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

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  1. The Motor Club building has intrigued me for years. I saw some filming for The Chicago Code going on in it. When Richard Branson/Virgin Hotels was looking for a place to open in the city, I thought that’d be perfect. It has almost guaranteed river views to the west, a gorgeous lobby and facade, and even some extra land which could be used for a parking garage. Then instead of the Motor Club, the Old Dearborn Bank Building was purchased instead. I don’t get that one. Not as striking of a building, no river views, and adjacent to the VERY squeeky ‘L’ tracks turning from Lake to Wabash. I’ve never been in this building, but I wish I could be. The talk of the lobby mural sounds SO striking.

    I last walked by there last September and the empty lot to the west was being used to house vehicles for Superman filming. While there I was some men looking at and discussing the facade but specifically the parts that have been stabilized or protected with that ugly yellow wrapping. I have no idea who they were, but since they were in suits and not construction/contractor gear, I’m hoping they’re investors.

    When will this building get the love and care it deserves?

    Post a Reply
    • Editor

      Hopefully soon since you saw some suits looking at it. The last I heard, that lot to the east will be developed as an addition to the building. I wonder if that’s the reason that Virgin Hotels passed on it. The existing building has a very small floorplate, and hotels need lots of services. Virgin may not have wanted the delay involved in building an addition when another (admittedly lesser) opportunity was just a block away.

      I stayed for a couple of weeks on one of the upper floors of the Hard Rock Hotel in the old Carbide and Carbon Building and clearly a lot of compromises had to be made in order to wedge hotel rooms into that space.

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  2. Also, are you sure the building pictured for 227 East Walton Place is correct? I just looked at it on Google Streetview, and that picture and StreetView+the description don’t match up.

    Post a Reply
    • Editor

      I’ve removed the photo from the article until I can get up there to make sure in person. Hopefully tomorrow.

      Post a Reply
  3. Editor

    Thanks to Lisa Napoles for sending in a photo of 227 East Walton. You can now see the correct building abovee

    Post a Reply

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