Essential Architecture-  Chicago Loop South

Monadnock Block


Burnham and Root ; Holabird & Roche


53 W. Jackson Blvd.


North half 1889-91; south half 1891-93


Chicago School 


The two halves of this building provide a unique perspective for examining the history and development of modern architecture. The north part--famed for its lack of traditional ornamentation--is a masonry, wall-bearing structure, the last skyscraper to employ this method of construction, with six-foot thick walls at the base. The south addition, on the other hand, is an early example of steel-frame construction, its underlying structure revealed through narrow piers and wide windows. Together, they mark the end of one building tradition and the beginning of another.


Office Building
The Monadnock Building is a historic proto-skyscraper in the Loop district of downtown Chicago, Illinois. It is one of the tallest masonry load-bearing wall structures in the world, however Philadelphia City Hall holds the world title.[3] It is located at 53 West Jackson Blvd.

The seventeen-story building stands 197 feet (60 meters) tall. The northern half was designed and built by Burnham & Root in 1889–1891; the southern half was designed and built by Holabird & Roche in 1891–1893. The building was designated a Chicago Landmark on November 14, 1973.

The northern half of the Monadnock represents the last Chicago skyscraper built using load-bearing wall construction; in order for the structure to support its own weight, the walls at the base of the structure are six feet (1.83 meters) thick. The building was so heavy that it sank into the ground after it was built, requiring steps to be installed at the entrances. The walls then curve in slightly at the second story, and flare out at the top of the building, lending it a form similar to that of an Egyptian pylon. Architect John Root's initial plans for the building included additional Egyptian embellishment, but the developer insisted that the building have no ornament.

The southern half of the building was built using the more technologically advanced steel frame construction, which allowed narrower piers and wider windows. The radical difference in construction between the two halves marks the building's place in architectural history at the end of one building tradition and the beginning of another.

The building's name is taken from the New Hampshire mountain that gave its name to the geological term indicating a freestanding mountain surrounded by a plain.

^ National Register Information System. National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service (2007-01-23).
^ "The Monadnock Building"
^ See List of tallest buildings and structures in the world#Tallest structure by category
"Chicago Landmarks: Monadnock Block",, retrieved October 23, 2005.
"Monadnock Building", Emporis, retrieved October 23, 2005.
Schulze, Franz, and Harrington, Kevin. Chicago's Famous Buildings, Fourth Edition, The University of Chicago Press, 1993. ISBN 0-226-74062-5.


With special thanks to the City of Chicago website, , for much of the info on this page.
Photos copyright City of Chicago.