Central Life Insurance Building, 720 North Michigan Building
Life Span: 1924-1982
Location: 720 N Michigan Ave, NW Corner Michigan Avenue and Huron Street
Archiect: D. H. Burnham & Co.
Chicago Tribune, December 17, 1922
This is the new sixteen story home of the Central Life Insurance company to be built at he southwest corner of Upper Michigan avenue and Superior street from plans by D. H. Burnham & Co. at a cost of $500,000. It was originally to be only twelve stories. It be on a 54×68 lot, extending back to an alley on the west. The first three stories will be of Bradford stone, the fifteenth and sixteenth of terra cotta and the balance of pressed brick.
The west wall, overlooking one of the finest sections of the north side, unfortunately will not be the same as the north and east fronts, although it will loom up almost as conspicuously. It would seem that the owners should give this question consideration, especially if they expect to compete for the annual prize to be given by the Lake Shore Trust and Savings Bank for the finest building on the boulevard. The west wall won’t be shut off from view for a great many years—in fact, never completely—and it would seem good business to make the building as attractive as possible from the west.
The main entrance will be on the boulevard. The first and second floors will be devoted to shops; the third to the twelfth will contain offices or lofts, and the upper floors used by the Central Life. The building will be trimmed throughout with mahogany and maple. Work will start as soon as possible.
Chicago Tribune, February 18, 1923
Abandon “Shirt Front” Plan for Central Life.
The new $500,000 sixteen story home of the Central Life Insurance company, to be built at the southwest corner of Upper Michigan and Superior, from plans by D. H. Burnham & Co., is not to be a “shirt front” skyscraper after all. H. W. Johnson, president of the company, announces through his architects, that the same materials will be used on all four sides, instead of having the west side, overlooking part of the gold coast, and the south wall made of common brick and thus disfiguring the landscape for years to come, as was originally planned.
As the Central Life building will be a conspicuous landmark for years to come, it not being likely that a skyscraper will be built directly west or south of it for many years to come, Mr. Johnson’s public spirited consideration of his neighbors in those directions is to be commended.
Chicago Tribune, March 4, 1923
Baird & Warner have been appointed renting agents for the new sixteen story Central Lifr building at the southwest corner of Michigan and Superior.
Chicago Tribune, August 10, 1937
Two well known Chicago skyscrapers will be swapped in one of the city’s most unusual real estate deals, as a result of negotiations concluded yesterday. Not a dollar will change hands, no brokers figured in the transaction, so no commissions will be paid, and the trade, involving a total of several million dollars in actual value of land and buildings, will have been closed in exactly twenty-seven days when actual signatures are placed on the deeds. Ordinarily a deal of this magnituse takes several months to close.
The Estate of Marshall Field is trading the nineteen story Times building, at 211 West Wacker drive, for the sixteen story Central Life Insurance company building at the southwest corner of North Michigan avenue and East Superior street. Possession of the buildings by the new owners will be taken shortly. The Central Life Insurance company, however, will not move to Wacker drive until next month, according to President Alfred MacArthur.
A Dollarless Deal.
Although this was entirely a “dollarless deal,” several millions are actually involved. A rough estimate shows that the Times property represents more than two million dollars in land and building and the Central Life building $1,065,000 for site and structure.
The nineteen story Times building occupies a site 60 by 150 feet, which was bought by the Field estate in July, 1927, for $615,000. The Chicago Evening Post Building corporation leased it for 99 years and erected the present building at a reported cost of approximately $1,400,000. Two months ago the Field estate took back the property, wiping out a $1,800,000 leasehold bond issue, on a court order issued because of nonpayment of ground rent.
According to Ward Farnsworth, who negotiated the skyscraper swap with the Field estate, a new fifteen year lease was made with the Times in July, specifying that the building continue its present name. It is now 55 per cent rented, the Times using nearly eight floors and two basements. The Central Life will use the 17th and 18th floors.
May Remodel Building.
There is a possibility that the Field estate may later remodel the entire sixteen story former Central Life building for exclusive use of physicians. It is to be renamed the 720 North Michigan building.
Both parties to yesterday’s deal point with satisfaction to results established through the trade. George Richardson, trustee for the Field estate, said that through the acquisition of the Central Life Property the estate has consolidated its holdings so that it now owns the entire block bounded by Michigan, Huron, Rush and Superior.1
The Field estate in June, 1934, bought the northwest corner of Michigan and Huron, adjoining the Central Life building on the south, from Mrs. Randolph Santini, formerly Mrs. Noble B. Judah, for a reported half million dollars. It is improved with the five story 700 North Michigan avenue building, erected in 1928 at a reported cost of $950,000. A month later the estate bought the northeast corner of Huron and Rush from Mrs. Santini for $103,500.
View of MacArthur.
“We have more actual bricks and mortar in the Times building than we had in our Michigan avenue building,” said President MacArthur. “In other words, we hav an actual value and the Field estate has a potential value in the Central Life Insurance building.
The Central Life Insurance company bought the near north side property, fronting 54½ feet on Michigan avenue and 211 feet on Superior street, in 1922 for a reported $215,000. The sixteen story building is 54½ by 68 feet and cost a reported $850,000.
The Central Life building is 100 per cent rented. The insurance company has been forced to rent additional space in nearby buildings. It will be able to consolidate all its activities in its new Wacker drive building.
720 North Michigan Avenue
Ross & Browne Real Estate Map of Central Chicago
1 This block is currently occupied by Chicago Place and 100 E. Huron Condos.