[graphic header] Chicago: A National Register of Historic Places Travel Itinerary, National Park Service

The Manhattan Building
Manhattan Building, detail
Photo courtesy of Carroll Westfall.

The Manhattan Building is the oldest surviving commercial office building by William LeBaron Jenney, the noted architect who brought the techniques of skyscraper skeletal construction to maturity. Some Chicago School architects who worked in Jenney's office included D. H. Burnham, Martin Roche, Louis Sullivan, and William Holabird.

The Manhattan Building, constructed from 1889 to 1890, was the first skyscraper to attain a height of 16 stories. It set a precedent by containing all the elements used later in the Chicago School of Architecture. The cast iron panels along the ground floor appear as applied cladding for the framework rather than as support, a treatment that became common after 1889. The masonry of the second and third floors became a common element in the bases of the buildings, as did the series of string courses and cornices and the grouping of windows into bays to reveal the dimensions of the skeletal frame.

The Manhattan Building is decorated with capitals along the 12th floor and some masks and vegetative detailing on the brackets of the fourth floor. Polygonal oriels placed in the center of the west facade rise higher than the flanking rounded oriels.

Although the main entrance has been covered over and the public interior spaces have been altered, the original facade has remained virtually intact. The most conspicuous exterior alteration has been the addition of a single bay on the outer flank of the tenth floor.

The Manhattan Building is located at 431 Dearborn St. and the lobby and some offices are open to the public.

 

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