Did you know that Chicago invented skyscrapers?

Did you know that Chicago invented skyscrapers?

There’s been a lot of buzz lately about the possibility of a mile-high skyscraper being built in less than 15 years. This of course will require a bit of new technology – like a new way to transport humans since an old fashioned elevator probably won’t cut it. Unfortunately, it’s not looking like it’s going to happen in this country. While we may not be at the forefront of skyscraper developments anymore, buildings wouldn’t be what they are today without Chicago. This week’s ‘Did You Know, Chicago?’ is about the first skyscraper.

The Home Insurance Building was built in 1884 at 135 South LaSalle. It was the first building to use structural steel in its 10-story frame, giving it the honor of being the first skyscraper.

The term “skyscraper” was originally given to any steel-framed building that is 10 stories or taller. While it was impressive, it wasn’t the tallest building in the city. Even after two additional floors were added on in 1890.

The building’s architect was engineer William Le Baron Jenney. He is commonly known as the “Father of the American Skyscraper.” Jenney was an incredibly famous architect at the time, and many leaders of the famous Chicago School apprenticed with him. (Men like Daniel Burnham.) Jenney built many famous buildings around the city, as well as the Horticultural Building for the World’s Columbian Exposition.

The Home Insurance Building was torn down to make way for the Field Building, another skyscraper. The art deco building was finished in 1931 and can still be seen today. (Except it’s now called the Bank of America Building.) There’s a plaque, added in 1932, to the southwest section of the lobby, that reads:

This section of the Field Building is erected on the site of the Home Insurance Building, which structure, designed and built in eighteen hundred and eighty four by the late William Le Baron Jenney, was the first high building to utilize as the basic principle of its design the method known as skeleton construction and, being a primal influence in the acceptance of this principle was the true father of the skyscraper, 1932.

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