American Book Company Building Begins A New Chapter

ABC builing

The American Book Company building, 330 East Cermak Road.

Seems like only yesterday we had to tell folks about the demise of another century-plus-old Chicago building. And we wouldn’t blame you if you’re getting tired of hearing about the demolition of the city’s built environment.

So how about today, we turn our attention to one Chicago relic, which once seemed headed toward certain doom, now being rehabbed and reborn in Chicago’s Prairie Avenue District.

At 330 East Cermak Road, the American Book Company building is being transformed as part of the new Marriott Marquis Chicago coming to the intersection of Prairie and Cermak. Situated next door to the under-construction 1206-room Marriott tower, the ABC building will become a combination of meeting rooms, office space, and retail stores.

American Book Company

A Google Maps view of the expansion to the north, and the skybridge across Calumet Avenue that joined 330 E Cermak to R.R. Donnelly at 350 E Cermak

Built in 1912 for the American Book Company, at the time a dominant force in the textbook-publishing industry, the building was designed by architect Nelson Max Dunning. Sold in 1936 to its next-door neighbor R.R. Donnelly, the building was expanded to the north with a series of nine additions in the 1940s and ’50s, and a skybridge was added to connect the two facilities. (Alas, the additions, including the skybridge, weren’t deemed historically significant, and were demolished in the fall of 2014.)

In 1998, the American Book Company building was added to the National Register of Historic Places, but that didn’t stop the threat of destruction. As recently as 2008, proposals for the site included the demolition of 330 East Cermak; none of them came to fruition. Finally, in 2009 the Chicago Landmark Commission sealed the building’s fate for good, designating it with Landmark status. That designation pointed to 2 specific items as “significant historical and architectural features” to be preserved:

  • All exterior elevations, including rooflines and all elevations of the tower, of the original 1912 building;
  • the main entrance foyer and lobby, including but not limited to the vaulted lobby ceiling, marble staircase, and balustrade.

The Marriott Marquis project is expected to be complete in 2017. Hotels and towers are cool and all, but we’re most anxious to see how the old American Book Company looks as its story is written anew.


Location: 330 East Cermak Road, Prairie Avenue District

Author: Daniel Schell

Daniel Schell is a West Loop social media addict who lives for Cubs baseball, good pizza, and big cities. If you bump into him on the street, it's likely because he's taking photos instead of watching where he's going, and he apologizes.

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