What you talking 'bout, Willis? A look at the other Sears Tower

October 19, 2011

There were scores of great architectural sneak peeks at last weekend's Open House Chicago, as WBEZ's Lynette Kalsnes discussed yesterday. One of my faves was the old 15-story original Sears Tower, at Homan and Arthington on the city's West Side.

Built in 1906, the tower is a remnant of the massive Sears Merchandise Building, a two-block long complex that once wrapped around the structure. The tower is part of a complex of former Sears buildings in the area now operated by the Homan Square Foundation. Sears, of course, left their North Lawndale world headquarters in the 1970s for the Sears Tower downtown. (The company left the Sears Tower in 1993 for a Hoffman Estates office park. And, of course now...)

The Merchandise Building on Homan Avenue was demolished in the 1990s, but the tower remained. Located at 930 S. Homan, the tower is a tall, thin brick structure with a limestone entrance flanked by graceful columns. The tower is undergoing restoration now and surrounded by scaffolding; the photo above was taken earlier this year before the work began. In the tower, there is an elevator that leads to the three top floors that were accessible for Open House Chicago, including a double-height top story that afforded amazing views to the south, east and north.

Performers from Access Contemporary Music performed a piece written for the space.

A space below the top floor once held the building's water tanks:

And the view to the north shows the West Side, with new homes built by the Homan Square in the foreground:

The Homan Square Foundation is looking to lure artistic and cultural uses to the tower at some point.