WGN Television in Chicago

Photo of WGN Television in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation

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WGN Television

2501 West Bradley Place, Chicago, Illinois, North Central 60618
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Current home to WGN Television (channels 9 and 19), Superstation WGN (cable and satellite) and the former home of WGN Radio (720 AM), this building it more about function than form. It is a series of long, low rectangles housing the studios, offices, and transmission facilities of one of the region's powerhouse broadcasters. The structure blends well with its neighbors in a nondescript office park. It may seem logical that the building looks the way it does because of the horizontal space needed for television studios. But other TV stations in town are able to create programming in nice-looking skyscrapers downtown. This building is formed the way it is because of civil defense. It was born in an age when the nation was paranoid, believing a nuclear attack was around the corner. Many TV and radio stations across the Midwest were built into cinderblock fortresses, like this one, in order to withstand attack and transmit life-saving information to the survivors. Today, the thick concrete walls help keep lottery machines safe from tampering.

It's a shame that a business with such deep cultural roots in the Midwest should be run out of such a mediocre building. The city's other heritage broadcasters, WLS-TV, WMAQ, and WBBM each have much nobler homes in the heart of the city, while WGN is the only major commercial broadcaster in Chicago to make its home on the outskirts of the commercial core. However, that does present WGN with one advantage -- it's own heliport. The WGN helicopter can land at the TV station for quick transfer of personnel and video, while all the other TV stations in town have to drive an hour or more to get to their news choppers. And WGN isn't the only bird using this pad. Since this is the closest heliport to downtown Chicago, it is used to ferry the governor to and from the capitol, and by movie companies as a base their camera and stunt choppers when filming in town. There have been as many as three helicopters at the WGN helipad at a time.

Quick Facts
    > 2000 - A new newsroom is added to the east side of the building, behind a large brick wall. The old newsroom is converted into the WGN Weather Center.
Did You Know?
    This building was the home of the Bozo The Clown show, and generations of children from across the country flocked to the studios here to be part of the live audience.
    This building was home of the original Donahue TV talk show.
    This is the building where the Illinois Lottery drawing is held twice a day.
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