Cook County & City Hall
Life Span: 1911-Present
Architect: Holabird & Roche
City Hall VII
Architectural Record, April, 1912
Statistics of the Construction of Chicago’s Big Municipal Building
(One-half only of the Block)
Compiled for the Chicago Tribune.
Wrecking old City Hall began Aug. 11, 1908; site cleared April 15, 1909.
Construction company began work April 15, 1909, under contract to complete new City Hall by Oct. 15, 1910. Delays caused by labor troubles and investigation of work extended time of completion.
Two men were killed in wrecking the old building; two were killed in the new superstructure. But no skilled worker lost his life.
A maximum of 750 men on day shift worked on the new building.
More than a score of skilled artisans and trade organizations worked upon the new structure to its completion. They were, in detail:
Approximately 40 per cent, of the $5,000,000 cost of the City Hall was paid to workers on the building.
What the returns of labor were in the manufacture of building material is hard to guess.
In the modern building of steel construction, 35 to 50 cents a cubic foot is basis of estimated cost.
New City Hall probably averages close to 40 cents a cubic foot.
The total “population” of the new structure will number, at an estimate, 2,975 city employes. Of this number 2,100 will be permanently located in department offices and 275 in the service of the Municipal courts. Those who will be in the building only a portion of the time, such as inspectors
for the various bureaus, detectives, and the like, are figured at 600.
Statements supplied by one of the chief engineers for Holabird & Roche to Hollis W. Field.
When Chicago’s new $5,000,000 City Hall is thrown wide open to the scattered city officers, departments, bureaus, and the myriad animate and inanimate enginery of Chicago’s city administration that city square bounded by La Salle, Washington, Clark and Randolph Streets must become a show site to the Chicago visitor.
Twin brother to the New Cook County Courthouse in which the business of the county already is conducted, this $5,000,000 city hall completes the granite facades of the plat which for so long in the making of history of Chicago and of Cook County has become so often consecrated and so often desecrated public grounds.
Two hundred and four feet high from the sidewalk level to the top of the parapet walls 370 feet long on the La Salle Street side, and 157 feet wide on Washington and Randolph Streets, the twelve floors of the new City Hall aggregate almost thirteen acres of available floor space. Below the sidewalks the floors of the sub-basement lies thirty-eight feet six inches down, while the trench for coal and ashes connecting with the lines of the Illinois Tunnel Company is forty-eight feet below the feet of pedestrians in the street. Thus from the uttermost depths of the sub-basement to the top of the parapet walls the height of the City Hall is 252 feet.
Are you interested in statistics? There are typewriter pages of them which would hold you. The builders put 21,000,000 pounds of steel into the structure and 324 standard cars were required to haul the steel from the mills. As foundation supports the old “floating” foundations of the old buildings gave way to the caissons, or walls, dug to an average of seven feet in diameter to bed rock, and filled with concrete. There are 124 of these caissons, of which 112 go to bed rock 114 feet down; twelve of them stop on hardpan. Fourteen miles of rivets were driven home in the steel superstructure. Numerically there are 162,000 individual rivets tapped home at white heat by the clattering pneumatic riveter, which may have struck twenty- five to forty blows to a rivet. How many blows in riveting?
“Concrete” is a silent sort of general topic to Architects Holabird & Roche. It cost the city about $5,000 to investigate a possible $127 worth of concrete on a few columns that afterward were declared to be quite reasonably good under the pure food and drug act. Exclusive of the concrete which the investigators dug out, 33,278 cubic yards of concrete went into the construction.
For the outer walls and columns of the building, 180,000 cubic feet of granite, weighing 30,000,000 pounds, cover the steel work, while of terra cotta fireprooflng there is a total of 1,240,000 square feet and 150,000 linear feet of girder covering. Of brick there are 2,700,000 common, 520,000 hollow brick, 400,000 enameled brick, 92,000 gray faced brick.
These are only a few of the myriad statistical facts concerning the construction of the huge new Chicago City Hall, which once more is to gather under its roof an almost undivided machinery of the city government. From the rooms on the eleventh floor devoted to the municipal courts, down to the public comfort station in the basement of the Washington and La Salle Street corner, the Chicago citizen must feel his personal interest somewhere in the finest type of municipal building in the country.
