The Biography of Chicago’s Marina City

155 stories
181,500 words
831 images

1960sTitle (click to read story)
The story of Chicago’s Marina City does not end in the 1960s. After it was built, people moved in – and kept the story going through good times and bad. Marina City is a riches-to-rags-to-riches story. It may be an important part of Chicago’s past but it is still relevant today. It is not just a Chicago icon. It is Chicago.
A blank slate
To understand how Marina City and all of Chicago’s unique architecture took shape, we have to be familiar with the most significant event in Chicago architecture – the time the city was almost destroyed.
Slowing the suburban exodus
The post-war exodus to the suburbs was a trend no little plan could fix.
Bertrand Goldberg’s meandering path to Marina City
You really have to wonder if Marina City would have existed at all had its architect not very nearly been blown up in 1942.
Planning begins
They were wrong about the price, number of buildings, number of floors, number of apartments, and number of boats. And there were going to be other complexes just like it in seven other cities. But “Marina City” is announced to the world. The name sticks, despite the architect wanting to call it something else.
A brief history of 300 North State Street
Every owner of Chicago’s Block 1, from the king of Cobweb Castle to the railroad that sold it to Marina City.
The shape of things to come
The inspiration for cylindrical towers most likely came from a railroad car.
$2.5 million buys the lot and railroad tracks
The 135,000 square foot lot in downtown Chicago came with its own railroad tracks.
A mixed-use laboratory
It is February 29, 1960, and Marina City is coming into focus.
Central City Plan
A two-page manuscript typed on April 15, 1960, makes the case for caution but then dares people to invest in Chicago’s center. Making downtown more habitable would not only have economic benefits but it would make people happy.
Paying for Marina City
Two-thirds of Marina City’s income would go to pay back investors. The rest would have to cover operating expenses. This was not going to end well.
It must have been fun. Hundreds of people in a circus tent on State Street. A phone call from president-elect Kennedy. Mayor Daley riding on construction equipment. They could have plumb forgot to break ground on a $36 million project to revolutionize urban housing.
Laying the foundation
As complex as Marina City was above ground, it was going to be challenging underneath, too. Fortunately, the foundation consultant was “the godfather of soil mechanics.”
Marina City starts to rise
March 1961. With an appetite for concrete and glass, Marina City starts to rise. Crews work in a continuous 48-hour cycle. When they get good at that pace, the construction schedule accelerates. Good thing they had mullions.
$5 million for two garages
The 18-story spiral parking ramps get its first manager, the first car drives up the east tower ramp, and how to ride a manlift.
43-story plunge
The first fatalities during the construction of Marina City.
The 16-story fence
Bertrand Goldberg described the 16-story office building on the north edge of the site as a fence, separating Marina City from “the slum property to the north.”
Topping out
On Marina City’s one year anniversary, a “topping out” ceremony is held to note the last bucket of concrete making the core of the east tower the tallest concrete structure in the world.
Tower on top of tower
On December 1, 1961, a 12-foot-tall double-barred cross weighing 600 pounds is hoisted to the 53rd floor of Marina City’s east tower to promote Christmas Seals. It becomes the first in a long history of things that have been built on top of the towers.
Clarence Ekstrom, McHugh Project Manager
The architectural plans were not quite finished. The forms for the concrete had unusual shapes. There were no barriers to catch anything or anyone who fell. In the morning, he climbed the tower crane to check the wind. By evening, he got a diverse mix ofunion contractors to agree on a schedule. It was all in a day’s work for Clarence Ekstrom, project manager for McHugh Construction Company on the job building the nation’s tallest apartment building.
Mock-ups and models
It’s hard to imagine today an 896-unit apartment complex – that isn’t even open yet – receiving 3,500 rental applications. Even tougher to imagine that despite such demand, the rental agent spending $400,000 to show prospective tenants what two of the units will look like.
First fires, and Marina City sinks its first bridge
Residents of Marina City in 1962-63 have to put up with construction throughout the complex and the occasional small fire.
The world anxiously waits
In early 1962, news outlets around the world eagerly watched Marina City take shape – Life magazine, Time, even Weekly Reader.
Seven injured in second accident
In 1962 it was not safe, not legal, but not uncommon for construction workers to ride hoists intended for lifting materials. At Marina City on June 19, this was costly as seven workers fell ten stories when a gear shaft holding a hoist broke.
