Chicago Architecture Info

Six North Michigan Avenue

6 North Michigan Avenue, Chicago

Narrative

While not quite the building it once was, Six North Michigan Avenue is still an essential part of Chicago's beloved Michigan Avenue streetwall. At first glance it appears to be any of a dozen interchangeable buildings from the South Loop, but upon closer inspection, it has quite a bit of 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 a woman. That was removed in 1947.

At the time it still sported its glorious tower, this was the headquarters of the Montgomery Ward company, a major player in mail order retail until the late 20th century. The building was erected to enhance the stature of the company, and evoke a sense of trust. As the Chicago Tribune noted, people from the heartland were worried about this new-fangled mail order catalog scheme, and the building helped allay fears that they would send their money away and get nothing in return.

Facts

Formerly The Tower Building
Formerly The Montgomery Ward Headquarters
Address 6 North Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60612
Neighborhood The Loop
Built 1899
Architecture firm Schmidt, Garden, and Martin
Type
  • Skyscraper
  • Residential
  • Retail
Floors 22
Height 282 feet

Notes

  • 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.

Timeline

1947 The ten-story tower was removed from the top of this building.
2001 This building was converted from offices to condominiums.