Daniel Burnham, Chicago Architect. (1864-1912) Director of Works for the
Columbian Exposition of 1893, Architect of the Chicago Masonic Temple, which
was, in 1891, at 22 stories, the tallest skyscraper in the world.
The Masonic Temple Height: 302 feet (92
meters) to roof. Original owners: Free and Accepted Masons of the State of
Illinois. Constructed: 1891-1892. Arguably the birthplace of the skyscraper,
Chicago has held the title of tallest building twice in skyscraper history.
In 1892, the Masonic Temple rose twenty-two stories at the corner of
Randolph and State Streets. With its high pitched gables and flat-topped
roof leveling off at 302 feet, the structure was shorter than New York's
World Building with its lantern, but boasted the highest occupied floor.
Designed by Burnham and Root, Chicago's most prominent commercial
architects, it featured a central court ringed by nine floors of shops with
offices above and meeting rooms for the Masons at the very top.
The Masonic Temple employed a rigid steel
frame with wrought iron wind-bracing placed diagonally between the
structural members above the 10th floor. As light was a prime concern, large
windows were installed from top to bottom, clearly illustrating the
practicality of a steel-framed building. It was described as "perhaps the
frankest admission of a structural and economic necessity ever expressed in
Due to height regulations enacted in 1892,
The Masonic Temple remained Chicago's tallest building until the 1920's when
the city's new zoning laws permitted towers. In 1939, The Masonic Temple was
demolished, in part due to its poor internal services, but also due to the
construction of the new State Street subway, which would have necessitated
expensive foundation retrofitting. In 1939, its offices and stores
considered old fashioned, The Masonic Temple was demolished.
"Fronts 170 feet on State and 114 feet on Randolph Street, at the
northeast corner. This building occupies the place of honor in our chapter
on "Notable High Building," and is there fully described. Its 21 stories
carry it to a height of 302 feet. There are 10 stores, 543 offices, many
lodge-rooms, and a public observatory. The exterior walls are heavy, of
granite and yellow pressed brick. The rotunda on the main floor is open to
the skylight at the top, and is nearly surrounded by 14 passenger and 2
freight elevators. In the basement and under the street are 2 Corliss
engines, each of 500 horse-power; 8 steel boilers, 6 dynamos, and 8 large
pumps. The electric apparatus weighs 60 tons, and includes 53 miles of
wire. It is not possible to classify the tenants of a building which is a
city in itself; and again, the edifice has not yet developed it
characteristics. The upper floors are fitted for Masonic lodges, chapters,
asylums, and councils. The first ten floors are expected to accommodate
merchants. Professional men already favor the office floors. The
observatory offers a very high point of view, to be obtained for a small
fee and without climbing. This wonderful edifice was erected in 1890-92,
at a cost of $3,500,000."