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  #1  
Old Posted Feb 5, 2010, 2:47 AM
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Brick and Mortar: Tallest Buildings in Chicago, 1950

I am a fan of pre-war buildings, their ornamentation, and their seeming sense of solidity next to the glass boxes of more recent decades. I also find old inner cities before suburbanization fascinating, and the year 1950 combines both of these topics.

This thread examines Chicago's skyscrapers in 1950. That year, Chicago was comfortably the second largest city in the country, and with twice the population of Detroit, easily the "'Queen City of the Lakes." A line of towers filed along the street with the first skyscraper, LaSalle Street, and a shorter but equally preserved wall of pre-war buildings sat along South Michigan Avenue, fronting broad Grant Park. In the year 1950, the Chicago Metro area was one of the world's industrial powerhouses, with the raw materials and crops of the Midwest being refined in the metropolis and sent down the Great Lakes. (The St. Lawrence Seaway, however, would not open for another nine years.) In 1950, the largest city of the North American Interior was still Carl Sandberg's "Hog Butcher, Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat, Player with Railroads and Freight Handler to the Nation."

The population of Chicago numbered 3,620,962; that mark is the highest in the city's history as the suburbs were about to explode across the surrounding counties. Cook County was at 4,508,792 inhabitants while Lake County, Indiana had 368,152. In Illinois, Lake was the most populous suburban county at 179,097.

The mayor that year was Martin Kennelly, while the Cook County Clerk was a 48-year-old politician named Richard J. Daley. County Clerk Daley's son, Richard M., turned just eight in August.

This series continues for many other cities, including a link to New York, at my main page for this series.

The following pictures are from the spectacular Charles W. Cushman collection at the University of Indiana.









Now on to the buildings:

1) Chicago Board of Trade Building, 141 W. Jackson Blvd., 605 feet to Ceres' crown, 1930
The Lord of LaSalle

(Metroscenes, sorry about the watermark but a very nice angle)


(IAmHydrogen on Imageshack)

2) Chicago Temple Building, 77 W. Washington St., 568 ft, 1924 (Holds the record for highest church above ground level)

(Flickr)

3) Palmolive Building, 919 N. Michigan Ave., 565 ft to the spire, 1929

(CTBUH)

4) Pittsfield Building, 55 E. Washington St., 557 ft, 1927

(Steely Dan)

5) Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Dr., 555 ft, 1929

(Wikimedia)

6) LaSalle-Wacker Building, 221 N. LaSalle St., 542 ft to spire, 1930

(Chicagoarchitecture.info)

7) LaSalle National Bank, 135 S. LaSalle St., 535 ft, 1934
The Home Insurance Building, considered the first skyscraper, stood on this site.

(Chicagoarchitecture.info)

8) One North LaSalle, 530 ft, 1930

(Flickr)

9) Morrison Hotel, 15 S. Clark St., 526 ft, 1926
Demolished in 1965; on its site is Chase Tower

(Imageshack)

10) Jewelers Building, 35 E. Wacker Dr., 523 ft, 1927

(Blogspot)

11) Mather Tower, 75 E. Wacker Dr., 521 ft, 1928

(american-architecture.info)

12) Carbide & Carbon Building, 230 N. Michigan Ave., 503 ft, 1929
This is my personal favorite of the pre-war buildings.

(Chicagoarchitecture.info)

13) Foreman State National Bank Building, 33 N. LaSalle St., 479 ft, 1930

(33northlasalle.com)

14) Bankers Building, 105 W. Adams St., 476 ft, 1927

(aviewoncities.com)

15) Straus Building, 310 S. Michigan Ave., 475 ft, 1924
Now Metropolitan Tower

(wapedia.mobi)

16) American Furniture Mart, 680 N. Lake Shore Dr., 472 ft, 1926


17) Hotel Intercontinental, 505 N. Michigan Ave., 471 ft, 1929

(wayfaring.info)

18) Randolph Tower, 188 N. Randolph St., 465 ft, 1929

(Scaruffi.com)

19) Tribune Tower, 435 N. Michigan Ave., 463 ft, 1925

(BBS Keyhole)

20) Roanoke Building, 11 S. LaSalle St., 452 ft, 1925

(Hogan3774, Flickr)

21) Willoughby Building, 8 S. Michigan Ave., 440 ft, 1929

(chicagoarchitecture.info)

