Look Up, Chicago

333 North Michigan Avenue


Photo taken from the plaza east of the Wrigley Building and just west of the Michigan Avenue Bridge.  (Click on image to enlarge it and click a second time to return to the smaller size.) 

According to Wikipedia’s article on 333 N. Michigan, this example of Chicago’s Art Deco architecture was designed by Holabird and Root/Holabird and Roche and was completed in 1928.


Look up, with me, at the fifth floor of this building’s north façade  You should be able to discern four large and two small relief sculptures among the windows.  There are also two large reliefs on the east façade plus four large and three small reliefs on the west façade. These sculptures suggest early-day Chicago.  This motif may be based on the location of the building, which is near the original site of Fort Dearborn and the mouth of the Chicago River

All of the seven, unique reliefs can be view on the west façade of 333 North Michigan building.  The north façade displays six of the seven, and the east façade, only two. 


1.  The northernmost relief on the west façade may represent Jacques Marquette, French explorer and missionary to Native Americans. He and Louis Joliet had reached the Chicago area in 1673, wintering there again in late 1674.  The canoe in the upper left of the sculpture, and the ropes being pulled by the Native Americans suggest that they are using a portage to get from one river system to another.  The Chicago Portage provided Marquette and Joliet with a shorter and more direct route from the Mississippi watershed to that of Lake Michigan. 

This first relief is the leftmost on all three, fifth-floor façades.


2.  Moving to the right (south), the next relief appears to depict an interaction between a trapper or frontiersman and a settler.  The trapper is dressed in buckskin and wears moccasins.  The settler, on the other hand, wears boots and, perhaps, cloth clothing.  The settler is accompanied by a yoke of oxen, the true beast of burden for those seeking to settle on the trackless frontier. 

This relief is paired with the one to its right on both the west and the north façades. 


image  image

The three reliefs, above, represent from north (top) to south (bottom): 

3.  A trapper carries pelts on his back and his flintlock musket in his right hand.  Eyes downward, he may be tracking additional game. 

4.  A Native American also has eyes cast down.  Are they focused  on the howling dog at his feet or on the trail before him?  He carries no weapons.  Incidentally, this relief is the only one of the seven that is not duplicated on the north façade.

5.  Finally, a woman firmly grasps her flintlock weapon with both hands — ready for any eventuality — as she moves toward the right.  Rather than looking at the trail ahead, she cautiously glances back over her right shoulder.  


6.  This relief may refer to the Battle of Fort Dearborn, an unfortunate fallout of the War of 1812.  If so, the man on the right may have been struck by a bullet and the other men prepare for a fight.  The stockade and blockhouse in the background would then represent Fort Dearborn. 


7. Finally, the southmost relief may represent the on-going commerce between the trappers/traders and the Native Americans of the Chicago area.  As for relief 1, this relief is the right most on all three façades.   

A case could be made for the north-to-south array of these reliefs being intended to represent a chronological sequence.  On the east façade, only the first (1) and last (7) of the reliefs are displayed.  On the north façade — as well as the west façade, as seen above — The first two (1 & 2)  and the last two (6 & 7) reliefs are in the same order.  On the north façade, however, relief 4 is not displayed, but the sequences of 1-3 and 5-7 are the same. 

Thank you for looking up with me at the 333 North Michigan building. 

For new users: 

In older posts, if there are multiple photographs on one posting,

  1. click within a photograph to see it enlarged, then,
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For newer posts, clicking on one photograph will enlarge them all, and clicking a second time will reduce all the photographs in the posting to the smaller size.  

You may also want to see: 

Phoenix Sightings - 3

… which consists mostly of two-dimensional representations:  









The following two photographs are of phoenixes located inside University buildings:

1.  Inside the east entrance of the Henry Crown Field House:


2.  Inside the northeast entrance to Hutchinson Commons:


That’s all — at least for now.