Banking on Marina City
Started with $2 million, Marina City Bank had $12 million in deposits within two years. And it had a Teleview Teller, the 1960s version of an ATM.
Another worker falls
William Jones was a 44-year-old plasterer who had been working at Marina City for about five months. He was married and had two children, and he was the fourth construction worker to die while building Marina City
National Design Center signs lease
Before Merchandise Mart became paradise for professional decorators and the do-it-yourself crowd, Marina City was where they went. The National Design Center, where BIN 36 is currently located, offered three floors of home furnishings, fabrics, appliances, decorative items, and building products.
Moving Day
Daniel and Jo Ann Aguilar thought they were going to be the first residents to move into Marina City on October 14, 1962. They must have been very surprised to arrive and be greeted by their neighbor, Louise Hance, who got there first.
Star map buried
Two years to the day after the groundbreaking ceremony, on Thanksgiving Day, November 22, 1962, dignitaries gathered again at Marina City. This time, to bury into the foundation a celestial map showing the position of the stars and planets when ground was broken two years earlier.
The pioneers
3,500 people wanted a slice of Marina City but only 896 pie-shaped apartments were available. The lucky ones moved in to new apartments between October 14, 1962, and December 23, 1964. They walked across muddy wooden planks, through common areas lit by bare bulbs and heated using butane tanks, to get to their apartments. No laundry room, storage areas, or even mailboxes. The hallways were cold and damp from the concrete that had not yet cured. And then there was the time one of the butane tanks exploded.
Desperate burglars steal doorknobs
Burglary reached new heights.
Hilton signs on to run the first restaurant
Whether you ate at Galley & Grog, which had a bar made of wine barrels, the more formal Parlours with its crystal chandeliers, Viennese Coffee Shop with its red and white striped ice cream parlor chairs, or Pier Too where the servers wore Mandarin dresses, you wanted to be at Ship’s Lounge, a bar built like a ship, at 5:30 p.m. when the bell rang.
Marina City’s theatrical flourish
A fan of the arts, Bertrand Goldberg had high hopes for his theater building on the Dearborn side of Marina City. It would be designed for live, modern theater “for the next generation,” and have a state-of-the-art sound system. He was hoping the Goodman Theatre could be lured to Marina City.
Marina City backdrop as CTA shows off new bus
CTA shows off its new bus in front of Marina City.
The incredible shrinking marina
All that separated the marina at Marina City from the Chicago River was a 280-foot-long concrete and steel seawall. For a few days in 1963, beginning on November 27, the riverfront was punctuated with blasts from 80 pounds of dynamite used to blow the seawall out of the water.
Closer Look: The Teleview Teller
P.J. Hoff braves the cold to try the Teleview Teller at Marina City. And 350 North State Street through the years.
Battle for control of Marina City
William McFetridge was ok with not being president of the Building Service Employees International Union. He could get by without a consulting job that paid today’s equivalent of $115,000. He just didn’t want to give up control of Marina City. The deal he offered the union was this – all or nothing.
From Marina City
Marina City’s first newsletter issues covered the movie that had recently been filmed there, a marina that could launch a boat in five minutes, how many people lived at Marina City and how much money they made.
Meet Mike Kobluk: Former Marina City resident and voice of a generation
Meet Mike Kobluk. When he lived at Marina City from 1963 to 1967, he captured some quality images of not just Marina City in the skating rink days but a surrounding neighborhood long before its skyscrapers. As a photographer, he was quite competent and perhaps he should have pursued that further. But no, he was probably too busy singing as a founding member of Chad Mitchell Trio.
The executive board decides
The union that built Marina City gets out of the real estate business, selling to Charles Swibel for today’s equivalent of $20 million. Peanuts compared to what his company still owes on the mortgage, $136 million in 2014 dollars.
Marina City Promenade
A benefit during which the public could tour Marina City.
‘Downtown at Marina City, it’s 30 degrees at WCFL’
Bob Dearborn, Dick Biondi, Dick Orkin, Larry Lujack, Wolfman Jack. These radio legends all worked at Marina City at one time. From 1964 to 1987, through four music formats, WCFL fought Chicago radio ratings wars from the top floor of what is now Hotel Chicago.
Life In The Round
The November 1964 issue of Ebony included articles on jazz trumpeter Louis Armstrong, gospel singer Mahalia Jackson, and Marina City, where its ultra-modern housing was a “radical departure from conventional apartment living.” Life In The Round followed six African-Americans living at Marina City, including real estate broker Albert Gaskin and grade school teacher Geraldine Johnson.
