Washington Block Façade Restoration

At the time of its construction, soon after the Chicago Fire of 1871, the Washington Block was one of the tallest buildings in the city center. It is now the sole remaining five-story structure with significant original fabric intact. Faced with sandstone, the building has numerous ground floor tenants, and as a result the original design unity of the facade has suffered. IDEA was asked by owner Marc Realty to restore the masonry at the ground floor to approximate the original appearance, and to replace the missing decorative pressed metal cornice above the fifth floor. IDEA worked closely with the Commission on Chicago Landmarks regarding appearance and restoration strategies for this Chicago Landmark.


As no accurate documentation for the original cornice was available, a new cornice using light-weight reinforced fiberglass was designed. The deteriorating sandstone was conserved where possible, with the application of a restoration stone patching mortar system in areas where the original surface was badly damaged or missing altogether.

Awards & Recommendations

  • 2004 Chicago Landmark Award for Preservation Excellence presented by the City of Chicago Commission on Chicago Landmarks