Monday, February 23, 2015

Chicago Daily News Building/Riverside Plaza
 by: chicago designslinger

[Chicago Daily News Building/Riverside Plaza (1929) Holabird & Root, architects /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

In 1929 Americans purchased, on average, 40 million newspapers everyday. Whether through newsstand sales or subscriptions, 40 millon was a lot of newsprint going out to a population of just under 123,000,000 men, women and children. The circulation figure remains almost identical today, but the population has grown to 310,000,000. Newspapers were really big business back then, and when Chicago's 54-year-old Daily News moved from their original headquarters in June of that year to Holabird & Root's massive Art Deco-inspired design, the paper was selling more copies than its main competitor the Chicago Tribune.

 [Chicago Daily News Building/Riverside Plaza, 2 N. Riverside Plaza, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Melville E. Stone and Victor Lawson became publishing partners of a small morning paper called the Daily News in 1875. In the intervening years it was Lawson who became identified with the paper's editorial identity, in the same way the Medill/McCormicks were linked to the Tribune. Lawson focused on the city's working class audience of readers, and took a much more progressive editorial line than many of his fellow associates in Chicago's burgeoning business class would have liked. He also wanted to make the paper as accessible to the city's working class population as possible, and charged a penny for a copy of the News. But the lowly copper coin was not a popular piece of change around town and Lawson had to scour the country to bring as many pennies into circulation in the city as possible. The cost and the content of the paper made the morning daily a major contender in the hardscrabble world of late-19th and early 20th century newspaper publishing.

   [Chicago Daily News Building/Riverside Plaza /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

In 1890, architects Daniel Burnham & John Root designed a small 4-story building to house the growing paper's offices and presses. And as the publication's popularity grew and the money was rolling in, the News expanded into a pair of 1870s-era buildings located next door. By the mid-1920s Lawson decided that the old plant was just too old. He was working on securing a large piece of property around the corner and over the Chicago River at Madison Street and Canal, when the publisher and owner of the Daily News died of a heart attack at age 74. His nephew took over the publication, continued his uncle's mission to relocate, and hired architects John Holabird and John Root, Jr. to design a new building for the river adjacent site.

  [Chicago Daily News Building/2 N. Riverside Plaza /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

John Holabird and John Root, Jr. were the sons of two of the city's most preeminent architects, William Holabird and John Root. In 1928 the younger men, partners in the firm of Holabird & Roche, changed the name of the company to Holabird & Root and embraced a new design aesthetic for a new generation. This au curant genre, known as Art Deco, first showed-up on the decorative landscape in a 1925 Parisian exhibition, and for the next 5 years or so, Art Deco or its sibling Art Moderne, were hot ticket items in contemporary design. With a handful of well received, Deco-delineated commercial commissions already under their reconstituted belts, the Daily News building presented a unique set of challenges for the architectural firm. The first 8-floors of the 24-story structure would not only have to house the paper's offices but also hold the multi-ton, massively vibrating presses. And, to top it all off, a portion of the site had to be built over 8 lines of operating railroad tracks. The News company had purchased the air rights over the tracks, and in an inspired resolution, the architects created a large plaza which opened up to the the river front. It was one of the city's first air rights projects, and the first to embrace the river rather than turn its back on the waterway.
The Daily News prospered for the next 30 years, but by 1959 the owners were ready to move on and sold their enterprise to the Field family's Chicago Sun-Times. The newspaper lasted another 19 years, publishing its last edition on March 4, 1978 after over 100 years in business. The former News building is now a part of a line of late-20th century high-rises that hover over the railroad tracks lining the river's edge, and go by the name of Riverside Plaza.

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