Dinner this Evening at Marina City Restaurants
Marina City restaurant wedding dinner menu presented to Larry and Carolyn Lorren, married on November 28, 1964.
Bertrand Goldberg on the architect, in his own voice
What did Bertrand Goldberg sound like?
Marina City strikes deal for bowling alley
William Spencer signs $1 million lease for 38 lanes.
Marina City stars in its first movie
Goldstein was Philip (Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Right Stuff, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Henry & June) Kaufman’s first film and it included scenes at Marina City.
Mickey One
The film starred Warren Beatty as a nightclub comic fleeing the Detroit Mob for Chicago. (Yes, you read that correctly.) It is considered a cult classic today.
This Is Marina City
In 1965, Arthur P. Mandler brought his wind-up Bolex H-16 film camera and wife to Marina City and produced for Portland Cement Association the most detailed historical account of the construction of Marina City. When the 19-minute film was professionallyrestored in 2010, its quality and value were even more in focus.
Station of Tomorrow
WFLD, one of Chicago’s five UHF channels and located at Marina City.
“Things to see and do at Marina City”
By the end of 1964, Marina City had a bank, grocery store, pharmacy, florist, gift shop, travel agency, skating rink, restaurants, and a cocktail lounge.
Explosion of The Unbearables
A 35-foot cabin cruiser explodes and burns in Marina City’s marina.
Polyphony II
12-foot sculpture on the plaza.
Richard Hauff, Marina City resident and a ‘friend of ours’
Marina City’s first mobster.
Murray The Camel
The sad story of Murray “The Camel” Humphreys, mobster and high-rolling apartment dweller. His run from justice ended on the 51st floor of Marina City’s east tower, on the wrong end of a vacuum cleaner.
Ten-year-old boat thief foiled before reaching Cleveland
William Blasio steals a boat after school but does not get far.
You Live Better Electrically
A two-page magazine ad that appeared in the December 24, 1965, issue of Life magazine included a photograph taken from the living room of a west tower unit.
Marina City: The Brochure
In 1966, the property manager printed a brochure about Marina City that it sold to the public for 25 cents.
Skating around Marina City
In the 1960s, shopping malls were becoming not just retail centers, but places of recreation. Ice skating rinks were the latest thing and so, naturally, Marina City had to have one.
Flying down with the garbage
Think your job is tough? We found a guy who used to climb into garbage at Marina City to free stuck refuse. It was dirty, dangerous work and made his job later on NBC’s The Today Show seem almost easy.
On the cover of National Geographic
In 1967, Marina City was among the most interesting things in Illinois. The June issue of National Geographic that year caught it all – Marina City’s lofty pie-slice apartments, its views all the way to Indiana, and its sky dancers.
Calculated move by Univac
Before BIN 36 served wine flights there, Univac had offices on the west side of what is now Hotel Chicago.
Snapshots of 1967
What a year 1967 was. A map was published that showed what they meant when they called it Marina City. The police bust a Bingo party. The parking garage might have mob connections. An art exhibit features eclectic work of Illinois artists. WFLD sets up shop and a Christmas tree sings. John Denver sure picked an interesting year to move to Marina City.
Rental office robbed
In 1968, two polite, well dressed men with a flowered shopping bag and a shotgun robbed the rental office.
Marina City’s first murder
Marina City was a crime scene on January 13, 1969, when a man despondent over health issues shot his mother and then himself.
The lobby of tomorrow
Marina City’s original lobbies offered a feature common now but new then – the ability for a visitor to call up to a resident.
Bob Gibson’s demons
Folk singer/songwriter Bob Gibson lived at Marina City at the peak of his career. He was arrested for drug possession there, too.
Back safe from Vietnam
Seven friends gather at Marina City in 1969 to celebrate a safe return.
Braless Friday
Braless Friday brings 1,500 men and 14 women to Marina City.
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1970sTitle (click to read story)
Marina Cinemas
Marina Cinemas showed movies three at a time at Marina City from 1970 to 1977.
Tax scandal of 1970
In October 1970, there was concern that some buildings in Cook County were being given unfair property tax breaks, and one of those buildings was Marina City.
Marina City Bank robbery
A bank robbery at Marina City in 1972 was an inside job.
Happy times, happy people
A German polka band helps us see how much the riverfront has changed since 1972.
