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A New Way of Living

For Throwback Thursday, take in a view of Marina City under construction on this day in 1962. Designed by Chicago architect Bertrand Goldberg, the corncob-shaped towers are among Chicago’s most distinctive structures. 

Planning for Marina City began in 1959 as part of a plan to redevelop downtown Chicago. In the years after World War II, Chicago saw a massive suburban exodus. From 1945 to 1959, 77 percent of all new housing in the area was in the suburbs, most of which were single-family homes, and the federal government was investing more than $3,000 for every suburban resident compared to about $85 per city resident. To help staunch that flow of people, William L. McFetridge, president of the Building Service Employees International Union (BSEU), announced plans for a $25 million skyscraper that would become the first mixed-use complex of that size in the United States. His goal was to invest his union’s pension funds in something progressive, something that would benefit people. Thus it was the BSEU, which represented janitors, elevator operators, and window washers, that financed the development of Marina City. 

Marina City under construction, Chicago, May 21, 1962. CHM, ICHi-069885; Calvin M. Hutchinson, photographer

Upon the towers’ completion and the opening of the first one in 1962, Marina City was the fourth tallest building in Chicago and one of the city’s first all-electric buildings. The facilities included a theater, gym, swimming pool, ice rink, bowling alley, stores, restaurants, and, of course, a marina. At that time, the towers were the tallest apartment buildings in the world and, for a short while, the tallest structures made of reinforced concrete. It is still one of the densest residential plans in the world with 896 apartments on a three-and-one-half acre site. 

Explore our images of Marina City, a unique building both inside and out, on CHM Images, our online portal. See more images.

Peruse a selection of digitized prints and photographs at CHM Images, our online portal. Featured galleries include images from our newly acquired Chicago Sun-Times Photography Collection, Raeburn Flerlage’s work documenting the Chicago blues and folk music scene during the 1950s–1970s, and Declan Haun’s photography capturing the American Civil Rights Era. Explore our images.

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