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Metropolitan Tower

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Identification

Metropolitan Tower
Straus Building, Continental National Insurance Company Building, Britannica Centre
116681

Map

Structure in General

skyscraper
existing [completed]
steel
limestone
applied masonry
light brown
neo-classicism

Usages

commercial office
mercantile

Facts

  • The Straus Building was the first building in Chicago with 30 or more floors.
  • 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.
  • 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 previous Straus Building was a 10-story structure at the northwest corner of Clark and Madison Streets. It was demolished in 1941.
  • 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 was converted into 220 luxury condominium units and renamed Metropolitan Tower on the Park.
  • An open light court rises above the banking hall, directly behind the tower.
  • The 20- foot glass beehive ornament at the peak of the ziggurat holds a deep blue light, a prominent feature of Grant Park's night skyline. It is supported by four stone bisons, which symbolize industriousness, thrift, and strength.
  • The beehive originally held four searchlights which shone in the four cardinal directions.
  • The tower contains four bells just beneath the beehive which chime G.F. Handel's "Cambridge Quarters" on the quarter-hours.
  • 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 original main entrance was a pair of elaborately carved bronze doors set in a marble portal flanked by bas-reliefs.
  • The lobby is L-shaped, connecting the east entrance on Michigan Avenue with Jackson Boulevard on the north.
  • A spacious banking hall laid out like a basilica occupied the second floor, with a 45 foot high coffered ceiling and 16 Corinthian columns.
  • 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 side arcades of the banking hall were decorated with gold medallions.
  • 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 base has been altered from its original design, with rectangular window openings replacing the giant arches on Michigan Avenue and Jackson Boulevard.

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More Information

Location

310 South Michigan Avenue
75 East Jackson Boulevard
310 South Michigan Avenue
60604
Loop
Downtown
Chicago
Illinois
U.S.A.

Technical Data

475.01 ft
475.01 ft
475.01 ft
160.00 ft
171.00 ft
37
1923
Nov 1924
$8,280,467

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Features & Amenities

  • City landmark
  • Doorman is available
  • Exercise facility is available
  • Light court is present
  • Ornamental illumination is installed
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