Happy 50th Birthday, Marina City!

Happy 50th Birthday, Marina City!

Marina City is one of those Chicago landmarks that makes the cityscape what it is today. Those corn cob towers are so strange looking, but back in the day it was the place to be. This month, Marina City celebrates its 50th anniversary, and of course I thought we could all use a little history lesson.

Marina City was designed by Bertrand Goldberg in 1959 and opened in November 1962.It was the tallest residential building and tallest concrete structure in the world.

(Fun fact: Bertrand Goldberg also designed the currently controversial Prentice Women’s Hospital building.)

Who paid for it to be built? The project was financed largely by the Building Service Employees Union, a union made up of janitors, elevator operators and window washers. These workers feared losing their jobs due to urban flight, so they decided to build a “city within a city” to entice people to stay.

Marina City gets its name from the marina at the base of the building. In addition to the marina, the buildings offered restaurants, stores, a pool, a gym, a bowling alley, an ice skating rink and a cinema.

Marina Cinemas opened at Marina City in 1970 and with three theaters it claimed to be Chicago’s first mini-cinema. The theater only operated until 1977 and stood empty for many years after it closed. Today it’s the  House of Blues.

The first 19 floors of the two buildings are giant parking garages built in an upwards spiral. The  garages were made famous in the high speed chase scene in the 1979 Steve McQueen The Hunter. McQueen loses control and flies out of the building into the Chicago River. Allstate re-created this scene in a commercial in 2006.

There’s a ton more interesting facts about Marina City that I found on the building’s website. Check it out to learn more.

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