Just because it’s famous, doesn’t mean it’s a landmark

From the Saturday, Oct. 22, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.)

Just because it’s famous, doesn’t mean it’s a landmark


Oct. 25, 2011

Earlier this month, city of Chicago officials announced their desire to assign official landmark status to eight former Schlitz taverns that opened throughout the city more than a century ago.

The buildings – each adorned with distinctive Schlitz globes –includes Schuba’s, the popular Lakeview nightspot and concert venue, and they are among just 10 of the original 57 saloons that once both brewed and served Schlitz beer throughout the Windy City.

In Chicago, many property owners tend to resist landmarking measures because of their constraints, but Thomas Magee, who owns a former Schlitz pub at 1801 W. Division St., told Crain’s Chicago Business that he’s not one of them.

“Obviously, there’s concern because any time I’d want to make a change, I’d have to get (city) approval,” said Magee, who has run Mac’s American Pub at that location for a dozen years. But “it’s a beautiful old building, and I want to keep it that way. I’m not opposed to it.”

Whether other property owners are, or the Commission on Chicago Landmarks has merely overlooked some buildings, you might be surprised to know some of the iconic Chicago structures that are plenty famous, but aren’t among its 250-plus official landmarks.

The Wrigley Building

With its white terra cotta walls and soaring clock tower, the Wrigley Building is one of Chicago’s most beloved icons. But unlike the Tribune Tower, its Magnificent Mile neighbor, it isn’t an official landmark.

In July, the Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co. announced that it’s moving out of its namesake skyscraper, and architecture buffs immediately urged the city to take action and make clear to prospective new owners that major changes to the building’s historic exterior won’t be tolerated.

A city spokesman told Chicago Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin this summer via e-mail that: “City staff have met with Wrigley officials to discuss the move and the Wrigley Building itself, including what preservation incentives are available to address its long-term needs.”

Interesting Fact: When ground was broken for the Wrigley Building in 1920, there were no major office buildings north of the Chicago River and the Michigan Avenue Bridge, which spans the river just to the south, was still under construction.

The Field Museum

The Field Museum was originally incorporated in 1893 as the Columbian Museum of Chicago. Twelve years later, it was renamed after its first major benefactor, Marshall Field, and in 1921 its sprawling, neoclassical home was built, anchoring the city’s Museum Campus.

Interesting Fact: The Field’s collections contain more than 21 million specimens, but only a fraction of them are ever put on display.

The Merchandise Mart

Nicknamed the Merch Mart, when the titanic structure opened along the Chicago River in 1930, it was the largest building in the world with 4 million square feet of floor space. The Mart was built to centralize Chicago’s wholesale goods business by consolidating vendors and trade under a single roof.

Interesting Fact: Once owned by the Marshall Field family (that guy had his hands in everything), the Mart later was owned for more than 50 years by the Kennedy family (they did, too).

Marina City

Also known as the “Corncob Towers,” the mixed-use residential/commercial complex occupies an entire block of State Street on the north bank of the Chicago River, directly across from the Loop. Constructed in 1965, the 65-story towers have since been widely credited with sparking the residential renaissance of American inner cities.

Interesting Fact: Marina City is perhaps most famous for a scene in the 1980 Steve McQueen movie “The Hunter” in which a car drives off the tower’s parking garage and splashes into the river below.