The following article is from Chicago the World’s Youngest City published in 1929, written by Claude A. Wells, General Manager.
Merchandise Mart Will Be The World’s Largest Building
“Colossus of marketplaces” is a term that appropriately describes a structure that will be the world’s largest building, the Merchandise Mart, being erected in Chicago, at the crossroads of American commerce. It is intended, for the purpose of general merchandising, to simplify wholesale buying and selling and to foster broader and better inter-industry co-operation through centralization of efforts.
Merchandise Mart Concept Drawing
The main facade of this mammoth structure faces the Chicago River and Wacker Drive, with eighteen floors and a six-story central tower. The building extends two blocks east and west, between North Wells and Orleans Streets, on a rhomboidal slant along the latter to Kinzie Street. Its riverside front measures 577 feet. Due to the oblique angle of the western end, the Kinzie Street length is 724 feet. The Merchandise Mart is an air-rights development built over the tracks of the Chicago & North Western Railroad. This mighty monument of steel, concrete and stone rests upon 45S reinforced concrete caissons with truncated-cone spreading bases reaching down eighty to one hundred feet below the street level. This number of caissons is more than twice the number ever before utilized in the foundation of a building. The Mart comprises approximately 4,000,000 square feet of floor space, or about 200,000 square feet to each floor. The use of sales and display quarters along its 650-foot corridors will permit a practical merging of the progressive functions of entire mercantile industries. Thus is put into the hands of manufacturers, distributors and importers of goods of kindred nature an opportunity to solidify their internal relationship, to deal on a more economical basis with their merchant customers, and to receive the manifold benefits of a decidedly new factor in commercial endeavor
The Merchandise Mart will establish a comprehensive exposition of manufacturers’ wares within the easy reach of the average buyer, saving him several hours’ time in travel, and considerable expense. Spaces for display rooms, sales-rooms and for flexible storage are to be arranged scientifically, always with a view to the most practical concentration of goods. The third to eighteenth floors, inclusive, will be devoted to merchandise showrooms and sales offices. The building’s largest tenant, Marshall Field and Company (Wholesale) will occupy the entire third to sixth floors, inclusive.
The lobby floor is to provide all the modern time-saving and convenience requisites, such as a buyers’ service department where the visitor may obtain directions for his trip in the building; bank, restaurant, barber shop, cigar and news stands, telegraph offices, telephones, branch postoffice, drug store, etc. On the second floor will be the exhibition halls to be used for temporary exhibits, fashion shows and special displays of the Marc’s tenants. In the tower, on the twentieth to twenty-third floors, inclusive, is to be the Merchants’ Club, with complete facilities for the accommodation of visiting retailers. On the twenty-fourth and topmost floor will be found the convention hall.
In the tower of the Mart building the National Broadcasting Company is to install the largest radio-broadcast station in the world. There will be six studios, all equipped with the latest devices to meet their needs. Studio “A” will be the largest radio theater in the world. It will be seventy-five feet long, fifty-one feet wide, with a total floor space of 3,820 square feet, and a total content of 99,450 cubic feet. The studio will have numerous innovations in equipment. Instead of the usual drapes utilized in the regulating of acoustical effects, it will be walled with adjustable narrow panels.
The other studios will vary in dimensions, to meet acoustical requirements. The total floor space devoted to the six broadcasting rooms will be 10,228 square feet, and total content will be 265,928 cubic feet. Each studio will have a soundproof, glass-enclosed balcony, to enable invited guests to see the performers in the studio and hear through loud speakers as radio audiences hear them All the studios except “F” will be on the nineteenth floor of the Mart, and will be two stories in height.
On the same floor will be the offices of the division engineer, plant and operating engineers, control boards, music library, musicians’ rest rooms and lockers, reception rooms, announcers’ rooms and lockers, artists’ reception rooms, quarters for the library staff and engineering laboratory. From observation rooms on the twentieth floor, visitors will be afforded a view of the performances in the studios.