McGraw-Hill Building - Update

This update features one of the zodiac panels from the McGraw-Hill Building, 520 N. Michigan Avenue.  Anyone interested in a closer look at four of these massive reliefs can do so in the café area between the Shops on North Bridge (520 North Michigan Avenue) and the Nordstrom store (55 East Grand).  

Three of the panels on display in this area — Capricorn, Aries and Virgo — were included in the earlier post on the McGraw-Hill Building, but the Aquarius panel can only be viewed here.  (Click on image to enlarge it.)


The Marquette Building: 140 S. Dearborn

Look up, with me, at the Marquette Building, located on the northwest corner at the intersection of Dearborn and Adams Streets.  This superbly restored Chicago School skyscraper is named after Father Jacques Marquette who, with Louis Jolliet, was the first European recorded to have explored the Chicago area, wintering over in 1674-75. 

This set of postings is limited to the bronze panels located over the east entrance to the Marquette Building.  If you are in the area, I urge you to enter the building and enjoy the beautiful Tiffany mosaics and additional bronze reliefs just inside the lobby.  There are many treasures both within — and outside — this remarkable building! 

For a more formal introduction to the Marquette Building, consider contacting the Chicago Architecture Foundation.  A number of walking tours scheduled during the week include the Marquette Building among their destinations.   

Read More

The Bronze Reliefs — Marquette Building’s East Facade

This posting focuses on the four bronze reliefs that can be viewed above the east entrance to the Marquette Building.  The panels were the work of Hermon Atkins MacNeil, a noted American sculptor who is also credited with designing the ‘Standing Liberty’ silver dollar in 1916.  The reliefs can be readily seen from the sidewalk in front of the building. 

The reliefs are displayed, above, in the order in which they appear over the entrance, with the south (upper left) panel being the first, and the north (lower right) panel, the last of the four. 

1.  Marquette, Joliet and a handful of voyageurs load their two canoes for their expedition to explore the Mississippi.  The two leaders are standing near the center of the panel. 

2.  Marquette, standing at the bow of the nearest canoe, tries to convince Michigamea tribe members that they come in peace.  Jolliet is seated in the bow of the other canoe, to the right of Marquette. 

3.  Marquette becomes ill during subsequent travels along the Illinois River.  As a result, the expedition spends the winter of 1674-5 near the Chicago River.   Marquette is seated in the sled. 

4.  In May of 1675, on his return to the mission he founded at St. Ignace, Marquette died and was buried near the modern town of Ludington, Michigan.  This panel is probably intended to portray the removal of Marquettes remains to the St. Ignace Mission in 1677. 

Cobb Gate: Update

Cobb Gate Sculptures Free of Ivy

It is a great pleasure to note that the ivy has been removed from the grotesques on the north face of Cobb Gate at the University of Chicago.  Thanks to the University for making these iconic sculptures fully visible to all. 

Cobb Gate: University of Chicago


Cobb Gate

The University of Chicago's Hyde Park campus features Gothic-inspired architectural sculpture.  I suggest that you look up at Cobb Gate, the northern entrance to the university’s main quadrangle.  Cobb Gate is located on the south side of 57th Street, between University and Ellis Avenues, and it is named after the architect of several of the earliest of the campus’ buildings, Henry Ives Cobb.   

Please note the nine grotesques that ornament the top of the gate’s structure.  I understand that these whimsical figures may represent:

  • registrars or the admissions process (the two large figures at the bottom, on each side of the pediment)
  • first-year students or freshmen (the lowest of the smaller figures creeping up the sloping sides of the pediment)
  • second- and third-year students (the next two figures climbing the pediment’s sides)
  • the magnificent senior (the large figure at the apex of the pediment)

This photograph of the north side of Cobb Gate was taken from across the street, on the north side of 57th Street.  

These grotesques are duplicated on the south side of the Cobb Gate structure.  There is much less ivy on the south, but placement of some trees make it more difficult to get satisfactory photographs.  

