Saturday, February 21, 2015

Wrigley Building
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Wrigley Building (1921/1924) Charles G. Beersman; Graham, Anderson, Probst & White, architects /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

In October 2006, Bill Wrigley, Jr. II turned over the reins of running his great-grandfather's chewing gum concern to a non-family member, and for the first time in its history the William Wrigley, Jr. Company didn't have a Wrigley in the CEO's chair. In April 2008 Mars Inc., makers of candy and assorted goods, bought Wrigley for $23 billion in cash, but Bill kept his title as chairman, thereby keeping the family name connected to the business. In January 2010 however, Wrigley sent an inter-office email to employees informing them that he would be stepping down as chairman at the end of the month, and there were no more Wrigleys at Wrigley. Then, on September 19, 2011 it was announced that Mars had sold the iconic terra-cotta building bearing the Wrigley name to a group of Chicago investors for a reported $30 million, which had cost the first William about $7 million ($93m in today's inflated dollars) to build in the early 1920s.

 [Wrigley Building, 410 N. Michigan Avenue, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Wrigley started his company selling soap and baking soda, and as an incentive to buy the product placed a stick of chewing gum into each package. When the gum proved to be more popular than the soap or soda he got into the gum manufacturing business. The view from his is downtown business office on the south bank of the main branch of the Chicago River looked north across a waterway lined with warehouses and ships moored along the river's banks loading and unloading freight in buildings like the one occupied by the soap maker James S. Kirk Company. When the city of Chicago announced plans to build a bridge spanning the water route and joining Michigan Avenue with Pine Street, the chewing gum magnate saw potential in the run down industrial site across the way.

[Wrigley Building, National Register of Historic Places, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

He purchased long term leaseholds on the land and hired the classically-inclined architectural firm of Graham, Anderson, Probst & White to design the building. A young up-and-coming architect, Charles G. Beersman, was given the assignment and construction of the clock-towered structure rose up at the northwest corner of the nearly completed bridge. The glistening structure proved to be a powerful draw and a very worthwhile investment. By the time the building opened in 1921, the Wrigley company occupying floors 14, 15 & 16, and the remainder was leased to other tenants. The glistening structure proved to be a powerful draw and a very worthwhile investment. The company took over floors 14, 15, & 16 and before construction was completed in 1921, 95% of the unoccupied office space in the tower was leased. So in 1924 the North Building was opened, and in the early 1930s a sky bridge was built connecting the pair.
The new owners plan on a complete overhaul of the interior for the 21st century, and have made an application to have the building designated a historic landmark - something the Wrigleys never sought to do. The remaining Wrigley/Mars employees still occupying office space in the building will move to a research center that the company owns on the city's near north side on Goose Island. Will the Wrigley remain attached to the popular landmark? Only time will tell. Sears vacated their tall tower in 1992, but the name stuck until 2010. Marshall Field's occupied the corner of State and Randolph for 138 years before being renamed Macy's on State Street. In New York, the F.W. Woolworth company hasn't been in their purpose built corporate headquarters building for decades, but the name has stuck - and perhaps the Wrigley name will as well.

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