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#26: Lake Point Tower. To see all 40 of Chicago’s great buildings, launch the gallery »
As the magazine’s earlier Top 40 lists demonstrated, Chicago is justly celebrated for its restaurants and writers, its movies and music, its cultural breakthroughs—even its way with words. But nothing defines the city more than its architecture, a creative and technological discipline in many ways responsible for Chicago’s identity and very existence.
The city’s past is littered with great buildings torn down before their time. For the purposes of this list, I have focused only on buildings that still stand. (To paraphrase the epitaph of the British architect Sir Christopher Wren, if you would see Chicago’s greatness, look around you.) Since architectural and historical significance figured as important criteria, the list is weighted toward older buildings—though recent additions speaks to the city’s ongoing vibrancy. As always, reasoned dissent is welcome. Build your case in the comments section below.
#40: Old St. Patrick’s Church
700 W. Adams St.
(Carter & Bauer, 1856)
Chicago’s oldest public building came together in pieces: the spire and onion dome in 1885, Thomas O’Shaughnessy’s stained-glass windows between 1912 and 1922, and the restored Celtic interior in the 1990s.
#39: Keck-Gottschalk-Keck Apartments
5551 S. University Ave.
(Keck & Keck, 1937)
Coming off their House of Tomorrow at the 1933–34 Century of Progress Exposition, the Keck brothers crafted this simple, energy-conscious three flat.
516 N. Wells St.
(Perkins + Will, 2004)
Among a crop of leaden residential high-rises, Ralph Johnson’s 15-story concrete tower stands out with its cantilevered balconies.
#37: Second Presbyterian Church
1936 S. Michigan Ave.
(James Renwick, 1874; 1900 renovation, Howard Van Doren Shaw)
A 1900 fire undercut the church’s original neo-Gothic look; Shaw recast the interior in an Arts and Crafts mode, with windows by Louis Tiffany and Edward Burne-Jones.
#36: Market Square
N. Western Ave., Lake Forest
(Howard Van Doren Shaw, 1916)
The U-shaped mall—the country’s first planned shopping center—blends Tyrolean, Italian Renaissance, and other styles.
#35: Frank F. Fisher Apartments
1209 N. State Pkwy.
(Andrew N. Rebori, 1937)
Working with the artist Edgar Miller, Rebori squeezed this Art Moderne structure into a narrow city lot.
#34: Henry B. Clarke House
1855 S. Indiana Ave.
(original architect unknown, 1836; Wilbert Hasbrouck and Joseph Casserly, 1981 restoration)
This Greek Revival residence contends for the title of Chicago’s oldest home.
#33: Carbide and Carbon Building
230 N. Michigan Ave.
(Burnham Brothers, 1929; 2003 restoration by Lucien Lagrange Architects)
The Hard Rock Hotel occupies this gilded Art Deco beauty.
neighborhood at E. 111th St. and S. Cottage Grove Ave.
(Solon S. Beman, circa 1880)
Although diminished by the loss of its Administration Building to fire in 1998, this planned industrial community still offers a lively array of brick housing.
#31: Museum of Science and Industry
E. 57th St. and S. Lake Shore Dr.
(D. H. Burnham & Co., 1893; 1930s reconstruction by Graham, Anderson, Probst & White)
The only surviving building from the Columbian Ex-position, where it served as the Palace of Fine Arts. Charles B. Atwood, standing in for the late John Root, executed the neoclassical design.
Photography: Todd Urban