The building is a famous example of early skyscraper architecture, and is the earliest surviving skyscraper in the world with such a purely skeletal supporting structure.
The façade is a melange of different treatments and features with projecting bays set at different heights; a rusticated stone base; and varied ornamentation in different sections.
This is the third-oldest highrise surviving in Chicago, predated only by the Rookery and the Auditorium Building.
For many years the south wall showed the scars of the adjoining building's demolition, which occurred when Congress Avenue was widened in the 1950s.
When the Chicago Public Library was built across the street, the winning design originally called for a shallow postmodern structure covering the Manhattan's south facade, leading to a pedestrian bridge over Congress Avenue.
The stepped design was chosen to reduce the load on the party walls at the side of the building, where it was more difficult to insert piers as strong as the central ones. The side walls are partly cantilevered for the same reason.
The brick facade is attached to the steel frame by hangers, allowing a looser connection to avoid cracking when the internal frame settles or expands.
The terra cotta ornamentation includes leaf designs as well as smiling and frowning faces.
Windows on the top 5 floors are flush with the surface because they were not shaded by surrounding buildings and had less need to capture extra sunlight.
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