Life Span: 1930-Present
Location: Chicago River and Wacker Drive
Architect: Graham, Anderson, Probst & White
Chicago Tribune, March 13, 1927
$15,000,000 Field Project Puts North Wacker Drive on Map.
Marshall Field & Company’s decision to consolidate all of its wholesale, warehouse and and manufacturing activities in Chicago in a huge $15,000,000 sixteen story structure on the site of the old Chicago and Northwestern Kinzie street terminal, announced for the first time yesterday, definitely assures a duplication of Wacker drive on the north bank of the river from its mouth where the north branch enters.
This assurance is obtained from the fact that Marshall Field & Co. intend donating enough land in front of the huge building to provde the first unit of the north bank drive.
New Bridge Planned.
Simultaneously with this decision comes the report that James Simpson, president of the Chicago Plan commission, and also head of Marshall Field & Co., will at once call for the carrying out of a clause in the Union station ordinance which provides that the railroads entering the depot must widen Canal street north to Kinzie and erect a bridge across the north branch at that point.
Instead of having the bridge at Kinzie, however, it is planned to have it a block to the south, and connect Canal street with a magnificent bridge across to the first unit of North Wacker drive, in front of the new Field building.
With work started on this bridge and construction begun on the section of North Wacker drive between the east end of the new bridge and Wells street, it is the belief of the Chicago Plan commission that the continuation of the river boulevard eastwards to the mouth of the river will be pushed through as fast as possible.
This is a conception of how the Chicago River will look when North Wacker drive balances the present Wacker drive along the south bank. It was sketched for the Chicago Plan commission by Graham, Anderson, Probst & White. No. ① in the map is the site of the $15,000,000 Marshall Field & Co. sixteen story building, on the site of the old Kinzie street station of the Chicago and North Western. No. ② is Tribune Tower. How the new Avondale motorway (eventually the Kennedy Expressway) will connect with Canal street and North Wacker drive is shown above.
Chicago Tribune, May 6, 1928
① is the Merchandise Mart to be erected on the site of the former Chicago and North Western railroad Kinzie station, from plans by Graham, Anderson, Probst & White. It will front on the new river drive between Wells and Orleans street bridges, extending back to Kinzie street. It will be more than twice as large as the present world’s biggest business building, the Furniture mart, shown as No. ② above. No. ③ is Tribune Tower; ④ the Builders’ building; No. ⑤ the Engineering building, and No. ⑥ the Chicago Evening Post building, are a trio of new Wacker drive skyscrapers across the river from the mart.
Scope, size and cost of the proposed gigantic Marshall Field & Co., building on the site of the old Kinzie street station of the Chicago and North Western railroad, on the north bank of the river between Wells and Orleans streets, announced more than a year ago, have been enlarged to such a tremendous extent that it’s now presented again virtually as a brand new project.
The new structure, work on which is to start at once, instead of being a building devoted entirely to Marshall Field & Co. activities, is to be known as the Merchandise Mart and will house several hundred mercantile firms. Field & Co., however, will occupy considerably more than half of the building’s space with their wholesale and manufacturing sales departments.
The Merchandise Mart will be so much larger than its nearest competitor in the race for the “world’s largest business building,” now held by the Chicago Furniture Mart, that there should be no rumpus raised even by the most skeptical statistician. Just to settle this point right now, we’ll add that the Furniture Mart contains approximately 1,925,000 square feet of floor area. The big Merchandise Mart will have about 4,000,000 square feet, more than twice as much.
In addition to claiming the honor of being the world’s largest business building, the project will be the largest single development of air rights in the world. The property of the new building, except for the caisons, begins twenty-three feet above the datum.
Double Original Cost.
As originally announced on March 12, 1927, the Field building was to cost $15,000,000. The estimated cost of the much larger Merchandise Mart is placed at $30,000,000. A corporation is now being formed for the purposes of ownership and operation of the big building. Officials of Marshall Field & Co. will represent dominant interests in the corporation.
On all the floors of the mart there’ll be great corridors or miniature shopping streets, more than 650 feet in length, on either side of which will be shops displaying the varied lines of the hundreds of tenant firms. These business thoroughfares will be impressively treated architecturally, with tenants of allied lines i groups.
