[graphic header] Chicago: A National Register of Historic Places Travel Itinerary, National Park Service
Montgomery Ward Co. Complex
Montgomery Ward, exterior
Photo courtesy of Ralph J. Christian.

Since 1909, the Montgomery Ward and Company Complex, situated along the North Branch of the Chicago River, has served as national headquarters for the country's oldest mail order firm. The two earliest buildings, the old Administration Building and the Mail Order House, still exhibit much of their original architectural vitality. Both are constructed of reinforced concrete and were designed by Hugh Garden, a member of the distinguished architectural firm of Schimdt, Garden, and Martin.

The Administration Building served as the company's headquarters until 1974. The eight-story building features sword and torch motifs on the base and vertical piers that rise uninterrupted until they culminate in a parapet with motifs similar to the base. A four-story tower was added in 1929 on the northeast corner of the building. Its pyramidal roof is crowned with a 22.5 foot bronze statue that originally topped the former Montgomery Ward Building on Michigan Avenue.

Forty feet north of the Administration Building is the Mail Order House. This eight-story building is painted white and capped with a flat roof. The interior contains miles of chutes, conveyors, and storage lofts.

In later years, Montgomery Ward and Company added several warehouses, parking ramps, and a 26-story office building. The complex was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1978.

The Montgomery Ward Company Complex is located at 618 W. Chicago Ave. Montgomery Ward declared bankruptcy in 2001, and the future of the complex is uncertain.

 

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