Designed in 1928 by Rissman & Hirschfeld (which later became FitzGerald Associates Architects), the Millinery Mart Building was put into operation to centralize the millinery industry-the craft of hatmaking, particularly women’s hats-in the old “furniture row” district, which was much closer to the city’s main exhibition hall, the Chicago Coliseum.
After World War I, the consolidation of wholesale firms into Marshall Field’s Merchandise Mart inspired the creation of several other one-trade business ‘marts,’ where multiple product lines were gathered in one location and large, multi-story wholesaling establishments could draw more business. When fully occupied, more than a third of the city’s millinery wholesalers were housed in the Millinery Center.
At the time of construction, the building’s address was 65 East South Water Street-a block-long shortcut between Michigan and Wabash Avenues just south of Wacker Drive later renamed East Wacker Place in the late 1980s. The building, which stands 24 stories and is designed in steel and clad in dark red masonry, is now best known as the home of Morton’s Steakhouse.