The visiting buyer from Sauk City, Minn., or Skowhegan, Me., will find his work so concentrated and convenient that he’ll be able to do every stroke of it inside the walls of the big mart in a few hours, which ordinarily would take several days; in fact he can spend all daylight hours there if he cares to. There’ll be lunch rooms, grill rooms, and restaurants, barber shops, telegraph stations, public stenographers, a branch postoffice and a club.
Merchants’ Club in Tower.
This latter feature, to be known as the Merchants’ club, will be housed in the huge five story tower which tops the eighteen story main building. The lounging, reading and smoking rooms will be a convenient place for the retailer to rest ot meet friends.
Another feature planned is an assembly hall where trade meetings, business conferences and fashion shows may be held from time to time.
Few if any other great business buildings anywhere in the world have such facilities for receiving and shipping merchandise as planned for the new Merchandise Mart. The entire ground level below the street floor will be a modern freight station. Private tracks for incoming carload freight will extend under the center of the building. The Chicago and North Western railroad will operate an inbound freight station for less than carload lots, as well as an outbound station, which will connect with all other roads through its new Proviso tards. The merchandise as it comes into this big freight station will be loaded into high speed conveyors and whizzed at once to the exact floor and aisle of the merchant for whom it s intended.
First Unit in New Drive.
As the roof of this gargantuan structure will be visible from the upper floors of the rapidly growing line of skyscrapers along Wacker drive, from the Civic Opera house east to towering “333,” the architects, Graham, Anderson, Probst and White, have planned a roof that’ll be minus the usual galaxy of skylights, tanks, penthouses and other sky disfiguring atrocities.
From a civic standpoint, probably the most interesting angle to the development of this imposing project is the statement by James Simpson, president of Marshall Field & Co., and also head of the Chicago Plan commission, that the Merchandise Mart will be set back eighty feet from the river, thus establishing the first unit of the long talked of waterside boulevard paralleling Wacker drive. Later if permanent bridges span the river, it is stated, the drive will be widened to 100 feet.
Ross & Browne Real estate Map
Chicago the World’s Youngest City, Claude A. Wells, 1929
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
Merchandise Mart Site
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
NORTH WACKER DRIVE BOULEVARD.
Chicago Tribune, April 29, 1929
Ready to Build Drive on North Bank of River.
The dream of 14 years is coming true. A segment of the North River drive is to be built. Plans and specifications have been made, bids are to be asked within 30 days, and construction is to start immediately thereafter.
The new boulevard, temporarily named the North River drive, is to be a duplicate of the upper level of Wacker drive. As Wacker Drive runs along the south bank of the Chicago river, the new street is to skirt the north bank.
The section of the new drive soon to be built also will be a part of the approach to the new Wabash avenue bridge. The $3,700,000 for construction of the bridge was approved by the voters on April 5, 1927.
To Connect with Viaduct.
The span will hook up with Wacker drive on the south side of the river and connect with a viaduct over the Chicago and North Western railroad tracks on the north side. This viaduct will run northeast over the tracks to Cass street, and then descend to grade at Kinzie street in Cass.
The 26 members of the executive committee of the Chicago Plan commission have recommended that much larger section of the North River drive be started at once. A meeting of the entire commission has been called for tomorrow to consider this new project.
The proposal is to extend eastward and northeastward the segment of the North Shore drive which is to be a part of the Wabash avenue viaduct. The extension would run north-eastward to Rush street, then east in Illinois street, and on to Michigan boulevard. Another arm of this northeast section of the new viaduct is to extend eastward in Austin avenue to Michigan boulevard.
Chicago Tribune, May 3, 1929
When the city has the North River drive it must name it. North River or North drive or River drive will not do. Any one of the three would be too simple, appropriate, apt and congruous to satisfy a city which has discarded Green Bay road, Robey street, South Water street and other bits of its consonant nomenclature. Such being inevitably the case the name of Chicago’s first settler may be placed in nomination again.
Jean Baptiste de Saible has been but little considered. His confidence in the future of Chekagou was indicated by his domicile here in 1779. He built his cabin which later was known as the Kinzie house. His fortitude was revealed by the fact that he was a native of San Domingo and had come up into the lake region yo establish himself in a small business way. The site he selected speaks for his intelligence. Indians, voyageurs, explorers, and Missionaries, including Joliet and Marquette, had thought of Chekagou merely as a place between other places, but Jean Baptiste Point de Saible saw the great mart of modern commerce.
Boulevard Jean Baptiste Point de Saible will look well on stationery, the street signs and the maps. It will be historically valid, racially generous and in point of class perfect.