Pierce Richardson & Neiler



Richard Henry Pierce

Robert Eaton Richardson

Samuel Graham Neiler

The Schlesinger & Mayer Building of Sullivan was designed and constructed in two phases. Phase I, constructed in 1899, consisted of the three easternmost bays of the building ( see building picture, first three window bays from left ) on Madison Street. Phase II, constructed in 1903, consisted of the next three bays along Madison Street, the curved corner entrance, and seven additional bays on State Street. A five bay State Street addition matching the existing store was added in 1906 by Daniel H. Burnham.

The architect of the first phase was Louis Sullivan with the engineering provided by Dankmar Adler. Even though Adler and Sullivan worked together on this project they were each contracted separately by Schlesinger & Mayer as they had dissolved their partnership in 1895. After completion of the first phase the project came to a halt for financial reasons. In 1902 Schlesinger had sold his half of the business to Henry Siegel. Siegel provided the needed capital resources to continue on with the project, but with the death of Dankmar Adler in April of 1900, a new engineering firm was needed. The firm of Pierce, Richardson & Neiler was retained to finish the project.

It can only be surmised exactly how the partnership was formed. Richard Henry Pierce, born on November 20, 1860 in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, and Robert Eaton Richardson, born on July 29, 1861 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, both graduated from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Pierce graduated in 1885 and Richardson's graduation date is unknown. After coming to Chicago the two formed a partnership in 1893 and practiced under the name of Pierce & Richardson, Consulting Engineers.

Samuel Graham Neiler, born on November 14, 1866 in Erie, Pennsylvania, attended Massachusetts Institute of Technology until 1888. In 1892 he came to Chicago to work as an Assistant Electrical Engineer at the Columbian Exposition. It was there that he met Richard Pierce, also an Assistant Electrical Engineer at the Exposition from 1891 to 1892, who was then promoted to the position of Chief Electrical Engineer of the Exposition in 1893. It was in 1894 that Neiler joined the firm as a partner and they renamed the firm Pierce, Richardson & Neiler. They were very successful designing building systems throughout the Midwest including Henry Ives Cobb's now-demolished Federal Building in Chicago.