We're so used to hearing the word, we don't really think about it. Today we have airplanes. We've flown to the moon. Scraping the sky doesn't seem like such a big deal.
But go back to this date in 1884. On March 1st the city issued a permit to erect an office building at the northeast corner of La Salle and Adams. The Home Insurance Building would start a revolution.
Before 1884 buildings were supported by their walls. The higher you went, the wider the bottom. That's because the base had to carry the weight of everything above it. Think of the pyramids.
Of course, you could take some of the weight off the walls by putting support columns inside the building. Trouble was, you reduced interior space, and wound up with a bunch of small rooms.
And because your outside walls were weight-bearing, glass windows had to be small. That limited the sunlight coming into your building. You want larger windows? Then you build buttresses holding up your walls, like the Gothic cathedrals.
William LeBaron Jenney, architect of the Home Insurance Building, changed this. Metals had become stronger and easier to use.
…Read Full Entry