Hidden Passages and Gangsta Views

The rain didn't stop us. Umbrellas in hand, we made sure we didn't miss this weekend's Open House Chicago.

Though we didn't quite make it to all 150 available buildings, but we were excited for the chance to visit quite a few. We spent Saturday visiting the interiors of several of the Prarie Avenue Mansions in our neighborhood. All those servants quarters made our afternoon feel like an American version of Downton Abbey.

Then, on Sunday, we headed North. First stop: Tribune Tower.

Tribune Tower
A Taste of Chicago's Architectural Diversity

Completed in 1925 this neo-gothic skyscraper was commissioned as a celebration of the Chicago Tribune's 75th birthday. New York architects John Mead Howells and Raymond Hood won the opportunity to design the building in an international design contest that included a $100,000 prize. (in 1920s $$$!!!)

Tribune Arch

The neo-gothic style was chosen because it is most often associated with cathedrals. This building was meant to be not only the most beautiful and distinctive office building in the world, but it was also intended to pay homage and exhibit reverence to freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

The newspaper is an institution developed by modern civilization to present the news of the day, to foster commerce and industry, to inform and lead public opinion, and to furnish that check upon government which no constitution has ever been able to provide.
Colonel Robert R. McCormick 

Colonel Robert R. McCormick and his cousin Joseph M. Patterson were co-editors and co-publishers at the time of the buildings' construction. Each had an office on the 24th floor, each had a beautiful view, and each had a hidden escape hatch.

Paranoia cha-cha-cha.

Escape Closet - Tribune Tower Escape Hatch - Tribune Tower

If I hadn't seen it myself, I wouldn't believe the story. The hatch in what was once Patterson's office still exists. In the above pictures, you'll notice a "closet" that is nearly invisible when the door is closed. Inside the "closet" you'll find a super secret door that leads to a narrow stair case ending at the no-longer-open-to-the-public observation deck.

But the escape hatches weren't the only design eccentricities. In the Colonel's office there are four doors and only one door knob. Legend has it, the Colonel wanted to make sure when you left a meeting you were leaving on his terms. Apparently there was a button on his desk that unlatched one of the doors and allowed people to enter and exit through it. And I thought I was a control freak!

But he was a control freak with a killer view.

A View from the Top of the Trib
"Damn it feels good to be a gangsta."

All eccentricities aside, the Colonel was responsible for commissioning an iconic Chicago skyscraper. And he was proud of it. He made no secret of the fact that the building cost $8.5 million. (...again, in 1920s $$$!!!) At the time of it's completion, only the Eiffel Tower in Paris and three skyscrapers in New York City exceeded its overall height. Eighty something years later, it remains one of the quintessential Chicago buildings.

Up the Tribune Tower

So, who/what do you think these cousins were needing to "escape?"

Tune in later this week for more Open House Chicago Fun.