Exploring Chicago Neighborhoods,  museums,  random adventures

the monadnock – cac tour

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The majestic Monadnock (Jackson & Dearborn) is one of my favorite buildings in the Chicago Loop. The Loop refers to the central business district. The elevated train (the “L”) follows around the loop and is over a hundred years old. This first line ran to Jackson Park and was a people mover bringing them to the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition aka The White City. A very important event that I’ll write about another time. Read Devil in the White City by Erik Larson to learn more about it.

Last year I renewed my membership to the Chicago Architecture Center (formerly the Chicago Architecture Foundation) and decided to check out some tours available in the loop.

The member tour schedule offered one of the Monadnock at lunchtime. A perfect 45-minute mid-day break.

I arrived to see that the docent leading the tour was someone from my docent training class. Small world! The group was a mix of locals & visitors.

I remembered from my docent training that the north end was the tallest loading bearing (16- stories) building ever constructed, completed in 1891 by Burnham & Root. The south end, completed in 1893 by Holabird & Roche, used steel frame construction. How can you tell it’s load bearing masonry? Take a look at the windows at the street level. The walls have to be pretty darn thick (6-8 feet) to support 16 floors and it has a floating raft foundation.

The exterior of both buildings are very similar in color however, they have very different architectural details. I much prefer the subtle details on the exterior of the north end like the chamfered corner and the elegantly rounded bays.

The interior is stunning. Sleek, streamlined, Edison lights with marble & aluminum everywhere. The detail on the stairwell is beautiful and I love the fact that the first floor houses unique, independent small businesses, one of them being the best coffee in the city. Intelligensia! There is a hat maker, a shoe doctor, a florist, a restaurant & pub, a sandwich shop, a barber and a fabulous women’s boutique.

Dearborn was once known as Skyscraper Row. Today it is known as the Printing House Row District. It consists of the Monadnock, the Manhattan, the Old Colony & the Fisher building. Each of these buildings is significant for its architecture and/or advances in skyscraper construction methods in the 1880s and 1890s, built by some of the greatest architects in history, William Le Baron Jenny, Daniel H. Burnham, Holabird & Roche, and Burnham & Root. Read more about Skyscraper Row.

The Chicago Architecture Center is a nonprofit cultural organization with tours, exhibitions, programs, and events for all ages. Their mission is to inspire people to discover why design matters. It was located in the Railway Exchange Building (Jackson & Michigan) where my docent training classes were held. If you find yourself in the south loop it’s worth a peek inside to see the spectacular light court.

It recently reopened as the Chicago Architecture Center and moved to the Michigan & Wacker. I highly recommend going inside to check out their new exhibits, the 4,250-building scale model of the city and the amazing gift shop. Museums really do have the best gift shops, don’t they? It is worth the $12 admission fee. Or become a member and you get in for free along with a plethora of free walking tours that they offer. Great place to bring visiting family & friends.

I recommend exploring the city by taking a tour with the CAC & checking out their new digs. And don’t forget the architectural river cruise. It made my top ten things to do when visiting Chicago! Also, be sure to check out OPEN HOUSE CHICAGO this year on October 19-20, 2019. It’s a free public festival that offers behind-the-scenes access to more than 250 buildings across Chicago. Read my post about OHC here.

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