Sunday, May 8, 2016

Identifying “One Wacker Drive” Souvenir Building Chicago

I recently acquired this souvenir building and wanted to learn more about it. In the book, Monumental Miniatures, the replica is called “One Wacker Drive” (plate 64, page 30), but I couldn't find the building, nor information about it, despite hours of research. I had so many questions about the metal souvenir. Was it planned for the World’s fair, but never constructed? Perhaps the design changed and what was built is very different from the souvenir.  The souvenir has on its base the words, “A Century of Progress, Souvenir, Chicago World’s Fair 1933.” An homage to Fort Dearborn is in all four corners of the ground floor. I contacted a number of architectural and historical groups and institutions in Chicago and they had no information. Silly me, I should have gone directly to the source… the author of the aforementioned book, David Weingarten. This would have saved me hours of scouring the Internet for clues. Within minutes of my email, David replied with the answer:  “One Wacker” is, in fact, the One LaSalle Street building.  It felt like a halleluiah moment. The clouds parted and all was revealed. I feared that this souvenir could be generic and not based on a real structure. We now have the answer. However, other questions remain…why was this labeled as a souvenir of the Century of Progress, as it was not built as part of the fairgrounds? The real building was completed around the time of the start of the fair, so could it be celebrating the new building to fair-goers? Also, why the depiction of Chicago’s Fort Dearborn at the base? Not sure… do you know?  David W. has an educated guess and I tend to agree. The 1933 Chicago World’s Fair theme was a 'Century of Progress' to celebrate the city's centennial. The theme of the fair was technological innovation. The fair's motto was "Science Finds, Industry Applies, Man Adapts." Fort Dearborn was built in 1803 and by 1837 it was de-commissioned.  Perhaps, in 1830’s Fort Dearborn was an important landmark for Chicago. Then, a century later in 1930, the One LaSalle Street building was new and demonstrated Chicago’s progress. So, could this souvenir be a combination of the old and new celebrating Chicago’s history over that century? Alternatively, if the fort aspects were originally planned for the base of One North LaSalle Building, we could then put this souvenir of One LaSalle Street in the category of “As Imagined” and not “As Built” just like the St. Josephs Oratory. Or, the combination of the skyscraper and the fort were purely commemorative mash-up. Named One North LaSalle Building or One LaSalle Street Building, The real building is in the financial district of Chicago. It was for some time one of Chicago's tallest buildings. Built in 1930 by architectsKarl Vitzhum and John Burns, the streamlined skyscraper in the Art Deco style has a lavishly detailed entrance and lobby. Paraphrased from “The American Skyscraper,” 1850 – 1940: “A celebration of height, by Joseph Korom "One North LaSalle Street stands squarely in Chicago’s financial district, on the NW corner of LaSalle and Madison, helping to define that famous business corridor. This is a no-nonsense building designed to create profit for its owners, provide its tenants with functional space and impress the public at large with quality architecture. It rises effortlessly to meet the sky while employing telescoping segments. It rises 49 stories and cost $7 million, truly sobering for 1930.”

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