Friday, October 25, 2019

October 25, 1931 -- Home Insurance Building Gets a Final Inspection

October 25, 1931 – The Chicago Daily Tribune reports that a “host of architects” [Chicago Daily Tribune, October 24, 1931] is studying the Home Insurance Building on the northeast corner of Adams and La Salle Streets as the building is “fast disappearing from the the sight of man."  The purpose of such careful examination is to determine “once and for all its claim to fame as the first structure of skyscraper construction ever to be erected in the world” with the understanding that the definition of a skyscraper is “a building of skeleton framework, with the outer walls hung onto and carried by the framework instead of supporting themselves as under construction methods carried on down through the ages.”  Part of the reason the careful examination is being made is to determine whether the Home Insurance Building is the first of its kind.  It had previously been thought that the Tacoma building at Madison and La Salle, designed by the architectural firm of Holabird and Roche, was the first true skyscraper.  Investigators have discovered that the upper three floors of William Le Baron Jenney’s Home Insurance Building, added some time after the building went up, are of steel construction.  Below the sixth floor heavy wrought iron beams have been found.  A representative of the American Institute of Steel Construction has verified that he had found “no deterioration in the metal work.”  The owner of the salvage yard to which several thousand tons of metal from the building have been brought, A. J. Clonick states that “So far as the metal work is concerned the Home Insurance building could have remained standing until doomsday.”  An entire window bay taken from between the third and fourth floors of the building has been turned over to the Museum of Science and Industry where the 16 x 16-foot section will be part of an exhibit showing the origins and development of the skyscraper.  Today the Art Deco-inspired Field Building at 135 South La Salle stands where the first metal-framed skyscraper in history once stood.

October 25, 1925 –A neat photo appears in the Chicago Daily Tribune on this day that shows “a significant and impressive step in the creation of Wacker Drive out of old South Water street …” [Chicago Daily Tribune, October 25, 1925] In the background of the photo is the ten-story warehouse and office building occupied by Hibbard, Spencer, Bartlett and Co., a building that is in the process of being razed to make way for the construction of Wacker Drive.  In the foreground, across South Water Street is the skeleton of the first few floors of the Jewelers’ Building, today’s 35 East Wacker Drive.  The top photo shows the photo that accompanied the Tribune article.  Below that is the area as it looks today from approximately the same angle. The last photo shows the ten-story warehouse that was removed to make room for the building of Wacker Drive from Wabash to State Street.

October 25, 1957 – The Chicago Sun-Times begins moving from 211 West Wacker Drive into its new headquarters \on the north branch of the Chicago River between Wabash Avenue and Rush Street.  Completion of the move is expected by the end of November. As part of the groundbreaking ceremonies in November of 1955, 600 dignitaries, including Mayor Richard J. Daley, Governor William Stratton, and Senator Everett Dirksen, came together in the Palmer House to celebrate what was considered to be the keystone of the Fort Dearborn Project, a plan to redevelop the city north of the river and west of Michigan Avenue.  The building was the first building in the city to use “curtain wall” technology, in which the building’s steel frame provides structural integrity, and the window glass and mullions act as a curtain covering that frame. The structure was designed by the architectural firm of Naess and Murphy, the same firm that designed the Prudential building, finished two years before the Sun Times building opened.  Critical opinions of the building differed.  Said Professor Robert Bruegmann of the University of Illinois at Chicago, “If it got as far as 2007, there would be a very considerable interest in putting it on the National Register of Historic Places.  A lot of these buildings are killed off at just the moment before they come back into their own.” [Chicago Magazine, January 5, 2004] The building was leveled to make way for Trump Tower which opened in 2008.

October 25, 1974 – Riding a 40-horse wagon, following a parade of elephants, clowns and circus wagons, sculptor Alexander Calder rides into the Loop to dedicate two sculptures.  As Calder’s wagon stops at the Dirksen Federal Building Plaza at Dearborn and Adams, architect Carter Manny, Jr. blows a whistle and announces, “Ladies and gentlemen and children of all ages, I present to the people the one and only Alexander the Great – Sandy Calder.”  [Chicago Tribune, October 26, 1974]  The sculptor and Mayor Richard J. Daley share a gigantic pair of scissors to cut the rope surrounding the 53-foot-high Flamingo.  In his remarks His Honor calls the Loop, “one of the world’s largest outdoor museums for contemporary sculpture” before naming Calder an honorary Chicago citizen.  Arthur Sampson, head of the General Services Administration that commissioned the $350,000 sculpture, reads a letter from President Gerald Ford that calls the Federal Center sculpture “a conspicuous milestone in the federal government’s effort to create a better environment.”  The entourage continues on to Sears Tower where Calder sets in motion his 32-foot-high kinetic wall mural and delivers his only speech of the day, saying, “Mr. Arthur Wood [the board chairman of Sears, Roebuck and Company] wanted me to give it a name.  So I thought of a name.  I call it, ‘Mr. Wood’s Universe.’”


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