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Chicago Loop Walking Tour - La Salle Street to Michigan Ave
Item 9 of 28
Located in the Loop District of Chicago, the Monadnock building, originally known as the Monadnock Block, is a skyscraper whose construction began in 1891. The oldest section of the building, the north half, was designed by the architectural firm Burnham and Root and was the tallest load-bearing brick building in the world. The southern half of the building was designed by Holabird and Roche in 1893 and features more ornamental design elements. At the time of its completion in 1893, the Monadnock Building was the largest office building in the world.

  • North half of building as seen from Dearborn Street, 2005
  • 1893 image of aluminum cast staircases, first use of aluminum in construction of buildings
  • 1910 postcard showing south half of building
  • Discover Vintage Chicago,book
The building was commissioned by Peter and Shepherd Brooks, real estate developers from Boston. The Monadnock's construction was part of the building boom that followed the price recession known as the Long Depression, or the Great Depression of 1873-79. The Brooks family made a fortune in the shipping insurance business. They began investing in Chicago real estate in 1868 and had the Grannis Block building built on Dearborn Street in 1880. Property manager Owen F. Aldis convinced the Brooks brothers and other wealthy investors to build skyscrapers in Chicago. By the turn of the century, Aldis managed almost one fifth of the office space in the Loop and had created over 1 million square feet of office space in the city.
     When the Monadnock was completed in its entirety, it included 1200 rooms and was capable of accommodating 6000. To put this in perspective, the Chicago Daily Tribune made the observation that the population of most Illinois cities at the time would've comfortably fit in the building. Some of the building's first tenants were the American Exchange National and Global Savings Banks and the Santa Fe, Michigan Central, and Chicago&Alton Railroads. Although it was quite an architectural feat, the Monadnock did receive some harsh criticism for its aesthetic. French architect Jacques Hermant said of the building, "The Monadnock was no longer the result of an artist responding to particular needs with intelligence and drawing for them all of the possible consequences. It is the work of a laborer who, without the slightest study, super-imposes 15 strictly identical stories to make a block then stops when he finds the block high enough."