chicago historical architecture by district contemporary
Northwest Northeast Loop North
Loop South South and West Far South
With special thanks to the City of Chicago website, , for much of the info on this page.
Photos copyright City of Chicago.
Chicago Pages

Soar subjects Check out the sky-scraping stats on some of the city’s loftiest points.

Photos: From Left; Nicole Radja; Nam Y Huh/AP, Rogan Birnie, Provided by Trump Tower, M. Spencer Green/AP, Shellbourne Development

1.Ben Wallace (in full afro) 7 feet, 2 inches…(in cornrows) 6 feet, 9 inches

2.Chicago Temple (tallest church in the world) 556 feet, 6 inches

3.Trump Tower (when it’s completed in March 2009, including spire) 1,393 feet (92 floors)

4.John Hancock Center (including the antennas) 1,506 feet (100 floors)

5.Sears Tower (including antennas) 1,725 feet (110 floors)

6.Chicago Spire (when it’s completed in 2010) 2,000 feet (150 floors)

Other highlights

Monadnock Building (the world’s largest office building in 1893) 220 feet (17 floors)
Chicago Skyway (at highest point) 220 feet
Navy Pier Ferris wheel 150 feet (15 floors)
Blue Island Hill (highest natural point in Chicago, 103rd St and Western Ave) 40 feet
El tracks in the Loop (at highest point) 19 feet, 4 inches

Click here for
-Top Ten Chicago
Notes- Chicago architectural history.
Notes- Chicago history
Gallery- World's Columbian Exposition
Gallery- favorite Chicago buildings.
Gallery- Chicago by night

The architecture of Chicago has influenced and reflected the history of American architecture. The city of Chicago, Illinois features prominent buildings in a variety of styles by many important architects. Since most buildings within the downtown area were destroyed (the most famous exception being the Water Tower) by the Great Chicago Fire in 1871, Chicago buildings are noted for their originality rather than their antiquity.


Beginning in the early 1880s, the Chicago School pioneered steel-frame construction and, in the 1890s, the use of large areas of plate glass. These were among the first modern skyscrapers. William LeBaron Jenney's Home Insurance Building of 1885 is often considered to be the first to use steel in its structural frame instead of cast iron, but this building was still clad in heavy brick and stone. However, the Montauk Building, designed by John Wellborn Root Sr. and Daniel Burnham, was built in 1882–1883 using structural steel. In his account of the World's Columbian Exposition and the serial murderer, H. H. Holmes, The Devil in the White City (2004), Erik Larson states that the Montauk became the first building to be called a "skyscraper" (Larson 2003: 29). Daniel Burnham and his partners, John Welborn Root and Charles Atwood, designed technically advanced steel frames with glass and terra cotta skins in the mid-1890s, in particular the Reliance Building; these were made possible by professional engineers, in particular E. C. Shankland, and modern contractors, in particular George A. Fuller.

Louis Sullivan was perhaps the city's most philosophical architect. Realizing that the skyscraper represented a new form of architecture, he discarded historical precedent and designed buildings that emphasized their vertical nature. This new form of architecture, by Jenney, Burnham, Sullivan, and others, became known as the "Commercial Style," but it was called the "Chicago School" by later historians.

In 1892, the Masonic Temple surpassed the New York World Building, breaking its two year reign as the tallest skyscraper, only to be surpassed itself two years later by another New York building.

Daniel Burnham led the design of the "White City" of the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition which some historians claim led to a revival of Neo-Classical architecture throughout Chicago and the entire United States. It is true that the "White City" represented anything other than its host city's architecture. While Burnham did develop the 1909 "Plan for Chicago", perhaps the first comprehensive city plan in the U.S, in a Neo-Classical style, many of Chicago's most progressive skyscrapers occurred after the Exposition closed, between 1894 and 1899. Louis Sullivan said that the fair set the course of American architecture back by two decades, but even his finest Chicago work, the Schlesinger and Meyer (later Carson, Pirie, Scott) store, was built in 1899--five years after the "White City" and ten years before Burnham's Plan.

St. John Cantius, one of Chicago's 'Polish Cathedrals'.

Sullivan's comments should be viewed in the context of his complicated relationship with Burnham. Erik Larson's history of the Columbian Exposition, "Devil in the White City" correctly points out that the building techniques developed during the construction of the many buildings of the fair were entirely modern, even if they were adorned in a way Sullivan found aesthetically distasteful.

Frank Lloyd Wright's Prairie School influenced both building design and the design of furnishings.

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's Illinois Institute of Technology campus in Chicago influenced the later Modern or International style. Van der Rohe's work is sometimes called the Second Chicago School.

The Sears Tower would be the world's tallest building from its construction in 1974 until 1998 and later for some categories of building.

Numerous architects have constructed landmark buildings of varying styles in Chicago. Some of these are the so-called "Chicago seven": James Ingo Freed, Tom Beeby, Larry Booth, Stuart Cohen, James Nagle, Stanley Tigerman, and Ben Weese.    the architecture you must see