22) Wrigley Building, 400 N. Michigan Ave., 438 ft to spire, 1922

(Flickr)

23) 333 North Michigan, 396 ft, 1928

(Flickr)

24) Allerton Hotel, 701 N. Michigan Ave., 361 ft, 1924

(chicagoarchitecture.info)

25) Drake Tower, 179 E. Lake Shore Dr., 347 ft, 1928

(chicagoarchitecture.info)

26) Builders Building, 222 N. LaSalle St., 342 ft, 1927

(chicagoarchitecture.info)

27) Chicago Hilton, 320 S. Michigan Ave., 341 ft, 1927

(aviewoncities.com)

28) Merchandise Mart, 222 W. North Water St., 340 ft, 1931
By floor area, this was the second largest building in the World, behind only the Pentagon.

(visitshoremagazine.com)

29) Corn Products Building, 182 W. Lake St., 336 ft, 1930
Now known as Skyline Century of Progress

(chicagoarchitecture.info)

30) Morton Building, 208 W. Washington St., 332 ft, 1927
Now known as Concord City Centre

(Flickr)

31) Lawyers Building, 100 N. LaSalle St., 330 ft, 1929

(chicagoarchitecture.info)

32) Lake-Michigan Building, 180 N. Michigan Ave., 328 ft, 1927

(auburncorp.com)

33) London Guarantee Building, 360 N. Michigan Ave., 324 ft, 1923

(nyc-architecture.com)

34) Boston Company Store, 1 N. Dearborn St., 322 ft, 1905

(chicagobusiness.com)

35) Insurance Exchange Building, 175 W. Jackson Blvd., 308 ft, 1928

(chicagoarchitecture.info)

To be expanded...
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Last edited by ChiSoxRox; Nov 24, 2011 at 6:06 PM. Reason: mather tower
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  #2  
Old Posted Mar 16, 2011, 5:27 PM
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with all the work you put into this one, i thought it deserved an old bumpity-bump.
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  #3  
Old Posted Mar 16, 2011, 6:20 PM
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Ahhh, I've never seen this thread! Good stuff man. I prefer the old building stock over the more recent stuff (with the exception of the Trump Tower which is my favorite building in the world.)
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  #4  
Old Posted Mar 16, 2011, 7:41 PM
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Ahhh, I've never seen this thread! Good stuff man. I prefer the old building stock over the more recent stuff (with the exception of the Trump Tower which is my favorite building in the world.)
Thanks! This pre-war series is my pride and joy.
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  #5  
Old Posted Mar 16, 2011, 8:40 PM
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Do one for Tulsa, that should be interesting.
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  #6  
Old Posted Mar 16, 2011, 8:41 PM
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Nice photo's you found.

