Tribune Tower
435 N Michigan Ave.

Tribune Tower


2001-2003 NB

The Tribune Tower, like the newspaper it houses, is august, sturdy, historic, and bears an air of self-importance that borders on holiness. The Gothic tower--the winnner of an international competition held by the Tribune in 1922--looks like a cathedral, and among reporters (including this one) it is indeed regarded as a cathedral of journalism. The lofty lobby, bearing inscriptions of famous quotes about freedom of the press, does little to dissuade this notion. The sanctimony suggests that the newspaper within these walls is propping up the republic itself--and not just making gobs of money for a major corporation (a corporation that bought the Cubs in the 1980s, seemingly undermining the newspaper's notions of objectivity and righteousness.) The Tribune Tower appears on the cover of a book of essays by a German philosopher entitled Objective Idealism, Ethics and Politics--a highfalutin title that fits the building to a T.

I don't mean to bite the hand that feeds me; I contribute articles to the paper and hasten to say that I have met some of the most gifted writers in the profession while working as an intern here. But the subculture of the company and tone of its flagship paper--which are both defined by their bureaucracy and aloofness--don't always make for great journalism, and are noticeably out of place in a city known for the most down-to-earth big-city people alive.

One of my favorite features of this building is its fleet of stones from famous buildings around the world. Soon after the tower was built, Tribune czar Col. Robert McCormick put his personal stone collection on display and told his reporters to add to it. It's the only such collection that I'm aware of (and of course, if every newspaper did this, the world's most famous buildings would look like swiss cheese). Today, the Tribune Tower is ornamented with chunks of the Parthenon, the Great Wall of China, the White House (pictured at left), The Alamo, and a few dozen others.

Other than its souvenir-laced walls, the most intriguing part of the Tribune Tower, which is also home to CNN's Chicago bureau, may be the basement. Once the printing press for the newspaper, the lower three levels of the building have been converted into the offices of the Tribune's multimedia departments. The 1999 renovation gave a nod to the floors' history by leaving many of the steel beams and printing cart rails exposed, while throwing in some futuristic touches including halogen lighting and glass-walled rooms. The result is an effective physical expression of the paper's ink-stained past and byte-sized future.

-More about the Tribune Tower from the Chicago Landmarks Division, Skyscrapers.com, GlassSteelandStone.com, and AViewOnCities.com.
-More pictures of the Tribune Tower from Dawn Mikulich and Mary Ann Sullivan.
-History of the Tribune Company from Tribune.com


© Copyright 2001-2003
Nathan L.K. Bierma