Who killed Gloria?
In 1972, Gloria Kirkpatrick, the young, pretty manager of the movie theaters at Marina City, was stabbed to death in the middle of the afternoon in downtown Chicago. Her assailant is unknown. Motive is unknown. What happened to Gloria? What are the theories? Who are the suspects? Will this forever remain a Marina City murder mystery?
Snapshots of the 1970s
A charity tournament at Marina City’s nine-hole miniature golf course features buxom ladies in saucy costumes. Two speedboats are destroyed in a fire at the marina. And a daredevil walks a high wire between towers, four years before Nik Wallenda wasborn.
Retired Navy diver drowns. Police are suspicious.
Another Marina City murder mystery. In 1976, a man whose sister lived at Marina City appeared to have drowned in the Chicago River east of State Street. But the man was a retired Navy diver, and the story just kept getting stranger and stranger. On the CBS Evening News, a 35-year-old Bill Kurtis unraveled the curious case.
Sweaty burglar spills the keys
In late 1976, just before Christmas, a rash of burglaries had residents worried and management stumped.
The end is coming: Marina City goes condo
For almost 15 years, Marina City was all rental property. The company that managed the residential property also managed the commercial property. That changed when apartments were sold off as condo units starting in 1977. That was the year Marina City split into two entities. And the towers changed color.
Welcome to Marina City. Don’t forget where you parked.
September 21, 1979. A green 1980 Grand Prix Pontiac crashes through a cable barrier on the 17th floor of the west tower parking ramp and dives hood-first into the Chicago River. Cut and print. It is a movie stunt for the 1980 Steve McQueen movie, The Hunter.
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1980sTitle (click to read story)
Marina City News
The first residents of Marina City had no stores inside the building or laundry room or mailboxes or carpeting in the halls. The original lobby was “an expanse of mud covered by planks and a few bare bulbs lighting the way.” Their recollectionswere captured in the April 1980 issue of Marina City News. The issue was published two months after an electrical outage so epic it inspired a poem.
“A police officer has been shot”
Reconstructed from eyewitness interviews, court documents, and police reports, the grueling, minute-by-minute account of the death of First Deputy Superintendent James J. Riordan, the highest-ranking Chicago police officer killed in action.
Snapshots of the 1980s
Trouble on the State Street Bridge. Marina City Bank is held up – twice. And Alderman “Fast Eddie” Vrdolyak sells most of the condo units he bought the day before the City Council voted on Marina City’s condo conversion.
WFLD moves on
The Svengoolie lineage – Son of Svengoolie and later, just Svengoolie – started out at Marina City. WFLD was located there from 1967 to 1986. Rich Koz, the man behind the makeup, shares his recollections about “The Whale,” or what today is called House of Blues.
Nothing In Common
Steve McQueen’s last movie included a major scene filmed at Marina City. This was also the fate of Jackie Gleason, whose last film included a scene shot in 1985 in the east tower parking ramp with 29-year-old Tom Hanks.
William Goodstein, first condo association president
Marina City’s first condo association president said his job was like being a town mayor. William Goodstein served for ten years but was brought down by an indictment over a missing pension fund.
Dear Mr. Tarkington
Three letters from the court-appointed receiver offer glimpses of Marina City’s deteriorating condition in 1988.
Bankruptcy case 88-17840
$24.4 million in debt, Marina City Associates, owner of all commercial property at Marina City, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy on November 18, 1988. The case would not officially close until 12 years, four months, nine days, and 47 attorneys later.
Bankrupt commercial owners forced to sell
At 11:00 a.m. on November 22, 1988, 28 years to the minute after Marina City’s euphoric groundbreaking, bidders, each with a certified check for $1 million as earnest money, gathered at the Hyatt Regency Chicago hotel a few blocks away, where MarinaCity’s bankrupt commercial property was put on the auction block.
Meet Ilene F. Goldstein, Marina City’s bankruptcy trustee
For 12 years, no one really owned the commercial property at Marina City. It had a court-appointed bankruptcy trustee, an attorney from Highland Park who tried to find money to pay back dozens of creditors. Deals to buy the office building kept falling through, and the casinos were circling like vultures. Marina City was so far behind on its electric bill, Com Ed finally came by to disconnect service. Thank goodness the equipment was so old, they were afraid to switch it off.
