Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Trump International Hotel & Tower, Chicago
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Trump International Hotel & Tower, Chicago (2009) SOM, architects /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

If you were transported back in time 160 years and found yourself standing on the south bank of the Chicago River where the Michigan Avenue bridge now spans the waterway, rather than casting your eyes upward at the glistening surface of Chicago's 1,300-foot-tall Trump Tower you'd be looking at 100 feet of a 95-foot-high red brick wall holding 700,000 bushels of grain behind its soiled clay surface. The Galena Elevators would be the first of nearly two dozen grain elevators that would crop-up along the river's edge over the next 15 years, with a capacity to store over 11,000,000 bushels of corn, wheat and other food grains grown across the central United States.

  [Trump International Hotel & Tower, Chicago; 401 N. Wabash Avenue, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The grain storage elevator constructed by the Galena & Chicago Union Railroad in 1855 was not the first to be built in the city. In 1839 Newberry & Dole's 3-story elevator was built along the river's edge taking advantage of an emerging transportation network that would put Chicago on the path to becoming the nation's transportation hub. The Galena was however Chicago's first railroad line. Chartered in 1836 the road ran its first train 12 years later, and by 1853 had finally made its way to Galena, Illinois and the mighty Mississippi River. It gave the Galena the first rail access to the millions of acres of grain spreading across the Great Plains, and the elevator provided the storage required before kernels of corn or hulls of wheat were sent on their merry way to points across the globe. The dried seeds were also a great source of fuel for the fire that engulfed the city in 1871.

  [Trump International Hotel & Tower, Chicago, River North, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

After the fire, the Galena & Chicago, which had merged with the Chicago & North Western, rebuilt on the same site adjacent to the newly christened State Street Train Yard. The north bank of the main branch of the river was lined with a wide swath of steel rails and creosote-soaked wood ties that stretched all the way from today's Navy Pier to the Merchandise Mart. Warehouses were built along the river's edge alongside the train tracks which provided the hundreds of thousands of square feet of storage space required to hold all the goods that moved through the city, before being sent out on their way to market. In 1873, adding to the warehouse parade, the Central Warehouse was built where the, now demolished, Rush Street bridge once met the north bank of the river at Kinzie Street, directly in front of the Central's east front.

  [Trump International Hotel & Tower, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

In the first quarter of the 1920's the city began a transformation of the river that is still underway today. The old market district along the south bank was demolished and replaced by Wacker Drive. The Michigan Avenue Bridge opened in 1920, further altering the relationship of the river warehouse district to the surrounding area. The Wrigley Building was completed the following year. Elevated above the old train lines, the towering structure cast a long shadow over the old Central Warehouse, and the buried intersection of Rush and Kinzie. Then in 1930 Marshall Field & Company constructed the massive Merchandise Mart on air rights suspended over the still functioning rail lines. By the time the 1950s had rolled around, the warehouse district along the north branch had outlived its purpose. The city came-up with the Fort Dearborn Plan meant to transform the now unsightly north bank into a sparkling new district of commercial and residential high-rises. Marshall Field III proposed building the new home of his Chicago Sun-Times newspaper on the site of the aging Central Warehouse building and the old Galena Elevator property, and architects Naess and Murphy designed a sleek, modern office and printing plant for the wedge-shaped plot of land.

  [Trump International Hotel & Tower, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Over the next 50 years the main branch of the river continued its transformation, and by the middle of the first decade of the 21st century the owners of the Sun-Times, Conrad Black's Hollinger, Inc., were sitting on a prime piece of real estate. Hollinger entered into a deal with New York-based developer Donald Trump to build Chicago's tallest building, trumping long time title holder Sears Tower. But in the aftermath of 9/11, Trump's tower in Chicago would come in second place in the height fight, but the architectural firm of SOM (Skidmore, Owings & Merrill) gave Chicago a gleaming, eye-popping, glass sheathed structure, that, like it or not, became an instantly recognizable landmark on the city's majestic skyline. With more towering structures currently under construction on former railroad land along the river's main branch, and the with the extension of the pedestrian friendly Riverwalk, the former commercial waterway will become even more of a distant visual memory.

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