LaSalle-Wacker Building in Chicago

Photo of LaSalle-Wacker Building in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of LaSalle-Wacker Building in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
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Photo of LaSalle-Wacker Building in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of LaSalle-Wacker Building in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation

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LaSalle-Wacker Building

221 North LaSalle Street, Chicago, Illinois, The Loop 60601
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One of the great Art Deco piles of Chicago, the LaSalle-Wacker Building is based on a classic design, but doesn't take itself too seriously.

This is one of the few buildings of its era that still embraces and celebrates its heritage. Instead of pretending to be something modern, it illuminates its light wells at night in colored flood lights. Its crowning spire can't compete with those on the nearby Willis Tower so it sticks a defiant neon finger into the night air to get noticed. A finger that is decked out in Art Deco glory.

Structurally, the building is a classic 1930's skyscraper. A giant H formation on the lower part of the building allows light into the interior. Atop this is a narrow tower which offers great views while sharing the available light with its neighbors and pedestrians.

This is what Chicago architecture was once all about -- the little artistic flourishes that set one brick or limestone-clad building apart from the other. The building, itself, represents a vanishing piece of history. And if you really want to look for vanishing history, check out the art deco ash trays that still exist at the ground level, though smoking has long been banned from the doorways of Chicago buildings.

We are forunate that this building has a location along the river, or it would be forgotten like so many other Art Deco masterpieces crowded into obscurity in the grit of Chicago's Loop.

Quick Facts
  • Height to roof: 512 feet.
  • Height to top of tower: 552 feet.
  • Base: 24 stories
  • Tower: 17 stories
  • Floor space: 375,000 square feet
  • 1929: Construction begins.
  • 1930: Construction is completed.
  • 1954: WFMT Radio moves its studios to this building.
  • November 9, 1997: The 40-foot-tall illuminated communications tower was added to the top of this building.
  • August, 2014: the portion of this building not already sold off as office condos was bought by Sterling Bay for $53 million
  • This building was designed by Andrew N. Rebori.
  • At one time there was a Rebori-designed mirrored "Sun Ball" atop this building.
  • The base of this skyscraper is three stories tall.
  • The main mass of this building is 20 stories tall.
  • The tower portion of this building is 18 stories tall.
  • Architecture firm: Holabird & Root
  • Architecture firm: Rebori, Wentworth, Dewey, and McCormick
  • Architect: Andrew N. Rebori
  • This was formerly the headquarters of the McDonald's fast food chain before it moved to the suburbs.
  • This building has a "sun beacon" at the tip of its spire. It was made up of eight 36-inch mirrors that were used as a navigation aid for early pilots. At night, the landmark was marked with red neon.
Did You Know?
  • A tower on top of this building once transmitted the programming of WAAF-FM/Chicago (93.9) in the 1940's and 1950's.
Look For
  • Art deco ashtrays. We don't know if they're original, but they're certainly a throwback.
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Your Thoughts

There are six comments.

  Worked in this great building when Mr. Ray Kroc was CEO, owner of McDonalds restaurants, rode the "L' train everyday to work from the far Southside, back in the early 1960's,, those where the days,

Robert L. - Friday, April 8th, 2016 @ 1:22pm  

  During 1978 and 1979 I was the Window Cleaner for the building. 2200 windows I was told, and they were cleaned once a month inside and out. The upper floors were done using a window cleaners belt, meaning I climbed outside of each window. I still have the belt that I used as well as a pic of the belt, bucket and squeegee, mounted outside of a window. I'm a 3rd generation window cleaner and was awarded my Journeymans status with the Chicago Window Cleaners Union in 1971 at age 16.

Gary Wolfe - Monday, August 24th, 2015 @ 10:11am  

  Along with the Board of Trade and the Palmolive Building, LaSalle-Wacker represents the handsomest art deco skyscrapers is Chicago. Clearly the architects wanted to present a unified, soaring effect, and they achieved it.Too bad the banal building being built next to it will trivialize it to some extent, but I guess that's (NOT) progress. Fortunately, the Board of Trade stands at the axis of LaSalle Street, where it will always have a commanding presence.Jim from Palm Springs,CA

Jim Norton - Wednesday, May 21st, 2014 @ 3:03pm  

  I simply love the Art-deco style. The lines are clean, smooth, quietly elegant. Simplicity, yet decor. There is something classy in the "221's" silhouette. Greetings from Toronto W-W

Wojciech W-W - Tuesday, May 20th, 2014 @ 5:36pm  

  Hi! Me and my wife Sophie spent around 60 years in this building working as : me a cleaning person my wife as housekeeping director. Our second home 221 is one and only located in place close to all business spots.Famous MayorsRow restaurant was a place of meetings for politicians lowyers and people like me and You. How many movies was shot in this bldg. and as one of special places it was not touched by great Chicago Flood.Atmosphere of this bldg was creater by thousands of tenants treated by LURIE CO. as one big family.Imiss it greatly and my best memories are in 221.My best wishes from Poland Stan L.

Stan Lukaszczyk - Sunday, October 16th, 2011 @ 5:04am  

  I like how the building looks, the design is similar to a huge chair. The spire makes it look good that much more, especially at night when the building and spire light up at night.

Brent Kampert - Thursday, November 20th, 2008 @ 11:50am