Monday, July 17, 2006


Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
Here's something that maybe you didn't know about the Monadnock Building, Burnham and Root's gorgeous 16-story brick skyscraper in Chicago's downtown Loop -- considered by most CAF docents to be the first skyscraper. Ever. Which meant it was also the tallest -- if only just for a brief while after it was erected between 1889 and 1891.

The spare lines of the Monadnock -- which rise off of 6 foot thick masonry walls which flare at the base and are frequently praised as a harbinger of Modernism -- almost weren't. (Spare, I mean.)

Burnham dolled up the original architectural plans with crazy Egyptian Revivial ornamentation. Then he went on vacation. And while he was away Root stripped the papyrus inspired cornice off the top of the building, and all the frills that came along with it.

My source: Michael Berger, Egyptologist and knowledgable guide on this weekend's tour of Egyptian Revival architecture in Chicago. (I know, I know: I keep doing this Tut thing to myself. Somebody stop me. Please.)

Rumor has it that Burnham was pretty pissed when he got back. But he eventually cooled off. And the Monadnock pretty much impressed the pants off everyone who cared about these things, and continues to do so today.

And you've gotta admit it's the most huggable skyscraper you've ever seen. (You're laughing -- but have you ever stepped right up to it? You'll wannna hug it. I promise.)

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