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1990sTitle (click to read story)
A post-modern mess
In June 1990, with the commercial property at Marina City being run by a bankruptcy trustee, a Chicago real estate company proposes turning the office building into a Fairfield Inn hotel. Hiffman Shaffer Anderson also wants to build a new restaurant, newretail buildings, and a landscaped walkway next to the river. They also want to tear down the theater building. Bertrand Goldberg may be 77 years old but he comes out swinging.
Marina City apartment converted to “weapons bunker”
When police raided a Marina City apartment and seized 285 guns, the largest single seizure of weapons in Chicago, they may have thought they were up against gang members. But it was just Francis Samp, a Korean War veteran and licensed gun collector, who kept a Civil War-era cannon on his balcony, pointed toward the Chicago River.
“A seedy, crumbling wreck”
The best that anyone can say about Marina City is that it is “a seedy, crumbling wreck.” Two deals to sell the property have fallen through. The federal agency in charge of the commercial property gives up. Proper maintenance is now considered a luxury.
Residents help down-on-its-luck neighbor
A concrete column supporting a main beam under one of the ramps onto the property is seriously cracked. Supporting steel beams have holes in them. In an editorial about Marina City, the Chicago Tribune uses to word “blight.”
A new gateway to Marina City
It is 1993 and the commercial property at Marina City is languishing in bankruptcy. Bertrand Goldberg calls Marina City his “30-year-old wayward child.” On the same block, a developer wants to build a 20-story condominium and hotel tower. But when the price to buy Marina City’s commercial property crashes to six measly million dollars, it gets their attention. For Goldberg, it might be his last opportunity to make the property right.
Luck starts to change
It may have been a “rat hole,” but it was a $3.35 million rat hole now owned by John L. Marks. His bid was accepted over a rival group that included Bertrand Goldberg. Marks says his goal “is to return Marina City to the great complex it once was.”
“We’re going to electrify the city with this”
September 14, 1995. Developer John Marks and entrepreneur Isaac Tigrett announce plans for a House of Blues concert hall, hotel, nightclub, and restaurant. To the groundbreaking ceremony, Tigrett arrives in a vintage railroad car with actors Dan Akroyd, Jim Belushi, and John Goodman. They wear black suits, black hats, and black sunglasses.
Nancy Goldberg, restaurateur
Equestrian. Pilot. Restaurateur. Saloon keeper. Nancy Goldberg was also the daughter of a noted sculptor and a Florsheim, mother of three, and wife of Marina City’s architect.
Bertrand Goldberg, architect
His career path did not go neatly from Point A to Point B, nor would he have wanted it to. Over 60 years, he gave the world 44 major works, including Marina City. Bertrand Goldberg left us on October 8, 1997.
New use for the skating rink
The design may have had some admirers but they were not at Bertrand Goldberg Associates. Undeterred, Smith & Wollensky opens at Marina City, to favorable reviews, in space that used to be the skating rink.
The office building is gutted in preparation for a new 372-room House of Blues hotel, to complement the concert venue that had been in business for about a year. As if things could even get any better, it’s announced that bowling would return to Marina City.
Loud neighbors with a liquor license
Over time the relationship cooled between the loud music nightclub and the hundreds of residents who lived above it.
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2000sTitle (click to read story)
Toast of the Towers
Status at Marina City can be measured by how long a person has lived there. Some have lived there since the beginning. Marina City’s “original residents” were the first to occupy their respective apartments. In 2003, an elite group of 19 originals were honored at a reception.
Shoeboxes full of money
The long, strange trip of Dr. Gary S. Kimmel, the Marina City resident and condo board member who was convicted on federal money laundering charges.
Hotel for sale. Garage included.
House of Blues checks out of its hotel at Marina City. LaSalle Hotel Properties checks in.
Flying car sequel
For a television spot for Allstate, a car once again is shot off the west tower parking ramp.
Candle blamed for small fire
After fire damages a unit on the 21st floor of the west tower, the condo association at Marina City upgrades its life-safety system.
Condo board claims ownership of Marina City ‘name and image’
The condominium association at Marina City embarks on arguably its most contentious and most ridiculed quest ever, to control how images of Marina City are used.
The arduous six-block journey of Dick’s Last Resort
Fighting the condo association all the way, Dick’s Last Resort moves its mayhem to Marina City.
Canstruction Chicago 2008
Marina City is one of 20 structures depicted using cans of food in the lobby of 350 West Mart Center.
First of two attempts to landmark Marina City
It took two tries to get Marina City designated an official City of Chicago landmark.
