When the Lillian Marcie Center team settled on the building at 4343 S. Cottage Grove as the home for the next jewel in Chicago’s arts community crown, they could see it had a lot of character, but what they discovered under the rubble was somewhat of a surprise.

Life long Chicagoan, Mike Wordlaw says “We tried to salvage some things and just homage to all of the history and just amazing engineering and architectural construction feats that were accomplished here over a hundred years ago.”

Much of the hardware is still on the grounds.

“There are artifacts like this that are still in this building, laying around and so I really just want to try to get a hold of some of this stuff just to try to paint the picture of how it was being used back in the day.”

“You see all of these pins, these pins are actually holding all the weight of the second floor, not the deck, these pins.”

“This building was built like a tank, it’s a fortress.”

Adam Rubin from the Chicago Architecture Center says it’s part of what makes the look of the city so special.

“They might have had certain brick patterns, for decoration, but really what these buildings need to do was not burn down.”

Gayle Soucek, author of “Marshall Field’s, The Store Than Helped Build Chicago” says that the engineering was less about style and more of a necessity.

“That building especially was built after the Chicago fire, so they certainly wanted the merchandise well protected, but a lot of it had to do with the weight.” “that location… was both a stable and a warehouse and you could kind of think of it as an early amazon distribution center” said Soucek.

“He was probably one of the along with potter palmer to really appeal to the female customer, in his store he put little things … little rest areas … he knew that by keeping them in the store a little longer, offering them a place to eat a place to rest, they’d stay there longer and probably spend more money.”

And after the Chicago Fire, Field became an integral part of the city’s reconstruction..

Soucek told us “a lot of merchants wanted to leave the city, they felt it was just a mud hole that wasn’t going to go anywhere. And Field and a few other merchants got together the day after the fire and basically set up a plan for rebuilding. He was able to reopen his business and another horse stable, bout three weeks after the fire. And he actually loaned merchandise to some of the smaller merchants and convinced them to stay because he was smart enough that if he stayed but everyone else left, Chicago wasn’t going to be big enough to support his business.”

And if the building looks familiar it’s becasue it has a twin up North, The Brair Street Theatre, home to the Blue Man Group, is nearly the same building and was also owned by Marshall Field.

Wordlaw says, “we’ve toured that building greatly and it’s been a real help for us to figure out how to retrofit this into a new world class, state of the art theater.”