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Designed by Daniel Burnham's architectural firm, this building once served as the center of activity as Daniel Burnham and his team devised the "Plan of Chicago," which was published in 1909. The 17-story building, known for its porthole windows on the top floor, serves as a fine example of the Chicago School of Architectural style, which Burnham helped to create and popularize in the early 1900s. The building was originally known as The Santa Fe Building and was built as a railway exchange for the Santa Fe railway. This name adorned the building until 2012 until Motorola purchased the building and replaced the sign with one reading, "Motorola."


  • After 2012, the Motorola sign replaced the Santa Fe sign that held its place on the roof for more than a century. The Santa Fe sign now resided in Union, Illinois at the Illinois Railway Museum.

The Santa Fe Building, now known as the Motorola Building, is one of the shining examples of the Chicago School of Architecture, which provided the impetus for the modern day skyscraper. An integral figure in that architecture style was Daniel H. Burnham, whose firm built the Santa Fe Building (completed in 1904). Although its original tenants were the Santa Fe Railroad company who used the building for as a railway exchange, many architectural firms owned offices in the building.1

Burnham and his firm were one of the architects that used the space. In fact, one can still glance upon the northeast corner of the roof and "see the top of the penthouse Burnham had built as the space where the Plan of Chicago (1909) was to be prepared."2 Influenced, in part, by Georges-Eugène Haussmann, who designed a new Paris for Napoleon III in the late 1840s, Burnham looked to make Chicago a new type of Paris. However, that entailed wide buildings rather than tall buildings. Obviously, the city of big shoulders certainly did not evolve as Burnham had hoped. The building from which Burnham orchestrated the Plan of Chicago proved to be of greater influence than his actual vision for Chicago.

However, one principal aspect of the Plan of Chicago existed in having an expansive set of parks, including along Chicago's lake shore. Today's Grant and Millennium Park exist as manifestations of that vision, ironically keeping the Santa Fe building and Chicago's majestic skyline in full view, providing Chicago with much of its identity.One can now bask in the idea of making Chicago's shoreline a park while looking at the very building where people conjured that idea. More than that, one can look at the skyscrapers that Burnham (and his partner, Root), helped inspire. 


1 "Railway Exchange Building," Chicago Architecture Info, last accessed July, 2016, http://www.chicagoarchitecture.info/Building/1010/Santa-Fe-Building.php; Carl Condit, The Chicago School of Architecture: A History of Commercial and Public Building in the Chicago Area, 1875–1925 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 1964). 2 Northwestern University, "Railway Exchange Building," Encyclopedia of Chicago, last modified 2005. 3 "Burnham Ponders the Lakefront," Encyclopedia of Chicago, last modified 2005.