Parking disputes lead to $40 million lawsuit
Though quickly dismissed, the condo association, commercial property manager, and the company that parks vehicles at Marina City are sued for $40 million.
Vincent Falk: A Life In Color
There were so many questions about the man in the loud suits who danced on Chicago River bridges for the amusement of people on tour boats.
Concrete repair at Marina City: Acrophobics need not apply
A recurring ritual at Marina City, repair of the concrete along the circumference of both 65-story towers.
Marina City condo board battles residents on multiple fronts
Many unit owners will remember 2009 as the year the condo board at Marina City went to war with residents.
Ellis Levin, Marina Towers condo association part ways
In November 2009, the sometimes-stormy relationship of former Illinois legislator Ellis Levin and Marina Towers Condominium Association came to an end.
2009: A year in the life of Marina City
Marina City hosts an Elvis Presley tribute contest, uses Strasberg ‘method acting’ for role in film about demonic possession, and other images from 2009.
House of Blues security scrutinized after ‘horrendous season’
Chicago police are called to Marina City to protect a Hanson (“MMMBop”) concertgoer from an angry House of Blues security officer.
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2010sTitle (click to read story)
Time, money issues cut Marina City role in ‘Transformers’ film
An ancient conflict between two extraterrestrial clans came to the Chicago River in 2010, and Marina City was in the middle of it.
Design student re-imagines a more modern Marina City
A skywalk connecting the 20th floors of the east and west tower – and turning a sea of concrete into an island of grass between the towers – were two ideas in a design student’s senior thesis for making Marina City more sustainable.
2010: A year in the life of Marina City
On the cover of a magazine, a Victoria’s Secret ad, an ad for a design school, and a car commercial. Marina City kept busy in 2010.
929 people call Marina City ‘home’
Data from the 2010 Census shows Marina City’s population shrunk over the past decade.
Pro bowlers strike at Marina City
Some of the best bowlers in the world rolled into Marina City in 2011 for the first Professional Bowlers Association tour event held in Chicago since 1963.
2011: A year in the life of Marina City
Jennifer Hudson helps Rahm get elected. Deborah Harry brings her timeless cool to HOB. Miss Bikini USA Model Search. It is 2011 and Marina City has an eye for talent.
Backstage at House of Blues as ‘Marina City’ rocks Marina City
In 2011, refugees from four Chicago bands named their new group after Marina City. Go backstage at House of Blues, minute by minute, as six nice suburban kids from Plainfield, Naperville, and Joliet transform into bad boys of rock and roll.
2012: A year in the life of Marina City
2012 was the year of the NATO summit and a year that saw Marina City depicted in artwork big and small, carved into ice, and covered with algae. Marina City was everywhere, it seemed.
Whirring on the river: Yacht broker branches out to tiny electric boats
Small electric boats are introduced to the Chicago River by the company that sells million-dollar yachts out of Marina City.
New life for Marina City sofas
Retirement was brief for two curved sofas that were a part of Marina City’s concourse level for decades.
Bogus claim of rap group’s ban from House of Blues
Bogus was the claim in 2012 that the rap duo L.E.P. Bogus Boys was banned by the Chicago Police Department from performing at Marina City’s House of Blues.
Marina Towers fall victim suffered from mental illness
He was described as handsome, smart, honest, kind, and gentle, but for more than 20 years Gabriel Mitchell, who died from a fall from his 59th floor apartment, suffered from mental illness.
New doorplates tell Marina City residents where they are, on their floor and in the universe
Working top to bottom, the condo association at Marina City was busy installing doorplates in August 2012 that included a map of the stars and planets as they appeared on November 22, 1960, the day ground was broken and construction of Marina City started.
Tortoise Club moves forward, slowly
Like the land-dwelling reptile it was named after, Tortoise Club was taking its time in 2012 transforming a completely empty, blank canvas of a retail space at Marina City into ‘a classic Chicago city club.’
Marina City’s controversial new lobbies
In 2013, the condominium association at Marina City embarked on a long-overdue project to renovate the residential lobbies of both towers. The project would conclude significantly over-budget and lead to the resignation of the residential property manager and an overhaul of the condo board.
2013: A year in the life of Marina City
It was the year Marina City was filmed for two movies and a TV show, Fiats drove by on the Chicago River, Tortoise Club and two renovated lobbies opened, Marina City was featured in a comic strip and hosted midget wrestling. No wonder WFLD called Marina City ‘a Chicago Classic.’