Perhaps no other location on earth would have been better suited to a structure of the uses and importance of the Merchandise Mart. It will accommodate thousands of wholesale sellers of every kind and variety of goods known as general merchandise, each in his separate or co-operative sales and display rooms. A merchant buyer will be enabled to do all his shopping in the showrooms along one corridor. The immense savings this will bring to stores, not to mention the tenants of this great central market, are not computable. That the Merchandise Mart effects to a major degree for America’s merchants “less time buying, more time selling,” is foreseen.
New York Times, September 13th, 1929
Plans for radio studios called “the world’s most pretentious” were announced yesterday by M. H. Aylesworth, president of the National Broadcasting Company, to be situated on the roof of the Merchandise Mart in the heart of Chicago.
Formal opening of the new quarters, tentatively planned for Jan. 1, 1930, will be a definitive step in fulfillment of Mr. Aylesworth’s prediction two years ago that Chicago is destined to become one of the great broadcasting centres of the country. The fact that the Chicago headquarters of the National Broadcasting Company are to be more pretentious than those now in use in New York, Washington or San Francisco is regarded as a significant recognition of Chicago’s position in the broadcasting field.
More Concerts from Mid-West
An increasing number of programs are being originated in Chicago studios, and pressure of the business has necessitated expansion virtually impossible in the present location in the Lake Michigan Building. It is pointed out that in the new location special construction will eliminate many of the physical and mechanical limitations of the usual office building. There will be six studios, fully equipped with the latest developments in radio apparatus. Wire lines and other facilities will be installed permitting expansion to an unlimited number of studios.
Mr. Aylesworth said:
Studio A will be the largest radio theatre in the world”, said . It will be 75 feet long, 51 feet wide with a 26 foot ceiling, giving a total floor space of 3,820 square feet and a total content of 99,450 cubic feet. It will provide standing room for 1,000 persons, it is estimated.
The studio will have a large number of innovations in equipment. Instead of the usual velvet on monks’s cloth drapes utilized in the regulating of acoustical effects, it will be walled with adjustable narrow panels. These strips will be movable in such manner as to present refractive, neutral or absorbing surfaces to the sounds produced in the room.
A great pipe organ and organ loft specially adapted for radio representations of varied character will be installed. A raised stage for use in productions permitting the presence of an immediate audience, and also useful in balancing and placing of large orchestras will occupy one of the studios. The other studios will vary in floor size and ceiling height to meet various acoustical conditions and adaptations to various sized musical aggregations.
Chicago Tribune, October 20, 1929
An architect’s drawing of one of the studios of the world’s most pretentious broadcasting quarters, soon to be built by the National Broadcasting company atop the world’s largest building, the new Chicago Merchandise Mart.
Floating Walls Used
Each studio will have its own monitoring and observation room adjacent and a soundproof glass partition will separate them. The monitor rooms will be raised above the studio level in order to give the studio engineer and production director better views of the performance. Further, each studio will have a soundproof glass enclosed balcony to enable guests to both see the performance in the studio and hear it through loud-speakers as the radio audience hears it. All studio units will be thoroughly soundproofed through the medium of floating walls and floors.
The studios will be without windows (and partially hermetically sealed for soundproof), the vestibule being regulated through modern equipment maintaining a constant flow of pure air at a regular temperature and with a uniform degree of humidity. With this system temperature is automatically maintained within a variation of two degrees Fahrenheit.
In the centre of the main control rom will be two main control room boards, each 30 feet long. One will be used for amplifiers and control of studio equipment. The other will carry the apparatus which controls connections with wires carrying programs to and from points outside the studios and will permit of expansion. A master control desk in this room will be the nerve centre at which the routing of all programs and can supervise the cutting of programs on and off the networks from studio to studio.
Delicately adjusted time-system clocks will show the correct time to the fraction of a second, an item of major importance in regulation of programs over far-flung networks. All equipment, including power supply, will be installed in duplicate to insure uninterrupted transmission of programs.
