Montgomery Ward & Co. Administration Building
by: chicago designslinger
[Montgomery Ward & Co. Administration Building (1929) Willis McCauley, designer; Joseph Conradi, sculptor; (2002) adaptive reuse, FitzGerald Associates Architects /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
Aaron Montgomery Ward printed a single broadsheet in 1872 that carried 168 nonperishable items which could ordered and delivered to you at home. In 1929 when Montgomery Ward & Co. built their Administration Building on the southwest corner of Larrabee Street and Chicago Avenue, the broadsheet had grown into a catalog containing over 20,000 items printed on over 1,000 pages, and earning the company over $150 million in sales.
[Montgomery Ward & Co. Administration Building, 619 W. Chicago Avenue, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
The Ward organization had grown so large by the late 20s that they had their own in-house engineering department overseeing all company construction, which by 1926 included Ward-built retail stores. Willis McCauley, head of the department, is credited with the design of this 400,00 square foot building which Wards built across the street from their 1908 headquarters. The new building would provide office space for 1,000 clerks, a floor of telephone phone operators, a floor of catalog processors, a ground floor retail operation, and a top floor of executive suites.
[Montgomery & Co. Administration Building, One River Place, National Historic Landmark, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
The tower was capped by sculptor Joseph Conradi's 16 foot statue called "The Spirit of Progress." The torch-bearing figure was inspired by the statue "Progress Lighting the Way for Commerce" which had once topped Ward's Tower Building on Michigan Avenue. Unfortunately the lights went out for Wards in 2000 when the company went out of business. The building was converted into residential condominiums in 2002 under the supervision of FitzGerald Associates Architects, and in 2010 "Progress" was re-lit when fiber spot lights were installed around the statue.