Marina City LEGO model built with patience, improvisation
It took Rocco Buttliere five months to build Marina City.
Chip Zapinski, McHugh project engineer at Marina City
Norbert ‘Chip’ Zapinski helped build Marina City in an era when safety was no more important than getting the job done right.
Goodbye, Marina Food & Liquor
What the store lacked in competitive prices, it more than made up for in convenience and personal service from Alex Espinoza, who ran the store almost single-handedly.
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SpecialsTitle (click to read story)
1963 Popular Science article on Marina City
The April 1963 issue of Popular Science included a cutaway diagram of Marina City by Ray Pioch to illustrate an article by James Liston.
1963 project would have given Marina City serious competition
A plan for an 80-story cylindrical apartment building at Wolf Point was clearly intended to build on the success of Marina City four blocks east.
Artifacts of daily life at Marina City
Parcel notices and other everyday items for Marina City residents in the 1960s.
Brighton Construction Company
Another Marina City mystery. What exactly was Brighton Construction Company’s role in the construction of Marina City? Was Brighton an equal partner with James McHugh Construction Company? Evidence of its day-to-day involvement remains elusive. Claims to the contrary, by the family of the company’s co-founder, remain passionate.
Broadcast tower blueprints
Blueprints for the construction of the 426-foot broadcast tower that topped Marina City’s west tower from 1964 to 1978.
Dans La Ville
A 1985 book contained more than two dozen early photographs of Marina City. When compared with more recent images, the evolution of Marina City and its neighborhood is dramatic.
Earl Meech’s medium-format memories of 1960s Marina City
Earl Meech lived at Marina City from 1963 to 1972. His photographs, taken in the mid-1960s, artistically show the living room, dining area, kitchen, and patio of his one-bedroom west tower unit, as well as balcony views looking east, south, and west.
Famous Marina City residents
Four accomplished musicians. Two network news anchors. Ronald Reagan’s press secretary. The first female disc jockey at WLS. And a Lollapalooza chef. At one time or another, they each called Marina City “home.” Our list, probably incomplete and hopefully growing, of famous Marina City residents.
Geoffrey Goldberg
In a 2008 interview with Marina City Online, the son of Marina City’s architect, Geoffrey Goldberg talked about history, balance, and working for his dad.
Howard Swibel: My mother named ‘Marina City’
His career may have been controversial, but Charles Swibel was undeniably influential in getting Marina City built and steered in the right direction. His son, Howard, spoke in 2008 about what he remembers about Marina City, its close call with being stuck with a different name, and how Chicago should remember his father.
Join us at Marina City for true bourbon
In this 1969 ad for Hiram Walker’s “Ten High” straight bourbon whiskey, a man offers a drink over his balcony in what is most likely the west tower.
Light reading for prospective tenants
Marina City – A City Within A City was a 12-inch x 12-inch 28-page paperback book with two centerfolds that promoted the complex to prospective residential tenants.
Marina City entices air travelers and poster collectors
Between 1963 and 1965, Marina City was depicted in two posters – for two airlines – that are collector’s items today.
Marina City’s ubiquitous eight-sided columns
They are everywhere. In two concentric circles of each tower, in the parking ramps, the marina, in the lobby of Hotel Chicago. You may notice them at first, and then they disappear. The eight-sided columns are still busy bearing loads throughout Marina City.
On the menu in 1978 at Viennese Coffee Shop
The cover of its menu showed what Viennese Coffee Shop, one of the first restaurants at Marina City and arguably its most colorful, aspired to look like. Its specialty was Viennese pastries, which patrons could enjoy while watching skaters at Marina City’s ice rink.
Postcards from Marina City
Considered an iconic image of Chicago, Marina City starred in many postcards in the 1960s. Even when it was part of the skyline, Marina City stood out as the tallest structure north of the Loop, in a time when the postcard rate was four cents.
Rents paid in 1963
How much it cost to rent an apartment at Marina City in 1963, and before you think it was cheap, the amounts adjusted for inflation.
Ten best shots of Marina City in Transformers: Dark of the Moon
It is not until the last 66 minutes of the 2011 film that the action moves to Chicago but once there, most of the story takes place along the main branch of the Chicago River. Marina City shows up numerous times, both real and imagined, from many angles.
Who built Marina City?
The investor, the developer, the architect, and the team that built Marina City.
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