Chicago is famous for its sprawling architecture and rich history, but it also holds the prestigious title of the birthplace of the modern skyscraper. With so many towering buildings defining the downtown skyline, one has to wonder how they all came about. Today we’re delving into a brief history of Chicago’s skyscrapers.
Rising from the ashes
The great fire of October 1871, a definitive date in Chicago history, destroyed most of the city. Chicago started with a new grid system and a determination to make things bigger and better. Access to affordable steel ensured that the structures were more refractory and that buildings could grow in height. Until the mid-19th century, the maximum height of commercial and residential buildings was only five floors. By 1885, a new building would redefine these standards.
The home insurance building
Designed by architect William LeBaron Jenney, the Home insurance building was a revolutionary advance in architecture and construction. Located on the corner of Adams and LaSalle, the steel girders and construction differed significantly from previous masonry designs. Because of the low weight of steel, the building could be taller without collapsing. The final structure was 10 stories high; As small as it seems today, it was unknown in 1885.
Skyscraper in Chicago
Though skyscrapers took off in other cities around the world, Chicago retained its unique claim to the word. The home insurance building inspired and paved the way for a group of architects, designers and engineers who would later go by the name The Chicago School. Notable members were Daniel Burnham, John Root, Dankmar Adler, and Louis Sullivan. Her work would earn Chicago the title of “The Birthplace of Modern Architecture,” and many of her designs still exist today.
Today Chicago is home to both Landmark Building and incredible new accomplishments. Although Jenney’s home insurance building was demolished in 1931, its legacy survives, telling the story of a city full of innovation, passion and a determination to rise.
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