Of this new City Hall as a reality, an interesting phase of its design and building may be recalled. At the time Cook County accepted plans and specifications for the twin County building, the possibilities of a new City Hall were intangible, mixed, involved and evanescent.
Ground Floor Plan
In building the County Courthouse, however, the architects went so far as to take a chance that when the new City Hall did materialize, it might be of twin construction. In the days of the old buildings an alley ran between them from Washington to Randolph Streets. The County Building absorbed its half of that alley and the architects and builders arranged on the blank alley wall for all necessary steel structural connections in case the city decided to follow the county’s plans. In the final acceptance of the twin plans, the builders had only to cut into the cement for the necessary steel anchorages.
Incidentally at the time of placing the granite corners complete at the northwest and southwest corners of the new County Building, there were comments that it was an undue expenditure of money, merely in view of the fact that the city building hadn’t been planned.
“What’s the use of completing the unfinished west side of the County Building, corners and all, when we don’t know what the City Hall will be?” was the question.
These corners were completed, however. Now after the connecting and approaching completion of the City Hall, the observer may look at these corners that only a comparatively few months ago gave finish to the County Building, and find the whole of the granite finishings adorning the same northwest and southeast corners of the City Hall.
“We had only to take down the granite, have it cleaned and it went over into the corners of the City Hall as if the material had been cut for the purpose wholly,” said Supt. H. L. Marsh.
As a representative of Holabird & Roche, architects, Mr. Marsh has done much of the “sitting up with” this new Municipal Building. He says that of all the “sittings up” with the work, none brought greater strain than in those summer nights of 1909 when those four great girders on especially built wagons, drawn by ten horse teams, began moving from the steel works, far up the north branch, down by way of Rush Street Bridge to the City Hall site.
“Probably no such load ever has been put upon a wagon as was that 88,000-pound girder which overhangs the council chamber,” said Mr. Marsh. “We could hope to move it only in the night, after the last of traffic virtually was gone from the streets. Rush Street Bridge was the only bridge on which we could cross, and then only after we had laid a steel track for the wheels.
“At the building, one engine hoist has been used on every other piece of steel. On this 80,000-pound girder, as on the 75,000 and the two 70,000 pound girders, two engines were set and the steel grappled at each end. With the council chamber on the second floor, two floors in height to ceiling, and each of these big girders to clear the ceiling of the chamber and rising a full floor space to the level of the vault floor, you can imagine how I sat there with cold chills and hot feverish ness alternating, hoping that no accident would occur in either engine to stop the steady, even raising of those loads. Yet there wasn’t a kink in the handling of one of them!”
To the uninitiated these great girders may be said to have come into shape and weight to take the place of the steel columns which had to be displaced in the great chamber measuring 65 x 96 feet over all. Steel columns would have been impossible in the chamber. Dropping them at the second floor, and allowing another floor space to the chamber ceiling and the gallery, gigantic steels were necessary to take upon them the columns that should continue up in order to the twelfth floor of such a structure. In brief, these girders just over the heads of the coming city councils will be supporting the portion of the nine floors above at the north end of the building.
Destroyed by a fire in 1957, restored a year later.
This north portion of the building housing the council members is the show place of the new City Hall.
The council chamber proper will measure 43 x 96 feet, with the gallery beyond the rails of like length and 22 feet wide. The trimming is of imported English oak veneer and was manufactured in Philadelphia. Frederick Clay Bartlett is engaged to execute the mural decorations. The paneling of English oak is “matched” in the sense that the same section of the quarter sawed wood opens out, book-like, to show the grain as one. The ceiling will carry appropriate decorations in tiles.
On the Randolph Street front of the council council chamber is a retiring room, as it is an entrance room, for the Aldermen. At one end of a long, corridor-like room, 20 x 80 feet, is a lavatory, and at the other end telephone booths. Two great fireplaces are set of Bedford stone on the Randolph Street wall of the retiring room, while the partition panels separating it from the council chamber hide each a locker for an Alderman. This retiring room is finished in American oak, with beam-paneled walls. The fireplaces especially are considered artistic features of the room.
On the La Salle Street side, entered from the council chamber, are the reception corridor for Aldermanic visitors, and beyond this the various committee rooms of the council body. There are fourteen of these rooms on the main and gallery floors of the chamber.
