Six North Michigan Avenue in Chicago

Photo of Six North Michigan Avenue in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of Six North Michigan Avenue in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
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Photo of Six North Michigan Avenue in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation

Chicago, Water Tower, Detail

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Six North Michigan Avenue
Formerly:The Tower Building
Formerly:Montgomery Ward Headquarters

6 North Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Illinois, The Loop 60602
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Not quite the building it once was, Six North Michigan Avenue is still an essential part of Chicago's beloved Michigan Avenue cliff. At first glance it appears to be any of a dozen interchangeable buildings from the South Loop, but upon closer inspection, it has some merit. In spite of being more than one hundred years old, Six North Michigan retains some of its stately features. A tall central shaft with three columns of wide windows are flanked by two lesser wings of narrower windows. The arrangement fools the eye into thinking the north and south portions are set back from the main facade.

But this structure isn't without its problems. The top of the building sports a penthouse structure which looks more than just unfinished -- it looks positively abandoned. Today's state of affairs is the result of mistakes of the past. The top of this building used to support a ten-story tower, topped with a three-story pyramid, a temple, and a weather vane in the shape of the female form. Now that is the way the headquarters of a merchant prince should look. at the time it still sported its glorious tower, it was the headquarters of the Montgomery Ward company; a major player in the American Midwest until the late 20th century. The building was erected to enhance the stature of the company, and invoke a sense of trust in its customers. As the Chicago Tribune noted, people from the heartland were worried about this new-fangled mail order catalog scheme, and the building helped calm fears that they would send their money away and get nothing in return. But as Ward's fortunes would later crumble, the tower had to be taken down for safety reasons. It was disassembled in 1947, emasculating this structure and transforming it into architectural mediocrity.

Quick Facts
  • At the time of its completion, this was the tallest building in Chicago.
  • The building once was topped with a ten story tower, a pyramid, a temple, and an 18-foot-tall weather vane.
  • This building once had a public observation deck, which has long since been not only closed, but demolished.
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Your Thoughts

There are five comments.

  My grandfather for many years was the proprieter of "Minogue & Sons" fine footware, on the second floor of this building overlooking E Madison. They finally closed in1954, when he was 79. My father worked there awhile, and he recalled the oak interior and large picture windows. As a young man, he several times found his way all the way up to the top of the building where the statue was. He also recalled the interesting clientele over the years - I think 7 Roman Catholic Cardinals ordered their red shoes from Minogue & Sons. Frank Nitty was also a customer, and the assistant district attorney's daughter worked there. at the time..

Richard Minogue - Saturday, January 23rd, 2016 @ 1:21am  

  Restoration of this ediface is a greattribute to a man who took pride in contributing to the development and success of a fantastic first rate city. His vision and persaverance to clean a swamp and landfill across from this building and change it into Grant Park showed how much Aaron Montgomery Ward cared for and.loved this city and its people. Along with his contribution in developing his mail order business alonog the river at Chicago Ave and Larabee, he truely was a pioneer in the development of the best city in America.

Dennis W - Friday, June 21st, 2013 @ 1:39am  

  I highly disagree with the assessment of this wonderful building and it's current state by this site. It was a very long detailed project that was taken on by the current developer, FBOP Corp. The original developer is the one that faultered. The majority of developers would not have cared and would never have wanted the hassle. The observation deck is actually still intact having been encased in glass and now the grand living space of the Penthouse residence of 6 N. Michigan. The temple portion was taken years ago (waaaaay before the current developer was involved) as it became a massive safety hazard. Utmost care and consideration and man hours were involved to present a property that residents absolutely love living in. I know all this as I have served as a salesperson the longest on the project. I am currently there if anyone would ever like to have a tour.

Patrick Ryan - Sunday, November 14th, 2010 @ 2:00pm  

  And to think, Richard Schmidt was about 3o years old when he designed this building! When the building opened it was ridiculed by Louis Sullivan as being a "New York" style building with its tower and weather vane. I believe the tower removal helped the overall look of the building. Now that the crown has been removed you can easily see its Chicago style.

Robert Herbst - Thursday, March 22nd, 2007 @ 12:03pm  

  Wow, I never knew that this bulding was buit in 1898.This poor building has goe through a lot! yet it still looks smart!

kirby cruz - Thursday, December 7th, 2006 @ 8:28pm