Cobb Gate - Detail

From the upper left:

  1. This gate-keeper grotesque glares threateningly downward to the left.  It is also nearly covered by ivy, a situation that I find unfortunate.  Ivy may claim nearly unassailable status on most campuses, but should it be allowed to swallow up these delightful sculptures?  I hope not! 
  2. At the top right, the other gate-keeper figure looks upward to the right, mouth open and tongue out, as if ready to challenge whatever the heavens may provide.  
  3. The photograph on the left in the second row shows all five of the grotesques visible on the left side of the Cobb Gate pediment. 
  4. The photo to the right features the five grotesques that are visible from the right side of Cobb Gate. 
  5. The first photograph in the third row is focused on the three figures at the the top of the gate’s pediment.  The two third-year grotesques have almost — but not quite — reached their goal.  This may allow looking around a bit or snarling at perceived threats.
  6. The grand senior complacently sits at the very top, fully fledged and looking forward to whatever comes next.  Is that a knot of hair or a crown that graces the senior’s head? 
  7. On the bottom left, a first-year grotesque scrambles toward the top.  Note the remains of the ivy vines visible in this late-winter photograph. 
  8. A bewildered first-year grotesque pauses momentarily on its upward journey.  This appears to be the only grotesque — except for the senior and the two gate keepers — with wings. 

Cobb Gate: Archive Photograph

Cobb Gate

This photograph comes from an excellent archive maintained by the Univeristy of Chicago.  It provides a view of Cobb Gate (or Hull Gate, as the photo is labeled on the lower left) from the north.  Although this is an early picture of the gate, enough time had elapsed since its contruction to allow ivy to begin to cover the walls on the left and right of the gate. 

Source:  Archival Photographic Files, apf2-01691, Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library.

The Monadnock Building

The Monadnock Building:  Architecture as Sculpture 

Instead of architectural sculpture, this set of postings might be said to celebrate architecture as sculpture.  Rather than calling attention to ornamentation or decoration applied to or integrated into the Monadnock Building, I invite you to look up at the building itself. 

The Monadnock Building, located on the south east corner of the Jackson and Dearborn intersection, has much to commend it.  The Chicago Architecture Foundation’s walking tour, Historic Downtown (south):  Rise of the Skyscraper includes an excellent introduction to the Monadnock Building (along with several others) and its contributions to Chicago’s architectural history. 

Built in 1891, the Monadnock Building is devoid of the ornamentation and decoration that were the standard for its time.  Nevertheless, this is no mere pile of masonry!  There is an elegant simplicity about it that begs, I think, for a long, careful look. 

This photograph was taken from the east side of Dearborn, several yards north of Jackson. 

The Monadnock Building

The first of the two photos, above, provides a view primarily of a small portion of the east facade of the Monadnock.  The second photograph mostly focuses on the north facade.  Please note the gentle flaring in of the masonry above the first floor level and a corresponding flaring out at the top of the building. 

The Monadnock Building

The first photograph, above, features the very simple, understated eastern entrance to the Monadnock Building. 

The second photograph shows the first three floors of the Monadnock’s north facade.  The inward flaring above the first floor level is most evident on the west (right) side of the building. 

The final of these three photographs focuses on the inward flaring of the masonry beginning at the bottom of the 2nd floor windows and continuing nearly to the bottom of the third floor windows.  You may have noted that the building in the background at the right of this photo provides a grid against which this curve can be observed.  This inward flare is also evident from the second floor windows, which are more recessed at the bottom than at the top.

The Monadnock Building

The top photograph shows the treatment of the two columns of bay windows that extend from the third through the fifteenth of the Monadnock building’s sixteen floors.   All edges where the planes of the windows and the building meet are rounded, and the window columns essentally flair out, beginning just below the point where the flaring in of the sides of the building stops.    

The bottom photograph provides a closer look at the base of one of the bay window columns.  Both of these photos are taken of the north facade, but there are several evenly spaced columns of bay windows columns on the east and west facades as well.