Thursday, July 22, 2010

Trip 50: Two Landmarks on Chicago Avenue

Date: July 21, 2010
Trip: 50
Landmarks Visited: 2
Landmarks To-Date: 141
Landmarks Remaining: 212

On Wednesday morning I had a meeting with a web developer in River North. (I'm planning to update the website for my insurance business.) I took the Brown Line to the Chicago and Franklin stop. I arrived about 15 minutes early which gave me just enough time to walk a little east on Chicago Avenue to see the Bush Temple of Music. Then after my meeting I took a few minutes to walk a little west on Chicago Avenue to see the Montgomery Ward & Co. Catalog House. It was a very sunny morning, so the toughest part was finding angles where I could take a photo that wasn't a total white-out.

1. Bush Temple of Music

My biggest surprise with this building was the fact that I had never really noticed it before. It's on a busy intersection that I've definitely driven through before, and it's a large building. But the main level facade has been converted to contemporary retail, so unless you had a chance to look up you wouldn't see any special about the building.

An unusual feature of the building is a steeply pitched, shingled roof on the top floor. I think it's mostly decorative to hide the buildings mechanicals and a large wooden water tower behind the building. But it definitely gives the building an imposing presence. It also makes the building seem somewhat French in style to me.

2. Montgomery Ward & Co. Catalog House

The catalog house is the building on the right in the first picture. On the left is the company's former administrative building. It has the statue "Spirit of Progress" on its tower. The catalog house is most famous for its size--I think it's 2 million square feet. I don't know if this is an urban legend, but I've heard that roller skates where invented for use in this building so that clerks could move around faster picking out catalog orders. I've also heard that it was the single largest building in the world in terms of square feet in its day.
Although Montgomery Ward is long gone, I think this building is still an economic engine for Chicago. It's been converted to offices and condos, and a number of successful companies are located there. Groupon, Dyson and The Big Ten Network are three that I can name.

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