Straus Building, Continental National Insurance Company Building, Britannica Centre
Structure in General
- The glass "beehive" ornament at the peak of the ziggurat holds a deep blue light, a prominent feature of Grant Park's night skyline. Before Christmas the light changes to green.
- The 20-foot beehive beacon is supported by 4 stone bisons, which symbolize industriousness, thrift, and strength.
- The Straus Building was the first building in Chicago with 30 or more floors.
- For several years the building was occupied by Continental National Insurance, the predecessor to CNA, which built the CNA Plaza complex as a western extension of this building.
- CNA Plaza North was the first of CNA's extensions to the west, with contiguous floor connections between the two structures.
- Referred to as Britannica Centre since 1980, the building will soon be converting into 220 luxury condominium units and will be renamed Metropolitan Tower on the Park.
- The tower contains four bells just beneath the beehive which chime G.F. Handel's "Cambridge Quarters" on the quarter-hours.
- The base has been altered from its original design, with rectangular window openings replacing the giant arches on Michigan Avenue and Jackson Boulevard.
- A blank limestone plaque tops the center of the east base at the 4th floor level. It used to appear one floor higher with the inscription "S.W. Straus & Co.".
- The original main entrance was a pair of elaborately carved bronze doors set in a marble portal flanked by bas-reliefs.
- A spacious banking hall laid out like a basilica occupied the second floor, with a 45 foot high coffered ceiling and 16 Corinthian columns.
- An open light court rises above the banking hall, directly behind the tower.
- The side arcades of the banking hall were decorated with gold medallions representing various coins of the ancient world.
- At the west end of the banking hall there was a large Florentine-style stained glass window depicting a 16th century full-rigged ship under allegorical figures of Art and Justice.
- The main entrance used to be in the center of the east side, through the largest of the archways, leading directly up to the banking hall by a grand staircase.
- The lobby is L-shaped, connecting the east entrance on Michigan Avenue with Jackson Boulevard on the north.
- The previous Straus Building was a 10-story structure at the northwest corner of Clark and Madison Streets. It was demolished in 1941.
- The beehive originally held 4 searchlights which shone in the 4 cardinal directions.
- The carillon bells were unused for many years until they were restored in 1979 by then-owner Dino D'Angelo for the Chicago visit of Pope John Paul II.
- The building was originally named after S.W. Straus & Co., a dealer of investment bonds and one of the leading financers of major real estate in Chicago during the late 19th and early 20th century.
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310 South Michigan Avenue
Also recorded for this building:
structural engineering, general contractor, client, developer, property management, real estate agent, lighting consultant, check engineering, MEP engineering
Features & Amenities
- City landmark
- Doorman is available
- Exercise facility is available
- Light court is present
- Ornamental illumination is installed