Saturday, August 06, 2005

Chicago - The Merchandise Mart

Living in Chicago, the capital of modern architecture, has its own advantages… I have the privilege of seeing the creations of the great minds that dared to dream more than half a century ago.

These buildings though old now house many modern offices in the city. I work in one such building called “The Merchandise Mart”. It has 24 floors; spans 2 city blocks in length and 1 city block in width.

Close to 20000 people visit the Merchandise Mart everyday for work/shopping etc, majority of them come through the Brown/Purple line that stops at the Mart Station located at the second floor of the building.

The Mart was the brainchild of James Simpson, president of Marshall Field and Company from 1923 to 1930 and chairman of the Chicago Plan Commission from 1926 to 1935. The purpose was to consolidate Field's wholesale activities, which were scattered about the city in 13 different warehouses.

It opened on Monday, May 5, 1930; making it the largest building in the world at 4.2 Million Sq Ft at that time. It held the title for 13 long years. Completion of the Pentagon in 1943, at 6.2 million square feet, caused a change in The Mart's title from "the largest building in the world" to "the largest commercial building in the world."

After 75 years, it is the sixth largest building in the world.

In 1945, ownership of The Mart passed from Marshall Field and Company to Joseph P. Kennedy, former ambassador to Great Britain and father of the 35th president.

In 1948, responding to a trend of increasing consumer interest, his staff opened up The Mart to the public by instituting daily tours given by The Merchandise Mart Guide Service.

In 1988, an enclosed pedestrian skywalk that bridges over Orleans Street to connect The Mart and the Chicago Apparel Center was built.

Though not the tallest in Chicago today, The Merchandise Mart is the first step in the long journey of Modern Architecture.