Three New Landmarks in Downtown Chicago

Two well-known Chicago buildings, and one not-so-well-known building have been named City of Chicago landmarks.

  1. The venerable Wrigley building (400 North Michigan Avenue), a favorite of architects, academics, locals, and tourists gets the nod.
  2. The Wacker Tower (68 East Wacker Place), formerly known as the Chicago Motor Club Building.
  3. 227 East Walton Place.

Wrigley BuildingWhen it was proposed for landmark status earlier this year, a lot of people were surprised that the Wrigley Building wasn’t already a landmark.  It certainly was in peoples’ minds.  But the city has decided to make it official with the Commission on Chicago Landmarks stating:

The Wrigley Building is significant as one of the largest and most highly ornamented terra cotta skyscrapers in the city. The Northwestern Terra Cotta Company produced over 250,000 pieces of terra cotta for the building, and the plethora of terra cotta detailing on the building reflects the quality of design and the craftsmanship of the com- pany’s products. The building also exemplifies the importance of architectural terra cotta to early twentieth-century commercial design.

Wacker TowerThe Wacker Tower is less known to tourists, but often beloved by locals.  Sadly, it has been years since anyone occupied the building, and its state is deteriorating.  We were in there recently, and though much of its beauty remains, the place is, quite literally, falling to pieces.  The exterior, however, continues to thrill, as was noted by the landmarks commission:

The Chicago Motor Club Building’s exceptionally fine exterior ornament includes a highly-decorative and dramatic cast-iron surround that frames the building’s main entrance with a plethora of Art Deco-style ornament, including stylized flowers and plants, flowing fountains of water, zigzags and swirls; other exterior ornament includes a finely-carved Chicago Motor Club insignia, and low-relief swirls, sunbursts, geometric patterns and stylized birds found at the building’s corners, in spandrels, and along the rooftop parapet.

There has been persistent talk for the last few years about converting the Wacker Tower into a hotel, and it was recently sold at auction.  Hopefully the new owners will be able to give the new landmark a new life.

227 East Walton Street

227 East Walton Street. Image courtesy of Lisa Napoles

The final building in this landmarked trio is something of a mystery.  227 East Walton Place is the sort of building that architects and people who are trained in this sort of thing adore, but the general public is less than enchanted with.  It was build in 1956, and looks every bit of its era.  Here’s how the city summed it up:

The 227 East Walton Place Apartment Building is a significant post-World War II structure by a noteworthy Chicago architect. It is a thirteen-story, 24-unit apartment building designed by Harry Weese, one of Chicago’s most eclectic and innovative architects of the modern American architectural movement. Through its incorporation of features inspired by historic Chicago School buildings, including, most distinctively, projecting three-sided bay windows, 227 East Walton Place combines modernist design with references to past architecture, highly unusual and inventive in the context of 1950s-era Chicago high-rise architecture.

Its worthiness of landmark status may not be clear to the layman, but then that’s what we pay the landmarks commission for.  There are plenty of buildings in the world that were considered hideous after they were built, only to become beloved later in history (The Eiffel Tower is a great example).

 Update: May 23, 2012 @ 5:05pm CT – Thanks for Lisa Napoles for sending in a photograph of 227 East Walton for us to use to illustrate the story.  We appreciate her generosity.

Author: Editor

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

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