Montgomery Ward Company Complex

Montgomery Ward Company Complex
Montgomery Ward Company Complex
Chicago Landmark
view from across the Chicago River
Montgomery Ward Company Complex is located in Illinois
Location: Chicago, IL
Coordinates: 41°53′49.94″N 87°38′37.02″W / 41.8972056°N 87.6436167°W / 41.8972056; -87.6436167Coordinates: 41°53′49.94″N 87°38′37.02″W / 41.8972056°N 87.6436167°W / 41.8972056; -87.6436167
Built: 1907
Architect: Richard E. Schmidt, Hugh Garden; Et al.
Architectural style: Chicago
Governing body: Private
NRHP Reference#: 78001125 [1]
Significant dates
Added to NRHP: June 2, 1978
Designated NHL: June 2, 1978
Designated CL: May 17, 2000 (Catalog House only)

The Montgomery Ward Company Complex previously served as the national headquarters for the country's oldest mail order firm, Montgomery Ward. The property is located along the North Branch of the Chicago River at 618 W. Chicago Avenue in Near North Side, Chicago, Illinois. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and as a National Historic Landmark on June 2, 1978.[2]



The two earliest buildings, the old Administration Building and the Mail Order House, are constructed of reinforced concrete and were designed by Richard E. Schmidt [3] and Hugh Garden, members of the architectural firm of Schimdt, Garden, and Martin.[4]

The 400,000-square-foot (37,000 m2), eight-story Administration Building served as the company's headquarters until 1974, and features sword and torch motifs on the base and vertical piers that rise uninterrupted until culminiating in a parapet with motifs similar to the base.[5] A four-story tower was added in 1929 on the northeast corner of the building, with a pyramid roof crowned with a 22.5-foot (6.9 m) bronze statue that originally topped the former Montgomery Ward Building on Michigan Avenue.[4] An adaption of an earlier sculpture by Augustus Saint-Gaudens that had topped both Madison Square Garden in New York and the Agriculture Building at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, the statue is called the Spirit of Progress, and depicts a woman dressed in flowing robes balancing on a globe and holding a torch in and a staff. [5]

Forty feet north of the Administration Building is the 2,000,000-square-foot (190,000 m2) Mail Order House, also known as the Catalog House, that was the heart of Montgomery Ward's operations. Completed in 1908, the eight-story building was painted white and capped with a flat roof, with an interior that contained miles of chutes, conveyors, and storage lofts within ceiling heights ranging from 12 to 17 feet (5.2 m). The west facade, following a bend in the river, is almost 1,100 feet (340 m) long and a single floor covers 6 acres (24,000 m2). At one time the building had its own post office branch as well as a ground-floor shipping platform that could accommodate 24 railroad freight cars.[5] The Catalog House was designated a Chicago Landmark on May 17, 2000.[6]

In later years, Montgomery Ward and Company added several warehouses and parking ramps, followed by a 26-story office building in 1972, designed by architect Minoru Yamasaki, who also designed the former World Trade Center towers in New York City.[4][5]


After the bankruptcy of Montgomery Ward in 2001, the earliest buildings were converted into upscale condominiums. The project met the Secretary of the Interior's Standards with the exception of the balconies.[7] In 2004, the office tower also was converted to condominiums.

This building is now home to popular restaurants Japonais and Kitch'n,[8] the Big Ten Network,[9] Wrigley, David Barton Gym,[10] Allyu Spa, Groupon, [11] Kingsbury Yacht Club boat slips, Dyson Inc., and 298 luxury condominiums.

See also


  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2007-01-23. 
  2. ^ "Montgomery Ward Company Complex". National Park Service. Retrieved 2007-05-10. 
  3. ^ Condit, Carl W., ‘’The Chicago School of Architecture: A History of Commercial and Public Building in the Chicago Area 1875-1925’’,The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1964, c. 1952 p. 186-187
  4. ^ a b c "Chicago Travel Itinerary". A National Register of Historic Places Travel Itinerary. National Park Service. 2007-07-20. 
  5. ^ a b c d Sharoff, Robert (2007-07-20). "New Roles for Montgomery Ward Site in Chicago". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-05-13. 
  6. ^ "Montgomery Ward & Co. Catalog House". City of Chicago Department of Planning and Development, Landmarks Division. 2003. Retrieved 2007-05-10. 
  7. ^ "National Historic Landmarks Program". Montgomery Ward Company Complex. National Park Service. 2007-07-20. 
  8. ^ LaMorte, Chris (2007-10-18). "Frites of strength - Brasserie Ruhlmann amps up the glam factor for Chicago steakhouses". RedEye. Newsbank. Retrieved 2009-01-15. 
  9. ^ Boak, Joshua (2008-04-16). "Prop shops' pivotal role - Proprietary trading firms, which deal in options and futures with their private funds, are relatively anonymous but influential". Chicago Tribune. Newsbank. Retrieved 2009-01-15. 
  10. ^ Donahue, Wendy (2005-09-25). "A gym with a fireplace and street cred". Chicago Tribune. Newsbank. Retrieved 2009-01-15. 
  11. ^ Lux, Thea (2011-01-18). "Behind the Deals: Groupon Headquarters". Retrieved 2011-05-25. 


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