Burnham Building

Daniel Burnham and Company, 1912 Handel Architects, renovation, 2016

National Register of Historic Places Preservation Achievement Award, 2016

This was the last major building by the outstanding midwestern city planner and architect of the early 1900s, Daniel Burnham. The basically simple façade organization of corners, cornice, and base outlining the mass and providing a frame for the window infill reflects the influence of the Chicago school. The design emphasis was on bringing light into the store interior through the plentiful windows, although later alterations have blocked many of them. Burnham’s gray-and-green terra-cotta ornamentation is far more traditional than his design conception. The subtle curve of the Summer Street façade enriches the street space. Wisely, the developers of Millennium Tower made this building an integral element of their scheme, restoring the exterior and updating the interior.

When this was the Filene’s Building, the store pioneered the discount marketing of overstock and previous-season merchandise in its Filene’s Basement. Tales were told of luxury items bought the week of the final automatic markdown. All unsold goods were donated to charity.

Images: above, ©Bruce T. Martin; below, ©Yonward