Sunday, February 22, 2015

McCormick Building
 by: chicago designslinger

 [McCormick Building (1910/1912) Holabird & Roche, architects /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

McCormick. It's a name that's familiar to generations of Chicagoans, and because of the vast halls of McCormick Place, to millions of visiting conventioneers. The McCormicks were rich, powerful and provided the city with a number of buildings that bore their name over the years, including the 20-story brick block at the corner of Van Buren Street and Michigan Avenue. Built in two phases, the building housed the offices of one branch of a McCormick family fortune, a trust set up by Leander McCormick in the 1890s, which grew in size and provided his heirs with a steady and generous stream of income for decades.

  [McCormick Building, 330-332 S. Michigan Avenue, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The McCormick name had been attached to a number of other buildings around town before Leander's son Robert Hall McCormick decided to build another familial titled structure. He hired the prominent Chicago architectural firm of Holabird & Roche, who had designed a cluster of buildings for the McCormicks on Michigan Avenue near Monroe Street in 1890. Today those three, historically significant structures, known as the Gage Group, were originally called the McCormick Buildings. A little further south down Michigan at Van Buren, stood the 1880s-era Victoria Hotel which had started life as the Beaurivage Bachelor Apartments, one of the city's earliest and chicest apartment hotels for sophisticated gentlemen. R. Hall bought the old hotel and tore it down in 1909 to make way for his latest real estate investment. The design was atypical for an architectural firm that had helped create the now famous Chicago School, with its broad wide window openings filling the open spaces of the underlying structural steel frame, but it worked perfectly for McCormick. So much so that the architects were called back in 1911 to design an addition to the recently completed structure, when McCormick got hold of the property just to the north of his building and constructed a seamless extension that doubled the size of the original.

  [McCormick Building, Historic Michigan Boulevard District, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Robert Hall McCormick, Jr. took over the reigns of his father's and grandfather's real estate empire in 1917 and continued to oversee the trust from the family offices at the top of the building. Robert, Jr. liked the building so much that he lived in a penthouse suite on the 20th floor where he introduced his third wife to Chicago society in 1945. Before his death in 1963, McCormick, Jr. invested in an apartment building venture that involved developer Herb Greenwald and architect Mies van der Rohe. McCormick was so enamored with Mies' open floor plans and glass to ceiling windows that he moved from his Michigan Avenue penthouse and into an apartment with a stellar lake view at 860-880 Lake Shore Drive.
Today there are people living in the top 6 floors of the building Robert, Jr. once called home. And even though a family member hasn't had a financial interest in the building for decades, it's still called The McCormick.

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