[graphic header] Chicago: A National Register of Historic Places Travel Itinerary, National Park Service

Monadnock Block
Monadnock Building, exterior
Historic photo courtesy of Chicago Commission on Historical and Architectural Landmarks.

The word "monadnock" is defined as a mountain or rocky mass that stands isolated in a level area. Rising 16 stories high, the Monadnock Block in 1891 stood as one of the tallest buildings constructed of solid masonry in the city of Chicago. It is also one of the last wall-bearing buildings constructed before steel framing became widely utilized.

The block contains two pairs of buildings. In 1891, the architectural firm of Burnham and Root designed the first pair of brick, 16-story buildings, the Monadnock and the Kearage. Each was equipped with heating plants, elevator banks, and plumbing systems separate of one another. Interspersed bay windows from the third to the 15th floor project the illusion of heavy columns that reinforce the massive solidarity of these buildings.

In 1893, the second pair of buildings, the Katahdin and the Wachusett, was designed by the architectural firm of Holabird and Roche. By containing vertical steel supports in the outer walls, they represent the transition between the limited height of masonry buildings and the seemingly endless potential of steel frame buildings.

A 1938 remodeling was done by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill. Otherwise, the Monadnock Block has retained most of its original vitality.

The Monadnock Block is located at 53 W. Jackson Blvd. Some of the offices within the block are open to the public.


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