world’s first skyscaper

This last Sunday, October 8, 2006, Chicago celebrated the 135th anniversary of the Chicago Fire. “Celebrate”? you ask. Why would a city celebrate such a tragic event? Since the Chicago Fire wiped out practically the entire city, it gave the city an empty slate to rebuild the city to great fame and notoriety.

However, I contend that we not celebrate the Chicago Fire for the rebuilding of Chicago. Rather we should celebrate the first steel load-carrying structure built in the world. For it is the steel structure that made Chicago (and the world) what it is today. Chicago first adopted the use of steel loading-carrying structures with the construction of the Home Insurance Building in 1885.

How does it work? A steel frame supports the entire weight of the walls instead of the walls themselves carrying the weight of the building which was the usual method at the time. This concept has allowed mankind to climb higher and higher in the sky. And it all began in Chicago at LaSalle and Adams Street.

Do not believe any reports that George Fuller’s Tacoma Building (1889) or the Singer Building (1908) were the first skyscrapers. This is false.

Home Insurance building facts:
–built 1885–
–demolished 1931 (for construction of Field Building)–
–10 stories–
–138 feet–
–Two stories were added in 1890 bringing the height to 180 feet.–
–was world’s tallest building from 1885-1890, replaced by New York World Building
–architect: William LeBaron Jenney
–The weight of the steel used in the building is one-third the weight if masonry were used.–
–belongs to the Chicago School family of architecture–
link to current aerial view of where the Home Insurance Building once stood–
link to construction photo of Home Insurance Building–


Here’s a neat book on the history of skyscrapers. (It comes with free shipping, too!)
Skyscrapers: A Social History of the Very Tall Building in America


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Tom Saaristo
17 years ago

I used to say that I wanted to live in the Monadnock Building for the very reason that it is fun to say!

In fact I made up a little joke


“Who’s there?”


“Tom who?”

“Tom lives in the Monadnock Building!”