Pictures of All 149 Rocks Stuck on the Tribune Tower [updated]

Tribune Tower

Tribune Tower

Recently we received an e-mail from a teacher who was looking for information about all of the cool stones embedded in the facade of the Tribune Tower (435 North Michigan Avenue).  We pointed her to the Tribune Tower entry in the Chicago Architecture Info database, which has a complete list.  But she wrote back because it wasn’t quite what she was looking for.  She was looking for pictures of the individual rocks.  All of them.  And she’d searched the intarweb high and low with no success.  Could we help?

Sure.  Why not.

So, here they are — all 149 of them as of May, 2009 — the last time we took a walk around the building and visually cataloged. them.  Click on each of the thumbnails below to see a larger picture of the rock in question.

New rocks are added very rarely these days, so if any are missing, it shouldn’t be more than one or two.  If you think we missed one, hit the “Contact” link to let us know, and we’ll fix it.

Updated – October 18, 2013

Thanks to Michael McAllister, who provided us with the photograph of the star-shaped vessel containing rocks from the grotto where Jesus is believed to have been born, beneath the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.   This artifact is the most important of the dozens on Tribune Tower, which is why it is inside the building.  Because of its location, we missed it when we first published this article.

Logically, that means the title of this article should change to “Pictures of All 150 Rocks…”, except that the moon rock has been taken out of its display window facing Michigan Avenue, which brings the number back down to 149.  The moon rock display window is now being used for advertising.



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Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at

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  1. I know that the moon rock was removed in 2011 to be replaced at a later date. NASA was supposed to send back a new one encased in acrylic to then be embedded in the building, but I haven’t seen an update since I first read the story. Have you heard anything about it?

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    • Editor

      I’m pretty sure I saw the moon rock the last time I walked by. I’ll make an effort pay closer attention the next time and post a message here.

      Post a Reply
    • Editor

      Hi Nick,
      Sorry it took so long, but I finally remembered to look for the moon rock when I walked by the Tribune Tower, and you’re right — it’s gone. Replaced by ads. Sad.

      Post a Reply
  2. Does anybody know how Chicago got all these stones??

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  3. Editor

    In the past, Chicago was a very important and influential city globally, and the Tribune was its most important and influential newspaper. There were hundreds of Tribune reporters all around the world, and many of them brought the rocks back during their reporting. In addition, for many governments and world leaders it was considered an honor to contribute a rock to the Tribune Tower project.

    Things have changed a lot in a hundred years, and back then the concept of preserving landmarks wasn’t as widespread as it is today. These days you could never get a chip of a Pyramid of Giza or some Roman ruins. But back then, nobody really cared. There wasn’t much of a preservation movement as we know it today.

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  4. They aren’t all “rocks” most are stolen pieces from iconic buildings. How would most Americans feel if a developer building a tower in Dubai, United Arab Emirates sent a representative to chip off a bit of the Washington Monument, take a chunk of Mount Rushmore, and a brick out of the Empire State Building?

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    • Editor

      Why do you assume these rocks were stolen? They were all given freely to the Tribune. At the time, the Tribune was a powerful global media company and it was considered an honor to be part of the project. Applying your 2010’s ethos to the world of the 1930’s is simply hubris.

      The fact that you assume this was plunder speaks more about you than it does about the Tribune.

      Post a Reply

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