Chicago Evening American, October 20th, 1930
NBC COMPLETES RADIO CITY IN CHICAGO MART
New Midwest Home Occupies 65,000 Square Feet of Space
Chicago has become the broadcasting center of the universe. With such outstanding stations as WMAQ, WGN, KYW, WBBM, WENR and WLS, the city offers the cream of radio entertainment. And now comes the latest step adding to the preeminence of Chicago in radio. NBC has established its new Midwest home in the Merchandise Mart, recently completed on the north bank of the Chicago River.
The new Midwest NBC home occupies two floors, the nineteenth and twentieth, with a total area of more than 66,000 square feet. In it are housed six of the finest and most scientifically constructed broadcasting studios in the entire world. One of these, studio A, is the largest in existence. In addition, there are literally scores of offices. These latter house all the various departments that have become necessary for a complete broadcasting service. With an eye to further development of radio, options have been taken on additional space. Tentative plans include the erection of at least four more studios and extension of the office section.
Has Two Divisions
In a general way, the new radio plant has two divisions. The main executive offices are on the twentieth floor of the tower which rises in the center of the building. Directly to the rear of this is the large rectangular structure which contains the studios and departmental offices. The two-story studios occupy the center of this rectangle. Around three of the sides on the nineteenth floor are additional departmental headquarters. The nineteenth floor in the tower is as yet unoccupied, although under option.
The plans of the general layout were designed by Graham, Anderson, Probst and White, Chicago architects, working in cooperation with O. B. Hanson, chief engineer, and the other executives of the National Broadcasting Company. The furnishings and general decorative scheme were supervised by Gerard Chatfield, art director of the company, and carried out by Marshall Field & Co. In direct charge is Niles Trammell, vice-president.
While there are a number of broadcasting innovations, all of the developments are the result of years of experimental work of various kinds in both the New York and Chicago offices of the company. For the first time movable sound panels are used in the walls of the larger studios.
Studio A, the largest radio unit in the world, is in reality a large auditorium. Its dimensions are 72 feet long, 47 feet wide and 26 feet 6 inches high.
There are four network control booths, which are, in fact, miniature studios, created to eliminate tying up the larger studios when network programs are piped through. The four larger studios are literally floating rooms. Briefly described, they are a box within a box. They rest on springs. Four of the studios have sound locks at the entrances. These locks are merely small vestibules with two sets of doors which are lined with lead. Thus, when one door is opened, sound to and from the studio does not carry through the second door.
There are more than two hundred miles of wire involved in the technical operations of the studios. In addition to the control booths adjoining each studio, there is a control panel inside the studio for use by the announcer.
Studio A is lighted by sunlight, or sun ray lamps, designed by the General Electric Company under the supervision of Dr. M. Lucklesh, director of the lighting research laboratory of the company at Cleveland. This is the first commercial installation of such lights, which are, in fact, violet-ray lamps.
Corps of Hostesses
Visitors to the studios are accorded the courtesies of the company by a corps of hostesses and page boys. These not only receive visitors but show them around the studios. The hostesses are college girls.
The new quarters contain a master control room which has the largest control panel in the world. In the plant department is a small radio store. In this are found all the various pieces of mechanical equipment, such as tubes, etc., that are used in broadcasting operation. All equipment is in duplicate to prevent any delays in the transmission of programs. There is even a large battery room which, at a moment’s notice, can supply independently all the power needed.
One innovation is the special arrangement of visitors’ galleries, or observation rooms. They are all located on the twentieth floor. This prevents confusion and separates the visitors from the entertainers and production personnel.
Offices of the department heads and the visitors’ observation rooms are all equipped with the latest type RCA reproducers, which carry the programs from any of the studios. Another deviation from the usual is a specially furnished and decorated clients’ audition room. This room is designed to represent a living room in a private home, and its purpose is to permit the client to hear the auditions of his program in a home atmosphere. This same general idea is carried out in studio F, which is furnished in much the same way. This studio is to be used for broadcasting by nationally and internationally known speakers, and the surroundings are intended to put them at their ease. It has been found that the large studios have a tendency to confuse speakers who have not previously broadcast.
Entrance Merchandise Mart
Wolf Point, site of Merchandise Mart