1104 S Wabash

Quick Facts

  • Name: 1104 Center
  • Address: 1100 - 1108 South Wabash Avenue / 31 - 51 East 11th Street
  • Size: 120 feet x 166 feet, 8 stories
  • Architect:
    • William LeBaron Jenney
    • W.B. Mundie, 1891-1892
    • Renovation architect: A.S. Coffen, 1920
  • Original Name: The Ludington Building
  • Subsequent Names: Ludington Building, 1104 Wabash Campus
  • Acquired by College: 1999
  • Original Building Type: Office
  • Style: Chicago Commercial

Information taken from the 2005 Campus Preservation Plan.


History

1104 South Wabash Avenue, built in 1891, is a City of Chicago Landmark (1996) and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places (1980). Built by William LeBaron Jenney, acknowledged as the inventor of the skyscraper for his fire-proofed metal skeleton-frame designs, the Ludington building represents his continuing experimentation as the first entirely terra cotta-clad skyscraper. The Ludington is also a rare survivor, one of only two extant loft buildings in Chicago built by Jenney.

This eight-story, steel-frame building, boasting one of the finest examples of a terra-cotta clad façade, was commissioned by Mary Ludington Barnes for the American Book Company, which was owned by her husband, Charles Barnes. At the time, Chicago was a national center for the publishing industry, as demonstrated by this building and many others, particularly those on “Printing House Row,” and including the former Lakeside Press Building owned by Columbia College. The American Book Company built the building to house its offices, printing presses, packaging and shipping operations. Its frame was built to withstand the weight and vibrations of the presses, which were originally located on the 4th through 6th floors, and to accommodate the anticipated 8 story addition that was never built. Its status as a manufacturing facility determined its form as a loft building, with a practical and efficient interior that had few elegant original elements. Its location, between the Grand Central terminal at Harrison and Wells Streets and the Illinois Central station at Michigan Avenue and Roosevelt Road, made it ideal for the distribution of the company’s products.

The Ludington Building was owned by descendents of its original owners until 1960, although it was occupied by many different tenants, including the Pepsodent toothpaste company in the 1910s and ‘20s. In 1960 it was sold to Warshawsky and Company, an autoparts firm, for use as a storage facility. Columbia College Chicago purchased the building from Warshawsky in 1999. The Ludington currently houses the school’s Center for Book and Paper Arts, a portion of the Film and Video Department, the Glass Curtain Gallery and the Conaway Multicultural Center.


Description

The Ludington Building is an eight-story, steel frame structure. One reason for its national significance is its status as the first entirely terra cotta-clad skyscraper in history. Its principal facades, facing Wabash Avenue and 11th Street, are faced with unglazed red terra cotta that was, at some point in its early history, painted white. Its side walls are common brick, although the terra cotta facing wraps around the corner at the alley. Rare for buildings of its period, the Ludington retains its original terra cotta cornice. The other two elevations are faced with common brick.

The Ludington is a Chicago Commercial Style building, characterized by the clear expression of its structural frame, by the lack of thick masonry in imitation of load-bearing walls, particularly at its base, and by windows of historically unprecedented size.

The terra cotta cladding on the façade carries classical revival details that have been called Lombard Renaissance in style:

“Jenney decorated the frame with classical motifs that foreshadowed the Classical Revival initiated by the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893. The Ludington exhibits a Neo Grec adaptation of the Lombard Renaissance. This style can be seen in the flat decoration of the pilasters and the clustering of candelabra and other ornament around the doorway. The choice of the Lombard Renaissance was appropriate. Terra cotta and brick were the natural materials of northern Italy, and the weightlessness of the style suits the light skin of the Ludington.” (Turak, Theodore. William LeBaron Jenney, A Pioneer of Modern Architecture, p. 299.)

The Ludington Building is among the most significant buildings in Chicago, and is a milestone in the history of the skyscraper.