Trip Planner:   USA  /  Illinois  /  Chicago  /  Monadnock Building

Monadnock Building, Chicago

#374 of 605 in Things to do in Chicago
Architectural Building · Hidden Gem · Tourist Spot
The Monadnock Building (historically the Monadnock Block; pronounced mə-NAD-nok) is a 16-story skyscraper located at 53 West Jackson Boulevard in the south Loop area of Chicago. The north half of the building was designed by the firm of Burnham & Root and built starting in 1891. The tallest load-bearing brick building ever constructed, it employed the first portal system of wind bracing in America. Its decorative staircases represent the first structural use of aluminum in building construction. The south half, constructed in 1893, was designed by Holabird & Roche and is similar in color and profile to the original, but the design is more traditionally ornate. When completed, it was the largest office building in the world. The success of the building was the catalyst for an important new business center at the southern end of the Loop.

The building was remodeled in 1938 in one of the first major skyscraper renovations ever undertaken—a bid, in part, to revolutionize how building maintenance was done and halt the demolition of Chicago's aging skyscrapers. It was sold in 1979 to owners who restored the building to its original condition, in one of the most comprehensive skyscraper restorations attempted as of 1992. The project was recognized as one of the top restoration projects in the US by the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 1987. The building is divided into offices from 250 square feet (23 m2) to 6,000 square feet (560 m2) in size, and primarily serves independent professional firms. It was listed for sale in 2007.

The north half is an unornamented vertical mass of purple-brown brick, flaring gently out at the base and top, with vertically continuous bay windows projecting out. The south half is vertically divided by brickwork at the base and rises to a large copper cornice at the roof. Projecting window bays in both halves allow large exposures of glass, giving the building an open appearance despite its mass. The Monadnock is part of the Printing House Row District, which also includes the Fisher Building, the Manhattan Building, and the Old Colony Building.

When it was built, many critics called the building too extreme, and lacking in style. Others found in its lack of ornamentation the natural extension of its commercial purpose and an expression of modern business life. Early 20th-century European architects found inspiration in its attention to purpose and functional expression. It was one of the first buildings named a Chicago Architectural Landmark in 1958. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1970, and named as part of the National Historic Landmark South Dearborn Street – Printing House Row North Historic District in 1976. Modern critics have called it a "classic", a "triumph of unified design", and "one of the most exciting aesthetic experiences America's commercial architecture produced".
Work out when and for how long to visit Monadnock Building and other Chicago attractions using our handy Chicago itinerary planner.
Create an itinerary including Monadnock Building
© OpenMapTiles © OpenStreetMap contributors

Monadnock Building reviews

Rate this attraction
TripAdvisor traveler rating
TripAdvisor traveler rating 4.5
23 reviews
  • We heard about this building on a tour. Loved to hear the history of. Tallest fully brick sky scraper, and so heavy they have to reinforced the foundation every year to prevent it from sinking...  more »
  • Looking for an historic building to write a Chicago report on, this building was looked at. Marvelous architecture.  more »
  • This building is incredibly impressive; a model of what every historic building in the city should be. The first floor is like stepping back in time, and everything is pristine. The shops are very fitting for this elegant place too. There are no corporate chains here, instead, one-of-a-kind shops. - Barber, men's and women's shoe stores, shoe shine, tobacco, sandwich, florist, cleaner/tailor, coffee, hat store.
  • It's great place to visit it's like walking about back in time the security officer there is very outstanding in customer service very friendly and very knowledgeable of the building history .

Plan your trip to Chicago

  • Get a personalized trip
    A complete day by day itinerary
    based on your preferences
  • Customize it
    Refine your trip. We'll find the
    best routes and schedules
  • Manage it
    Everything in one place.
    Everyone on the same page.