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The Forgotten History Of Chicago Supertalls: 5 Things You May Have Forgotten About Tribune Tower

Tribune Tower isn't a supertall, but the landmark building defines downtown Chicago as much as Willis TowerAon Center or the John Hancock Center, courtesy of its timeless design.

Tribune Tower, Chicago

This week, our series on the forgotten history of Chicago supertalls shines a spotlight on the 36-story, 462-foot-tall Tribune Tower, which is decked in the white "W" flags of the National League champion Cubs. (And who's still hungover from that?)

1. It's The Second Building To Be Called Tribune Tower


The original Tribune Tower was built in 1868 but was destroyed by the Great Chicago Fire. In 1922, Chicago Tribune owner Col. Robert McCormick, to mark the newspaper's 75th anniversary, held a contest to design a new Tribune Tower, with the winner being awarded $50k. More than 260 entries were submitted by now-legendary architects like Robert Gropius, Adolf Loos, Bruno Taut and Eliel Saarinen. Louis Sullivan believed Saarinen had the superior design. So who won?

2. Howells & Hood


The winners were architects John Mead Howells and Raymond Hood, who submitted a neo-Gothic design that was the defining style of the early to mid-1920s. Eliel Saarinen's design won second place and was awarded $20k. Cesar Pelli's design for 181 West Madison is believed to have been inspired by Saarinen's entry.

3. Neo-Gothic Touches Throughout


Howells and Hood enlisted artist Rene Paul Chambellin to add details to the building. The front entrance features a howling dog (Howells, get it?) to honor the architects. The building's ornamentation features Aesop's Screen over the entrance doors, gargoyles (including one of a frog) and buttresses inspired by France's Rouen Cathedral.

4. The Building Fragments


During the building's construction, McCormick asked his correspondents to bring back pieces of historic buildings and sites from around the globe. These fragments have been installed into the building's lower levels, their origins labeled. A total of 149 reliefs are installed into Tribune Tower, including Notre Dame Cathedral, the Great Pyramids, the Alamo, Redwood National Forest, Old Comiskey Park, Vienna's St. Stephen's Cathedral (shown here) and a piece of steel recovered from the World Trade Center. One object that was featured in Tribune Tower but not added to the building's façade: a moon rock; it's owned by NASA and was displayed in the Tribune gift store.

5. It's Been Teased For Sale Before


CIM Group's $240M acquisition of Tribune Tower is one of the highest-profile building trades of 2016, but it isn't the first time the building was considered for a sale. In 2007, Sam Zell acquired Tribune Co in an $8.2B leveraged buyout that eventually drove the company into bankruptcy. Many observers believed, and it was later revealed, that Zell considered selling Tribune's real estate holdings, including Wrigley Field and Tribune Tower. Zell also wanted to sell the naming rights to Wrigley Field, which would have proven difficult given the ballpark's landmark status. We're relieved it didn't happen; with Wrigley ready to host its first World Series games in 71 years this week, calling the ballpark anything other than Wrigley Field would be simply wrong.