CHICAGO — A 36-story Chicago landmark, the Tribune Tower, has been sold — gargoyles, flying buttresses and all.
Tribune Media Co. announced Wednesday that it closed the sale of the tower and two other properties this week. The company has received $430 million in gross proceeds for the assets, and may receive up to an additional $45 million in contingent payments.
The Tribune Tower, purchased by CIM Group, sits on three acres along Chicago’s Michigan Avenue.
Here are some features of the historic edifice that make it significant:
MONUMENT TO ‘THE COLONEL’
News mogul Robert R. McCormick, known as the Colonel, became president of Tribune Company in 1911. To mark the 75th anniversary of the Chicago Tribune, McCormick held an international design competition to create “the most beautiful office building in the world,” with a $50,000 prize for the winner. A renowned eccentric who directed Tribune editors to use his own system of spelling, McCormick requested secret doors and passages in case the building was ever stormed.
SOMETHING OLD, SOMETHING NEW
Raymond Hood and John Mead Howells won the design competition, and their Gothic Revival building was completed in 1925. The crown of the building, illuminated by floodlights and reaching a height of 462 feet, looks like a Medieval European tower complete with flying buttresses. The sculptural details include grotesques and gargoyles.
STONES FROM ALL OVER
Studded with history, the tower’s facade holds pieces of the Parthenon, the Great Wall of China and the Alamo. The first fragments were collected by Tribune correspondents in the field. All told, nearly 150 stones from notable locations around the world are embedded in the building’s walls. Other stones are from the Taj Mahal, the Colosseum, the Cave of the Nativity in Bethlehem and a piece of steel recovered from the World Trade Center.
The building’s lobby walls bear quotations from Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison extolling the freedom of the press. The Hall of Inscriptions also features a passage from an Illinois Supreme Court decision in 1923 in an unsuccessful libel suit brought against the Tribune by the city of Chicago. Col. McCormick’s own words are here, too, proclaiming that a newspaper is “that check upon government which no constitution has ever been able to provide.”
At some point when Tribune Co. was owned by a group led by real estate magnate Sam Zell, top executives of the company held a poker and cigar party in the Tribune Tower office once occupied by McCormick. Photos of the party, dated June 2009 and showing some executives with handfuls of cash, were posted on Facebook by attendees.