The Monadnock

The Monadnock

Anyone who knows me knows that I get my artistic inspiration from cities; Chicago has a massive influence on me. A while back posted a photo of a storefront in Chicago on Facebook of a high-end custom hat store, Optimo.

Optimo, Chicago, Illinois

A person I went to high school with spotted the post. Jonathan is a true Chicagoan and a fellow White Sox fan! He knows the city well, so when he saw the photo of  Optimo, he knew both the business and the building it's in The Monadnock. Jonathan shared the history of The Monadnock, and I'm sharing it with you and a little with help from Wikipedia (yes, fellow teachers, I see you cringing at my use of Wikipedia!).

Entrance to The Monadnock building. Chicago, Illinois. 

If you don't know it already, Chicago is the land of architecture! The Monadnock is one of the first skyscrapers in the world! It still holds the title of the tallest load-bearing brick building constructed, employing America's first portal system of wind bracing.

I'm unsure why it was done this way, but the building was built in two stages. The north side of the building was designed and built by the architectural group Burnham & Root in 1891. The south half of The Monadnock was designed and constructed by Holabird & Roche in 1893. The designs are not identical, with the second stage "similar in color and profile to the original, but the design is more traditionally ornate." I must admit that I didn't walk around the building, so I haven't experienced its two sides.

A 1910 postcard showing the south view of The Monadnock.

Altogether, it is 16 stories tall. Not tall by today's standards yet, "When complete, The Monadnock was the largest office building in the world, with 1,200 rooms and an occupancy of over 6,000. It was a postal district unto itself, with four full-time carriers delivering mail six times a day, six days a week. It was the first building in Chicago wired for electricity and one of the first to be fire-proofed, with hollow fire clay tiles lining the structure so that the metal frame would be protected even if the facing brick were to be destroyed."

Photo of the main steps, 1893

Another opportunity I missed was the building interior. The main steps on the ground floor were "crafted in cast aluminum—an exotic and expensive material at the time—representing the first use of aluminum in building construction." Other interior features include a "3-foot-high wainscot of white Carrara marble, red oak trim, and feather-chipped glass that allowed outside light to filter from the offices on each side into the hallways. Floors were covered with hand-carved marble mosaic tiles. Skylit open staircases were made of bronze-plated cast iron on upper floors."

The next time I visit Chicago, I intend to make a trip to The Monadnock, making sure to pace the entire exterior and see the casted aluminum staircase and Carrara marble!

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