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Chapter Four: “A City Under One Roof” Skyscrapers, 1880-1885

The chapter opens with the author talking about Chicago's thirteen story high Chamber of Commerce building. People were awestruck by the tall building, and soon skyscrapers were being built all over cities. In these skyscrapers “a host of economic, technological, and aesthetic factors converged” (105). These skyscrapers were changing the architecture of Chicago too. With new technology came new ideas of how to build these tall buildings.

The Chamber of commerce in downtown Chicago took skyscrapers to new heights in the 1890s. The 19th century was considered the age of industry, commerce and technology, and architecture started to reflect that in the creation of skyscrapers. Chicago's city builders did not create space for a “sentimental” realm (ex: churches, residential places) - they created “hives of businesses” in order to make a profit. Skyscrapers were expressive of the city's “prosperity, competitiveness and the pursuit of private goals.” It could be said that they represent the triumph of the united states over Europe or the frontier over the civilized east.

Sigfried Giedion and Carl W. Condit were the Chicago skyscraper pioneers of the 1940s and 1950s, who liked the modern 20th-century architecture over sentimental and eclectic designs, such as the Gothic façade churches. They believed that artists should express their current time period with unique styles, and it’s an artist’s responsibility to form their own style to show the aesthetic discipline and expression of things such as technology and modern human life, as well as science and mechanized industry They believed that the 19th century failed in this. There was a split personality within the population which led to split civilization in art and architecture, and a schism between things like architecture and engineering and design and construction, which held architecture back. The advancement of architecture was due to architects basing their styles on new construction techniques, particularly the steel-frame structural system. Chicago’s 1880’s commercial architecture was in the middle between bare construction and extremely grand architecture. Early Chicago skyscrapers foreshadowed the 20th century’s style. These skyscrapers could be seen as expressions of Chicago’s commercial life in that time period, that whatever fears about commerce that had resulted in Gothic revival churches and city parks had been resolved by the 1880s, at least for the skyscraper builders. These skyscrapers might represent that those times of split were over. -Francesca Maisano

Skyscrapers began to dominate the Chicago skyline in the 1880s and 1890. The first skyscraper was the Home Insurance Building constructed in 1884. Although only 10 stories tall, the building drafted the city when it was built. Prior to this building were between four and six stories. The population explosion during the latter part of the nineteenth century and advancing technology led to the creation of vertical construction. This growth was making Chicago both a regional and national center for industrial trade. ~ Deborah Hunnel

Bluestone wrote about the changing Chicago skyline in the aftermath of the great fire. The addition of the skyscraper to handle a growing urban population and a new working middle class. As business moved away from the factories near the water to this new commercial district the white collar worker was created. Single buildings could hold 3,000 to 4,000 people. With this rise came a need for larger more grandiose entrances and common spaces. People associated these new buildings as an advertisement of the wealth, taste and spirit that Chicago would boast. –Justin Binns

With structures growing to astronomical heights, it created more space for higher work populations and the real estates costs increased with that shift. With the growth of structures came new occupations in downtown Chicago. Due to the anomaly of skyscrapers, tourist guidebooks (which used to showcase Chicago's factories) encouraged visitors to go to skyscrapers as a tourist hot spot. As a cleaner and more approachable embodiment of Chicago's commerce, skyscrapers acted almost as a physical barrier between the dirtier steel mills and the decorated skyscrapers of downtown. -K.Eastridge

These skyscrapers were not only beautiful on the outside, but the inside too. The Chamber of Commerce building had marble and mosaic work. Each of the thirteen floors had a different mosaic design, and the floors were covered in it. Each floor had a cantilevered balcony that stood out to all the visitors. The roof had a skylight that allowed the sun to shine down into the building.

Architects saw that ornamentation was crucial to the experience of the clients for the skyscrapers. The pre-elevator office blocks were usually unadorned, though some built in the 1860’s and 1870’s had porticos, window bays, finals, cornice crowns, and grand entrances. In skyscrapers, everything about them-their plan, form, and image-all lend to a monumental entrance aesthetic. In addition, the elevator banks instead of side entrances for stairs meant preference for a single entrance, and with so many tenants living in one building, a large one at that. The large entries made sense for those symbols of commerce. To emphasize the entrance, architects designed façade bays over them. In addition, architects distinguished the entrance over the rest of the façade by giving it a different composition, such as a triumphal arch. -Francesca Maisano

Skyscraper construction in Chicago also changed the perspective of the public about work-life. They were used not only as business places, such as offices for lawyers, realtors, and other white-collar kinds of jobs. “Chicago business faced the world less at the factory and more in the officeplace, presenting themselves in sales and advertising through a middle-class, white collar that was more presentable than the working class” (128). This new architecture led to a superior feeling for those that work in the office spaces over those that did blue-collar work at the factory level.

