Building History & Facts

Since its opening in 1972, the Johnson Publishing Building has been a bastion of pride in Chicago’s South Loop neighborhood. Erected just four years after the infamous Chicago riots, this marble tower first crested the city’s skyline like a protest all its own. To this day, it remains the only building in Chicago’s historic Loop to be designed, built, and owned by an African American. The prominent EBONY/JET sign, which still hangs proudly over historic Michigan Avenue, has since evolved into a symbol of achievement, recognizable in America’s art, history, and culture.

Explore the building’s journey:

1969


Photo Source: Huffington Post

Johnson commissions John Moutoussamy as lead architect, calling for a design that “would express permanence and would have character without flamboyance.”

1970

Construction begins, and as a gift from the mayor, Johnson’s building becomes the only structure on Michigan Avenue allowed to have a private driveway.

1972

The opening ceremony is held, attended by such notables as Mayor Richard J. Daley, John Lennon, and Henry Fonda, and featuring a reading by Poet Laureate and Pulitzer-Prize winner Gwendolyn Brooks, and a speech by Reverend Jesse Jackson. The building is written about as “one of the city’s most spectacular showcases.”

1972


Photo by Jacob Boll ('12)

The Johnsons move into their new corporate headquarters, and John H. Johnson is named Publisher of the Year by his industry peers, an honor that he said felt tantamount to winning an Oscar.

1973


Photo by Jacob Boll ('12)

Eunice W. Johnson creates Fashion Fair Cosmetics, a makeup line suited for the skin tone of her fashion models. She opens up shop on the seventh floor, home to her executive office and EBONY Fashion Fair.

1982

John H. Johnson becomes the first African-American male to be listed on the Forbes list of 400 wealthiest Americans.

1987

John H. Johnson is granted the Black Journalists’ Lifetime Achievement Award.

1990

John H. Johnson’s estimated personal wealth grows to $150 million.

1993

Johnson receives The Wall Street Journal/Dow Jones Entrepreneurial Excellence Award.

1996

President Bill Clinton awards John H. Johnson with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor that the nation can bestow on a citizen.

2002

Johnson receives both the Vanguard Award and the Trumpet Award, celebrating his accomplishments in the media industry and his promotion of cultural understanding.

2005

John H. Johnson dies of congestive heart failure.

2010

Eunice W. Johnson passes away, having lived to see her fashion show and makeup line become some of the most successful in the world.

2010


Photo by Paul Morgan of Paul Morgan Studios

Columbia College Chicago purchases the Johnson Publishing Building.