Detail of Mayor’s Chair
The Mayor, moving into the central portion of the La Salle Street side, and on the fifth floor, will command a room 40 x 90 feet, oak-paneled, decorated ceiling, and on this room Mr. Bartlett will lend his art in mural decorations, probably representing historic Chicago and its growth to the present. On the same floor he will have the heads of the police department, the city controller, and corporation counsel all within easy reach.
One of the most interesting of the floors is that devoted to the Commissioner of Health, the Health Department taking three-fourths of the seventh floor, and leaving the remnant to the Building Department.
In this section devoted to the Health Department, every feature of the work of the Bureau has been anticipated. In the laboratories equipment alone the. cost is about $15,000. For drainage of chemicals used in laboratory tests, 600 feet of special tile and concrete piping has .been installed, for the reason that the ordinary drain pipes would be eaten out by acids that are discarded.
Another of the interesting floors of the new building is the vault rooms, unnumbered as to floor but lying between the numbered third and fourth floors. On this floor of steel, containing fireproof steel rooms, are 47,760 square feet of available locker space.
In the general arrangement of the great building from the sidewalk level up, the various departments, bureaus and court rooms may be listed as:
Ground Floor—City Clerk; City Water Bureau, and its inspectors and collectors. Office of the Fire Department Chief.
Second Floor—City Treasurer; Board of Local Improvements.
Third Floor—Election Commissioners.
Fourth Floor—City Engineer, Commissioner of Public Works.
Fifth Floor—Controller; Chief of Police and Assistant; Mayor; Corporation Counsel.
Sixth Floor—City Attorney; Electrician; Civil Service Commission; Fire Alarm Station.
Seventh Floor—Health Department; Building Department.
Eighth Floor—Municipal Court Clerk; Court Rooms.
Ninth Floor—Chief Justice’s Room; Court Rooms.
Tenth Floor Board of Examining Engineers; Track Elevation Bureau; -Small Parks Commission; Library; City Architect; Examination Rooms; Civil Service Department.
Eleventh Floor—Municipal Court Rooms.
Twelfth Floor Penthouse; Elevators; Water Tanks, Etc.
Reaching to these floors are fourteen electric passenger elevators, of which twelve have a carrying reach of 181 feet; one ‘has a stretch of 196 feet upward, and one 238 feet. Each machine is of thirty-five horse power, lifting 3,500 pounds at 500 feet a minute; -two of these are adapted to 5,000 pounds load and travel 200 feet a minute.
In the basement are public comfort stations for men and for women, entered at the Washington and La Salle Street corner of the building. Wildernesses of machinery, dynamos, motors, pumps and pneumatic tube accessories fill this main basement. In the sub-basement, thirty-eight feet below the sidewalks, are the boiler plants necessary for heating the building and providing hot water.
Ten feet below this level the channel for taking in coal and removing ashes makes connection with the lines of the Illinois Tunnel Company. To load the great coal bins from the tunnel level, conveyors receive the fuel from the cars and dump it into the .bunkers. From the bunkers this coal is fed to the boilers in like manner, while by reversing the machinery, ashes are lifted to waiting cars all without a touch of hand labor. In case of accident to the Tunnel Service, coal ‘may be received from the sidewalk level and ashes raised.
How much the citizen is interested in matters in the Chicago City Hall may be suggested in the 750 telephones that are distributed through it. There are twenty-five branch exchange switchboards, to be in touch with the old City Hall Call, “Main, double four seven.” Bells and annunciators to the number of 650 are distributed through the building.
The Noel Construction Company took possession of the site of the new building on April 15, 1909. The time for completion was eighteen months, but labor troubles have interfered. The corner stone was laid on July 20, 1909. Into a copper lined box were put copies of the daily papers, names of the city officials, and various other contributions from individuals. Incidentally it may be recalled that ‘when the old building was torn down, no trace was found of the box in the old corner stone and no relic of the dedication unearthed.
Toll of four lives were taken in the building. One man died in the wrecking of the old building; one was killed in an excavation; two laborers were killed in the superstructure. But no skilled steel worker lost his life, which was a departure from precedent.
Now that the new City Hall is ready and occupied the growing Chicago idea of gardens upon Chicago roofs has been taken up with reference to the twin building in the City and County Square.
The roof area of the City Hall and the County Building combined approximates two acres. Two acres of summer garden in the heart of the loop district, and 200 feet above the hot pavements on a hot sunny day.
City Hall VII