Skyscrapers and the growth of white collar office work went hand-in-hand in Chicago. They became a sign of culture and refinement, qualities which were linked with white collar work. The aesthetics of skyscrapers gave businesses a way to advertise their status and success. The improved work environment of such office buildings also gave white collar workers a sense of status beyond that of blue collar workers.

Skyscrapers became a sign of culture and refinement, not just to those in Chicago and the cities, but to those from far away. Tourists came to these high locales for concerts, vaudeville performances, and lovely cafes. These upper class luxuries so high above the ground symbolized the new duality of Chicago:industry and parks, rich and poor, city and suburbs. (Daniel Noel)

Natural light became an extremely valuable resource. Dark spaces rented for less money and were seen as less refined. Architects sought ways to maximize light in skyscrapers; steel framing was essential to this, as the strength of steel allowed for increased window size with fewer supports. The demand for light was largely driven by the needs of the office workers who filled these buildings. Architecture styles was a major characteristic for the construction of skyscrapers in Chicago. The buildings constructed were considered beautiful and was also known as being better than buildings in Europe (119). Living in skyscrapers were also luxurious with having grand entrances and elevators. Some people also viewed the skyscrapers as being a “fairyland.” - Jasmine Williams

Manufacturing companies were also a major part in constructing Chicago. The Winslow Brothers were famous for fixing well known building including The Woman’s Temple buildings, Columbus Memorial, Stock Exchange and may other buildings (123). The Winslow Brothers were also known for the designs of elevator enclosures which had designs of floral, geometric patterns, bronze and wrought iron (123). – Jasmine Williams

Skylights were also mentioned in Bluestones Construction of Chicago. Chicago Kingsley and company were known for making skylights. Even though the skylight was something nice to have there were concerns of the skylight leaking (135). With the concerns of drainage then came the new method by Hayes's which contained the use of setting glass and draining of skylights (135). – Jasmine Williams

John W. Root was an acclaimed engineer, who designed these new skyscrapers and new buildings throughout Chicago. He focused on “simplicity, stability, breadth, dignity” in all of his designs. His new layouts helped to pioneer the new culture of the upper class and business with the building they would live and work in. (Daniel Noel)

The Skyscraper did not help bridge the gap between the poor and the white collar workers. While blue collar workers were payed to build these constructs, they only benefited the white collar and rich who lived within them. The permanent denizens were the businesses and upper class that could afford the “light and healthy” designs of the interior. (Daniel Noel)

The Chicago skyscrapers revealed several points that were being shaped by the centrality of light in the aesthetic of Chicago. Considering the utility with the widespread demand for natural light that will help the needs of white-collar workers that were able to write, type, file, and otherwise processing ever-increasing amounts of paper. This is just as important as the implications of natural light and fresh air for the cultural definition of the office environment. This social construction of work that would matter of the class that is applied to what white-collar work because the work was being defined as respectable, appropriate to the refined and cultivated classes of the city. {Hunter Dykhuis}

Chicago's skyscraper boom of 1880 to 1895 brought a population growth of fifty thousand people per year, growing business firms seeking more office space for their growing workforces in a city with restricted amounts of real estate. Skyscrapers served “an increasingly complex economy” (109). The Chicago Tribune noted the city was restricted to three directions, north, south, and west. But with the skyscraper the city could move upward. The 1871 fire paved the way for the city's “distinctive and concentrated” commercial district. The fire destroyed the impoverished and rough neighborhoods city planners had wanted to change but couldn't because of real estate owners that claimed they received high rent from these tenants. -Francisco Palomo

The skyscrapers of Chicago embodied numerous dimensions of the culture of the time. One of these was the drive to separate white collar work from manual labor. Physically separating clerical workers and clerks from factory laborers, and giving them preferential treatment, created a cleavage between the two elements of labor which made cooperation between the two factions against management less likely. The skyscraper facilitated the separation of classes not just by distancing clerks from the factory, but also by distancing them from other less prestigious forms of work. With the advent of elevators, a single skyscraper could have a uniform rent, thus the admixture of more well-to-do business on the lower floors of a building and less wealthy tenants on the higher floors which characterized the Dry-goods Box style faded away. The increased homogenization of skyscrapers allowed for the introduction of exclusionary measures to ward away undesirables. The subtlest way this task was accomplished was by the luxurious embellishment of the exterior and interior of the buildings. This embellishment served to make the poor stick out and foster a feeling of discomfort in those who did not belong. -Jason Elms

bluestone_constructing_chicago.txt · Last modified: 2019/02/22 19:58 by