With its flying buttresses and neo-Gothic architecture, the Tribune Tower is one of Chicago’s most distinctive skyscrapers. It was born out of a design competition and has become a destination in its own right, and the source of a little controversy.
The Design Competition
In 1922 the Chicago Tribune needed new offices so they held a design competition and invited contestants from all over the world. Over 250 entrants were received, creating an encyclopedic collection of skyscraper designs from the period.
The winning design was entered by architects John Howells and Raymond Hood, although many believe that Eliel Saarinen’s more simplified design should have won. At the time the less ornamental Chicago School was gaining in popularity and the trend was towards minimalism. Howells and Hood’s skyscraper defied that trend, with sculptures, decorative accents, gargoyles and, over the front door, Aesop’s Screen.
The Hall Of Inscriptions
Just inside the grand entrance of the Tribune Tower is a two-story lobby. The marble walls are inscribed with quotes that express the ideals of the press and freedom of speech.
“I do not agree with a word that you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Voltaire
The (In)Famous Rock Collection
Embedded around the base of the Tribune Tower are bits and pieces of the world’s history. This “rock collection” comes from such significant places as Petra, the Berlin Wall, and the original tomb of Abraham Lincoln.
The collection began when Col. Robert McCormick, the Chicago Tribune’s Publisher and Editor, brought back a piece of a French medieval cathedral in 1914. After that he instructed his journalists to collect pieces from similarly important landmarks during their travels. Some of them were obtained with permission; others were not. The piece of the Kremlin was smuggled out in 1933 under the nose of the Communists. The stone from St. Peters was actually taken from the Pope’s apartment by a workman making repairs.
The collection continues to grow, albeit by more legitimate means. Most recently a section of the World Trade Center was embedded in the Tower’s base.
The Tribune Tower is more than just an office building turned condos. It is an example of neo-Gothic design, and with its collection of rocks from all over the world it’s also a history museum.
Did you know?
Near the entrance are carved sculptures of a howling dog and Robin Hood to commemorate the building’s architects, Howells and Hood.