One of my favorite buildings on this thread is the LaSalle National Bank.
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  #7  
Old Posted Nov 24, 2011, 7:27 AM
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Originally Posted by HHC View Post
Do one for Tulsa, that should be interesting.
It would? It'd be short.
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  #8  
Old Posted Nov 24, 2011, 8:06 AM
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Classic buildings there. The jewelers building is pimpin' it. Good work.
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  #9  
Old Posted Nov 24, 2011, 10:33 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dralcoffin View Post
County Clerk Daley's son, Richard M., turned just seven in August.
Actually Richard M. Daley turned eight years old on April 24, 1950. Aside from that spot on. In some ways I feel Chicago had an underwhelming skyline as far as height for the then second largest city in the United States in 1950. Then again this was a time when no other city besides New York City had supertalls and there were still tons of great pre-war skyscrapers in Chicago and the urban density was certainly there. It is so strange though that the skyline looked so much smaller then as opposed to today but there are 900,000 less people in the city now than in 1950. Downtown may be bigger today but in 1950 the neighborhoods were absolutely teeming with activity from factories and the old stockyards as well as shopping districts and retail districts that are in disrepair today such as 63rd and Halsted and North Lawndale. Today you hear about people never going downtown because of suburbs but back then the neighborhoods had so much employment and shopping that many didn't need to go downtown nor to the suburbs for anything, many lived in small worlds completely contained in their neighborhoods; you could live, work, shop, go to a movie theater, walk to school, visit relatives, etc. within a mile of where you live with no car, you could walk or take a short street car/bus/el ride to everything. I am kind of a romanticist about old Chicago neighborhood life but when I hear old timers talk it sounded like an urban paradise to me.
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Old Posted Nov 24, 2011, 4:37 PM
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The Carbide and Carbon and Tribune Tower are two of my favorite buildings. Nice job on this thread.
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Old Posted Nov 24, 2011, 5:15 PM
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What a grand thread of glorious buildings.
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  #12  
Old Posted Nov 24, 2011, 5:40 PM
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I'm working on replacing the missing pics, and I'm glad to see this thread bumped again. Thanks for the catch on Richard M.'s age, it's been updated. Rahm Emanuel's parents hadn't even met yet in 1950, and he would not be born for another nine years.
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Old Posted Nov 24, 2011, 6:41 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chicago103 View Post
In some ways I feel Chicago had an underwhelming skyline as far as height for the then second largest city in the United States in 1950.
I've always wondered about this too. Was there some sort of height restriction in Chicago until the 1960's? Lots of 40 floor buildings, but nothing higher. Even Cincinnati, Cleveland and Detroit had taller or rivaling buildings.
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Old Posted Nov 24, 2011, 7:19 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rico Rommheim View Post
I've always wondered about this too. Was there some sort of height restriction in Chicago until the 1960's? Lots of 40 floor buildings, but nothing higher. Even Cincinnati, Cleveland and Detroit had taller or rivaling buildings.
Yeah the fact that Cleveland's Terminal Tower was taller than anything in Chicago in 1950 is one thing that amazes me the most although if you include all skyscrapers Chicago was even back then had the second tallest skyline after New York City.

As far as the height restrictions in Chicago I have heard various stories that there indeed was, as in it had something to do with the zoning code or a gentleman's agreement to not build higher than the Board of Trade (the statue of Ceres is faceless because it was assumed no one would build higher in Chicago). However I have yet to see an actual city ordinance from those days that spells this out in black and white. Honestly if I lived in Chicago in 1950 as a skyscraper enthusiast it probably wouldn't bother me, I would have been proud to be in the birthplace of the skyscraper and have so many awesome skyscrapers around and have such a kick ass urban fabric, back then the very notion that Chicago would one day have a building taller than the Empire State Building and also the tallest in the world would probably have been viewed as a fanboyish wet dream even though it was only 23 years away, in the meantime 1956 would bring the mental masturbation of Frank Lloyd Wright's mile high tower fantasy, some times I wonder if this planted the seeds in people's minds on a subconscious level that Chicago would really compete with New York City in height.
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Old Posted Nov 28, 2011, 5:28 AM
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Orgasmic....Like NYC i wish old downtown shouldve been left alone and all future development happen elsewhere...most of the jewels are hidden behind the new towers.
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Old Posted Nov 28, 2011, 9:18 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rico Rommheim View Post
I've always wondered about this too. Was there some sort of height restriction in Chicago until the 1960's? Lots of 40 floor buildings, but nothing higher. Even Cincinnati, Cleveland and Detroit had taller or rivaling buildings.
Yes, there were caps on height. These varied over time. In general, the idea was to keep the new buildings from choking off available air & light (public safety & well-being).

As a gross simplification, Chicago's codes encouraged shorter buildings with large footprints, whereas NYC's codes encouraged slender, tall towers with setbacks.

Last edited by wrab; Nov 29, 2011 at 12:42 AM.
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Old Posted Dec 9, 2011, 10:26 PM
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Great thread. CBOT, one of my favorites.

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Old Posted Dec 14, 2011, 12:11 AM
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The thing I love about Chicago, is that all the building that make its skyline what it is, were built after the 70's give or take a few years. So when you see a picture from lets say the 50's (above and below) the skyline looks COMPLETELY different.



Chicago ^ (circa 1950's) and (circa today)

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Old Posted Apr 26, 2014, 4:43 PM
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The Classic Skyscrapers of Chicago Film

To everyone who has posted on this thread, I made this video documenting almost all of the buildings mentioned on here and cannot express how valuable this page has been during my making of this. Please enjoy it.

The Classic Skyscrapers of Chicago
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  #20  
Old Posted Apr 26, 2014, 11:35 PM
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Dislike.

Most of these pre-war buildings are bland except for #5, 33, and 35.
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