R.R Donnelley Printing Plant (a.k.a The Calumet Plant, a.k.a Lakeside Plant)
Constructed between 1912 and 1929, this factory building served as the headquarters of printing giant R.R. Donnelley & Sons. At this location, the company designed and produced materials for numerous publications, such as Life Magazine. This is also the place where the Sears catalog was produced before being shipped throughout the nation. An incredibly strong building, architects designed the Plant with a fireproof design and 4,675 poured reinforced concrete columnns and an open-shell concrete floor, the type of support needed for several tons of paper and equipment used in printing. The building speaks to the volume of printing that occurred in Chicago during the early 20th century.
Backstory and Context
After the war, Chicago's printing industry took-off, helped mightily by Chicago's existence as a railway stalwart, which eventually paved the way for R.R. Donnelley. Chicago was the home to 79 job printers and numerous, major newspapers, as well as seventeen binderies, 68 book stores, five printing supply and machinery manufacturers. Also, 20 new magazines go started in Chicago between 1860 and 1880. Industries such as Rand McNally and Sears & Roebuck arrived in the city during that time. 2
The Chicago Fire of 1871 resulted in a consolidation of new printing offices to be located on its near south side, where R.R. Donnelley arose, as well as what became "Printer's Row."
This almost fortress-like structure included 4,675 steel-reinforced columnns and 10- to 12-inch-thick floors comprised of reinforcing bars, normally laid perpendicular, but were instead laid at various angles so that it could handle loads of 250 pounds per square foot. All told, the building was perfect for large equipment used in printing (and later, computers).4
3 Christine Houde, "Strange Marriage by the Lake," ProgressiveEngineer.com (Lewisburg, PA: Progressive Engineer, 2004), http://www.progressiveengineer.com/pewebbackissues2004/PEWeb%2048%20Mar%2004-2/Lakeside.htm
4 Ibid.;Chief Engineer, "The Most Powerful Building," The Chief Engineers Association of Chicagoland, chiefengineer.org, accessed Feb 10, 2017, http://chiefengineer.org/?p=2478.
5 Houde, "Strange Marriage by the Lake," 2004.
6 See, for example, the theis provided by William Cronon in his seminal work: William Cronon, Nature's Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West, (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1991).