us, across the decades, even during the bad city decades of the sixties and seventies, but he was cut off. No one would listen. You know that feeling? When you’re trying to tell someone a story, and they cut you off before you can get your complete thought out or finish your story. That was the feeling of the ol’ CornicelessCarson’s. And because most people didn’t want to listen to the story that building had to tell, when those who did stopped to look at it, the top just stuttered. It couldn’t complete its thought. The final chapter up there was missing. But hallelu! now we can see and hear and feel Louis Sullivan’s integrity. So stop by State and Madison and look and listen. You’ll be glad you did.

Hey Macy’s, you wanna do something for the people of Chicago? Put the cornice back on the State Street Marshall Field’s!


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