|photograph: Bob Johnson (click images for larger view)|
With an easement to build a trestle and breakwater a short distance from shore, the Illinois Central Railroad had controlled Chicago's lakefront since the 1850's. From the bank of the river southward, the IC had created a massive railyard, dominated by a huge sign for Pabst beer as it met Michigan Avenue to the east was the most ambitious bit of construction on the site.
|photograph: Library of Congress|
At 42 stories and 601 feet, the Prudential would fall just four feet short of overtaking the Board of Trade as Chicago's tallest building. Designed by Naess and Murphy, it broke ground on August 12, 1952. At nearly 22 million cubic feet, it was the fifth larger building in the city. Each of its 2,617 windows were double-glazed, and designed to allow both sides to be washed from the inside.
Alfonso Iannelli: Modern by Design, Prudential and their architects were determined to incorporate the company's Rock of Gibraltar logo in the design. They considered making it a plaza-level fountain, or depicting it in a stained glass window above the entrance. “In the end, the client and architects decided on a thirty-foot-high bas relief eight stories up the blank west-facing wall of the Randolph Street section.” Iannelli received $14,120 for the commission. It would be his last major work.
The Prudential had its own branch post office, with nearly 100 workers. Overall, the building had a workday population of over 8,000 people. It immediately became Chicago's prestige office address, with tenants including blue chip advertising firms Needham, Louis and Brorby and, from 1956 to 1989, Leo Burnett. Prudential Insurance took up the first eight floors of offices, launching “Operation Crosstown” - 6 large vans, 30 movers and 80 trips - to transport its 1,500 employees from their temporary quarters at the Butler Brothers warehouse at 165 North Canal.
When the $40,000,000 building was dedicated on December 8th, 1955, newspapers and other memorabilia were placed in a time capsule to be opened in the year 2000. Has it ever been uncovered? There's no doubt it would have been a snapshot from a very different time. Two of the four newspaper that existed in 1955 disappeared long ago, and the two survivors don't look too healthy now, either.
|image courtesy The Chuckman Collection|
|Two Prudential Plaza|
report by Ryan Ori in Crain's Chicago Business, the two Prudential buildings have only recently emerged from being “zombie” buildings. The owners had so highly leveraged the two towers that after the 2008 crash, and the loss of some key tenants, there was no longer enough cash flow to finance the basic maintenance and improvements needed to attract replacement tenants for the nearly 40% of the space - mostly in the original Prudential - now or soon-to-be vacant.
In June of this year, a NewYork-based consortium restructured the debt and gained control of the two Prudentials. They've committed $100 million to upgrading the complex. The most visible component of that process is the current bit of street theater, as workers on scaffolds at vertigo-inducing heights are restoring the facade of the Prudential to its original luster.
restoration by Alumitec, “each window frame and spandrel panel will be detailed by hand utilizing abrasive cleaning methods to restore the aluminum to its intended appearance, then sealed with the Alumitec wipe-on sealer to protect the finish and restore its metallic sheen.” South and west elevations are scheduled to completed this year, north and east in 2014. It won't set back the clock to Prudential's original pioneering status, but when those panels catch the sun, they'll flash a moment of architectural history, the mid-20th century set off against the free-form shimmer of Frank Gehry's 21st.
Does This Make My Butt Look Fat?
I love your blog and check in daily. The Prudential is one of my favorite buildings in the entire city. Thanks for the post and all that you do.
I would love to see linkdin button to post links on my page.
Thanks for reporting this. I wondered what they were doing. Regrettably, they will never be able to restore the terrific green/black marble and terrazzo lobby interior that they destroyed when they tried to make it segue with the Pru II. There was a little piece of it that survived - a staircase that led down to an office space on the east side of the lobby - but I don't know if it's still there.
I worked at Prudential from 1956 to 1969. What a wonderful building and company it was. Thank you for the pictures and story.
I stayed at the Conrad Hilton back in the middle 50's when I was about 15 years old and remember walking all the way down to the Prudential Bldg to get a strawberry Sunday from the icecream shop on the ground floor. Appeared to be a giant skyscraper to me all those years ago.
My father, Ronald Brennan, worked for Prudential from the late 1950’s until his retirement in 1980. He was a photographer and copywriter, and he wrote the agent’s publications. He used to bring his family to The Top of The Rock observatory, and we would look out over Lake Michigan, and think how special dad must be to be able to bring us here! Then we would go to his office and meet his coworkers! What a magical and special time that was for us! Us Brennan kids still love the Prudential Building❤️
My Dad too was a Pru agent based in Chicago.
We would always go downtown, and my Dad had so much pride in showing us the building.
Great memories from the late 50's to the late 70s!
Post a Comment