Northwest Tower Building
by: chicago designslinger
[Northwest Tower Building (1929) Perkins, Chatten & Hammond, architects /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
It was heralded as the tallest commercial building outside of Chicago's downtown Loop business district. At 190 feet from the sidewalk to the top of the spire, the Northwest Tower did indeed tower over its neighboring buildings which stood, uniformly, no higher than three or four stories. The much taller 12-story tower also stood at one of Chicago's multi-cornered triangulated intersections. North Avenue ran on an east/west axis, Damen Avenue crossed over from north to south, and Milwaukee Avenue provided the dissecting diagonal. It was a prominent corner perfectly suited for a prominent building.
[Northwest Tower Building, 1608 N. Milwaukee Avenue, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
The tower replaced a 3-story building which had filled the triangular plot from lot line to lot line, and made its own pointed architectural statement with a projecting, rounded corner bay that hovered over the sidewalk. The Milnoro Building was built in the late 1880s, and for 15 years, from 1905 until 1920, was the home of businessman Joseph Noel's banking institution. In 1928 Noel decided it was time to do something with the old Milnoro property, gathered together a group of business associates, and formed a building corporation to undertake the construction of the Northwest Tower. The name came easily. It stood on the northwest corner of the intersection, was on the northwest side of the city, and with its height, would become the visual beacon on the city's northwestern skyline.
[Northwest Tower, Wicker Park/Bucktown, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
The group hired architects Perkins, Chatten & Hammond who set to work laying out plans for a 12-story, Art Deco enhanced, triangular-shaped office building topped-off by a 7-story decorative tower, which in turn was capped-off by a copper encased spire containing a light beacon displaying a variety of colors. Dwight Perkins was the senior member of the team, having secured his reputation 30 years earlier as one of the original Prairie School designers. In 1894 Perkins designed a building for the Steinway Piano Company in downtown Chicago. Steinway Hall not only served as a showroom and local office for the New York-based piano manufacturer, but contained a concert hall, and on the 11th floor a suite of offices that at one time or another housed not only Perkins but other Prairie practitioners like his cousin Marion Mahoney, along with Frank Lloyd Wright, Robert Spencer, Walter Burley Griffin, Myron Hunt, Irving and Allen Pond, Hugh Garden, and Frank Lloyd Wright's one-time partner Webster Tomlinson.
[Northwest Tower, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
In 1905 Perkins was appointed chief architect of the Chicago Public Schools, where he incorporated some of his Prairie Style concepts into the design of a number of the city's public schools. By 1910 certain School Board members weren't happy with Perkins unwillingness to award contracts to politically connected contractors, so they charged him with incompetence, insubordination and extravagance. He fought back, demanded a trial, and was cleared of incompetence and extravagance, but found guilty of insubordination. In 1927 at the age of 60, and after a 17 year partnership with architects John Hamilton and William Fellows, Perkins, now deaf, joined the firm of Melville Chatten and Charles Hammond who had been practicing together since 1907. To honor his stature and reputation in the profession, his new partners added Perkins name at the front of the line.